by Russ Steele
I have been reading the Forest Service Planning Rule documents and I am totally blown away by the bureaucratic male cow pies this document contains. It is really a stifling document to read, yet everyone who enjoys visiting our forest needs to read it and understand what the Forest Service and the NGO environmentalists are up to in creating these new planning rules. The Rules are to guide and control the actions of regional Forest Service planners in developing public use plans. These new planning rules will apply to the Tahoe National Forest and other nationl forests in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
Once you plow your way through all the verbal scat, you come to that head- slapping moment when you realize these environmental zealots want to manage our National Forest like National Parks. No, they will not be setting up gates and charging fees for entering our National Forests, but they will be setting up restoration zones that will be posted to exclude humans from entering. And, if you do, you can be arrested for violating the rules. Remember the last time you were at Yosemite, and there were all those taped off exclusion zones? “Under restoration, do not enter,” the signs read.
You can be misled if you just read the words. You have to dig deep into the specifics of what those words might mean. For example, under the Wildlife Protection and Animal Diversity section we find this:
“Plans would include components designed to maintain and restore the structure, function, composition, and connectivity of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and watersheds.”
One could read into the above statement, that the Forest Service needs to remove river dams to restore aquatic connectivity. It could mean that the Forest Service needs to establish wildlife corridors connecting two or more National Forests. There seem to be a lot of lefty code words in these planning rules that need to be interpreted.
How would you interpret “connectivity of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and watersheds.”? This could range from placing a culvert under a highway project, building a large animal bridge over the freeway, or as complicated and expensive as buying land slated for development to insure animals have access corridors between National Forests. And, who will be paying for these culverts, bridges and preservation corridors? Tax payers! Tax payers that may be excluded from using our national forests.
While there are multiple uses considered in the planning documents, including ecosystems services, energy, minerals, outdoor recreation, range, timber, watershed, wildlife, fish, and wilderness, they all come with a sustainability caveat. And, who gets to decide what is and what is sustainable? It will be the Forest Service and their NGO contractors. How comfortable are you with that concept of forest management, where the Sierra Conservancy, South Yuba River Citizens League or Sierra Business Council gets to decide what is sustainable? Each unit must address the “broader social and economic sustainability” in the planning and monitoring phases, just more sustainability code words for the NGOs to enforce.
There are more code words in the sections on Recreation, Monitoring, Consistency with Other Public Planning, Restoration, Contribution to Vibrant Local Economies, Collaboration and Public Involvement, and Tribal Consultation and Participation, plus three more areas I want to explore in more detail, including All Lands Approach, Role of Science, and Climate Change.
Let’s start with climate change, which is labeled a “stressor” in the planning rules document. These rules are supposed to “provide a more effective and efficient framework that would allow adaptive land management planning in the face of climate change and other stressors.” And then there is that old favorite sustainability again. “The plan must include components for sustainability taking into account potential systems drivers, stressors, disturbance regimes and including climate change.”
If you know what that last sentence means, please send me an email at the address below. I would really like to know. On the other hand, I do have more of a handle on this statement. “The planning process would address climate change adaptation and mitigation in the way most appropriate to that unit, based on the best available science information.”
I recently took a look at some of the Forest Service science published in an internal report assessing climate change in the Tahoe and El Dorado National Forest. I found their “best science” has some serious flaws.
I could not find any of the claimed warming at three of the four stations. Poor siting compromised these surface stations. The Forest Service Study did not show any warming at Lake Spaulding. The warming was found in the Nevada City, Placerville and Truckee stations. However, when I tried to repeat the study findings using the historical data, there was no warming that could not be accounted for by sighting issues and other local anomalies. More details are at NC Media Watch. Search for Forest Service on my blog and the analysis will come up.
The climate change is also related to the Role of Science section. This section calls for the use of the “best available scientific information through out the planning process and document this considation in every assessment report, planning decision document and monitoring evaluation report.” This is an excellent start for a science-based process. However, there does not seem to be any process for challenging peer-reviewed documents used in the planning, which have been proven to be wrong, fraudulent, or overcome by better information. I am reminded that Climategate revealed how the peer review process was used to block studies that were contrary to the views of a dedicated team of rogue scientists. How do we insure that similar bad science is not used in the planning documents?
The final straw is the All Lands Approach to planning section. In this approach Forest Service Planners would “take into account the context of the border landscape to better inform management and the protection of NFS lands and waters.” In other words, if you are a local land owner that shares a boundary with the National Forest, they would like to include you in the planning and rule-making process. The problem is, once the rules are made; you would be required to follow them. This provision would also encourage other state, county and other local government agencies to participate in the planning. This cooperation or collaboration could put the squeeze on landowners sharing boundaries with Forest Service managed lands, when they get caught between the Forest Service and local government agencies controlled by local environmentalists.
The above is my interpretation of what I read in the proposed planning documents. I encourage you to do your own reading and interpretation. You can download a copy of the planning rules here (www.fs.usda.gov/planningrule). And, then comment here (http://www.regulations.gov) before 16 May 2011, which is the closing date for all comments.
Russ Steele is a freelance writer and he blogs on issues at NC Media Watch. His e-mail is rwsteele (at) gmail.com