Missoulian Tries Blunting Tester’s “Gaff”

by William Skink

A gaff is defined as a spear or spearhead for taking fish or turtles; a handled hook for holding or lifting heavy fish; a metal spur for a gamecock.

A gaffe is a mistake made in a social situation.

Maybe someone could clue in the editorial staff at the Missoulian about the difference an “e” makes: Tester lawsuit gaff reveals real frustration with logging litigation.

Here is the hilarious opening of the “article”:

Anyone who’s worked a fire lookout knows it’s tough to tell a wisp of morning fog from the smoke of a fresh lightning strike.

Not to excuse last week’s “four Pinocchios” gaff Sen. Jon Tester made regarding timber lawsuits, but it’s really hard to figure out just what the U.S. Forest Service is up to.

Let’s put aside the irony of the word selection for a moment. What the Missoulian is trying to accomplish for our senior Senator is a downshift of his Big Lie to a simple mistake. And once that’s done, change the subject:

And Tester’s misstatements about problems with national forest management may reveal a hotter issue: Congress’ fixation on changing the way people can challenge the agency in court.

It’s hard to find words to describe this kind of “reporting”. Tester lies about litigation so blatantly that he’s called out by the Washington Post, and the Missoulian decides to give the bulk of the article to those with…concerns about litigation:

“There’s nothing in the cut-and-sold reports about lawsuits – it’s just about timber sales,” said Todd Morgan of the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research. “And that doesn’t get at this spider web of connectivity, where one project gets litigated and it has an impact on lots of other projects. What they’re measured by is not always really clear.”

What is clear is that Montana Democrat Tester’s Republican colleague Sen. Steve Daines was on the same subject last week.

On Thursday, Daines challenged Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell on “the implications of fringe lawsuits on the responsible management of Montana’s national forests and highlighted the severe effects that diminished timber output has had on Montana’s economy,” according to spokeswoman Alee Lockman.

Tidwell apparently agreed, responding: “The litigation definitely does impact and it’s not just the litigation. When we get a temporary restraining order, we have to stop and wait. Every time we get a lawsuit, the same staff that would be preparing for the next project, they have to prepare to go to court.”

My emphasis on “every time” because that’s just not true. For anyone actually following this closely you will know that litigation doesn’t always stop logging projects from continuing. But hey, for a paper that can’t even choose the right word for a headline, why bother with facts in the content of the article, right?

I sympathize with activists like Matthew Koehler. Because it’s an ongoing battle just to counter top-level politicians and local media, who blatantly lie and spread propaganda, resources must be expended in the scramble to get accurate information out. If the intent is to keep more honest organizations occupied in perpetual damage control over messaging, then it’s an effective tactic.

This is how the article wraps up:

“Clearly, there is a great deal of frustration with litigation,” University of Montana political science professor Rob Saldin said. “Tester clearly misstated the situation, but I do not feel we’re at a place where this frustration is unwarranted. Some are saying litigation is holding things up, and others say the courts are the only thing we have to prevent catastrophe on our national forests. I think we really need to have this dialogue and we need more accurate figures and information. That’s the only way we can get a better assessment if we’ve blown things out of proportion or there’s real merit there.”

Sure, let’s have a dialogue. It should start off with the people who made “misstatements” apologizing for poisoning the dialogue with lies. Anything less signals this farce will continue, abetted by the servility of our local media.

  1. lizard19

    oh good, they at least added the “e”. good job, Missoulian!

    • I thought AWR and Garrity got fair treatment at the end of this article, but of course 98% of readers don’t make it that far.

      The first amendment is window dressing, some of is realize. It only has teeth when courageous citizens use it to confront power. Supposedly “free speech” is exercised when some buffoon write a critical letter to his representative, or a letter to the editor gets published, or some annoyed citizen circulates a petition to impeach the Chief Justice. All of that is allowed and encouraged, as it has no impact.

      When the First Amendment is put into practice to real effect, as with lawsuits against lawbreaking government agencies, the cockroaches come out of the wall to attack. We now see Senators, journalists, academics and business banded together to eliminate that pesky right to petition. That is why the First Amendment has never been more that window dressing unless put to real effect by courageous citizens.

    • Matthew Koehler

      Excellent analysis and critique Liz. Thank you.

      Thanks for posting the Bozeman article too Steve. I agree with Mark that at the very end of the article AWR got some fact-based information into the article.

      But check this out, as it’s truly amazing!

      Early in the article the reporter let’s a Gallatin County Commissioner frame the debate and spread some more lies/misinformation by claiming the Forest Service gets “sued every time they try to do a major project.”

      “There was a perception, right or wrong, that we could do a better job of managing our forests as far as timber sales. But what we’ve learned is the Forest Service is trying to do some stuff, but they get sued every time they try to do a major project,” – Gallatin County Commissioner Joe Skinner

      What immediately follows that entirely UNTRUE statement isn’t the reporting of what the truth really is, or what the FACTS as uncovered by the Washington Post’s Fact-Checker (2,000+ miles away) revealed. NOPE!

      Instead the Bozeman Chronicle reporter, Laura Lundquist, writes another 25 PARAGRAPHS (!!!) before she FINALLY gets to this:

      “But contrary to Skinner’s statement that the Forest Service gets sued on every project, AWR Executive Director Mike Garrity points out that Region 1 met its timber harvest goal of 280 million board-feet last year.

      It did so by paying closer attention to requirements spelled out in the Endangered Species Act so projects weren’t challenged, said regional forester Faye Krueger in an October Montana Public Radio interview.

      According to a Feb. 25 Washington Post article, of the 97 timber sales under contract in Montana, 14 are being litigated and judges have halted logging on only four projects.

      “We don’t sue on every timber sale. Even when we do, often they can continue to log while it’s in the courts,” Garrity said. “We’re just trying to make the Forest Service log in a legal manner. The National Forest Management Act says they can log all they want, but along with the steady supply of timber, they’re supposed to produce a sustainable supply of fish, wildlife and fresh water as well.””

      • fester

        How’s that country club membership doing, matt….do you want your felllow travellers ponying up for that, I’m guessing they don’t.

  2. larry kurtz

    The Black Hills National Forest is in Region 2 not Region 1.

    • Matthew Koehler

      Jim Elliot writes: “Rightly or wrongly, there are groups that object to almost anything to do with timber harvest.”

      Washington Post Fact Checker writes: “First of all, let’s examine Tester’s claim about every logging sale. According to Tom Martin, a Forest Service deputy director for renewable resource management, there are 97 timber sales under contract in Montana’s national forests. Of that number, just 14 have active litigation, so about 14 percent. But only four of the sales are enjoined by a court from any logging.” http://bit.ly/TesterWhopper

  3. larry kurtz

    “Out of 97 timber sales(projects)”??? Could you ask Kessler what constitutes a timber sale? There are 9 national forests in Montana. Considering that excluding the productive Kootenai and Flathead, the rest of the forests are lucky to crank out 2-3 projects a year…I would like to see the “list” Kessler used. There are many many projects that aren’t related to timber sales or harvest very little. Please publish the list of the 4 timber sales currently litigated and the 97 “timber sales” that have sailed through with no litigation. After all, I know the Missoulian is interested in getting to the bottom of the truth. I’ve been analizing USFS EIS’s for years, and yes it is very complex to navigate, and I find it very hard to believe that Mr. Kessler spent the time needed to analyze what constitutes a “timber sale” project. Please report what his procedure was.


    • Matthew Koehler

      Thanks Larry. I can read anonymous comments at the Missoulian website too. Funny, but much of what anonymous ‘Logger” complains about what actually detailed in the WaPost Fact-Checker’s article: http://bit.ly/TesterWhopper

      For example, while anonymous ‘logger’ complains and makes it seem like the names of the 4 projects currently stopped by a court-order from logging are a mystery, the names of these timber sales were clearly printed in the WaPost article.

      RE: The “list”…Glenn Kessler got the “list” directly from Tom Martin, a Forest Service deputy director for renewable resource management. I too asked the USFS for a copy of the “list,” going back as far as November 2014. That November 2014 request was ignored. And my February 22, 2015 request for the ‘list’ from the USFS was placed in the FOIA basket by the USFS, which tells me they will get me the “list” by March 23, 2015. I will happily post the “list” at that time.

      • larry kurtz

        Now it’s time to round up the usual suspects and take a look at the environmentalist egos taxpayers are subsidizing – and the activist judge who has aided and abetted them. According to the GAO report the most “litigious” environmental group in the country is the Helena Montana based Alliance for the Wild Rockies (AWR) . AWR’s 2011 IRS Form 990 lists $109,000 in revenue, including $85,000 in Equal Access to Justice money that it collected from taxpayers. In 2011, the Wildwest Institute raised $35,000 which covered little more than its executive director’s $24,000 salary. Similarly, Friends of the Wild Swan generated a little more than its one employee’s $21.000 annual salary.


        • larry kurtz

          From 2008 to 2013, more than 70 Forest Service timber sales were litigated in Montana (Region 1). That accounted for between 40 to 54 percent of the planned timber harvest for those five years.


          • Matthew Koehler

            Hi Larry Kurtz: What you’ve posted here is actually a factual error in the sidebar of that article. Aaron Flint tried to do the same thing on Friday and I went through all this with him, and Twitter and again on his blog, but I suppose now I’ll have to do it again with you.

            As anyone can clearly read in the Helena IR article (Not the sidebar), Forest Service spokeswoman Elizabeth Slown stated, “From 2008 through 2013, the region had more than 70 projects litigated.”

            The USFS’s Region 1 includes 9 National Forests in Montana and 2 National Forests in Idaho, in addition to the Dakota Prairie Grasslands. So the info on the sidebar is wrong, as it refers only to Montana.

            And really, those 2 National Forests in Idaho that are part of USFS Region 1, used to be 5 National Forests, but the Nez and Clearwater were combined into one National Forest, while the Idaho Panhandle National Forest actually includes the former Coeur d’Alene, Kaniksu, & St. Joe National Forests. In other words, those Idaho National Forests in USFS Reg 1 are fairly big and include a lot of timber.

            Anyway, Senator Tester and the Washington Post fact-checker were talking specifically about USFS timber sales in Montana, not USFS timber sales in Region 1, which includes those Idaho National Forests mentioned above.

            So this is not really even an apples-to-apples comparison. But even leaving that aside, keep in mind the Helena IR article talked about 70 lawsuits over a 6 year period (NOTE: I interpret “from 2008 through 2013” to be a 6 year period, we’d have to check the spreadsheet to make sure).

            So, 70 lawsuits over 6 years in a USFS Region 1 that includes 11 National Forests would be approximately 1 timber sale lawsuit per National Forest per year. Honestly, that’s really very much in the ballpark with what the WaPost Fact-Checker found.

            We can do this all day Larry Kurtz, but you’re not adding many facts or substance to the debate…and I’m headed over to a friend’s house to watch the Wisconsin Badger basketball game in a little bit.

            In fact, simply googling – and then cutting-n-pasting – false information really doesn’t help improve public lands management or public discourse. So what’s your point or objective?

          • steve kelly

            I do not envy you Larry. Defending the insane if no picnic.

            “Instead of axes or saws, the U.S. Forest Service team went after trees with sticks of high explosive.

            “You’d calculate the proper amount of explosive, and then fix that on the tree with shrink wrap,” Ash said. “You’d put it right where a face-cut would be, and sever it off right at the point where you put the explosive, almost like a directional fall. The idea is to link as many of those trees as possible to be efficient. In three and a half days, we did 500 trees.”” http://www.timberharvesting.com/u-s-forest-service-considers-using-explosives-to-bring-down-trees/

        • JC

          Doing the earth-haters work again, eh, Larry?

        • Matthew Koehler

          FWIW: The author of the forestindustry.com article above is Derek Weidensee, who also posts anonymously at the Missoulian as “logger.”

          Derek Weidensee lives in Rapid City, SD and has a history of saying stuff that simply isn’t true in regarding to public lands management, and being very sloppy with ‘facts.’

          Derek has been called out repeatedly on this blog (http://forestpolicypub.com) by myself and others for simply spouting off false information. Here’s a good example (http://bit.ly/18BmUGO), the Fleecer Mountain timber sale in Montana, which at one point, Derek claimed he was using to do an “apples-to-apples” comparison for the “wise-users’ Range Magazine.

          If any readers are interested in a different perspective about the Bozeman Watershed Project than the one presented by Derek Weidensee in the forestindustry.com article Larry Kurtz posted above, I’d suggest they check these out:



          Please try harder Larry Kurtz….this is just getting way too embarrassing for you, if you failed to noticed.

      • fester

        So you are “non profit” Matt, explain to the rest of us how you can afford a 3 grand a year membership at the country club.do tell Why arent your acolytes who hate profit or coporashunz a bit upset when you get to play golf with the evil monsters who make money and can afford to join the country club.

        We will be waiting.matty poo, but I doubt you will fess up like most progs.

        • lizard19

          hey coward, why don’t you ever respond when the sun is up?

        • Matthew Koehler

          Hello anonymous ‘fester.’ I don’t have a country club membership. Never have and never will. Doing some work for the WildWest Institute in 2014 I got paid $2,092 (according to the W2), which is not even enough to cover this fictitious 3 grand a year membership. Please stop making stuff up and posting at 3 in the morning. Thanks.

  4. Craig Moore

    Jon Tester and the Montana Wood Products Assoc. are holding hands these day. Tester is the new chair of the DSCC whose main job is fundraising. Both oppose transferring federal lands to state stewardship. Funny that. http://www.timberharvesting.com/montana-timber-group-opposes-federal-land-transfer/ The financial “lightning” travels the path of least resistance. I wonder if the MWPA sees greater opportunity to log when the land is controlled by federal politics that frames logging legislation as conservation.

    • 1) You might achieve more clarity of understanding if you drop references to political parties. The two parties are useful in elections, but are less so between campaigns. Washington is comprised of interests, and not parties. Tester and Daines, for instance, are Timber Lobby men, and not a D and an R. They find it useful to appear to be in opposition, but that is mere perception management.

      2) Back in the late 1990’s, when similar legislation as you mention here, to transfer federal land to state management, was proposed, I had opportunity to interview then State Senator Tom Keating on the matter. He was quite blunt, and offered me a copy of a letter he had written to an Alaska legislator who had proposed similar legislation up there, stating that the ultimate goal (“of course”) of bringing federal land under state jurisdiction was to “privatize” those lands. To Keating’s lament (I imagine), that letter made it to public record during hearings. It is rare that powerful factions are so frank about their goals.

      So Craig, if you favor change of management from federal to state, you also (perhaps unknowingly) favor privatization of public lands, and ought to justify that position without the subterfuge of wanting them under ‘more efficient’ state management.

    • steve kelly


      State can’t match the subsidies now being doled out. Chinese will use their own workers and ship it all back home.

      • Craig Moore

        Steve, consider if the laws were changed to lease federal lands to the states to re-lease. For example, BLM land that fails to generate grazing lease rates equivalent to state rates. The states could make a profit on the lease delta. The feds would still have ownership, generate the same money, have the same obligations to defend against fire, while the states would have other stewardship responsibilities and enjoy a profit that equalizes the grazing cost across all ranchers that use public land.

        As to forest management and harvesting, I can’t help but think their are some creative federal state solutions that allow greater flexibility in certain forests and greater protections in others.

        • steve kelly

          Anything’s possible. The fundamental disagreement that exists, and has existed since the national forest system was created is about (timber) dominant use posing as multiple use. All other values kneel to timber in the current political/policy environment. There is virtually no movement toward a new vision or mission for federal or state agencies managing public forests today.

          The forests are not unhealthy by any scientific or ecological measure. What’s ailing is our socio-political environment. We’re facing 21st Century challenges, but stuck on turn-of-the-20th-Century, utilitarian policies that serve an industrial model that’s almost extinct. A reset is needed, but all the ditherers can talk about is “forest reform.”

        • A ‘truism’ that passes without examination is that the private sector is more efficient and better at management than government. Another is that our forests will be managed more efficiently at the state level than the federal.

          I doubt it. Frankly, I’ve not seen private sector efficiency that blows my socks off, nor government inefficiency that scares me. That’s all overblown, mostly just talk, and accepted as self-evident when it needs some bearing out.

          But this I do know: At the state level, multinational corporations have far more sway over state and local government than they can manage over the Federal Government. This is the driving force behind the move to transfer management of federal lands to the state level, that there will be less resistance to corporate power, and eventually, to achieve the real goal, privatization of those lands. Right now to move federally managed lands from public to private ownership is extremely difficult. At the state level, less so.

          • JC

            Why not cut out the middle man, and trade cutover private lands for pristine public lands? Yeah, land exchanges are still in the works. Here’s the worst example close to home, the Upper Lochsa Land Exchange.

            In this case, it is incredible that the Exchange is still viable, considering the plight of Western Pacific Timber’s owner Tim Blixeth, and his incredible string of defaults, bankruptcy, court contempt, land swaps, ad nauseum. But corruption knows no bounds when it comes to land exchanges.

    • JC

      Keep liquidating the forests to pay welfare to workers and local governments unwilling to move beyond a 20th century industrial boom/bust landscape!!

      Most of us went through this thought exercise 25 years ago, realizing the USFS had abused local communities by making unreasonable/illegal commitments and projection of available resources.

      Maybe you should go take some lessons at The Bruce Vincent “Communities for a Great Northwest/Great Northwest Log Haul” School of Motivational Speaking. Your blind URLs are noticeably lacking in any context or intelligent discussion.

      • larry kurtz

        People have been managing New World forests for millennia before the Forest Service pledged to stop all fires they don’t set. Mechanical harvest is a restoration tool in biomes that have been altered by human activity.

        • JC

          I don’t think what you mean by “restoration” with “mechanical harvest” is the same thing that many of the rest of us mean by restoration. Nor do I think you can mechanically harvest the forest into a condition where wildfire no longer becomes a concern.

          Try again.

      • larry kurtz

        It’s ridiculous that the farm bill is determining the future of Montana’s forests and wild lands as the bison that could remediate the entire Missouri basin are being slaughtered because of the cattle lobby.

      • larry kurtz

        The BLM adopts out invasive wild horses that decimate the land they manage while bison are culled: how is that sustainable?

        • JC

          You’re going to lecture me about the BLM and bison? I’ve written, introduced, and lobbied for legislation to change bison management, and have written position papers about it for gubernatorial candidates.


  5. fester

    abusive content deleted

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