Lawsuit against Mark Rey and the USFS is dismissed

From a story at Montana’s News

A lawsuit that forced the nation’s top forestry official to apologize in a Missoula courtroom is over. The lawsuit by Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics was filed in 2003, and charged the U.S. Forest Service with violating federal law by indiscriminately dropping retardant on forest fires.

Two weeks ago that case reached a climax when Undersecretary of Agriculture Mark Rey appeared before federal judge Donald Molloy, and faced a possible contempt of court citation.

Molloy was angry that the Forest Service missed deadlines for delivering environmental review documents to him, and for generally taking more time than he liked. Ultimately he decided not to find Rey or the Forest Service in contempt, but not before Rey and other agency officials apologized multiple times.

Now, the case is done. Molloy signed an order last Wednesday dismissing the lawsuit. The judge wrote that the Forest Service has complied with the procedures of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act, and so there’s nothing left to decide.


The sweet smell of smoke

That was the headline above an editorial in the Payson Roundup in Arizona. They are “giddy” about the Forest Service reducing fuels and burning piles.

Here is an excerpt:

It’s not quite the bracing smell of “napalm in the morning,” but we get positively giddy with the wafting of smoke drifting into town these days from the Forest Service slash piles just over the hill.

This week, the Forest Service concluded the last of its major winter burns to get rid of piles of debris from tree thinning operations on more than 4,300 acres on the outskirts of Payson.

Makes us want to do a little jig — and throw our arms around the nearest stalwart in Forest Service green and give him a big, wet kiss.

Make no mistake — that smoke is wafting of Rim Country’s biggest problem.

Truth be told, every other problem on the list — from meth use to propane bills will some day seem like trivial foolishness if the Forest Service doesn’t get thin the dangerously overgrown forest before the inevitable disaster overtakes us.

Unfortunately, it falls to today’s overburdened and underfunded Forest Service to set right a century of mismanagement.

Once upon a time, fires burned through Rim Country regularly — thinning the trees and creating a network of meadows, aspen groves and open patches. The forest was largely fire resistant, with the big trees relatively unaffected by the frequent, low-intensity ground fires.

Then we turned the forest into a tree farm and spent a century stomping out every fire we could. Crowds of pine thickets sprang up in the clear cuts and tons of down wood accumulated on every acre.

So a forest that used to have 50 to 300 trees per acre and more grass than pine thickets now has 3,000 spindly, overstressed trees per acre across vast stretches. A timber industry geared to profit from the now scarce big trees has been nearly shut down, just when the Forest Service needs to thin the forest on a massive scale.

Update on study about large fires and greenhouse gases

On March 12 we wrote about a study that was recently released which stated that the amount of gases released by four large wildland fires was comparable to the gases released by 7 million cars on the road for 1 year. I found out who the author of the study is. He has a reputation for drawing, uh, interesting conclusions from a limited analysis of facts.

We posted an update to the story here.

New AD pay plans released

The Departments of Interior and Agriculture released their AD (Administratively Determined) pay plans for federal emergency workers. (Click on the links to see the individual plans; both are Word documents.)

The AD Firefighter Association has a summary of the changes since last year:

1. Incorporates the General Schedule increase for the U.S. at 2.99 percent.
2. Clarifies that rates are established at the original point of hire.
3. Clarifies that post incident administration and emergency stablization efforts should not exceed 90 calendar days.
4. Adds that to work under this plan requires a social security number. This applies to US citizens as well as nonresident aliens.
5. Adds Aircraft Dispatcher AD-H; Aircraft Coordinator AD-I; General Support Clerk AD-C; Fire Effects Monitor AD-H; Fire Use Manager T2 AD-J; Removes Lead Plane Coordinator.