Who here is the devil?
We hear tell the devil is afoot in Sierra County, and he wants to spread fire and destruction wherever he goes. We got two groups of folks what saw the devil, the problem is they each name the other.
Here’s how it goes: Wally Herger and Tom McClintock and others heard the plea of constituents that the Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group wasn’t able to do any hazard fuel removal on public lands (this has nothing to do with private timberlands) because "environmentalists" keep suing to stop timber sales, so to combat the environmental devils, they proposed a law, HR2899. Here are the proposed findings of that law:
(1) Forested lands under the jurisdiction of the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management in California have grown into a state of unnatural density and structure.
(2) Overgrown forest conditions, in combination with continued drought and other climatic circumstances, have left these forests at extreme risk to insects, disease, and catastrophic wildfire.
(3) The risk of catastrophic wildfire presents a very real threat to the health and safety of individuals and communities in the wildland-urban interface as well as to the property of adjacent private landowners.
(4) The catastrophic, stand-replacing fires that are occurring with increasing frequency as a result of the forest conditions described in paragraph (2), pose a threat to the health of lands, watersheds, wildlife, air quality and the environment.
(5) Local communities and interests are willing to work collaboratively to assure seamless protection from catastrophic wildfire and to improve forest health across public and private lands.
(6) The Federal Government, particularly the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, must address these conditions at the appropriate annual pace and scale needed across the landscape to have a substantial impact in reducing natural disturbances.
The Bill intends:
Eligible projects on covered forest lands shall be carried out in a cost-effective manner that--
(1) focuses on surface, ladder, and canopy fuels reduction activities; or
(2) implements forest restoration activities in response to severe fire, insect, or disease infestation, windthrow, or other extreme weather events or natural disasters.
So, now we know the good guys are supporting HR2899 and the devil hates it.
But wait, there’s more! The devil environmentalists most often identified are Sierra Forest Legacy. We went to the devil’s website, and guess what we found! Mostly the same thing, at least up to number 4, above.
Fire has long been an essential and natural force that has influenced the ecosystems of the Sierra Nevada. Natural and vital ecological functions such as plant regeneration, soil function, nutrient cycling, habitat revitalization, disease control, predator prey dynamics, biological diversity, and vegetation development, have long been influenced by a natural fire regime. After a century of suppressing fires in the Sierra Nevada the forest ecosystems throughout the range have been altered, but fire must still play an important role in the future health of our forests. Focusing on the removal of surface and ladder fuels, while protecting the largest most fire-resistant trees, is essential to returning the Sierra to a natural fire cycle while maintaining the integrity of a healthy forest.
What the heck! But, look what they say about the Herger bill:
Fails to define "forest restoration activities" - leaving potential actions, such as salvage logging, wide open without public oversight
Allows local county governments to propose their own version of fuels reduction projects -- while eliminating the public's right to appeal or seek judicial review
Eliminates federal jurisdiction over public lands
By-passes the requirements of both the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Forest Management Act
In short, SFL thinks the devil wants to operate outside the law by changing the law to eliminate all laws. The SFL doesn’t think much of the QLG, either:
Proponents of the bill - Congressmen Wally Herger, Tom McClintock, Dan Lungren and George Radanovich - have been pushing the idea of applying the Quincy Library Group model across the entire West. In truth, the QLG is a model for corruption, not collaboration. The QLG's two self described "environmentalists" received over $470,000 in payments primarily from Sierra Pacific Industries and the county governments that benefit from the logging...funds that were used to fight the conservation movement in the Sierra.
The QLG folks have all the counties lined up, they have all kinds of Industry professionals, they want to reduce hazard fuels around communities and save people, houses, animals and the environment.
The SFL folks have a convincing amount of fire information on their site including some actual science and they want to reduce hazard fuels around communities and save people, houses, animals and the environment.
What’s the difference here, what is this argument really about?
Well, this is America, so it’s about money.
The QLG is supported by the timber industry, largely, with some county and other money tossed in. The point of the QLG is to send trees to the mill. The counties love that because they believe this will revive timber jobs and bring in timber taxes. The industry loves it because it gets a nice deal on public trees.
The forest products industry has tremendous influence over local county governments in many rural forest communities in Northern California. This bill would give them virtually unlimited access to publicly owned forest resources, while cutting out the public's right to oversee and appeal decisions that may have long term and irreparably damaging consequences for ecological processes and species survival.
The singular distinction between the devils is the use of the land, whether the primary value of timber has a dollar amount, or whether it has some other value, and whether it can be saved by the people who (with good intentions) mismanaged it, or whether management should take new guidance.
The Sierra County Board of Supervisors has supported HR 2899, as other timber extraction counties have. The Herger bill would allow trees to be sold, which will offset the costs of hazard fuel removal. Sierra Forest Legacy wants to take the commodity value out of the publicly owned forest for a few generations, to let the woods return to a more normal environment. They have science, they have a plan, they don’t have money.
Which do you support?
In the interest of fairness: you can’t give logs away right now.