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Posts Tagged ‘northern Rockies’

Hunting Wolves In Montana: Where’s the Data?

Posted by Matthew Koehler on September 6, 2011

A new paper (pdf) has been released by Jay S. Mallonee, an independent wolf biologist from Montana who runs Wolf & Wildlife Studies. Mallonee’s review paper was published on September 3, 2011, in Nature and Science, a peer reviewed scientific journal. Below is a snip from the abstract. With wolf-hunting season currently underway in Montana and Idaho, Mallonee’s research and findings are more important than ever.

Abstract: Management agencies have claimed that the recovery and public hunting of wolves is based in science. A review of their statistics demonstrated that data collection methods did not follow a scientific protocol which resulted in flawed and often blatantly incorrect data. Consequently, agencies do not know the total number of wolves in Montana, a major reference point used by wolf managers. Therefore, the quotas proposed for public wolf hunts are completely arbitrary, and management decisions in general have not been based on facts. This has produced a wolf management system that lacks scientific perspective and does not utilize what is known about the wolves’ role in sustaining healthy ecosystems. Instead, the data demonstrates that management decisions are often based on opinion and politics.


Posted in Wildlife | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Updates from White House sit-in to stop Tar Sands Keystone XL Pipeline

Posted by Matthew Koehler on August 22, 2011

A few weeks ago environmental leaders – including Maude Barlow, Wendell Berry, Tom Goldtooth, James Hansen, Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben and David Suzuki – called for civil disobedience at the White House to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline from Canada’s tar sands, through Montana and the Great Plains, and then down to refineries in Texas.

According to Tar Sands Action:

Another 52 Americans were arrested at the White House this morning (August 22, 2011) for taking part in an ongoing sit-in to push President Obama to stand up to Big Oil and deny the permit for a massive new oil pipeline. In total, 162 people have been arrested since the ongoing protest began on Saturday.

This morning’s demonstrators came to Washington, DC from across the country, willing to spend their vacation in handcuffs to send a message to the President that they feel has abandoned their values and his promises to take on climate change.

Lori Fischer, the co-director for Nebraska Environmental Action Coalition and a member of Nebraska Farmers Union, traveled with five other Nebraskans and was arrested this morning. She said before her arrest:

“If the government is going to refuse to step up to the responsibility to defend a livable future, I believe that creates a moral imperative for me and many others. This is a crucial issue for Nebraskans to speak up loudly about. Our land, water, and the future of our children are at stake. I feel our leaders need to take seriously their responsibility to pass on a healthy and just world to the next generation, I am going to Washington remind them.”

Make sure to check out Tar Sands Action’s webpage for lots more general information and video, photos and updates on the continuing protest at the White House.

Another good source of information is the DC Indy Media site. Worth a look is a video Climate Wars, Episode 1:The Tar Sands. The site also links to Anonymous – Operation Green Rights – Tarmageddon Phase Two.

Posted in Climate Change, Coal, Energy, Obama Administration | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Sen Tester attaches wolf rider to Senate’s $1 trillion Continuing Resolution

Posted by Matthew Koehler on March 5, 2011

According to the Missoulian:

“U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., has inserted language into the Senate’s Continuing Resolution – the bill that funds the entire national budget – declaring the gray wolf a recovered species in Montana and Idaho

The $1.077 trillion, seven-month spending bill is expected to reach a full Senate vote on Tuesday, and then return to the House of Representatives.”

In response, Defenders of Wildlife released the following press release:

Senate includes wolf delisting bill in must-pass funding pack age:
Provision would strip ESA protections for wolves in Idaho and Montana

Washington, D.C. (March 4, 2011) – In the latest effort to strip federal endangered species protections from gray wolves in the Northern Rockies, a Continuing Budget Resolution to fund federal government operations for the remainder of the fiscal year was unveiled in the Senate today. The provision directs the Secretary of the Interior to reissue the 2009 delisting rule, which was struck down in 2010 by a federal district court, and would insulate the reissued rule from further judicial review. If enacted, wolf management authority would be returned to all states in the region other than Wyoming. Idaho and Montana have made clear that wolf numbers will be drastically reduced in those states, and Wyoming has thus far refused to produce a wolf management plan that passes muster under the Endangered Species Act.

The following is a statement by Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife:

“What do wolves have to do with critical funding for our federal government? Absolutely nothing. Congress should be focused on keeping our nation’s essential services up and running, not going back on America’s commitment to restore wolves to Yellowstone and the Northern Rockies.

“This provision would hand over responsibility for wolves to the states when their approach of late has been anything but responsible. Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has repeatedly stated his intent to kill as many wolves as possible in Idaho, and Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer recently encouraged ranchers to take the law into their own hands and kill wolves on sight. We should not be rewarding these states for thumbing their noses at the conservation of wolves, wildlife that belongs to all Americans.

“This provision sets a dangerous precedent for legislating on Endangered Species Act protections that could leave countless other species vulnerable to attack. And, by blocking any further judicial review of wolf delisting, this provision sends the message that complying with the law doesn’t matter. If Congress adopts this measure, it will be a tragedy not just for wolves and other endangered species, but for the rule of law in America.

“Congress’s last-ditch attempt to force wolf delisting through on a budget bill only opens the door to other riders that eat away at the foundation of our nation’s environmental safeguards.”

Posted in Obama Administration, Wilderness, Wildlife | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

New poll shows western voters support environmental protections

Posted by Matthew Koehler on February 24, 2011

A new bi-partisan poll of inter-mountain West voters shows that a strong majority (77%) believe that environmental standards and a strong economy can coexist. The findings, from the first-ever Conservation in the West Survey, reveal differences and many points of agreement among voters on issues such as conservation, regulations, renewable energy and other environmental issues.

The poll, conducted by Lori Weigel at Public Opinion Strategies (a Republican firm) and Dave Metz at Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (a Democratic firm), measured environmental attitudes of 2,200 voters in the five Western states January 23-27, 2011. The survey is being released by the Colorado College State of the Rockies Project, which, for the past eight years, has worked to increase public understanding of vital issues affecting the Rockies through annual report cards, free events, discussions and other activities.

“This research underscores an interesting and important trend in these five states,” said Walt Hecox, Ph.D., professor at Colorado College and director of the State of the Rockies Project. “While there are differences of opinion on a range of issues, there are true common values shared between each state, including a commitment to protect the important natural resources that make this region so unique.”

Click here to view the executive summary or entire report.

Below are some interesting Montana-specific findings, especially in the context of the current gutting/eliminating/slashing of environmental protection laws and regulations by the GOP majorities in Helena.

As part of efforts to improve the state economy and generate jobs as quickly as possible, some people have proposed reducing protections on land, air and water that apply to major industries, including construction and agriculture. Would you prefer that:
• Montana reduce protections for land, air and water that apply to major industries: 20%
• Montana maintain protections for land, air and water that apply to major industries: 73%

Even with state budget problems, we should still find money to protect Montana’s land, water and wildlife.
• Strongly or somewhat agree: 81%
• Strongly or somewhat disagree: 16%

We should ensure that undeveloped, public lands in Montana are kept in their natural state.
• Strongly or somewhat agree: 75%
• Strongly or somewhat disagree: 20%

We need to do more to ensure oil, gas and mining companies follow laws protecting our land, air and water.
• Strongly or somewhat agree: 76%
• Strongly or somewhat disagree: 22%

Posted in Climate Change, Economy, Energy, Sustainable Solutions, Unsustainable, US Congress | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

FS Retiree on Tester Bill: Gutting the Forest Service is not the Solution

Posted by Matthew Koehler on February 12, 2010

Note: The following perspective is from Bill Worf.  Mr. Worf was born in 1926 on a homestead in Eastern Montana and grew up on a ranch through the Great Depression. When World War II came along, Worf left high school to join the Marines. He fought in the battle of Iwo Jima.

Worf joined the Forest Service in 1950 and spent 12 years in Utah on the Uinta, Ashley and Fishlake National Forests. Worf then became the Supervisor of the Bridger National Forest in Wyoming. When the Wilderness Act passed in 1964, Worf was sent to the Forest Service National Office to head the development of Regulations and Policy for implementation of the Wilderness Act. In 1969, he was assigned to the Regional Office in Missoula as Director for Wilderness, Recreation and Lands, a position he retired from in 1981. He lives in Missoula. Click here for a short video featuring Worf.


Gutting the Forest Service is not the Solution
By Bill Worf

I am a Montana native who graduated with a degree in Forestry from the University of Montana in 1950, when I started a career in the U.S. Forest Service. When the Wilderness Act passed in 1964, I was serving as Supervisor of the Bridger National Forest in Wyoming.

Forest Service Chief Ed Cliff and Secretary of Agriculture Orville Freeman immediately tapped me to serve in the National Office to oversee implementation of the Wilderness Act. I moved from Wyoming to Washington DC to administer the National Wilderness Preservation System established by the Act. I served in that position until 1969, when I was appointed Deputy Regional Forester for Wilderness, Recreation and Lands in Missoula, Mt.

Although I retired in 1983, I have remained involved in National Forest issues. In this capacity, I have strong feelings about the Jobs and Recreation Bill (S 1470) introduced by Senator John Tester. I share the Senator’s concern about growing fire and insect problems in our National Forests. The Senator’s heart may be in the right place, but his proposed solution would result in severe long-term damage to the Forest Service as an institution.

The Forest Service is one of the most respected agencies in government. It contains the finest collection of natural resource professionals in the world. I spent my professional career as a proud member.

With his logging bill, Tester is saying he knows more about how forests ought to be managed than professionals who work for the Forest Service. Tester is telling us what to do and how to do it, even though what Tester wants may violate federal laws. If Tester gets away with dictating forest management in Montana, every Senator and every Representative in Congress will try to do the same. Instead of being managed by one professional agency that considers all the views of public stakeholders from throughout the country, our National Forests would be managed by local interests primarily geared towards resource extraction.

By effectively dissolving the Forest Service, Tester would create 535 fiefdoms, all with different management mandates dictated by different members of Congress. This would take away Americans’ rights concerning our public lands.

What Tester may not know is that the National Forest System was established in 1897 by Congress. Congress also established the Forest Service to administer these National Forests for the benefit of all Americans of present and future generations. Subsequent laws provided additional guidance, including the Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act of 1960, the National Forest and Range Land Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974, and the National Forest Management Act of 1976. Congress passed these laws to ensure our National Forests are administered in a planned and sustainable way – in perpetuity.

Because Tester is a Hi-Line farmer, I figured he may not know much about Forest Service history. So, I attended an open house on Monday, October 26, 2009, concerning his logging bill. I shared with the senator that heavy corporate and political pressure had caused the violation of the 1960 Act mandating “Sustained Yield”. This unwise overcutting of our National Forests resulted in the closure of mills in Montana and elsewhere.

I followed up my conversation with Tester by sending him a detailed letter on Thursday, November 12, 2009. I included a 20-page comprehensive analysis of Forest Service reports which clearly shows the failure to maintain a “Sustained Yield” throughout the National Forest System.

I strongly disagree with Tester that the answer to overcutting in the past is to overcut in the future. Congressionally mandating logging quotas and legislatively dictating management would convert our National Forest into “Private-Local Forests.” This is directly contrary to 113 years of precedence. When Congress passed the Organic Act in 1897, lawmakers were assured that National Forests would remain open to the public and not restricted to private companies or privileged groups.

The Tester bill effectively says that a handful of local extractive interests have greater knowledge than the professionals of our Forest Service. This dangerous precedent would be viewed with glee by special interest groups of all kinds! For that reason, I must oppose the Tester bill.

Bill Worf served with the Forest Service for 33 years. Worf reports he has not yet received any reply to the detailed analysis he sent Tester on November 12, 2009.

Posted in Forests, logging, timber industry, Wilderness | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Keeping It Wild! In Defense of America’s Public Wildlands

Posted by Matthew Koehler on December 16, 2009

United by our common understanding that Montana’s wild country is its greatest treasure;
And, that once degraded or impaired, this wild country can never be restored or replaced;
And, cognizant of Thoreau’s belief that “In wildness is the preservation of the world;”
And, schooled by Aldo Leopold who long ago warned that wilderness can only shrink and not grow;
And, keenly aware of the definition of wilderness in the Wilderness Act of 1964 as being “untrammeled by man,” where “man himself is a visitor who does not remain;”
And, fully recognizing that the Northern Rockies ecosystem is the only functioning ecosystem in the lower 48 states where all native species still reside;
And, being of one mind in our desire and determination to protect and preserve what remains of our public wildlands to the greatest extent possible;
We hereby state our intention to work together to achieve the most inclusive and comprehensive protection under the law for all remaining publicly-owned de facto wilderness in Montana.
In full affirmation of the above and, after having been unsuccessful in our earnest efforts to improve Sen. Tester’s so-called “Forest Jobs and Recreation Act,” or “S. 1470,” we must now unanimously oppose this bill.
The bases for our opposition are exhaustively catalogued in separate analyses and papers, but we submit this foundational document to concisely articulate our chief objections. They are as follows:

1. The Tester bill specifically eliminates from mandated protection large portions of the late Senator Lee Metcalf’s wildlands legacy, Congressionally designated as Wilderness Study Areas in 1977 by his farsighted bill, S. 393. By eliminating this protection, the Tester bill opens these priceless public wildlands for road building, logging, and other development.

2. The Tester bill undermines the overwhelmingly popular Clinton Roadless Rule and Obama Roadless Initiative. Over one million acres of federally-inventoried roadless wildlands protected under the Roadless Rule and the Roadless Initiative would be classified as “Timber Suitable or Open to Harvest.”

3. The Tester Bill surrenders decisions about our national forests to a handful of local bureaucrats and extraction-oriented corporations, thereby promoting fragmentation of America’s national public lands legacy into locally controlled fiefdoms.

4. The Tester bill undermines the National Environmental Policy Act by imposing unrealistic and arbitrary requirements that preclude the Forest Service from accurately assessing environmental impacts of road building, logging, habitat loss, water degradation, weed infestation, and other costs of developing public wildlands.

5. The Tester bill mandates unsustainable logging quotas regardless of environmental costs, thereby jeopardizing safeguards provided public lands by the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, National Forest Management Act, Wilderness Act, and Federal Land Policy and Management Act.

6. In its effort to isolate decisions to log wildlands from national attention, the Tester bill disenfranchises public lands stakeholders, by overriding legitimate science-based forest planning that involves full public information and participation. It deprives the public of our rights to be included in irreversible decisions concerning our own land.

7. The Tester bill mandates cutting at least 100,000 acres over 10 years. It dictates at least 7,000 acres be logged per year for 10 years in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. In recent years, the Forest Service has set its sustainable cut level for the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest at 500 acres per year. In past years, when the Forest Service was dedicated to “getting the cut out,” an average of 3,213 acres per year was logged, from 1954 to 1996, in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. On the Three Rivers Ranger District of the Kootenai National Forest, Tester’s bill mandates logging of 3,000 acres per year for 10 years in fragile Yaak grizzly bear habitat, already severely damaged by decades of overcutting. While logging at least 100,000 acres would be compulsory, the Tester bill contains no accompanying mandates for restoration, leaving all post-logging reclamation and forest restoration optional.

8. The Tester bill fails to address at least $100 million in costs to U.S. taxpayers that would be incurred by the Forest Service for subsidizing “below-cost” timber sales and power plants for the few specially-privileged timber corporations involved. The bill interferes with free enterprise by mandating that five favored private mills be subsidized with perpetual supplies of national forest trees, at huge economic costs to taxpayers. The bill ignores the financial realities that the United States currently face: Economic crises and a lumber “depression,” with new home construction down 70 percent and demands for lumber down 55 percent.

9. By forcing unsustainable industrial-scale logging upon our public lands, the Tester bill would irrevocably harm essential habitat of species that characterize the wild nature of the northern Rockies, such as the gray wolf, bull trout, cutthroat trout (Montana’s official state fish), otter, mountain goat, mountain sheep, elk, arctic grayling, northern goshawk, boreal owl, pileated woodpecker, ferruginous hawk, Montana vole, sage thrasher, wild bison, peregrine falcon, bald eagle, pine marten, fisher, lynx, wolverine, and grizzly bear (Montana’s official state animal).

10. The “wilderness” areas in the Tester bill are fragmented and unconnected islands of largely “rocks and ice,” with limited biological integrity and no potential for sustaining biodiversity. The minimal “wilderness” designated in the bill fails to protect different elevation habitats and their dependent species with core areas, buffer zones, and connecting biological corridors. The bill promotes numerous abuses that are clearly in violation of the 1964 Wilderness Act, including motorized access into and through “wilderness,” military aircraft landings in “wilderness,” possible “wilderness” logging, and other intrusions that violate the principles of Wilderness.

Due to these severe deficiencies, we intend to see that the Tester bill is not endorsed by Congress. Instead, we will constructively stand for a scientifically-sound, ecologically-based Wilderness Bill that preserves the greatest amount of our priceless and rapidly-vanishing public roadless wildlands in Montana.

We, the following, are conservation organizations and citizens dedicated to wildlands protection, Wilderness preservation, and the sound long-term management of our federal public lands legacy. Our coalition includes small-business owners, scientists, educators and teachers, health care practitioners, hikers and backpackers, hunters and anglers, wildlife viewers, outfitters and guides, veterans, retired Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management officials, ranchers and farmers, craftspersons, and community leaders – all stakeholders committed to America’s public wildlands legacy.

Note: Individual citizens can sign onto this, by clicking here. For more information visit:

Alliance for the Wild Rockies (MT)
Big Wild Advocates (MT)
Buffalo Field Campaign (MT)
Conservation Congress (MT)
Deerlodge Forest Defense Fund (MT)
Friends of the Bitterroot (MT)
Friends of the Rattlesnake (MT)
Friends of the Wild Swan (MT)
Swan View Coalition (MT)
Western Montana Mycological Association (MT)
Western Watersheds Project (MT)
Wilderness Watch (MT)
WildWest Institute (MT)
Allegheny Defense Project (PA)
Bark (OR)
Big Wildlife (OR)
Biodiversity Conservation Alliance (WY)
Buckeye Forest Council (OH)
Caney Fork Headwaters Association (TN)
Cascadia Wildlands (OR)
Center for Biological Diversity (AZ)
Center for Sustainable Living (IN)
Citizens for Better Forestry (CA)
Clearwater Biodiversity Project (ID)
Cumberland Countians for Peace & Justice (TN)
Dogwood Alliance (NC)
EcoLaw Massachusetts (MA)
Ecosystem Advocates (OR)
Environmental Action Committee of West Marin (CA)
Green Press Initiative (MI)
Friends of Bell Smith Springs (IL)
Friends of the Breitenbush Cascades (OR)
Friends of the Clearwater (ID)
Heartwood (IN)
Hells Canyon Preservation Council (OR)
John Muir Project (CA)
Kentucky Heartwood (CA)
League of Wilderness Defenders (OR)
Native Forest Council (OR)
Network for Environmental & Economic Responsibility, United Church of Christ (TN)
Protect Arkansas Wilderness! (AR)
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) (DC)
RESTORE the North Woods (ME)
Save America’s Forests (DC)
Selkirk Conservation Alliance (WA)
Umpqua Watersheds (OR)
Utah Environmental Congress (UT)
Western Lands Project (WA)
WildEarth Guardians (NM)
WildSouth (NC)

Posted in Forests, logging, timber industry, Wilderness | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Dr. Power: Two Views of the Tester Forest Jobs and Recreation Bill

Posted by Matthew Koehler on December 8, 2009

Note: The following commentary from economist Dr. Thomas Michael Power was presented on Montana Public Radio December 7, 2009. – MK

Two Views of the Tester Forest Jobs and Recreation Bill

By Thomas Michael Power

(Dr. Thomas Michael Power is the former Chair of the Economics Department at the University of Montana, where he currently serves as a Research Professor)

The controversy over Senator Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Bill is likely to get some national attention in a week or so as the bill receives its first hearing before the Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests in the our nation’s capitol. That bill has been called both Tester’s “logging bill” as well as Tester’s “wilderness bill.” Critics point out that the title of the bill mentions “forest jobs” but does not mention “wilderness” at all, leaving some suspicion as to what the main purpose of the bill is.

Wilderness advocates who support the bill point out that the bill would add 670,000 acres of wilderness and another 225,000 acres of National Recreation Areas where timber harvest will be prohibited. That’s approaching a million acres of protected land, clearly an admirable goal.

The critics, also wilderness advocates, shake their heads in dismay because at the same time that bill appears to open so much roadless wild land to potential logging. Consider the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, Montana’s largest National Forest. It contains 3.3 million acres of land, mostly undeveloped, high lodgepole pine forest. Forest managers there have classified less than ten percent of that land as suitable for commercial timber management. Yet, Tester’s bill would classify 1.9 million acres of land as “suitable for timber production” where “timber harvest is allowed.” The 500,000 acres of new wilderness that Tester’s bill would create in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest somewhat shrinks in significance compared to the area four times as large that appears to be declared open for timber harvest. That is especially shocking since the area now declared open to logging is over eight times larger than what had previously been deemed suitable for timber harvest.

This may just be the result of bad horse trading and a conscious gamble on the part of the collaborative that originally negotiated this proposal. The fact is that the vast majority of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest is likely to remain unroaded and unlogged indefinitely into the future, primarily protected by economics. It is far too costly to go after most of the standing inventory of trees there and those trees have little commercial value, at least for now.

Tester’s bill actually attempts to steer the logging that the bill mandates away from the backcountry and limit it to the already human dominated edges of the forest. The bill orders the Forest Service, when choosing the lands where the timber harvest is to take place, to give “priority” to lands that already have high densities of roads, have already been relatively heavily logged, and contain forests that are at high risk for insect epidemics or high-severity wildfires.

The actual meaning of these limits, however, may hinge on whether all of these criteria have to apply or whether only one of them need apply. That last criteria is loose enough that it by itself could open the entire Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest to timber harvest since lodgepole pine forests naturally tend to experience large stand-replacing fires.

The level of timber harvest that would be annually mandated on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest under Tester’s bill can also be read in either comforting or alarming terms. The bill requires 7,000 acres a year to be harvested. To supporters of the bill, this is a tiny acreage of harvest, a tiny fraction of one percent of the huge 3.3 million acre forest.

To critics, although 7,000 acres appears trivially small compared to the total size of the forest, it is not so small compared to the part of the forest deemed suitable for commercial timber harvest, 300,000 acres, of which the 7,000 acres are 2.3 percent. That level of harvest would be sustainable only if new trees grew to commercial size in about 40 years, an unlikely event in a high, cold, lodgepole pine forest in Montana.

To critics, this is simply an unsustainable level of harvest. Looking back over 40 years of timber harvest on that forest, 7,000 acres of timber harvest was reached only once, in 1971, in the heyday of aggressive Forest Service harvests across the nation. That level of harvest was once again approached in the last peak harvest year on Forest Service lands in the late 1980s when 6,000 acres were harvested. Between 1967 and 1989, when the Forest Service was still largely unhindered by environmental concerns and harvested record numbers of trees, the average acreage harvested on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest was about 4,000 acres. The Tester bill would seek to force a harvest level two-thirds higher than that previous unfettered average harvest level.

Supporters of Tester’s bill insist that the intent is not to open up most of the forest to timber harvest but quite the opposite: to support modest timber harvests where they would do the most good and the least harm. If that is the case, the language of the bill should be tightened up to accomplish exactly that by limiting the areas open to potential timber harvests to a much smaller portion of the forest and by making clear that the “priority” areas for timber harvest are in fact those areas that have already been roaded and open to logging and where the timber harvests can help protect human habitation. Finally, the level of mandated timber harvest should be set based on what foresters indicate is a sustainable level of harvest given the characteristics of that forest.

Such a tightening up of the language and numbers in the Tester bill should be acceptable to the wilderness advocates who support this bill since it would simply assure that the bill does what they say it is intended to do. If timber interests howl in protest over such clarification that should give the rest of us pause as to exactly what the Tester bill is really all about.

Posted in Forests, logging, timber industry, Wilderness | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Protecting America’s Public Lands a National Concern

Posted by Matthew Koehler on November 23, 2009

The following perspective is from Keith Hammer. Mr. Hammer grew up hiking, skiing, camping, hunting, and fishing in the Swan Mountains of Northwest Montana. He has worked a number of jobs, from Forest Service trail worker to logger to backcountry guide, and currently works as an environmental consultant and head of the nonprofit Swan View Coalition, which he co-founded in 1984. Keith and Swan View Coalition have gotten over 600 miles of road decommissioned on the Flathead National Forest to restore fish and wildlife habitat.

Protecting America’s Public Lands a National Concern!
By Keith Hammer, Swan View Coalition

We can take much inspiration from Ken Burns’ film “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” and readily extend its premise to the remainder of America’s public lands. Key take-home messages in Burns’ film are that threats to America’s wildlands never cease and that their protection is brought about through national concern and legislation, often over the objections of local politicians.

Indeed, as elk and bison were being slaughtered by commercial hunting in the West in the late 1800s, it was not the new states of Montana and Wyoming that put an end to it. It was Representative John Lacey of Iowa who prohibited the interstate transport of illegally killed wildlife when his “Lacey Act” was signed into law by President William McKinley in 1900.

Montana Senator Thomas Long objected to what is now Glacier National Park being designated a Forest Preserve in 1900, followed by the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce objecting to its designation as a National Park in 1910. Thank goodness for the persistence of Americans George Bird Grinnell and others, who had the foresight to see that the area needed better protection than that afforded the Forest Preserves (later known as National Forests) and convinced President Taft to designate Glacier as America’s 10th National Park!

Today, local communities thrive on tourists visiting Glacier National Park and the families and businesses choosing to locate near it! More recently, the town of Seward, Alaska was so dead-set against the designation of Kenai Fjords National Park that it passed two resolutions denouncing the idea. After the Park was designated in 1980 and Seward began to reap the rewards, however, it rescinded its previous resolutions and asked that the Park be expanded! President Carter, once burned in effigy in Alaska for his conservation initiatives there, nonetheless tripled the size of Denali National Park and designated most of it Wilderness for added protection.

For these reasons and more, we helped write and support the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act knowing it may not initially garner support from Congressional delegations in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. It builds upon President Clinton’s – and now Obama’s – intention to protect roadless lands from development, sequestering carbon in roadless forests also serving as wildlife migration corridors. It also creates high-paying jobs restoring watersheds through road reclamation .

In contrast, Senator Tester’s (D-MT) wildlands logging bill (Links: here, here and here) would set dangerous precedent by mandating logging levels on two National Forests and subsidizing the burning of public forests as “biomass.” It would also release from protection numerous roadless lands and Wilderness Study Areas granted protection by the far-sighted Senator Lee Metcalf in 1977!

Posted in Forests, logging, Wilderness | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Put Bluntly and Country, Tester’s Logging Bill is a Dog that Won’t Hunt

Posted by Matthew Koehler on November 9, 2009

Note: The following guest column appeared today in the Great Falls Tribune.

It’s written by Paul Edwards, a former Montana Wilderness Association board member who ended up resigning from MWA’s Board shortly after the Beaverhead Partnership was announced in spring of 2006. Amazingly, even though Edwards was the chair of MWA’s Wilderness Committee, he and other Board members were kept completely in the dark about MWA’s secret, closed-door negotiations with the timber industry, the results of which now makes up the bulk of Tester’s Logging Bill.

It’s also interesting to note that if Edwards supported the Tester Logging Bill, he would be hailed by the Beaverhead Partnership and supporters of Tester’s Logging Bill as a “non-traditional ally” because of his remarkably diverse background.

You see, Edwards worked as a young man as a pea-pitcher, header-puncher, roustabout, wild animal trainer’s assistant, high-steel man, able seaman, movie actor, and NGO rep in I Corps, during the Vietnam War. Edwards also put in 25 years as a writer, director and producer in Hollywood film and television (including serving as a writer for the hit TV show Gunsmoke) before fleeing for his life and what remained of his sanity to his ranch on the Rocky Mountain Front at the edge of the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

However, since Edwards is willing to stand up for Wilderness, public lands, sane economic policy and open and transparent public processes, he’s more likely to be labeled an extremist by supporters of Tester’s Logging Bill. Go figure…


Tester Forest Jobs, Recreation Act is a dog that won’t hunt

Well, finally … Sen. Tester and a few strange bedfellows have floated a logging bill that everyone who works, has worked, or hopes to work, for one of four struggling lumber mills or one bankrupt cardboard box maker can wholeheartedly endorse.

Letters to the papers from such folks, including owners and employees of the mills and their “environmental partners,” express boundless joy we’ve all agreed to this federal welfare proposal to bail them out before they perish by the Invisible Hand of the Market.

You know, The Hand that regulates commerce in our American Free Market system and separates businesses that can compete from those can’t and will fail. That’s private enterprise: Some got to win, some got to lose. Tough noogies – the Hand has no pity.

But our big-hearted feds do. Because even though the Greenspans, Bernankes and Geithners who manipulate our money are sworn hardcore believers in free market capitalism, they think some outfits – doggone it – are … well, to big to fail.

Evidently, Tester feels the same about these mills. It’s not that they’re too big, though; it’s that they’re too important to Montana, so he has to bail ’em out with our money. Like the feds did AIG and Goldman Sachs, B of A and Chase, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It’s the new thing in Free Market Economics: The Invisible Hand’s been replaced by The Visible Handout. That’s what Tester’s Logging Welfare Bill is all about.

What makes these mills so important? Will a bailout create thousands of jobs, pump millions into our economy?

Well, no, its effect would be negligible even in boom times and lumber demand is down 55 percent with prices at modern historic lows. So what, then? Why is Tester pushing this deal?

It’s symbolism. There’s this weird perception rooted deep in our mythology that because extractive industries like mining and logging were once drivers of our economy that they still are; or ought to be; or will be again. The reality is that they can’t hack it in the world market even with the huge subsidies the U. S. industrial welfare program hands them.

But let’s say it was worth giving them a fat pork-barrel deal. What will it look like?

At an estimated taxpayer hit of $100 million from Forest Service losses on these below-cost sales, they get a mandated cut of 100,000 acres over 10 years: 30K in the brutally overcut Yaak and a staggering70K in the bone-dry Beaverhead/Deer Lodge where the Forest Service never allowed more than 2,800 acres cut, even in boom lumbering years.

In addition, more than 1 million acres of inventoried roadless wildland, including most of several of Lee Metcalf’s Wilderness Study Areas, will lose their protection and be opened to “management.”

And what’s the payoff for us Americans who own the forests for keeping these icons of yesteryear on life support? 600,000 acres of rocks and ice wilderness in scattered, widely separated patches with no connectivity, including one tiny island in the hammered Yaak.

For outdoor folks, hunters, anglers, horsemen and seekers after peace and solitude, any wilderness is good wilderness, and after decades without any preservation of Montana wildlands – as fine and whole as any left anywhere – the yearning for it that all of us feel who love and use the outdoors without smog-machines is tremendous.

That said, this bill is a visionless, wholly inadequate wildlands proposal – a fact made obvious by the absence of the word wilderness in its title – that simply gives away far too much to protect far too little. It shows very clearly how little regard Tester and Max Come-Lately have for our irreplaceable wilderness, in spite of phony chin music.

This plan – secretly concocted by its “partners” – is not only a terrible wilderness bill (which it unquestionably is) it’s also a terrible logging bill for everyone but the little mill owners. Since they don’t represent 1 percent of Montana’s working people, you have to wonder how such a sorry, deformed, ugly hash could ever have been sold to Tester.

It will be interesting to watch it in Congress. Word is the “partners” think they have the skids greased. Maybe so, but they may find that in the big federal meat grinder this particular batch of raw pork will be judged too gamy to make acceptable sausage.

Over half a century ago the wise and visionary Aldo Leopold, speaking of a public Land Ethic, said, “A thing is right when it preserves the integrity, beauty and stability of the biotic community. It is wrong when it does otherwise.” No one has ever said it better.

There is just no way to craft a national welfare bill for a few small, desperate lumber mills at the price of so much irreplaceable wild country and sell it to Congress as a grand boon to Montana and America. To put it bluntly and country, Tester’s dog won’t hunt.

Posted in Forests, logging, timber industry, Wilderness | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Senator Tester Betrays Montana Wilderness

Posted by Matthew Koehler on November 3, 2009

NOTE: The following perspective is from Brian Peck, an Independent Wildlife Consultant and grizzly bear expert, from Columbia Falls, Montana.

More than 70 years ago Aldo Leopold, one of the founders of modern ecological principles had the following to say about Wilderness:

“Wilderness is a resource which can shrink, but not grow. Invasions can be arrested or modified in a manner to keep an area useable for recreation, or for science, or for wildlife, but the creation of new wilderness in the full sense of the word is impossible. It follows, then, that any wilderness program is a rearguard action, through which retreats are reduced to a minimum…

Examine each question in terms of what is ethically and aesthetically right… A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”

Unfortunately, these foundational ecological principles have either been forgotten or ignored by Senator Tester and those who support his ill-advised and destructive S. 1470, the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act of 2009. This dangerous anti-conservation measure is misguided both for the immediate damage it would do, and for the damaging precedents it would set for the future.

Specific Concerns & Comments:

1. In its development, the Tester Logging Without Laws Bill bypasses the National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, National Forest Management Act, and Federal Land Policy and Management Act. Thus, while all federal agencies are required to abide by these laws in developing a land management plan, Senator Tester’s bill essentially says, “Close enough for government work.”

Nor does the provision that later site specific projects must comply with all laws help much, since that’s a bit like trying to close the barn door after the horse has already escaped – and the precedent of looking the other way if you’re a U.S. Senator pandering for votes, has been set.

2. If approved, this bill would set aside just over 600,000 acres of Wilderness, withdraw current protection from nearly 250,000 acres, and require that 100,000 acres be made available for logging and roading in an already fractured landscape. This is a “deal with the Devil” that we will regret, and have to fight to overcome, for years, if not decades.

The Tester bill mandates the logging of 7000 acres per year (X 10 years) on the Beaverhead Deerlodge National Forest (BDNF) despite the fact that the Forest Plan currently sets 500 acres as the sustainable cut, and the forest has never cut more than 2800 acres in a year. Why would any environmental group in their right mind sanction a cut of 14 times the sustainable level? The Tester bill mandates the cutting of 3000 acres per year (X 10 years) in the Yaak portion of the Kootenai National Forest, a forest that already looks like a moonscape in many areas from decades of USFS abuse. 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. How is another 30,000 acres of logging not going to be the last nail in this grizzly population’s coffin?

The absurd inclusion of 100,000 acres of mandated logging suggests that Tester, and some “environmental” groups, believe that Congress can mandate an area’s ecology. If Plum Creek Timber were spouting such nonsense, we’d be howling in protest. And in fact, some real environmental groups have been fighting such congressionally mandated logging for 30 years. Now their efforts will be sabotaged by Tester and his “collaborators.” Disgraceful.

Some have suggested that the lack of funding and merchantable timber on the BDNF means these acres will not be cut, and so it’s no big deal. However, they miss the fundamental point that a damaging precedent of lawless logging, devoid of science will have been set, and the environmental community’s fingerprints will be all over it.

Others claim that the bill focuses logging and roading on forest landscapes that have already been entered in previous decades. But, if this is true, then why is there any need to strip Roadless or Wilderness Study Area of their current protection? The answer should be obvious. The lumber companies aren’t cheering this bill because they hope to harvest a bunch of 40 year-old toothpicks, and the USFS/BLM tend to deliver what the logging companies want.

Finally, even the 600,000+ acres theoretically protected by this bill are WINO – Wilderness In Name Only. Tester’s bill contains loophole language that would allow motorized use for “wildlife management” – known as the “Wolf Control Clause” in Idaho – and for the herding of livestock; and military operations and low elevation flights in and over “wilderness.” And in Special Recreation Management Areas, timber harvest “consistent with the Wilderness Act.” There’s no such thing – until now.

3. Apologists for the Tester bill note that road densities on the BDNF will drop from the current 4-5 miles per square mile to 1.5 miles per square mile. While this is certainly an improvement, those of us who’ve spent 15-20 years working on wolf and grizzly conservation know that entire landscapes at 1.5 mi./sq.mi. are simply not survivable by either species. But, since the primary goals of the Tester bill are logging, jobs, and motorized recreation, who cares what actual science shows.

4. Those touting this giveaway to industrial and motorized interests are quick to trumpet the Wilderness acres protected, but nowhere do we find a similar honest accounting of the WSA/Roadless acres to be sacrificed. Nonetheless, it’s clear that releases in just three areas will total more than 200,000 acres. For example, although the West Pioneers WSA totals 151,000 acres, 125,000 acres (83%) will be released, while a paltry 26,000 will become Wilderness. And, on Bureau of Land Management WSA’s, another 76,000 acres will be released, while in the Sapphire Mountains WSA, 8,000 acres will be lost. And once they’re gone, these acres will never again be Roadless, WSA’s, or Wilderness – “Wilderness is a resource that can shrink, but not grow…”

In addition, Tester’s Logging Without Laws Bill would override and remove the current protections of the Clinton Roadless Rule and the Obama Roadless Initiative, with the bill’s maps indicating that about 1 million acres on the BDNF alone would be classified as “suitable for timber development.”

To make matters worse, these abandoned protected areas are part of the absolutely critical linkage zones spanning the gap between the Greater Salmon Selway Ecosystem and Greater Yellowstone. For two decades, these public lands have been repeatedly identified by NGO’s, USFS, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as key to reweaving the ecological web between wolf and grizzly recovery areas, and breaking their genetic and demographic isolation. When Yellowstone to Yukon talks about connecting Cores and Buffers with landscape level Linkage Zones, these are some of the lands they’re specifically talking about – lands some “conservationists” are now willing to sacrifice. When wolves were recently relisted by federal court order, one of the reasons was the lack of movement between the three wolf recovery areas – something that Tester’s bill is about to make even more difficult.

5. Bob Wolf who helped write NFMA, and Paul Richards, an area native, former state legislator, and long-time member of the Deerlodge National Forest Technical Advisory Committee have noted that most of the BDNF has little commercially viable timber, and requires an average subsidy of $1400 per acre to get lumber companies to cut there. Yet the Tester bill requires the forest to cut 7000 acres per year for ten years in the middle of a massive recession, with a decimated housing market, and a glut of unsold timber already available. At $1400 per acre, that’s a cost to you and me, the taxpayer, of $98,000,000 for lumber no one wants, with the dollars going straight into the pockets of logging companies that have fought Wilderness for decades. What we have in the Tester bill, therefore, is a misguided plan that is economically, scientifically, and environmentally bankrupt. What are “conservationists” doing supporting far-reaching legislation that simultaneously undermines ecosystem health, undermines real Wilderness protection, and funds traditional Wilderness opponents in the process??

6. Tester would have us believe that most logging would take place in areas that have been previously entered, and use primarily “temporary” roads. However, as someone who has worked on wolf and grizzly conservation for more than 15 years, I can tell you that such claims are pure delusion. First, as we all know, “temporary” roads on USFS/BLM lands have a way of becoming permanent. Second, there’s no limit on the miles of temporary road that can be built. How many miles of roads do you think it will take to conduct logging on the required 100,000 acres, or enter the additional 200,000 WSA acres about to be released? Third, 20 years of research in the Rockies clearly demonstrates that even “temporary” roads result in long-term displacement of grizzlies from key habitats, or their mortality in proximity to those roads. Same thing for wolves. Same thing for elk. Finally, decades of hard experience throughout Montana has repeatedly shown that in “Stewardship” projects of this type, the logging gets funded, but the restoration never happens. Not surprisingly, the Tester bill only mandates the logging – not the restoration.

7. Under the Montana Wilderness Study Act of 1977 (S. 393) WSA’s are to be managed in such a manner as to preserve their Wilderness characteristics. Any existing motorized use, for example, is to stay at the same numbers and geographic scope as before the WSA designation. However, as most of you know, the U.S. Forest Service over the last 30+ years has looked the other way as one illegal expansion of motorized use after another took place.

The solution, for those guided by ecological principles rather than political expediency, is to stop these intrusions, roll them back to legal 1977 levels, and restore the integrity of the WSA’s. However, the Tester bill, and the “conservationists” who support it, would grandfather in the law breaking and ecological damage, and enshrine their capitulation in a 129,252 acre National Recreation Area in the West Pioneers open to mountain bikes and motorized use. If environmental groups won’t stand up for environmental protection and environmental laws, then who will??

8. At a recent meeting of the Flathead Conservation Roundtable, a representative of Trout Unlimited made the amazing statement that “It’s really important that ‘Jon’ (Tester) succeed with this bill”, presumably so that environmentalists could have a chance at real Wilderness at some unspecified point in the future – maybe – someday – trust us.

After nearly 40 years of working in the environmental field, I was under the impression (apparently wrong) that our job was to stand up for ecosystem integrity, maximize Wilderness protection, and minimize habitat destroying retreats – Not to put one in Senator Tester’s “win column.”

Senators and Representatives respond to groups that they respect, desperately need for re-election, or fear. The capitulation of some “conservationists” on the Tester bill promotes none of the above, but rather, suggests that we’re weak, won’t stand up for our principles, and can be bought off with a few crumbs swept from the Wilderness table. Why would any Senator in his right mind stick his neck out later to produce a real Wilderness bill for such groups? By signing on to the Tester bill, “conservationists” are telling him that he’s got us in the bag; that we feel we have no choice but to support him; and that he has nothing to fear from us come election time – All death sentences for any chance of true Wilderness down the road.

Environmental writer Ed Abbey once said, “Wilderness needs no defense, only more defenders”, and Brock Evans with the Endangered Species Coalition advised that the secret to winning “impossible” environmental battles was “Endless pressure, endlessly applied.” For those who seem to have missed this wisdom and who are enamored with the Tester bill, I wish you a speedy and early return to ecological sanity.

Brian Peck is an Independent Wildlife Consultant and grizzly bear expert. He writes from Columbia Falls, Montana.

Posted in Forests, logging, timber industry, Wilderness | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »