Posts Tagged ‘Forest Service’

by William Skink

I wanted to do a follow up to the last post, Jon Tester’s Big Lie, because based on one commenter (Dan) I’m getting the feeling there is some reluctance to acknowledge just how blatantly obvious Tester’s lie was, not to mention the subsequent damage control, which wasn’t much better. That is why Jon Tester earned himself a 4 Pinocchio rating on the lie spectrum from Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post. From the link:

Logging on federal lands is an important part of Montana’s economy, with the Forest Service having the complex role of seeking to keep the forests healthy while also keeping the state’s mills running. Meanwhile, environment groups in the region are active in making sure the agency does not violate key laws, such as the Endangered Species Act.

Thus, there is an inherent tension. Even so, in 2014, the Forest Service’s Northern Region which includes Montana, met its timber harvest goal for the first time in over 14 years. The region harvested 280 million board feet — enough to build nearly 10,000 homes.

The Forest Service also recognizes the important role of environmental groups who challenge some of its decisions. “Things should be litigated that need to be litigated,” said Heather Noel, a Forest Service spokeswoman. “If there is something the Forest Service has missed, it is very healthy. We absolutely should be tested on that.”

But, despite Tester’s protestations, there is relatively little litigation involving timber sales — and even when there is, it generally does not halt logging operations.

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.

These four sales are the Miller West Fisher timber sale in Kootenai National Forest, two Glacier Loon sales (Swan Flats Stewardship and Lunar Kraft Stewardship) in Flathead National Forest and Meadow Creek in Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. We might question the inclusion of Meadow Creek on this list because Forest Service records show the agency itself pulled the decision without explanation. In the Flathead case, the Forest Service choose to appeal rather than accept a court decision ruling against it, thus extending the delays itself.

In any case, even if one accepts the Forest Service’s definition of enjoined sales, just 4 percent of the timber sales cannot be logged because of litigation.

This is very specific information that I doubt even the most ardent supporters of our senior senator can deny. He lied. And then he dug deeper. Here’s more from Kessler:

Meanwhile, there are problems with Tester’s revised statement. In that case, he tried to change the subject by changing the metrics. “What we gave was volume of sales,” acknowledged David Smith, another Forest Service spokesman. “That’s quite different from number of sales litigated.”

But it turns out that the volume of sales under litigation (69.4 million board feet) was being measured against annual timber volume (145.3 million board feet). That is apples and oranges, since “very little of this 69.4 million has been cut this year,” Noel acknowledged.

Moreover, “under litigation” is a rather expansive term because it includes projects which are still being logged even as disputes are settled in courts. (The Forest Service also sometimes counts as “under litigation” areas which are not under contract or where an environmental group simply has said it intends to sue.)

The Forest Service ultimately provided a figure of 271.3 million board feet that is under contract in Montana, as of Dec. 31, 2014. Given that many of the projects being litigated are being logged, it is unclear how much has been cut already. So the only reliable figure we can use is the projected volume of the four projects that are enjoined from any logging: Miller West Fisher (15.4 million board feet), Swan Flats (6), Lunar Kraft (4.3) and Meadow Creek (2).

That adds up to 27.7 million board feet, or about 10 percent of board feet remaining under contract. That’s a far cry from “nearly half.”

We should also note that of Montana’s nine national forests, only three have projects under contract that have been halted by litigation.

Politicians lie. The joke is you can tell when they lie because their lips are moving. But this is more than just a lie. It’s a purposeful escalation against people Tester has labeled extremists, the same provocative term John Boehner used after Obama vetoed the Keystone piepeline. Why is that important? Because it actually endangers people’s lives, as this tweet from John S. Adams indicates:

John S. Adams @TribLowdown:

@HelenaVigilante I’ve interviewed people who were physically threatened w/ violence & had their home shot at over forest policy issues.

It’s sad, thinking back to 2006, the hope that many of us had when we cast votes for Tester. Now my hope is that a reckoning will come in 2018. Tester isn’t just a proven liar–he’s a reckless politician willfully misrepresenting an issue that some people are willing to commit crimes over. And litigation, when it works, only works because the courts determine that laws are being broken.

If low-information wing-nuts think litigation has stopped ALL timber sales, then who knows what some unhinged, gun-toting actual extremist will do to the people they identify as being responsible for something that was never true to begin with.

Jon Tester should apologize directly. So far the damage control has been no better than the lie itself. Montanans deserve better.

It would also be nice to hear something from Tester’s supporters, the ones who would be expressing their outrage if this was a Republican lying so blatantly about an issue so many people feel very strongly about.




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