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Latest news from BARK, incl. upcoming events

1. Winter Awareness Hike to Bearknoll, 1/9

2. Letter Writing Potluck, 1/17

3. Your Bearknoll Comments Due! 1/20

4. Analysis of Bush's Rollbacks to NFMA
1. Winter Hike to Bearknoll!

Sunday, January 9 at 8:45 am to 6:00 pm



EARLY WINTER DEPARTURE TIME: Carpools leave from the Daily Grind, SE
Hawthorne & 40th, PROMPTLY at 9:00. Please arrive by 8:45 so we can check
you in, arrange rides and give a brief overview of the day's plans. We'll be
stopping at a pub on the return to write comment letters.



Ranger Rolf is back to lead Bark's popular annual winter tracking and
wilderness awareness hike. Enjoy an exploration of the Bearknoll Timber
Sale, one of Mt. Hood's most threatened areas, while learning fascinating
winter ecology facts. The Bearnknoll timber sale now has an environmental
assessment out, with a limited public comment window (Jan 20), so this is
your opportunity to see it and make your views known. For the hike, bring
WARM winter clothing (coat, scarf, hat, gloves) food, water, rain gear,
sturdy water resistant hiking shoes, sunscreen, hat, etc., and be prepared
to go off trail. Depending on the conditions this may be a snowshoe hike. A
few pairs of snowshoes are available through Bark (reserve at
<mailto: Brian@bark-out.org>  Brian@bark-out.org; it's first come first
served). Otherwise, bring your own or borrow or rent (Mountain Shop). You
also MUST bring chains if you plan to drive. High clearance vehicles a plus!







2. Letter Writing Potluck for Bearknoll

Monday, January 17, 7:00 pm, 4036 NE 11th (between Shaver and Mason)



Come join Bark on Monday, January 17th at 7 pm for some tasty food and
collective action. The Forest Service has conveniently released an
Environmental Assessment for the Bearknoll Timber Sale to dampen our
collective holiday spirit. So please bring a dish, your thinking caps, and a
pen so we can let the Forest Service know that we are not jolly about this
proposal. We will be gathering at 4036 NE 11th (between Shaver and Mason).
If you have questions or need directions please call the office at (503)
331-0374.





3. Your Comments on Bearknoll Needed by Jan 20, 2005!



Comments should be sent to:

Becky Nelson
6780 Highway 35

Mt. Hood / Parkdale, OR 97041

Or emailed to: <mailto: bnelson01@fs.fed.us>  bnelson01@fs.fed.us



Direct comments can be made on-line at:

< http://www.citizenspeak.org/campaign/5096.php>
 http://www.citizenspeak.org/campaign/5096.php



The Bearknoll Environmental Assessment (EA) is out and we need to get as
many public comments as possible opposing this destructive logging project!
Six years in the waiting and conveniently released for the holidays, this
sale would log 531 acres. Talking points are below, and the EA itself listed
under the Bearknoll Timber sale. Please check them out and do your part.
Bark has many events pertaining to this sale, listed above, so feel free to
write your comments in the company of others! For more information from the
Forest Service, call Becky Nelson at 541-467-5155.



- The Forest Service should perform an Environmental Impact Statement to
assess the true cumulative impacts. The Bearknoll sale will "thin" 531
acres in the same area as many other active timber sales (adjacent Osprey,
Diablo, Juncrock, and Hilynx). In addition to these active sales, the
Bearknoll planning area has already had 2,802 acres "treated."



- There are known endangered Spotted Owl sin the area and much of the area
slated to be logged is considered dispersal habitat. The EA notes that these
activities are likely to "provide opportunities for competitors and
predators (e.g. barred owl) to the spotted owl" (EA 91). One Late
Successional Reserve where owls reside receives snowmobile use through the
winter.



- The Bearknoll Timber Sale will harm water quality in a Tier II protected
Key Watershed. Frog Creek (a direct tributary of Clear Creek) already has
sedimentation that exceeds forest directives and inhibits spawning habitat
for fish. The plans at Bearknoll to log in areas adjacent to the riparian
reserve are bound to worsen the situation. Some units are on 10 to 35%
slopes directly above Frog Creek.





- The Road Density is above the recommended limit (3.22 miles of road per
square mile while the limit is 2.5 per square miles). Instead of truly
addressing the road density problem at Bearknoll (by obliterating excess
road mileage), the Forest Service merely plans to gate 4.85 miles, which
will still have all the negative impacts associated with roads such as
erosion, increased run-off, sedimentation, and landscape fragmentation. As
survey work done by Bark shows and the EA states, gates are often
ineffective at keeping people out. Further snowmobiles will be allowed
access in this Late Successional Reserve during the winter months, making
conditions difficult for critters that live here.









4. Bush's Rollbacks to the National Forest Management Act, What Does It All
Mean?



Analysis By Mike Peterson



Following is a quick analysis of the final National Forest Management Act
(NFMA) regulations that the Bush Administration released today governing
land and resource management planning on the national forests. This
analysis is based on the "pre-publication version" of the regulations
available on the Forest Service website at  http://www.fs.fed.us/emc/nfma/.
For background on the NFMA and the draft regulations issued in December
2002, see  http://www.tws.org/OurIssues/Forests/nfma.cfm.



Overall, the final NFMA regulations take a large step backwards in wildlife
conservation, environmental protection, and public involvement in the
national forests. The regulations remove key environmental safeguards for
national forests that have been in place for more than 20 years. They give
local Forest Service officials much more discretion and flexibility in how
they choose to manage the forests. The effect will be to make the national
forests far more vulnerable to environmentally destructive logging and other
harmful management activities.



Wildlife Viability



The final regulations eliminate the requirement to maintain "viable
populations" of native fish and wildlife species in the national forests.
This requirement has been a primary legal basis for some of the Forest
Service's most important forest conservation initiatives, including the
Northwest Forest Plan and the Sierra Nevada Forest Plan. In place of the
viability requirement, the regulations simply provide an "overall goal" to
"provide a framework to contribute to sustaining native ecological systems
by providing ecological conditions to support diversity of native plant and
animal species in the plan area" [36 CFR 219.10(b)].



Rather than planning to ensure the continued existence of wildlife, forest
plans will only "establish a framework to provide the characteristics of
ecosystem diversity in the plan area" [219.10(b)(1)]. In fact, forest plans
will no longer have to specifically address wildlife needs at all unless the
Forest Service determines that the "ecosystem diversity" provisions of the
plan need to be supplemented for a particular species [219.10(b)(2)]. The
regulations also excuse the Forest Service from any duty to monitor wildlife
populations [219.14(f)].



NEPA



The final regulations eliminate the requirement to prepare an environmental
impact statement (EIS) pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act
(NEPA) whenever a forest plan is revised or significantly amended. Instead,
forest plans "may be categorically excluded from NEPA documentation"
[219.4(b)], which means that the Forest Service can entirely bypass the NEPA
process whenever it revises or amends a forest plan.



Eliminating NEPA will severely limit public involvement and consideration of
environmental values in the forest planning process. For example, people
will have less access to information about the environmental impacts of the
agency's proposed management plan. The Forest Service will not be required
to examine alternatives to its proposed plan or to supply information about
the comparative advantages of various alternatives. In addition, the Forest
Service will not be required to study or disclose to the public the
cumulative environmental effects of management activities across the
national forest. Eliminating NEPA from the forest planning process also
appears to violate specific direction in the NFMA that the regulations
"insure that land management plans are prepared in accordance with [NEPA]"
[16 USC 1604(g)(1)].



Furthermore, the planning regulations treatment of NEPA needs to be viewed
in the context of other NEPA-related actions by the Bush Administration.
For the past four years, the Administration has adopted a series of
regulatory changes - mostly under the umbrella of the "Healthy Forests
Initiative" -- aimed at reducing the Forest Service's duties to comply with
NEPA at the project level, such as for timber sales. These actions
undermine the credibility of the Administration's assurances that full NEPA
analysis will be accomplished at the project level and therefore is
unnecessary at the plan level.



Instead of NEPA, the final regulations require the Forest Service to
establish an "environmental management system"(EMS) for each national
forest. [219.5]. EMS is a planning and monitoring process that has been
adopted by large timber companies like Weyerhaeuser Corporation to deal with
environmental regulations while maximizing corporate efficiency and profits.
It has never before been applied to federal forest lands, and it appears to
be an entirely inappropriate substitute for NEPA to advance the public's
interest in protecting the environmental integrity of the national forests.




Role of Science



Although the Bush Administration claims to be strengthening the role of
science in forest planning, in reality the final NFMA regulations give local
agency officials broad discretion to reject scientific evidence and
recommendations. The final regulations only require agency officials to
"take into account" the best available science [219.11(a)]. The preamble to
the final regulations [p. 18] makes it clear that science "is only one
aspect of decision making" and that "competing use demands" and other
factors can override scientific input. In contrast, the draft rule issued
in December 2002 gave science a much more prominent role in the planning
process by requiring that Forest Service decisions must "be consistent with"
the best available science.



Timber Management



Amazingly, the final regulations essentially ignore large parts of the law
(NFMA) that they are supposed to be implementing. In an effort to protect
the national forests from excessive and destructive logging, Congress
specifically instructed the Forest Service through the NFMA to develop
regulations that, among other things, limit the size of clearcuts, protect
streams from logging, ensure prompt reforestation, and restrict the annual
rate of cutting. Prior NFMA regulations complied with the statute by
limiting clearcuts to 40 acres, requiring 100-foot stream buffers, and
restricting the amount of timber cutting in each national forest.



However, the final regulations do none of these things. Instead, they
simply state that procedures for complying with NFMA requirements will be
included in the Forest Service's internal directives system (the Forest
Service Manual and Handbook) [219.12(b)]. One major problem with this
strategy is that federal regulations have the force of law, but management
direction in the Forest Service's directives system is generally not legally
enforceable. The agency's directives system is also much less visible and
accessible to the general public and therefore is a poor forum for engaging
people's interest in important forest management issues.



Also, the final regulations completely ignore the NFMA's requirement that
forest plans identify lands that are economically unsuitable for timber
production [219.12(a)(2)]. Consequently, forest plans will provide little
if any information about the extent to which the Forest Service's plans may
result in below-cost timber sales and taxpayer subsidies to the timber
industry.



Discretion Unlimited



The final regulations display an obsessive determination to maximize the
discretion of Forest Service managers. The regulations go so far as to
entirely eliminate the use of mandatory "standards" in forest plans, in
favor of discretionary "guidelines." The preamble to the regulations
explains that the choice of "guidelines" is meant to emphasize that agency
officials have "discretion to act within the range of guidelines, as well as
the latitude to depart from guidelines when circumstances warrant it" [p.
14]. In other words, local agency officials can simply ignore any and all
guidelines the plans might contain to protect wildlife or water quality.
Without mandatory safeguards in forest plans, agency decision-making will
become more vulnerable to the influence of timber and mining companies and
their political allies who favor commercial exploitation of the national
forests.

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