Strategic Weaknesses of Sen. Tester’s Wildlands Logging Bill
Posted by Matthew Koehler on November 17, 2009
Note: The following perspective is from Paul Richards. Mr. Richards is a Boulder, Montana area businessman and a former member of the Montana House of Representatives and of the Deerlodge National Forest’s Technical Advisory Committee. In 2006, he was a candidate for the U.S. Senate.
PITFALLS AND PRATFALLS
Strategic Weaknesses of Sen. Jon Tester’s Wildlands Logging Bill
Analysis by Paul Richards, PR Media Consultants®
November 17, 2009
All of the following angles were covered in my July 17, 2009, in-depth analysis of the Tester Widlands Logging Bill, posted the day that Tester announced his legislation at a Townsend saw mill .
As this piece was assembled on a very quick deadline, it is not exhaustive or complete. I present the following information as starting points for discussion. Many of these points deserve to be fully fleshed out by attorneys and specialists better versed in federal lands law than I. Much to my surprise, this has not yet happened. Nonetheless, I welcome further information, corrections, and additions.
In that light, on July 17, 2009, NewWest.Net offered Tester’s communications staff an opportunity to rebut these points. As of this writing, they are still “considering it.” It should be noted that, on July 17, 2009, Peter Aengst of the Wilderness Society did issue statements calling this NewWest.Net investigative piece a “rant,” while refraining from addressing specifics.
1. The public was completely shut out. The bill was drafted in an underhanded manner by a handful of insiders, sworn to secrecy. Rather than incorporating meaningful public involvement, Tester chose the path of “fait accompli.” This has created enormous resentment from all quarters.
DETAILS: I, for example, am a member of the National Wildlife Federation, Trout Unlimited, and Montana Wilderness Association. I served on the board of the Montana Wilderness Association and have received the organization’s “Brass Lantern” Award. Years ago, when these three conservation groups and the timber industry first formed the “Beaverhead-Deerlodge Partnership,” I approached the players. As one who had been involved at the grassroots level with the Deerlodge National Forest for over 27 years, and as an official member of the Deerlodge National Forest Technical Advisory Committee, I thought my presence might be an asset during negotiations. I had been involved with the successful appeal and resultant “Settlement Agreement” of the Deerlodge Forest Plan, which had been heralded region-wide as a model for citizen participation.
Over a two-year period, I sent numerous e-mails and made numerous phone calls, trying to get into the negotiations or at least monitor them. All my attempts were rebuffed, as were all attempts by many other members of the public. We, as members of the National Wildlife Federation, Trout Unlimited, and Montana Wilderness Association, were kept in the dark as our organizations’ staff compromised away our public wildlands. I have been a member of the Wilderness Society for 40 years. At no time were Wilderness Society members appraised as to trade-offs being made by Wilderness Society staffers regarding the Tester bill.
Wildlands proponents weren’t the only ones excluded. People in favor of resource development were also kept in the dark. There was no public information and no public discussion. Instead being forged by well-informed public debate and exposed to the healing properties of disinfecting sunlight, the Tester bill was clandestinely and sloppily cobbled together behind-the-scenes. Countless interest groups and individuals were surgically removed from every major decision regarding their own public lands.
2. The Tester Wildlands Logging Bill violates Tester’s 2006 campaign promise “to protect all of Montana’s remaining roadless areas.”
DETAILS: With only a week to go, polls showed State Sen. Jon Tester and State Auditor John Morrison at a dead heat in the June 2006 Democratic primary race for U.S. Senate. Tester operative Missoula attorney Pat Smith directly contacted former state Rep. Paul Richards, who was running third of five candidates in the race, concerning Richards’ possible endorsement of Tester. Richards agreed to meet twice with Tester on Tuesday, May 30, 2006, to see if terms could be worked out for this endorsement.
Tester agreed to seven terms (detailed at http://www.Richards2006.us ), including the specific promise that: “If elected, Jon Tester will work to protect all of Montana’s remaining roadless areas.” In exchange for these mutually-agreed-upon-with-witnesses terms, Paul Richards agreed to withdraw from the race for U.S. Senate and publicly ask his supporters to vote for Jon Tester. News of this endorsement appeared on front pages of most Montana daily newspapers and was prominent in other media the final week before the election. Tester and Richards celebrated the win jointly at a June 6, 2006, election night party in Missoula, MT.
3. The Tester Wildlands Logging Bill alienates Tester’s main supporters from the 2006 election.
DETAILS: Conservationists provided the margin of victory that allowed Tester to defeat incumbent Sen. Conrad Burns. In tacking solely towards the timber industry, moneyed interests that never previously supported him in any fashion, Tester has abandoned his true constituency. To date, due to the many public relations specialists of the “conservation” collaborationists/timber industry and the laziness of reporters, Tester is getting away with murder. The actual implications of the Tester Wildlands Logging Bill are not yet known to the public, particularly public lands stakeholders throughout the nation. As the actual realities of the Tester Wildlands Logging Bill are investigated and publicized, Tester’s credibility among public lands advocates and conservationists will suffer accordingly.
4. The Tester Wildlands Logging Bill “Undesignates” S 393 wildlands and loots the wildlands legacy of former Sen. Lee Metcalf – Montana’s greatest conservationist.
DETAILS: Tester’s bill is a full-scale pillaging of the legacy of Montana’s greatest conservationist, U.S. Senator Lee Metcalf. In 1977, Metcalf, only a year before he died, worked tirelessly to pass Senate Bill 393, the Montana Wilderness Study Act. Metcalf’s magnificent legacy protected nine roadless wildland areas, while they were studied for official designation as wilderness under the Wilderness Act of 1964, a bill which Metcalf had earlier personally shepherded through Congress with the help of Wilderness Society Executive Director Stewart Brandborg of Montana and Wilderness Society Field Director Clif Merritt, also a Montana native.
Tester’s bill removes the Sapphire Wilderness Study Area and the West Pioneers Wilderness Study Area from the Congressional protection of Metcalf’s Senate Bill 393 and opens them to logging. Only high-elevation “rocks and ice” non-timber producing tracts would be designated wilderness. Of the 94,000 acres of public roadless wildlands currently in the Sapphire Wilderness Study Area, only 53,000 acres would be protected from development. Of the 151,000 acres of public roadless wildlands currently in the West Pioneers Wilderness Study Area, only 26,000 acres would be protected from development.
Tester’s bill “undesignates” the Axolotl Lakes Wilderness Study Area, Bell/Limekiln Canyons Wilderness Study Area, East Fork Blacktail Wilderness Study Area, Henneberry Ridge Wilderness Study Area, and Hidden Pasture Wilderness Study Area. These roadless wildlands could be subjected to “logging without laws,” as Tester’s bill excludes logging these areas from provisions of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.
5. The Tester Wildlands Logging Bill pulls roadless areas out from the protection of the Clinton Roadless Rule and the Obama Roadless Initiative.
DETAILS: Tester’s bill withdraws around one million acres of public roadless wildlands on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest from the protection of the Clinton Roadless Rule and the Obama Roadless Initiative and opens them to roading and logging. You won’t find this in the bill. You have to go to the maps that accompany the bill, maps to which courts will undoubtedly refer, if this misguided legislation actually passes. The maps are very specific in reclassifying the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest’s currently protected roadless wildlands to a new category, officially designated “Timber Suitable or Open to Harvest.”
6. The Tester Wildlands Logging Bill congressionally overrides legitimate forest planning processes that involve full public information and participation.
DETAILS: Tester’s bill circumvents National Forest planning laws, procedures, and regulations. Currently, the Forest Service is required to honestly evaluate “site-specific impacts” of proposed logging. Under Tester’s bill, these requirements would be supplanted by a new system of “Landscape Scale Restoration Projects” where mandated logging takes place in the absence of well-established forest planning procedures that require state-of-the art science, public information, and public involvement.
Tester’s bill congressionally mandates cut levels, damn the environmental and financial costs. Instead of decisions being made at the local level by informed forest science professionals, Tester’s bill dictates a one-size-fits-all prescription that prioritizes logging above all other uses. Under the bill, taxpayer subsidies to timber corporations are more important than anything, be it elk hunting (which would diminish as elk security is logged away by mandated timber cutting), fishing (radically lessened by the effects of unsustainable logging), clean water, wildlife habitat, you name it.
7. The Tester Wildlands Logging Bill promotes “logging without laws.”
DETAILS: By mandating timber cuts be placed above all other concerns, Tester’s bill could statutorily exempt timber cutting from the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act (which Tester’s bill mistakenly calls the “National Environmental Protection Act”), National Forest Management Act, and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. This is a point of contention. Tester claims environmental laws will be adhered to. To the uninitiated, that sounds just great! The initiated know full well that when Congress mandates timber cutting quotas, federal courts have consistently held that the Congressional mandate to cut down the public’s trees trumps federal environmental and land use laws.
We’ve been through all this before. For over 20 years, politicians have claimed environmental laws would be followed, at the same time that they have imposed mandatory cutting quotas on public lands. While Tester’s public relations have lulled gullible “conservationists” into believing we can get the cut out and follow environmental laws, the courts consistently rule that the mandated cuts are paramount and that environmental laws don’t have to be respected.
The legal track record is available to anyone that can Google. The court precedents have already been established: If you have a conflict in law, “the specific overrides the general.” That is, Congressionally-mandated cuts preempt such laws as the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act, National Forest Management Act, and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. Thus, despite proclamations to the contrary from Tester’s “conservation” collaborationists, if the Tester bill’s forced cutting quotas are approved by Congress, environmental laws could likely fall helplessly by the wayside.
8. The Tester Wildlands Logging Bill mandates a cut of 7,000 acres a year for 10 years on a forest that sustainably produces, according to Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest officials, only between 500 and 2800 acres a year.
DETAILS: As a lifelong resident of the area and as a long-time member of the Forest Service’s Technical Advisory Committee, I know full well that the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest is not productive timberland. Much of the forest is east of the Continental Divide, receives little precipitation, and has an extremely short growing season, due to its high altitude. Due to these limiting factors, it costs the public at least $1,400 per acre to log in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.
Tester claims the mandated cut will come from the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest’s suitable timber base and that inventoried roadless areas are not threatened. But, Tester is ignoring reality. In recent years, logging professionals with the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest have established the Forest’s sustainable yearly harvest at 500 acres. The most they’ve cut, even during the years of the housing boom, is 2,800 acres a year.
Can Tester mandate a cut of 70,000 acres (7,000 acres a year for 10 years) on a forest that is not productive timberland, without entering and developing undeveloped (roadless) lands? For a clue, review the maps and note that, under the Tester bill, the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest’s inventoried roadless wildlands are officially re-designated as “Timber Suitable or Open to Harvest.”
9. The Tester Wildlands Logging Bill mandates a cut of 30,000 acres of grizzly bear habitat on the Kootenai National Forest, causing distress and disturbance that some biologists say will force the dwindling Yaak grizzly bears into insecure habitat and ultimately extinction.
DETAILS: Wildlife consultant Brian Peck reports, “I have worked for 15 years to try and save the imperiled 30-40 grizzlies in the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem in a landscape where the “Cores” are too small, the “Buffers” are over-logged and roaded, and the “Linkages” are non-existent. Tester’s bill mandates the cutting of 3,000 acres per year for ten years on the Kootenai National Forest, a forest that already looks like a moonscape in many areas from decades of Forest Service abuse. How is another 30,000 acres of logging not going to be the last nail in these bear’s coffin?”
10. The Tester Wildlands Logging Bill could have a severe adverse impact upon rare, threatened, and endangered species.
DETAILS: Since the Tester bill congressionally-mandates timber cuts, curtails forest planning, and severely restricts the Forest Service from accurately assessing logging’s impacts, environmental protections provided by the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act (mistakenly called the “National Environmental Protection Act” by the Tester bill), National Forest Management Act, and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act will likely be preempted. If this scenario plays out, the public will never know the full extent to which rare, threatened, and endangered species (such as grizzlies, bull trout, westslope cutthroat trout (pending), lynx, and wolverine (pending) will be adversely impacted, particularly in the Kootenai National Forest and the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.
11. The Tester Wildlands Logging Bill ignores the scientific need to protect different elevation habitats and their dependent species.
DETAILS: Conservation biologists have long understood the need to protect different elevation habitats and their dependent species, with core areas, buffer zones, and connecting biological corridors, or linkages. More recently, scientists have documented that forest habitats are changing radically. Their dependent species are increasingly stressed by global climate change and are increasingly in need of broader migration opportunities.
The “conservation” collaborationists (Wilderness Society, National Wildlife Federation, Trout Unlimited, and Montana Wilderness Association) publicly boast that, by supporting the Tester bill, they are “creating” new wilderness areas. These areas fail to pass scientific muster. A handful of nonproductive, high-altitude, limited-habitat “rocks and ice” wilderness areas, allocated to human recreational enjoyment does nothing for the vast majority of forest species.
12. The Tester Wildlands Logging Bill costs over $100 million for taxpayer-subsidized timber sales and lavish new sawmill power plants.
DETAILS: It costs the public at least $1,400 per acre to log in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. Mandating logging of 7,000 acres will cost the public $9,800,000 a year. Mandating this level of cutting for 10 years, as Tester proposes, will cost taxpayers at least $98 million dollars.
In fact, the cost of these timber industry subsidies will be considerably higher, as the above economic figures date from the housing boom, three-to-four years ago. Now, that we are in economic depression, there is no housing construction and hardly anyone is buying timber. In today’s depressed market for timber, the “hard money” subsidies for loggers that the Tester bill mandates will likely reach into the hundreds of millions of dollars over the next 10 years.
Instead of providing power for Montana communities, Tester wants additional untold millions in taxpayer subsidies to build costly on-site power plants for the timber corporations promoting his bill. It is more corporate pork, plain and simple. And, it makes absolutely no sense. Trucking biomass to large, centralized power plants is grossly inefficient, when compared to utilizing numerous small-scale portable decentralized facilities. It is far more practical to truck numerous inexpensive portable generators to the biomass, than to truck the biomass increasingly long distances to expensive and instantaneously obsolete centralized power facilities at sawmills.
13. The Tester Wildlands Logging Bill negligently ignores the fact that there is no current demand for timber.
DETAILS: Since there is no demand for the saw mills’ lumber, Tester’s bill defies basic common sense. The legislation is blatantly undisguised in its privatization of public resources and its forcing the public assumption of lumber mills’ private debt. A mere five corporations: Pyramid Mountain Lumber (Seeley Lake), Roseburg Lumber (Missoula), RY Timber (Townsend and Livingston), Smurfit-Stone Container (Missoula), and Sun Mountain Lumber (Deerlodge) will receive over $100 million courtesy of the kind Senator, with taxpayers picking up the tab in both tax dollars spent and public wildlands lost.
14. The Tester Wildlands Logging Bill mandates timber cutting, while leaving ensuing forest restoration optional.
DETAILS: This is the elephant in the living room. If Tester’s bill passes, by congressional mandate, public wildlands will be roaded and their trees cut down. Then, after the trees are long gone, there will be no forest restoration. Tester’s bill contains absolutely NO restoration mandates.
National Forests are littered with giant messes of logging restoration left unfunded and undone. It’s the Forest Service’s dirtiest secret: After the public’s trees are cut down and the logs hauled out, somehow, the agency just never seems to be able to find the money to honor its once-so-earnest promises of restoration. There isn’t a national forest in the country that has actually delivered on its past commitments to restore public lands and watersheds wounded by logging. When it comes to budget priorities, post-logging forest restoration is always the Forest Service’s neglected and unwanted step-child.
Maintaining a brave posture in the face of this undeniable track record, Tester claims that revenues from mandated logging will pay for forest restoration projects. But, inconvenient truth again rears its ugly head: In lodgepole pine-dominant forests, there simply won’t be any revenues! At taxpayer-subsidies of $1,400 for every acre logged, just how will Tester’s restoration funds be magically generated?
This giant Ponzi scheme will likely be the undoing of the Tester Wildlands Logging Bill.
15. “Conservation” collaborationists supporting the Tester Logging Bill have all received massive funding from the Pew Charitable Trusts. Pew works to “confine wilderness legislation to rocks-and-ice regions by co-opting gullible or calculating people in the wilderness movement,” according to former Montana Wilderness Association President Elaine Snyder and former MWA Board Member Ross Titus.
DETAILS: The Pew Charitable Trusts are an independent nonprofit organization–the sole beneficiary of seven individual charitable funds, with assets of $5.2 billion at the end of June 2008, established by two sons and two daughters of Sun Oil Company founder, Joseph N. Pew, and his wife, Mary Anderson Pew. “Organizations that have gained access to Pew money are expected to show short-term gains in wilderness protection regardless of the cost to other public resources and political efforts,” according to Snyder and Titus.
The Montana Wilderness Association has received tens of thousands of dollars of Pew money. The National Wildlife Federation, Trout Unlimited, and the Wilderness Society have each received many millions of dollars from the Pew Charitable Trusts. National Wildlife Federation staffers are even housed at Pew’s Washington, D.C. headquarters.
Pew tipped its hand concerning the Tester Wildlands Logging Bill with a preemptive Thursday, July 9, 2009, e-mail “Alert” entitled “Sen. Tester Leads on Wilderness” from Mike Matz, executive director of the Pew-funded “Campaign for America’s Wilderness” (formerly known as the “Pew Wilderness Center”). “We need to THANK Senator Tester for showing positive leadership to protect the best of Montana’s pristine national forests,” Matz wrote. “His bill would add the first new wilderness in Montana in more than a quarter of a century,” Matz continued. “Sen. Tester needs to hear that Montanans want to protect their special places as wilderness, for Montana families, clean water and wildlife. Please
take a moment to call Senator Tester today and make a difference for Montana’s wilderness. Dial the nearest local office now and tell them you appreciate Sen. Tester’s leadership on wilderness,” Matz concluded. Matz then listed the telephone number for each of Tester’s eight Montana field offices.
Matz was asking well-intentioned wilderness advocates, who don’t know the funding sources of the “Campaign for America’s Wilderness,” to praise Tester for a wildlands logging bill that Tester refused to allow the public to see!
On the same afternoon, the Wilderness Society, sent out its own “Wild Alert,” under the name of Kathy Kilmer. “Montana’s Sen. Jon Tester is considering legislation that would give Montana its first new wilderness designations in decades,” Kilmer wrote. “Sen. Tester needs to hear that Montanans want to protect their special places as wilderness, for Montana families, clean water and wildlife. Please call Sen. Tester and thank him for showing positive leadership to protect the best of Montana’s pristine national forests,” Kilmer concluded. The Wilderness Society used the exact same non-alphabetical listing of Tester’s eight Montana field offices as Matz.
Besides the eeriness of identical non-alphabetical listings and the same language (“Sen. Tester needs to hear that Montanans want to protect their special places as wilderness, for Montana families, clean water and wildlife.”), the incredible thing about the preemptive Pew-funded e-mail campaigns of July 9, 2009, was that no one anywhere had actually seen the Tester Wildlands Logging Bill, other than the timber industry and its collaborationists. Yet, we grassroots wildlands supporters were supposed to sign a blank check, call Tester, and thank him for drafting a public lands bill in secret.
When I reported the Pew-orchestrated campaign, Peter Aengst of the Wilderness Society wrote the following to Jared White of the Wilderness Society: “Can you check with Kathy Kilmer and see if it is possible to remove certain unsupportive people from our Wild Alert lists? Like Paul Richards (see his direct quoting of our alert).”
How dramatically have millions of Pew dollars caused the Wilderness Society to stray from its original mission, once pursued so faithfully by such courageous stalwarts as Robert Sterling Yard, Benton MacKaye, Robert Marshall, Aldo Leopold, Howard Zahniser, Stewart Brandborg, and Clif Merritt? How could today’s Pew-funded Wilderness Society take a member of 40-years-standing off of its mailing lists for being pro-wildlands and pro-wilderness? How could today’s Wilderness Society exclude the public from public land decisions, support throwing away untold millions of dollars of pork for taxpayer-subsidized timber sales and lavish new sawmill power plants, exempting public wildlands from federal laws and the protection of a new earnest President, “undesignating” the legacy of Montana’s greatest conservationist, and destroying an irretrievable portion of Montana’s priceless roadless wildlands heritage?
16. The Tester Wildlands Logging Bill fragments the Northern Rockies Ecosystem, the ONLY functioning ecosystem in the lower 48 states where all native species still reside.
DETAILS: Twenty-three years ago, after talking with our region’s leading scientists and conservationists, I wrote the first draft of what was-to-become the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act (NREPA). To preserve the biological integrity of the Northern Rockies ecosystem, NREPA designates as wilderness nearly 7 million acres of public wildlands in Montana, 9.5 million acres in Idaho, 5 million acres in Wyoming, 750,000 acres in eastern Oregon, and 500,000 acres in eastern Washington. Included in this total are over 3 million acres of backcountry wilderness in Yellowstone, Glacier and Grand Teton National Parks.
Northern Rockies wildlands are the only place in the lower 48 states where all native species and wildlife remain. These are our public wildlands, belonging to all Americans. By officially designating these remaining roadless areas as wilderness, NREPA provides the strongest protection that the federal government can confer on public wildlands and dependent species.
By fragmenting the Northern Rockies Ecosystem, the Tester Wildlands Logging Bill is a direct assault on the scientific principles of biodiversity and biological integrity for which so many dedicated citizens have worked so hard for the last 23 years.
It is time to compare the Tester Wildlands Logging Bill (the Senate bill) to the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act (the House bill). We must look at each bill’s compatibility or incompatibility with the 1964 Wilderness Act. NREPA, for example, carefully crafted over the last 23 years to ensure compatibility with the Wilderness Act, has consistently been supported by the Act’s leading original proponents, former Wilderness Society Executive Director Stewart Brandborg and former Wilderness Society Field Director Clif Merritt, both Montana natives.
On the other hand, the Tester Wildlands Logging Bill promotes numerous abuses and violations that are clearly incompatible with the 1964 Wilderness Act, including motorized access into and through “wilderness,” low-level military overflights of “wilderness,” military aircraft landings in “wilderness,” possible “wilderness” logging, and etcetera.
The Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act is supported by over 100 grassroots groups, contrasted to only a handful of top-heavy outsider-funded Beltway-based Big Green “collaborationists” that support the Tester Wildlands Logging Bill.
NREPA Petition and On-Line Action Center: Those engaged in public outreach concerning the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act are encouraged to publicize the NREPA Petition and contact their congressional representatives to express support for NREPA.
I offer the above information with hope that it helps stimulate discussion, activism, and lasting protection for our priceless public wildlands legacy.
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