Congressional TESTIMONY OF JAMES S. BRITELL 4/4/90
Infamous Sec 318 Timber sale review boards1 that forced our complicity in lifting injunctions on 20 nearby timber sales2.
Review of the implementation of Section 318 of the 1990 Interior Appropriations Act (old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest): joint hearing before the Subcommittee on Forests, Family Farms, and Energy of the Committee on Agriculture, and the Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, and the Subcommittee on Fisheries and Wildlife Conservation and the Environment of the Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries, House of Representatives, One Hundred First Congress, second session, April 4, 1990
My name is James Britell, Conservation Chairman of Kalmiopsis Audubon Society in Port Orford, Oregon. Our chapter is actively involved with ancient forest issues in southwest Oregon.
My involvement with Sec. 318, or the so called timber compromise has been threefold. Initially I helped select the enjoined sales, which were to be released (about twenty were in my local area). I am a member of the Coos Bay Oregon BLM Advisory Board that has reviewed about 50 sales. And, I also attended and participated in Siskiyou Forest Timber Advisory Board meetings where sales in three local ranger districts were discussed.
I deal almost on a daily basis with managers and staff from four different Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Forest Service districts as well as State and Federal Fish and Wildlife Services. We have excellent working relationships with these agencies, and have a high regard and respect for the individual employees in these organizations. Our chapter is cooperating on a number of projects with these federal agencies.
I am retired from the Social Security Administration where I held district, regional, and central office staff and management positions. My last 10 years of service was as Chief of Systems in the San Francisco Regional Office.
I am a full time volunteer Ancient Forest activist. My expenses in attending this meeting are paid by The Wilderness Society.
General problems with advisory boards as presently constituted
- The concept of negotiation and cooperation between the federal agencies, industry, and environmental activists has potential, but current Advisory Board procedure is not working well.
- The managers responsible for getting the cut out and meeting the timber quotas select the Board members.
- The Sec. 318 quotas are so high there is little room for judgment. Since the language orders cut levels, opposing timber sales is perceived by some as akin to defying direct orders of the United States Government.
- Timber Advisory Boards serve to give an aura of legitimacy to the clear cutting of predetermined quotas of timber. They diffuse responsibility for poor forest practices. Timber managers can use Advisory Boards as a shield to hide behind.
- Environmental activists have been marginalized. Authority of local rangers and environmentalists has been reduced. The Boards do not have proper environmental activist representation. Almost no environmental activists were appointed to Timber Advisory Boards. When activists try to talk about sales they hear; "The Board will be taking that up: we will all have to wait to see what the board says".
- Some of the people on the Boards work for State or local governments which have been strong proponents of a high cut level. No employee or elected official at any level of government can afford to be perceived as anti-timber industry. Nevertheless, such people are often chosen to represent the "neutral" seats on the Boards. Virtually every governmental entity in Oregon is on public record, as part of the forest planning process, as supporting a high cut level.
Any vote against a timber sale is perceived as reducing income to the county school and road budgets. In rural counties as much as 50% of the county budgets come from timber receipts. There is high local interest in all timber matters; announcements for Timber Board meetings are on the local radio, and Board proceedings are reported in the local newspaper and on local television.
- Any Board that rejects a timber sale has to do so in a roomful of Federal managers and staff; in an official meeting in government space; while being tape recorded and court transcribed; and often with local newspaper and television reporters present. Each sale presentation may have as many as four biologists, timber planners and managers explaining why the sale is good and how carefully it has been thought through. Usually these people are personable and over time have become friendly with the Board members. Average citizens are reluctant to say "no" to Government authority figures and are intimidated by the process which is totally Government controlled and managed.
- Timber industry representatives have a lot at stake, and are assertive and aggressive. They are often paid for their attendance while environmentalists aren't. They have more training in negotiating, and experience in managing meetings. Even supposedly "neutral" board members often have a vested stake in a high cut level.
Problems with the Coos Bay BLM Board
- Sales with impacts on as many as 8 Spotted Owls were presented as biologically acceptable. Typical sales directly disturbed Owls, sometimes so many it was difficult to count them accurately.
- Of 50 sales only one had a US Fish and Wildlife (USFWS) conference report available at the time the sale was considered by the Board. What information we did have showed that USFWS had many problems with Coos Bay's sales program in general, and with most of the individual sales. BLM would not accept USFWS recommendations for sale modifications, and repeatedly belittled USFWS staff. Further, USFWS said BLM had an inadequate Owl calling effort, so the true impact on Owls may have been understated.
- BLM is logging inside Owl Preserves. 40% of the Coos Bay quota comes from logging inside these Preserves, which were established by negotiation with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
- BLM says that since it is not specifically required by Sec.318 to consider fragmentation, it need not consider it at all.
- BLM does not avoid cutting forest corridors, and because of this creates many small islands within the forest. Even without considering Spotted Owls many BLM sales are ill considered.
- BLM does not prepare environmental assessments for individual timber sales.
- A. An immediate hold must be placed on all BLM timber sales until a responsible, professional, objective review can be made of these proposed timber sales. I suggest that each sale receive concurrence by the parallel US Forest Service Ranger and the US Fish and Wildlife Service before it is offered.
- B. Timber goals must be set locally by the professionals that know the areas.
- C. Each representative group on a board must be given input into the selection of its "members".
- D. US Fish and Wildlife reports must be taken seriously by BLM.
- E. Out of pocket expenses should be paid for Board members.
- F. 800 numbers should be furnished for timber management offices.
- G. Federal timber agencies should be required to keep up with the professional literature, and the content of successful appeals and lawsuits. A professional development program needs to be undertaken in both the Forest Service and BLM.