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Slogans “Buy Local” & “Sustainable Birdhouses” Provide Cover For Logging Of Public Lands

August 22nd, 2017 No comments

After you’ve partnered with Trump, it looks like anything goes

“Jersey Grown Wood” masks corruption and logging

[Update below]

I guess when a self-proclaimed “conservation” organization has: 1) formed a “partnership” with Donald Trump; 2) taken money from a Wall Street billionaire to log forests to enhance opportunities for wealthy private hunters; and 3) formed a “Stewardship Council” with major corporate polluters, developers, and pipeline builders; then something apparently benign like a “buy local” sustainable forestry birdhouse program may seem like chump change, and just a short slide down the slippery slope of the Greasy Pole to Gomorrah (a process that Chris Hedges calls “our descent into corporate tyranny.”)

I am referring to NJ’s Audubon’s latest scam, run in cooperation with NJ State Departments of Environmental Protection (“Forest Stewardship”) and Agriculture (“Jersey Grown Wood“).

Here is NJ Audubon’s marketing pitch:

LOCALLY GROWN AND MADE HOUSES AND FEEDERS FOR YOUR LOCAL BIRDS

NJ Audubon is now offering bird houses and bird feeders made with Jersey Grown wood sustainably harvested from New Jersey forests. ….. Our bird houses and feeders are made of Atlantic white cedar sustainably harvested under forest stewardship plans approved by the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection.

What could be so bad about that? Sustainable forrest stewardship? Locally grown and crafted products? Birdhouses!

I’m on the road and I’ve written extensively about all this, so I’ll be brief:

1) NJ Audubon and NJ DEP have come under extreme public criticism for their aggressive, scientifically dubious, and fundamentally dishonest campaign to log publicly owned lands in the NJ Highlands Preservation Area.

As we speak, there is an ongoing major public controversy  on DEP and Audubon proposed logging in Sparta Mountain Wildlife Management Area.

The DEP plan has been legally challenged by Beaver Lake Realty Assc., a nearby group of homeowners and opposed by virtually every NJ environmental group, including Sierra Club, the Highlands Coalition, several independent scientists, and a local group called Friends of Sparta Mountain.

2) The DEP and NJ Audubon attempted to seek legislation to authorize a statewide “forest stewardship” certification program for public lands.

That proposed legislation sparked huge public and environmental group opposition and the bill failed, through more than 1 legislative session.

Gov. Christie even vetoed a version of a stewardship certification bill that did pass both houses of the legislature.

In a brazen example of bureaucratic arrogance and over-reach, DEP and NJ Audubon are now implementing the program – on public lands – that they failed to get legislative approval of.

3) NJ Audubon recently lost certification of their logging program by the national Forest Stewardship Council for failure to meet FSC standards.

Their pals at NJ DEP will now issue the certification that NJ Audubon lost.

4) DEP recently proposed “forest stewardship” regulations.

The joint DEP, Ag and NJ Audubon program is a blatant attempt to deploy slogans and manipulate well meaning people to support a scientifically flawed policy and controversial public lands logging program. The public is not aware of the larger implications of the “forest stewardship” issue on public lands.

Audubon is acting as the PR and marketing arm of both DEP and Department of Agriculture. The relationship is way too close.

The joint DEP, Ag and NJ Audubon program is an end run around the Legislature.

The program has not been authorized by the Legislature and even DEP is just now proposing rules to implement the program.

The DEP and Audubon have undermined the regulatory process.

NJ Audubon and DEP are masking a controversial public lands logging program behind not only slogans, but taking advantage of public support for agriculture by calling logging a form of agriculture.

The program builds institutions, generates funds, and enhances personal, organizational and professional relationships to consolidate a sham “stewardship” program. It serves to subsidize and perpetuate lax regulatory oversight in order to revive and expand a long dead logging industry in NJ.

And the whole thing stinks to high heavens.

But after you’ve partnered with Trump, it looks like anything goes.

[Update: Before I am confused of conflating multiple issues and erroneously claiming that the birdhouses come from Highland logging, yes, I understand that the Audubon birdhouses are made from Atlantic White Cedar from the Pinelands, not the Highlands and Sparta Mt. WMA.

So readers should take a look at what passes for first stewardship and white cedar restoration in the Pines, see:

And yes, I understand the distinctions between DEP’s private versus public lands logging and certification programs and NJ Audubon’s various related efforts. ~~~ end update]

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Olympic Smokeout

August 15th, 2017 No comments

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We visited Olympic National Park last week (on August 9), and were literally smoked out (photo above) due to record wildfires in British Columbia, Canada.

According to the National Park Service, like Glacier National Park, Olympic NP is severely impacted by climate change:

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Those impacts did not mention the smoke issue.

Here is US NOAA article on the BC wildfires that discussed the implications of climate change and wildfire (and the research article NOAA cites does not explicitly discuss all the fuel built up in the forest due to tree mortality caused by pine bark beetle (“flammable biomass”) – which is another impact of climate change):

The future of wildfires in Canada

Canada is the second most forested country on the planet, and thus, it contains a staggering number of trees.  Recent research in the journal Environmental Research Letters and detailed in an article by the Globe and Mail highlights just how difficult fighting wildfires could become thanks to human-caused climate change.

One of the authors of the research, Dr. Mike Flannigan, explains that since climate change will make Canada hotter and drier, the forests will become drier, too, providing more fuel for fires and increasing their intensity. Flannigan mentions that while it is hard to predict, a 10 percent increase in the intensity of a fire could cause a doubling or tripling of the overall area burned.

The research suggests that under a business-as-usual greenhouse gas scenario over the next century, the number of days where conditions are favorable for wildfires to will increase by more than 50% in western Canada, increasing both the fire danger and the cost of fire suppression.  Wildfires already pose a significant risk for parts of Western Canada and human-caused climate change could make things even worse. (emphasis mine)

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Beast Breakdown Fundraiser

August 8th, 2017 No comments
The Beast, at 7,000 feet (Hart's Pass, Northern Cascades)

The Beast, at 7,000 feet (Hart’s Pass, Northern Cascades)

Leaving Port Townsend this morning, we stopped to do the laundry. Getting back into the truck, I noticed a significant leak from below the Beast. Smelled like antifreeze.

Got a referral by a resident to a good local auto repair shop – Gary’s Auto Repair – and discovered that my water pump failed.

Replacing the water pump, hoses, thermostat, and clamps cost over $500! Ouch!

The Beast has served me well – over 10,000 miles through some harsh conditions and over sketchy roads.

My funds are being depleted a lot quicker than I had hoped, and this is a big unexpected hit on the financial picture.

SO – we are having a Beast Repair Fundraiser!

Anyone wishing to support this continuing adventure can make a non-tax deductable contribution to our PayPal account.

Or, shoot me an email and we can arrange something different: bill_wolfe@comcast.net

We thank you! And we’ll keep you posted.

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So Long, Port Townsend

August 6th, 2017 No comments
Port Townsend, Wa. marina

Port Townsend, Wa. Point Hudson marina

Wooden ships on the water, very free and easy
Easy, you know the way it’s supposed to be
Silver people on the shoreline, let us be
Talkin’ ’bout very free and easy

Horror grips us as we watch you die
All we can do is echo your anguished cries
Stare as all human feelings die
We are leaving, you don’t need us. ~~~ Wooden Ships, (Crosby, Stills, & Nash, 1969)

We’ve fallen into a rather pleasant routine over the last 10 days here in lovely Port Townsend, Washington, on Puget Sound.

Here’s a shot heading towards town from the ferry:

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The town allows overnight camping in vehicles in a public parking lot just behind some old marina buildings that have been converted into various marine related shops. So we have a quiet and safe place to rest our bones.

In the late 1800’s, the town was the prime north-west Pacific coast harbor and a Victorian boomtown, but it’s growth stalled and the town went into economic decline as it was bypassed by investors as steam power replaced sail and the railroads went to Seattle.

Today, it has lovely old victorian homes, a smattering of classic Craftsman cabins, a vibrant historic downtown district, remnants of shipbuilding, boating and a harbor life, but its really a tourist and retirement/arts & culture/historic preservation town that is rapidly gentrifying.

I imagine that this is what a harbor town like Montauk NY might have looked like in the 1930’s -40’s – some rich people, but still some organic, real life, before it got overwhelmed by money (not Gatsby’s old money, but Tom & Daisy types).

People here tell me that just 10 years ago, Port Townsend was a hippie town, but now second home rich people from Seattle and California are coming in, changing the culture and housing market. They say they will ruin it, like what happened to Oregon. A woman I met, a native of Alaska living out of her truck, spoke passionately about how she’s seen the changes and how the “Uptown” people resent the old-time downtown hippie folks, like herself.

I guess there’s no where else to go. The rich bastards have gobbled up everything.

Thursday night there was a hot band on the waterfront – it was a hoot to see a hundred old hippies out there dancing!

This weekend there was a blues festival – I managed to crash a show at the Key City Public Theater and – from a front row seat (reserved for band members) – I heard an incredible band, really an informal collective of 7 mostly street musicians, that had come together to play what they called old time American music. They hailed from New Orleans, Chicago, Seattle and New York. They were awesome!

Our daily routine:

  • rise with the sun, take a walk through the marina (we sleep behind the building in center):

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  • walk along the shore to the Park

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  • continue walk to historic Uptown, and stop by the bakery for a fresh roll
  • stop by the Carnegie dedicated library (very similar to the Carnegie Public library in Pittsburgh!)

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stroll downtown along the harbor, check out what’s cooking at the very cool Northwest Maritime Center, and listen to the street musicians.

While I’d really like to stay, its time to move on.

Tomorrow, we head west, to the Pacific and the furthest northwest point in the lower 48.

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Lost In The Ozone Again

August 5th, 2017 No comments

Desperate for a Trump defeat and seeking political relevance, media get it wrong

Parrot opportunistic declarations of victory

If you read press coverage of the Trump EPA’s most recent press statement on the national ozone air quality standard, there are 3 main points you come away with:

1) responding to public pressure, bad press, and litigation, the Trump administration backed away from their ill-advised attempt to rollback the standard and have reversed policy and agreed to implement the Obama EPA standard;

2) the State AG’s and Big Green litigants had a “win” for public health and the Trump EPA suffered an embarrassing political setback;

3) the Obama EPA ozone standard will be implemented expeditiously and the public health will benefit from cleaner air.

All of them are outright false or highly misleading.

This is another example of: 1) opportunistic political players (e.g. NY State AG) self promoting; 2) environmental groups spinning and prematurely declaring victory; 3) environmental groups’ and media’s shared lack of understanding of the regulatory process, which makes it very easy to spin; and 4) media’s desperate need for relevance and incentives to take credit and declare their own sort of victory (e.g. our coverage was influential and led to the policy reversal).

The facts of the matter are: 1) There was no reversal in policy. 2) Trump EPA will not implement the Obama standard. 3) There will be little if any air quality improvement towards attainment of the standard and associated public health benefits. 4) This is not a political or legal win by State AG’s or environmental groups. Just the opposite. Pruitt doubled down and thumbed his nose at and mocked the Democratic AG’s and environmental group litigants.

Not only do environmental groups and media not understand the regulatory process – or the science or law – they fail to distinguish a press statement from a formal regulatory action. They don’t know a ploy from a policy. They don’t even know how to read a press statement. Worse, they naively fail to understand just how cynical, corrupt, and dishonest the Trump administration is. Instead of acknowledging this inconvenient truth, they instead promote their own institutional interests. Disgusting.

Here is the NY Times version: “EPA reverses course on ozone rule” and here is the Washington Post’s: Reversing course, Trump administration will not delay an Obama ozone rule

But let’s drill down on the NJ Spotlight coverage to explain.

But first, hit the link and read the actual EPA statement.

Note 2 things in EPA’s statement:

1) right up front, EPA reserves the right to issue another 1 year extension, so the so called “reversal” in policy is not unconditional (and it is not even a “reversal”, as we note below):

The Clean Air Act gives EPA the flexibility to allow one additional year for sufficient information to support ozone designations.  EPA may take future action to use its delay authority and all other authority legally available to the Agency to ensure that its designations are founded on sound policy and the best available information.

2) By making that statement, EPA effectively mooted the litigation and took the issue out of the courts and kept the ball in EPA’s court.

This manipulative move dodges judicial oversight and allows States, industry, and EPA to exploit numerous technical issues and provides EPA with virtually unbounded legal discretion to delay State implementation and EPA enforcement of the standard.

Pruitt makes all that very clear by emphasizing that EPA will “ensure that its designations are founded on sound policy and the best available information.”

Mr. Pruitt and the Trump administration have very different conceptions of “sound policy” and “best available information”.

And “best available information” is a far broader concept and much weaker standard than “best available science“, so in reality the Trump EPA just made a major announcement about weakening the scientific and legal bases for regulation. Wow! (compare the EPA Mission Statement (which presents the correct legal standard as “best scientific information”) and note how Pruitt omitted the word “scientific” in favor of the broader “information”!)

Upon close and informed reading, that EPA press release language completely destroys any inference that the Trump EPA somehow reversed course and substantively changed policy.

Additionally, Pruitt makes all that very clear politically by emphasizing EPA’s deference to the States:

“We believe in dialogue with, and being responsive to, our state partners.  Today’s action reinforces our commitment to working with the states through the complex designation process,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

“Responsive to state partners” is code for no EPA pressure on states to comply in a timely manner and no EPA enforcement of state footdraging, delays, and even outright defiance.

BTW, you can thank Bill Clinton and Al Gore’s “reinventing government” for that Federalist Society’s “States rights” approach to abolishing traditional strict federal oversight of State’s in favor of the “Performance Partnership” (AKA at US EPA as “NEPPS”.)

Highlighting the “complex designation process” is code for “manufacturing uncertainty” – a classic “no action” or regulatory delay strategy.

On top of all that, Pruitt’s concluding remark about “we don’t believe in regulation through litigation” is a slap in the face to the Courts, State AG’s and environmental litigants.

Sorry, but this was no “win” for State AG’s, “Big Green”, and public health.

Finally, the NJ Spotlight story lacks context – specifically, while it correctly includes criticism of President Trump,  it fails to mention the fact that President Obama killed former EPA Lisa Jackson’s proposed ozone standard.

Here’s how the NY Times reported that Obama rollback on September 2, 2011 – they too seem to have amnesia, even regarding their own coverage:

“Reaction from environmental advocates ranged from disappointment to fury, with several noting that in just the past month the administration had tentatively approved drilling in the Arctic, given an environmental green light to the 1,700-mile Keystone XL oil pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to Texas and opened 20 million more acres of the Gulf of Mexico to drilling.  ~~~ Obama Administration Abandons Stricter Air-Quality Rules

So, did everyone forget that Obama also “over-reached”? I sure didn’t, and criticized and wrote about it at the time:

The NJ Spotlight and WaPo  coverage also fail to mention another key fact: that the Obama EPA standard is weak.

Obama’s second term EPA Administrator, Gina McCarthy – who naively recently predicted a Trump/Pruitt failure in deregulation – rejected scientific recommendations and set the 70 ppb standard “far less strict” than the science supported.

The NY Times story mentions this fact in a curious way, stressing industry’s perspective instead of scientists and public health experts that it was “far less protective”:

In October 2015 the Obama administration set a new national standard for ozone of 70 parts per billion, down from 75 parts per billion. It was far less strict than manufacturers had feared, but industry leaders still criticized the rule as overly burdensome.).

Did Ms. McCarthy “under-reach”?

Where was Big Green litigation and press criticism when all that went down?

Word.

[End Note: I stole that headline from Commander Cody.]

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