Hello, Brian. Are you here?
Good. We'll start at 1 p.m., so you still have a few minutes to pour another cup of coffee, or whatever.
Do I use the Save Post key, or just Enter, to send my message?
Hitting enter, I believe, posts your response. You can't think in terms of paragraphs or it interrupts your full reply. I see you figured out how to put your picture up. That's more than most interview subjects have been able to manage.
Good morning, everyone. Welcome to our live chat with Brian Brademeyer, regional director of Native Ecosystems Council. Are you ready, Brian?
What is the purpose of the lawsuit filed recently by your group and five other groups challenging the Forest Service’s management plan for the Black Hills National Forest?
I thought we were going to talk about the Norbeck lawsuit that was just completed. But we can talk about the new one if you like.
The Phase II Amendment lawsuit is to challenge the Forest Service's excessive logging on the Black Hills, and its failure to ensure viability of snag dependent and old growth wildlife species, or to assess the impacts of livestock grazing.
Do you believe the Black Hills National Forest management plan was inadequate in regards to your concerns?
Yes, the Settlement Agreement negotiated on the 2000 lawsuit on the Forest Plan required an Amendment process to produce standards and guidelines for sustaining sensitive wildlife species. That process, the Phase II Amendment process, was diverted into an effort to wage a "war on beetles" on the Black Hills by increasing logging of mature and older forest stands.
Do you believe that the current emphasis of thinning forests because of pine beetles is just an excuse to favor the timber industry?
Well, the Forest Service has never produced any evidence that logging affects the evolution of beetle outbreaks. Nor any evidence that logging reduces future fire risks. Nor is there any evidence that beetle outbreaks produce higher fire risk conditions, either simultaneously or down the road.
Why do you say there is no evidence to support pine beetle mitigation? Are there no studies showing that removing trees before the beetles migrate is the best method for slowing the infestation?
There are no studies showing that, once an outbreak reaches epidemic levels, that any efforts have much effect on the eventual outcome. Removing trees with larvae inside them would kill those potential future beetles, but that might just slow the rate at which the outbreak moves across the landscape without affecting the eventual level of tree mortality.
Is it your group's position that nothing can be done at this point to slow or halt the progress of pine beetles in the Black Hills?
I have created a slide show of the MPB outbreak evolution from 2007-2011 from the slides shown by Kurt Allen at the recent Rapid City MPB forum, which can be viewed as a slide show to see the progress of the current outbreak.
Is that the web address for the slide show?
Once an outbreak emerges beyond endemic conditions, research shows that very little can be done.
A legal challenge by your group of the management plan for the Norbeck Wildlife Preserve was rejected by the court of appeals. What makes you think that a court will rule in favor of your recent legal challenge of the management plan for the entire BHNF?
The issues are not entirely the same. The Norbeck Preserve has special Congressional legislation setting the objectives for the Preserve. The Forest-wide lawsuit relies on the National Forest Management Act direction to protect viable populations of all desirable native and non-native species.
Will your group appeal the Norbeck decision?
We have until the end of the month to let the full Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals know if we wish them to review the case. We are having a Board of Directors meeting tomorrow with Native Ecosystems Council, and will decide then, in consultation with our lawyers next week.
Thanks, Brian. We have a question from Marvin Ward.
No marvin. The problem is that the Black Hills is so extremely unbalanced in terms of the five multiple uses, with logging and grazing virtually everywhere, and wilderness and wildlife only in a few special places. The failure to maintain natural reserves on the Black Hills is exacerbating the current beetle outbreak due to shortages of biological controls (woodpeckers) on beetle populations.
Do you believe in the principle of multiple-use of federal lands?
Of course, but most of the locals seem to think that mining is a multiple use and wilderness isn't, which is exactly backwards. If there was 10-15% wilderness on the Black Hills, much of the controversy over Forest management would be alleviated.
You have called the BHNF a “tree farm.” But isn’t resource management and production, e.g., timber, grazing and mining, one of the allowable uses of national forests?
Mining is NOT a multiple use under MUSYA (Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act), it is too destructive of any future alternative uses. Not all uses are expected to occur on every acre. But the Forest Service insists on logging and grazing every acre of the Black Hiils, and has "regulated" the tree spacing to produce what can only be considered a "tree farm" or "woodlot", not a forest.
The problem with the Forest Service one-size fits all approach (logging is the answer to every question) is that beetle outbreaks and large wildfires are largely climate / weather events. Management can do little to mitigate these long-term trends.
In your response to Marvin Ward, you suggested that the lack of more natural preserves like the Norbeck and wilderness areas has exacerbated the mountain pine beetle epidemic. Would the Black Hills NF be healthier if groups like yours had been listened to in the past? Please explain.
The age of the trees on the Black Hills National Forest has been reduced from something like 160 years to around 90, with the tree density nearly doubled, from about 80 / acre in 1875 to 150 / acre today. These smaller, younger, denser trees are more susceptible to wildfire and to beetle outbreaks than the pre-Settlement forest would have been. So yes, the Forest Service has been a net negative influence over the past century.
Brian, we have another question from a viewer.
The key point is that logging has no environmental benefits, none. So you have to compare timber production versus all the damage to other forest attributes in assessing the wisdom of such an aggressive timber program.
Thanks, Brian. Marvin Ward has another question.
Brian, you said that logging has no environmental benefits. Isn't logging used by national forest managers to create open space that some wildlife species need to flourish?
Marvin, the over-managed forest looks like hell to me, with this green mange of 60-80 year old trees, rather than centuries old yellowbarks.