Collaboration, schmlaboration


Regarding Ray Ring's story "Thinking Outside the Timber Box": While I think the Beaverhead-Deerlodge Partnership is a good step and a grand idea in broad terms, what Ring missed is that the Partnership group barely tried to include county commissioners and others (HCN, 7/20/09). If the point of a collaborative approach is to bring all the interests in, then make the effort. Don't blow them off and then tell the world you have the best thing since sliced bread. What the Partnership did was forge an agreement and then pull up the drawbridge — excluding anyone outside their group. Now the Partnership is trying to legislate forest planning. That could lead to all sorts of unintended and hard-to-fix problems if management direction for the Beaverhead-Deerlodge is set in stone. Ring seems to be so biased against the Forest Service that he didn't hear or care to report on caring professionals who are trying to do right through the maze of conflicting laws, policies, court precedents and public opinion.

Jack de Golia
Dillon, Montana


Ray Ring responds:

I reported that the Beaverhead-Deerlodge Partnership's process was not as open as other collaboratives in the West. I also reported that the partnership negotiated some terms to earn endorsements from several rural county governments. Granite County commissioners, for instance, reiterated their support at the July 17 press conference where Sen. Jon Tester announced his wilderness-timber legislation, which is largely based on the partnership's work. I didn't intend to insult the Forest Service's dedicated staffers. They've been assigned an impossible task, underfunded and torn in all directions by the interest groups. Many people think it's time to try experiments like the one the partnership is attempting.

Reply to Ray Ring
Jack de Golia
Jack de Golia
Aug 05, 2009 01:08 PM
Of course the Granite and Powell county commissioners have liked the Partnership from the start. Much of the timber action would be in their counties while wilderness would be elsewhere. From a conservative, development oriented commissioner perspective, what's not to like about that?!

Sherm Anderson, from Sun Mountain Lumber, is like the "fourth commissioner" of these two counties. They dance to his tune.

Meantime, Beaverhead and Madison counties, where much of the wilderness would be established, were left out of the process by the Partnership Group. My complaint is that your story didn't cover this issue adequately or critically.

Also needing some scrutiny by the press is the Tester bill's requirement to harvest 7000 acres a year on the "Bee Bar Dee." That's a recipe for the Forest Service to fail, because the requirement is unrealistic, assuming it ever becomes law. NEPA analyses, Congressional funding or lack of it, court decisions, and law suits will no doubt make that figure next-to-impossible to achieve--never mind the whole idea of whether Congress should legislate a target like that.

The public has not been well served by the superficial reporting on the Partnership issue from a host of reporters and media.
Forest Service reform
Ray Ring
Ray Ring
Aug 05, 2009 09:56 PM
With respect: Is it possible that your decades working for the Forest Service in Beaverhead County have made it difficult for you to see beyond those boundaries, Jack?

Your comment here provides more evidence that the Forest Service needs pressure from efforts like the Beaverhead-Deerlodge Partnership. As you say, the Forest Service is so bogged down, you doubt it can harvest 7,000 acres per year on a timber base that measures about a million acres. The Forest Service has that kind of difficulty trying to manage all the resources and quarreling communities. Why not try a different approach?
Jack de Golia
Jack de Golia
Aug 06, 2009 08:24 AM
Read the fine print, Mr. Ring--in the new forest plan, in court decisions. There are lots of constraints on the timber base, from water quality to fish and wildlife concerns. That million acres is not as do-able as a superficial glance might indicate.

Is this the Forest Service's fault or is it the result of the tangle of court decisions, policies, and laws? Shall we add yet another, the Tester bill, to the tangled web?

A "new approach" that mandates x number of acres of treatment without a guarantee of funding to make it happen and with people on the right and the left ignored won't work.

Leaving out key constituents means they'll be there to oppose projects through appeals and litigation. Tester's bill doesn't make any of that go away.

I'm all for a new approach, in spite of your sarcasm. How about a new approach that has a chance of actually working in the political and legal reality that surrounds national forest management? With respect, better reporting would have dealt with these issues instead of simply hyping a well promoted idea.
no sarcasm
Ray Ring
Ray Ring
Aug 06, 2009 10:54 AM
You're angry. I'm not. I'm also not being sarcastic. My reporting in this case is accurate. No point in my responding further here.
Ray Ring's Unfortunate Tone for A "Journalist"
Reality Bites
Reality Bites
Aug 07, 2009 12:20 AM
Wow, it would seem Mr. Ring is a little miffed himself, eh? Ray, I have followed your reporting for years, in this rag for that matter. Having followed the forest policy debate in Montana for the past ten years, and in other Western locales for the past 20, I also found your lack of investigative reporting on this subject somewhat of a cross between an op-ed and a parroting of the Partnership Group's talking points. In other words you do a dis-service to the readership of this rag by not delving deeper into the issues, and you dont even have the excuse of needing to cover multiple beats as news daily journalists do. Mr DeGolia makes some fine points, ones that I would like to see followed up on, rather than dismissed as "angry". Your bias against the Forest Service's "position" as you characterize it, is palpable in the piece you wrote, perhaps only to those who already dont have their own biases against an agency who has literally suffered a "death by a thousand cuts" fate over the past 25 years. To get all policy wonk on this blog about the subtleties to this debate and in the process cite case law and policy history is perhaps more appropo in response to the next article whence you actually peel the layers of the onion instead of drink the kool-aid. However I will say that if you look into the issues you'll see that it just aint that simple. Not only has Sun Mtn Lumber had a few thousand acres of timber under contract for the past few years on the B-D that they havent cut, but also just as of last week DID NOT BID on the Rat Ck. Salvage Sale which could have provided them with about 20 mmbf for their mill and the communities that depend on it. But perhaps characterizing the FS's Forest Plan as you did above helps sell your colorful mag to hoards of readers hungry for something, anything to help them unravel the morass that we collectively live in when it comes to National Forest management. To characterize the partnership's strategy as "new" or "novel" is simply proving your ignorance, take a look at Quincy, Tongass, and Northwest Forest Plan for previous examples of this type of failed attempt to legislate the cut. P.S. Paul Larmer's Editor's note is laughable. He states: "(The Forest Service is) too attached to its own long-winded, more traditional Forest Plan, which calls for less Wilderness and less logging and is guaranteed to make everybody unhappy." Paul- Do you think that the FS is the proper government branch (that would be administrative) to adjudicate these issues at the Forest Planning level? Do you think NEPA is a legitimate tool to help decide values-based political conflict? Do you even know what I am talking about or do you spout rhetoric at the expense of your readers? Lets try and get at some of these questions in the reporting, eh? I now know why I dont read HCN very often anymore. btw I know and respect some of your current and former board members and editors who I will not name here, but I urge you not to attempt to marginalize me as you attempted to Mr. DeGolia. What say you?
Final note
Jack de Golia
Jack de Golia
Aug 07, 2009 07:31 AM
Just to be clear, I'm not angry. I'm happily retired! I'm just concerned that important pieces of an important story got missed and now I'm intrigued that in response the reporter belittles the person raising the questions. There's more to the story of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge Partnership--the collaboration that led to Sen. Tester's bill is lacking, the odds of the legislation succeeding in producing jobs and timber if it passes, are questionable. That's means there's amble room for an inquiring--and unbiased--reporter to run. I hope HCN goes beyond the talking points and digs into this one.
Hold on here
Dave Skinner
Dave Skinner
Aug 21, 2009 12:53 PM
Look, both of you. This Tester bill is an outgrowth of a willingness by B-D planners to just roll over and play dead in terms of active management. I was shocked when the preferred alternative hit the streets and so was everyone else. The reason for rolling over? Jack is right about that in his allusion to "the maze of conflicting laws, policies, court precedents and public opinion" -- something which our Congresscritters are currently not able or willing to deal with.
The Anderson et-al bunch scraped together money to get some science on the ground and at the time of the Burns hearing, I thought they had something that was scientifically-defensible. But rather than go to the local governments and other user groups and say, let's go, all of a sudden there's this agreement with MWA et al that pretty much throws everyone else under the bus.
Not discussed here is how many of the legal and wildlife constraints established are objectively counter-productive in the long run. Nobody is thinking about the next forest and what it needs to be, and that's gonna bite. 7,000 acres a year for ten years is not going to have the needed effect on the landscape. And using the BD as a model in Montana, with 600,000 acres of combined bug and fire kill each of the last ten years, just doesn't cut the mustard at all.
Further, I really have to raise the pathetic irony of UP and PGE getting sued on the hook for zillions for loss of "grandeur" while if a USFS fire escapes onto other ownerships, there's no recourse that direction. No, it's the WUI resident's fault for building too close. Give me a break. No, give us all some sanity.
Poison Apple
Tom Woodbury
Tom Woodbury
Aug 25, 2009 11:34 AM
I think we can debate the substance of Tester's bill at length, and would be glad to have the opportunity to do so in an open, public forum. And that's the point, really. The process is the problem here. Mr. de Golia makes a very good point when he notes that the folks excluded from the members-only "collaborative" process, including the very same grass-roots groups that have been involved in the forest planning and public decision-making process for decades, are more likely to appeal and litigate because of the way this thing has thus far been shoved down our throats. The only way to achieve true collaboration is to use the bill as the starting point, not the take-it-or-leave it end point, and for Tester to have the testes to actually conduct field hearings in places like Helena, Bozeman, and Missoula rather than staged media events in traditional mill towns, and then follow that up with Congressional hearings in D.C. I think if he took this approach, then the bill might actually end up representing the interests of the public at large, the owners of these forests, and not just special interests.