Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Litigation bond stumping logging reformers

Logging is an essential evil to restore forests in the West. New growth conifer species can easily overwhelm hardwoods like aspen and oak.

Republicans in the US House like Ryan Zinke (earth hater-MTAL) seek to expedite contracts with the US Forest Service while the Obama Administration holds common ground on the need to reduce forest fuels. A vote in the House Natural Resources Committee is expected today.
This year, the Republican-led push is focused on slimming down and streamlining environmental reviews for projects and by making a lawsuit to stop a project potentially much more expensive to file. When the U.S. Forest Service currently wants to undertake major work on a national forest, it talks with stakeholders such as the timber industry, local residents, and environmental groups to develop a plan that addresses their concerns and uses the best science available. 
Nearly three dozen environmental groups wrote McClintock and Tsongas to oppose the bill, including the Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society and Defenders of Wildlife. Kyle Tisdel, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center, said groups that end up suing the federal government to stop a project must take part in an extensive public participation process before they can go to court. He said the additional hurdle of requiring an insurance bond would have a substantial chilling effect on the public's ability to engage the government and take their case to a final arbiter. [Associated Press]
From one forest policy expert:
The bond in this case isn’t to cover losses or costs to the defendant, instead the bond is for the government’s attorney’s fees. That would arguably be unconstitutional under Boddie v. Connecticut precisely because the defendant is the government and the bond was designed as a barrier to court access. [comment, Andy Erickson, A New Century of Forest Policy]
The Black Hills National Forest looks better than it has in years after the mountain pine beetle has thinned vast swaths and opened view sheds. This bill in committee doesn't really apply in South Dakota because litigation is so rare that the timber industry has virtual free rein from BHNF Supervisor Craig Bobzien.

But on forests in the greater Mountain West there are far many more stakeholders to guide the process of selecting new timber sales and letting private contractors have their way with managers won't happen without fights.

As long as there is a process to protect and preserve the oldest trees then fires lit after mechanical harvest where roads already exist timber sales could just as easily be called fuel treatments.

Recent rainfall is delaying the wildfire season but forecasters are warning of increased likelihood as grasses dry.

Habitat restoration and biological diversity should be the ultimate goals in public lands stewardship not short-time profits for GOP donors.

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