Thursday, November 7, 2013

Black Hills mountain pine beetle war cover for GOP donors

The Rapid City Journal editorial board is at odds with South Dakota's GOP Congressional delegation over restrictions on the Freedom of Information Act being written into the House GOP farm subsidy bill. Mary Clare Jalonick of the AP gives readers another look:
Parts of the nation's $500 billion farm bill that Congress is considering would prohibit the government from disclosing some information about farmers or their employees, possibly preventing people from learning about nearby agricultural and large-scale livestock operations blamed for polluting water or soil. An attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, Jon Devine, one of the groups that received the personal information about some farmers, said his group wasn't interested in such details and returned the information when the EPA asked for it. Craig Cox of the Environmental Working Group said he worried that the provisions could interfere with his group's ability to compile information about farm subsidies distributed every year, which the farm industry complains about [Jalonick, AP].
Hey, Kristi: want to pass a farm/food bill? Get the Forest Service out of the US Dept. of Agriculture.


Good discussion at New Century of Forest Planning on the Black Hills ponderosa pine monoculture and the fake mountain pine beetle war staged by Neiman Enterprises and the cattle grazing lobby. This comment is lifted from the post:

Sharon says the Black Hills N.F. have “got it figured out” and that on the Black Hills “there is litigation but not very successful…why is that?” It looks like there have been two lawsuits in the past 10 years on the Black Hills, one before the 8th Circuit regarding MPB treatments in the Norbeck Wildlife Preserve, and one ongoing before the 10th Circuit regarding the last major amendment to the Black Hills forest plan, which was supposed to fix legal and scientific problems identified in the 1997 plan revision by the Chief of the Forest Service, but appears to have taken a turn away from those promises to focus instead on MPB and wildfire.

There are certainly concerned local citizens tracking the Forest Service’s actions on the Black Hills N.F. regarding wildlife habitat, botanical resources, and water quality. Yet despite objections from the public, the Forest Service recently authorized a 250,000-acre forest-wide Mountain Pine Beetle Response Project under HFRA following pressure from industry and the state of South Dakota and counties. The relatively small number of lawsuits on the Black Hills may be because litigation truly takes a lot of resources, time, and staff capacity, and larger environmental law groups with more paid staff and funds tend to focus on the Rockies, Cascades, Sierras, etc. Not to mention one of the last successful lawsuits on the Black Hills resulted in then-Sen. Daschle helping enact a legislative rider to get the Forest Service out of a settlement agreement not to log in a roadless area (one of only 2 IRAs over 5,000 acres on the Forest – there is one 13,000-acre wilderness) before fixing the deficient 1997 revised plan. Knowing a litigation win can be undone so quickly through legislation by powerful agency and industry lobbies has likely made a lot of folks who participate in public processes on the Black Hills wary of taking the Forest Service there to court.

Sharon mentions nothing of the devastating impacts 100-years plus of heavy-handed management and development have had on native species and hydrology in this “island in the plains.” The Black Hills N.F. has one of the highest road densities nationally (the highest in Region 2) and some of the most at-risk populations of species like black-backed woodpecker, American marten, American dipper, and northern goshawk due to its isolated nature and ongoing heavy logging in the name of MPB and wildfire hazard reduction. There are also other challenges, including a very high number of private inholdings making the WUI very large, a lot of hard-rock mining, etc.

Comments note that a ponderosa pine monoculture resulted from years of fire suppression and logging. This may be true, but that does not mean there are no adverse impacts from massive “MPB treatments” that continue to send Region 2 “sensitive species” on their downward spiral. Simple protections for snag-dependent species and goshawks that were in place in the past have been removed. In fact, the situation has become so alarming that the Black Hills population of the black-backed woodpecker is being reviewed for ESA protections by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. High-intensity wildfire, which produces the most valuable habitat for these woodpeckers, has historically not been allowed to occur and still isn’t. Prescribed fire produces fairly low-value habitat for black-backed woodpeckers, while MPB produces mediocre habitat for this species.

The Black Hills N.F. may be one of the last to revise its plan under the 2012 planning rule, because how could the Forest Service possibly meet obligations for “ecological integrity” or “ecological sustainability” when faced with such pressure from Neiman Enterprises and hostility toward conservation from a public that has been taught that “MPB = Public Enemy #1.” Neiman actually distributes such bumper stickers and pins. There are good folks working to educate the public on the real impacts of ongoing heavy logging on the fragile Black Hills ecosystem, but it’s an uphill battle as always when faced with industry’s financial resources. It’d be a shame if the Black Hills served as a model for other parts of the country. It’s quite a stretch to argue it is managed in a balanced way for the full spectrum of multiple uses, particularly wildlife and water quality values. It’s basically been turned into a sacrifice zone depleted of much of the unique biodiversity that accumulated over tens of thousands of years with relics from multiple climatic zones.

That one family enterprise has a virtual monopoly on timber taken from public ground is just more evidence of red state collapse.

In the late ’70s Homestake employed a mostly union-supported workforce ending when Ronald Reagan came to office and declared war on organized labor to finance the Southern Strategy. Now, what is left die in the oil patch or West Virginia while the Neimans and Masseys plunder the remainder in the name of job creation.

Good for Oregon while South Dakota languishes under the shadow of the Yellowstone supervolcano awaiting redemption.

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