Case Study Prepared for the Workshop
Engaging, Empowering, and Negotiating
Strategies for Conservation and Development
October 8-10, 1998
The Conservation and Development Forum.
West Virginia University, and the
Center for Economic Options
Presented by Pat Terhune and George Terhune
Members of the Quincy Library Group Steering Committee
The Quincy Library Group
In 1993 the Quincy Library Group (QLG) proposed a five-year management program for the Lassen and Plumas National Forests, and the Sierraville Ranger District of the Tahoe National Forest, in north-eastern California. These national forest areas total about 2.5 million acres, and include some mixed conifer-oak woodlands facing the Sacramento valley to the west, large areas of mixed-conifer/fir and mixed-conifer/pine in mid elevation mountains, true fir and lodgepole pine at high elevations, eastside pine on mountains and plateaus to the east, and a transition to high desert near the Nevada border. Most of the area is drained by the Feather River, with the northern half of the Lassen NF in the Pitt River drainage, and small areas on the south and east draining toward Nevada in the Truckee and Susan rivers.
This QLG area includes parts of eight counties, but is mostly in Lassen, Plumas counties, with significant areas in Shasta, Tehama, and Sierra Counties. Quincy, the county seat of Plumas County, is located at approximately the center of the area. The total population of the QLG area is less than 50 thousand, including Susanville, the county seat of Lassen County, the largest town in the area, located just outside the Lassen National Forest at its south-east corner. Historically the area's economy depended on timber, mining, ranching, recreational fishing, and a major trans-Sierra railroad. In recent years an influx of retired people has been a significant part of the transition to an economy that is increasingly based on recreation, retail sales and services, Forest Service and local government, and in Susanville a state prison complex housing 8,000 prisoners. Water and water power are the largest economic values derived from the area, but they contribute virtually nothing to local economies or toward the cost of maintaining upper watershed health (Stewart, 1996).
Origin of the Timber Wars.
Timber production (Figure 1) from QLG area national forests peaked from the 1960's through the 1980's, then fell 60 percent in just a few years, and has continued to decline to a current projection for FY 99 of only about 10 percent of the 1980's level. Since the Forest Service dominates timberland ownership in the QLG area, privately owned timber could not fill the gap, so there was also a sharp decline in timber-related economic activity and employment, and closure of several local mills that depended largely or entirely on Forest Sevice timber. Reductions in Forest Service timber harvest have involved short term fluctuations in market demand for lumber, a shift in Forest Service priorities away from timber production toward other management priorities, increased restrictions on timber operations in roadless and other sensitive areas, and particulary the agency's entanglement in the spotted owl issue.
Figure 1. Harvesting began a steady decline in 1988 for the three forest area. The Plumas National Forest sales sold dropped significantly in both 1991 and 1992, then partially recovered in 1993 and declined again in 1994 and 1995. The upward shift on the Tahoe National Forest in 1995 is attributable to the 44,000 acre Cottonwood fire salvage sale. Harvests have stabilized at roughly 33% of the 1987-88 levels for 1993-95.
Whatever the reason for each step in the harvest decline, the Forest Service found itself in a dilemma. On one hand, each forest had only recently adopted a Land and Resource Management Plan (LRMP) that called for high timber production from even-age management based on clear cuts, and timber people felt they were entitled to the production levels described in those plans. On the other hand, there was mounting public dissatisfaction with clear cutting and herbicide use, and environmentalists demanded immediate action to protect spotted owls and other species reported to be at risk, and to preserve large old trees and roadless areas. These contrary views expressed themselves during a two or three year period in a sequence of charges and counter-charges involving sabotage and tree-spiking, demonstrations and counter- demonstrations, and even direct threats of injury or death. Underlying these alarming developments in the timber wars were genuine concerns in the broader community that (1) road and school budgets would be permanently affected by the reductions in payments to the counties from Forest Service timber reserve funds and by the threat of significant decline in the economic base for long term tax revenues, and (2) that even if solutions were eventually found for the spotted owl and other rapidly accumulating forest health problems, there might no longer be a local forest management infrastructure in place to implement the solutions.
Statement of the Problem.
By 1992, each of the three major parties involved in the timber wars saw the other two as causing their problems. Some environmentalists saw an unholy alliance between timber interests and a too-accommodating Forest Service. Some timber interests felt the Forest Service was responding only to reckless interference by environmentalist lawyers. And the Forest Service at times appeared to blame both other parties for the agency's inability to address major aspects of its multiple forest management obligations. The Forest Service could not say how it intended to reduce the growing hazard of large high intensity wildfires, or deal with unhealthy stand structures that had resulted from fire suppression and previous management practices, or reverse trends toward watershed and riparian area degradation, or provide habitat conditions that would remove the threat to some wildlife populations of local or regional extinction.
In this atmosphere, some people in each camp began to recognize, but not yet clearly articulate, that our forests and our communities and the Forest Service had an unbreakable relationship of mutual inter-dependence. We could not have stable and healthy communities if we did not assure long term health of the surrounding forests, as demanded by environmentalists. We could not restore long term health to our forests without large scale participation by an industrial infrastructure largely dependent on a profitable timber-based industry. And neither goal could be achieved unless greatly improved forest management could be implemented by the Forest Service.
These concerns can be summed up in two questions:
1. How can the community plan to achieve both forest health and community stability?
2. How does the community enable and require the Forest Service to implement good plans when they are made?
Formation of the Quincy Library Group.
A breakthrough came in the winter of 1992-93 when Tom Nelson, a California registered forester and Director of Timberlands for Sierra Pacific Industries, realized that an environmentalist document might hold the key. This so-called amenities or environmentalist alternative had been analyzed and considered by the Plumas National Forest in the process of adopting its Land and Resource Management Plan in the late 1980's. That alternative had been rejected, then appealed and still not adopted, but Nelson saw that the silvicultural methods it called for were acceptable to industry (indeed, they were already being employed and promoted by some parts of the industry), and the timber harvests it would allow, while somewhat lower than the harvest level permitted by the adopted LRMP, were still much greater than harvests actually being achieved or in prospect during the timber wars. Accompanied by Bill Coates, a Plumas County Supervisor strongly identified with promoting the local economy, Nelson approached Michael Jackson, a local attorney strongly identified with environmental issues. Meeting at first in secret, because each person had allies who opposed dealing at all with the enemy, Nelson, Coates, and Jackson found more common ground than they had expected, and decided to try to build at least a truce, maybe a full peace treaty, on that common ground. Secrecy in a small town is impossible, so other people began to join the discussions, and the seed of QLG was planted. By July 1993 a Quincy Library Group Community Stability Proposal had been agreed, and QLG sponsored a public meeting a the local movie theater in order to explain the group and its proposal, and to invite wider public participation in QLG meetings.
As might be expected of truce negotiations in a wartime atmosphere, early meetings had very tense moments, and some participants were extremely uncomfortable at times. A number of circumstances and decisions no doubt contributed to QLG's success in progressing from uncomfortable individuals and contentious factions to the very easy-going and cohesive group it has become. It isn't possible to say which circumstances and decisions were absolutely necessary and which not, but any QLG member's list of key elements would probably include:
1. A shared sense of desperation at the beginning. It was generally felt that if this effort failed, all parties would suffer great losses, and the remnants of that feeling still provide strong motivation within the group.
2. A willingness to tolerate intemperate statements about the issues but not about each other.
3. A requirement for true consensus on all decisions. This narrowed the range of specific agreements that were possible, but it assured very strong mutual commitment to whatever decisions were actually made.
4. An early decision not to accept several offers of help by professional facilitators. It took a long time and many meetings for everybody to say everything they wanted to say, sometimes over and over again, but it was a necessary investment that we do not think would have been possible or successful in a more structured environment.
5. The goal was to agree on specific methods, not just general principles. Specific suggestions for land use and ecosystem management were discussed, agreed, written down and carefully mapped, then an agreement was signed by all members to seek implementation of the accepted suggestions by National Forests in the area.
6. Choice of a name, The Quincy Library Group, that was meaningless in terms of the matters under consideration. If a name had been chosen that made specific reference to the environment or the economy or any component of the forest ecosystem, interpretation of that meaning could have placed an intolerable burden on the whole effort.
7. Refusal to seek or accept official status under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). QLG has no charter or by-laws, no board of directors or officers (except two corresponding secretaries), and no bank account. In the words of one local critic, They don't even have anybody you can sue!
8. And finally, whatever success has been achieved may depend on having the right size community or just the luck of having the right people show up. Decisions are made by a steering committee that started with the 27 people who signed the initial agreement. In five years and for various reasons, about 10 people have dropped out and about 14 have been added, so the steering committee has averaged about 30 active members. For comparison, if an equivalent percentage of a typical metropolitan area's population were to become involved in a major local issue, the steering committee of that group would have several thousand members.
The QLG Community Stability Proposal.
This three page document, adopted in July 1993, is the fundamental QLG agreement. It attempted to reflect the fact that a healthy forest and a stable community were inter-dependent; we could not have one without the other. The Proposal included a recommendation ...to create a forest that will more closely mimic the historic natural landscapes of the Sierra, and in order to do so, ...three ecosystem management strategies must be implemented simultaneously. These were (1) to maintain an adequate timber supply and a relatively continuous forest cover, a management system using group selection and/or individual tree selection should be implemented immediately; (2) implement the fire and fuels management recommendations in the California Spotted Owl Technical Assessment (the CASPO report); and (3) establish a network of riparian habitats and a watershed restoration program.
The QLG Landbase Map.
The QLG Proposal was accompanied by a map (also see landbase allocation)which detailed certain sensitive areas, such as roadless areas, scenic river corridors, and riparian areas, that should not be scheduled for timber harvest. In the QLG area there were already about 101 thousand acres of designated wilderness area and 125 thousand acres of protected California Spotted Owl habitat. The QLG Proposal would designate about 350 thousand additional acres in off base areas, and about 150 thousand acres in deferred areas. This leaves about 1,600 thousand (1.6 million) acres designated as available for group selection and individual tree timber management. The QLG proposal was intended to be implemented during five years, while the Forest Service developed long term plans to deal with a number of major issues that include those raised by QLG.
QLG attempts to get the Proposal implemented.
QLG believed it's Proposal was a direct and appropriate response to President Clinton's call, during the Forest Summit, at Portland, Oregon, in April of 1993, to settle national forest problems by getting out of the courtrooms and into the meeting rooms. The QLG Proposal was first offered in the form of suggestions to the local national forests, expecting that they would be glad to have people start cooperating on solutions instead of one side or the other trying to tie up the Forest Service with conflicting demands, then appeals and lawsuits. Individually, some Forest Service employees responded positively to the QLG effort, but others openly resented the outside interference. The official Forest Service response (Briefing Paper, April 1994) was variable and ambiguous. For example, the Forest Service claimed to be moving toward a more open decision-making process, in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), but in practice the Forest Service implemented NEPA as a narrowly defined formal process that did not involve the public in the early stages of planning, where Forest Service people alone decided which actions to propose and which potential elements of a decision should go forward and which should be left in the back room. The NEPA process defined by the Forest Service was obviously not ready to handle the scope or the scale of the input QLG wanted to make.
Neither was the Forest Service ready to handle the rise of QLG as an organization. One early symptom of this was notice to QLG that a legal opinion said the Forest Service could not respond to suggestions in the Proposal, perhaps not even meet with QLG people, unless QLG applied for and was accepted as a Federal Advisory Committee. QLG had no intention of either jumping through those hoops or running the risk of being corrupted or co-opted by official status, and instead (unofficially, of course) took the First Amendment as its charter: Congress shall make no law...abridging...the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. In any case, the legal opinion went nowhere, and almost all QLG meetings are attended by Forest Service officials, who make valuable contributions to the discussion; but they are not members, and they do not participate in QLG decisions.
By late 1993 QLG concluded that attempts to persuade local Forest Service units to implement the QLG Proposal would not be sufficiently productive, so a get acquainted trip to Washington, DC, was organized for February, 1994. About 40 people representing county government and schools and QLG spent a week in Washington, usually dividing into delegations of three people for visits to every Senator and Representative in the California delegation or who had a committee assignment connected to natural resource management or the Forest Service budget, and to meet with key officials in the Department of Agriculture, the Forest Service, and the White House. These meetings brought high level attention to the issues raised, and QLG members believed they heard promises of immediate effective action. But local Forest Service officials who attended some of the same meetings apparently heard differently, and after returning home QLG continued to be frustrated because orders from Forest Service headquarters seemed to undergo change and dilution as they worked their way down to the working levels.
Nevertheless, some changes had been initiated as a result of the Washington trip and follow-up contacts with key Administration officials. One result was that Under Secretary of Agriculture Jim Lyons visited the QLG area in July 1994, and received a QLG briefing that centered on the QLG proposal for addressing the fire problem with a strategic pattern of fuel reduction. In September 1994, Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman met with a QLG delegation that emphasized the need to start implementing QLG recommendations at adequate scale on a reasonable schedule. In November 1994, Forest Service officials from the Regional and Washington offices visited a QLG meeting and announced allocation of an additional $1 million to the national forests in the QLG area, in order to begin implementing projects compatible with the QLG Proposal. In November 1995, Secretary Glickman held a press conference in Sacramento to announce a $20 million effort to begin implementing the QLG recommendations in FY 96, $15.3 million of which already existed in local National Forest budgets, and $4.7 million of which would be a supplemental allocation.
These actions were of course welcomed by QLG, both for the money to local national forests that would immediately help forest health and local economies, and for the indication of increasing attention to long term issues raised by QLG. At the same time, there was growing frustration with regional and local Forest Service inability to accept and implement the overall QLG strategy. Examples of events that fueled this frustration:
1. At a regular QLG meeting the day after Secretary Glickman announced a $20 million effort to implement the QLG proposal, local Forest Service officials said what they heard was $15.3 million for their regular program and $4.7 million for a separate QLG program. In QLG's view, only lame excuses for this discrepancy were offered, and no correction was made.
2. In early 1995 a Draft EIS was issued by Region 5 to address Spotted Owl habitat issues in the Sierra Nevada national forests of California. It included an alternative said to be based on implementation of the QLG Proposal, but QLG viewed it as more a poison pill than a legitimate example of the QLG forest management strategy.
3. In late 1995 the Lassen National Forest proposed the Barkley Fire Salvage Sale, which would have conducted fire salvage logging on very sensitive land above a stream that is one of the last two spawning grounds for spring-run chinook salmon in inland California. For that very reason, this area had been designated as deferred from timber management on the QLG landbase map. Living up to their agreement, QLG's members from the timber industry did not bid on the sale, but it was offered again, and only after considerable political pressure by QLG was the sale finally withdrawn.
By late 1996 QLG had seen a few encouraging examples of small scale implementation, but increasingly realized that business as usual with the Forest Service, whether at the national, regional, or local level, was not capable of implementing the QLG Proposal at appropriate scale within a reasonable time. For some members representing small and middle-size timber-related businesses, time was running out; the process had to produce results more quickly or they were out of business. With great reluctance, QLG began to discuss the pros and cons of drafting a QLG Bill for submission direct to Congress. Such a bill could require the Forest Service immediately to initiate a full scale test of the QLG Proposal, but there was significant risk that QLG's program would not retain its local character and strategic focus if subjected so directly to national politics. In the end, no other option seemed viable, so QLG asked the District's Congressman, Wally Herger, to introduce a bill in Congress.
The QLG Bill.
The Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery and Economic Stability Act of 1997 (introduced as HR 858) was intended to implement the main provisions of the QLG Proposal. As amended slightly to become the companion Senate bill, S-1028, the QLG bill requires the Forest Service to conduct a five year Pilot Project that would: construct fuelbreaks on 40 to 60 thousand acres a year (a pace that would reduce fuel on the whole available landbase in about 30 years), conduct group selection harvests on 0.57 percent of the land designated for that purpose (equivalent to an average 175 year regeneration cycle), implement a program of riparian area protection and restoration, and submit a yearly report to Congress on project implementation, and a final science-based report at the end of the project on whether the project's ecological and community stability goals were achieved. Included as an integral part of the bill is the QLG map of off base, deferred, and available for group selection designations. The bill requires the Forest Service to publish an EIS on the Pilot Project before starting to implement it, to follow existing and prospective guidelines for California Spotted Owl protection, including strict limits on the maximum size of trees that can be harvested or removed for fire protection, and to obey all other environmental laws and regulations while implementing the bill.
A second large QLG delegation visited Washington, DC, in March 1997, to explain the bill and line up support for it among House and Senate members and their staffs, and within the Administration and the Forest Service. During these and follow-up conversations, there was considerable agreement on the substance of the bill -- the need for fuel reduction, improved silviculture, riparian restoration, and protection of sensitive areas -- but the Forest Service was understandably reluctant to admit that these objectives could not be met through normal processes without a special bill, and some Members of Congress were suspicious of an agreement to thin the forest by means that removed any trees large enough to be called logs. Objections were also raised by several national environmentalist organizations, who felt that a dangerous precedent would be established if QLG's local issues were addressed by national legislation.
In late spring, 1997, Secretary Lyons conducted several meetings in California attended by Forest Service officials, Congressional staff members, QLG members, and representatives from several environmentalist organizations. The purpose was to determine whether it was possible to agree on an administrative solution to the issues raised by QLG that would not require a Congressional bill. A few of the representatives from environmentalist organizations offered to support an immediate joint effort to obtain annual appropriations for the pilot project on national forests in the QLG area, if QLG would agree to withdraw the bill. Unfortunately, the environmentalist representatives would not agree to support reintroduction of the bill in case the effort to secure appropriations failed, nor could they commit their organizations to the plan they had offered. Also, QLG believed a five-year authorization bill was much superior to individual year-by-year authorization only through appropriation bills. Faced with a heads they win, tails we lose situation, QLG felt it had no viable option except to continue with the bill.
In spite of these potential roadblocks, the QLG Bill went forward, and after vigorous floor debate and a few amendments, but without serious compromise of its original intent, passed the House by a vote of 429 to 1 in July 1997.
A companion bill in the Senate.
California Senators Feinstein and Boxer cosponsored a companion bill in the Senate, S-1028. The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources conducted a hearing on the bill, and reported it, as amended, with a unanimous do pass recommendation (Report 105-138). The Senate amendments did not change the list of Forest Service management activities required by HR-858, but did write into the bill a protection against undue adverse effect on livestock grazing, and several environmental and procedural safeguards that had only been implied by standard legislative practice and general principles of law in the original bill. For example, in the original bill obey the law was assumed to be the rule, absent any exception, but the Senate amendments added specific language that the California Spotted Owl Guidelines had to be followed, and all other environmental laws had to be obeyed while implementing the QLG Pilot Project. Furthermore, in its report the Senate Committee made clear that it expected the Forest Service to protect all late successional old growth stands, not just those that lay within designated wilderness areas and the QLG off-base and deferred areas.
In spite of the additional safeguards, added specifically to acknowledge their concerns and ease their fears, environmental organizations decided to continue their strong opposition. Early in their campaign they published two full page ads (1 & 2) in the national edition of the New York Times, one with a cartoon showing Senators Feinstein and Boxer helping Vice President Gore push a wooden horse labeled QLG up the steps of the Capitol, and the other with a cartoon implying an exchange of money between timber company executives and Senator Feinstein. But it was clear from appeals made to their membership for money and a letter-writing campaign that these environmentalist organizations saw that their only hope was to convince Senator Boxer to switch from cosponsoring the QLG Bill to being an active opponent.
S-1028 failed to pass by the end of the 1997 session, because Senator Bumpers and Senator Leahy held it hostage in complicated negotiations involving other bills, but it was thought to have a clear track for the start of the 1998 session. Then, early in 1998 without any notice to QLG of her intentions, Senator Boxer announced her withdrawal of support for the QLG Bill in a letter to the editor of the Bay Guardian, a weekly newspaper in San Francisco. When asked for further explanation, Senator Boxer told QLG that she would vote against the bill, but not otherwise oppose it. Nevertheless, she placed a hold on the bill, which effectively prevented it from even coming to a vote. When asked why she switched, Senator Boxer said she trusted of her environmentalist supporters and their claims that the QLG Bill would double the logging and fail to protect old growth trees. When a QLG delegation met with her to present evidence that the increased cut would be largely thin from below fuel reduction to reduce the excess of small fire ladder trees that were a major component of the high and rising fire hazard, and that the effect of the QLG Bill would be to raise old growth protection in the QLG area from 11 percent now protected in designated wilderness to 100 percent, Senator Boxer refused to look at the evidence, but simply restated her faith in her environmentalist supporters. To QLG it was clear that organized opposition to the QLG Bill was actually based on election year politics and turf ecology, not forest ecology.
Senator Boxer's opposition stalled the QLG Bill for at least an additional six months, but QLG has good reason to believe it will finally pass the Senate and be signed into law before the end of the 1998 session.
Effect of the fight for the bill on QLG.
QLG had decided to propose the bill only after long, at times heated, discussion. The difficult and uncertain path of the bill through Congress has not resulted in either a let down of QLG effort on other aspects of its program, or any I told you so recriminations by those who originally argued against putting the QLG Proposal into the Washington meat grinder. If anything, the need for the bill has been vindicated, and the fight for the bill has reinforced QLG's faith in the soundness of its program, since fire hazard and forest health problems were growing, Forest Service capacity to respond was shrinking, and the opposition found nothing of substance it could attack, and was reduced to what they, themselves, called sound bite arguments (rough translation: slogan-based propaganda).
Other QLG activities in direct support of its Proposal.
Preparing to implement the Pilot Project.
In passing the QLG Bill, Congress gives no special power or management role to QLG. Instead, the bill contains direct orders, from Congress to the Forest Service, to accomplish a specific list of tasks in a five-year Pilot Project and report on what it has accomplished. QLG will make suggestions and offer comments on the Pilot Project EIS, and perhaps on individual projects, on the same basis as anybody else who cares to comment, but has no other role in the Forest Service management decisions.
From the beginning, QLG has placed great emphasis on the need for much-improved monitoring by the Forest Service of its management activities and their results. On QLG's recommendation, part of the $4.7 supplemental allocation announced by Secretary Glickman was dedicated to development of an improved monitoring plan for QLG area national forests. This plan is now in place and beginning to be implemented. While the fundamental responsibility for adequate monitoring and evaluation of the implementation and effectiveness of the Pilot Project will lie with the Forest Service, QLG also intends to do some of its own monitoring, and to seek participation in monitoring by other interested parties, to provide if possible a true example of all party monitoring. In order to prepare for this role, QLG has established an implementation and consultation committee to analyze and respond to Forest Service actions as they implement the Pilot Project, and QLG has applied for foundation grants to support its monitoring effort. As an example of other agencies seeing an opportunity to participate in the QLG Pilot Project and monitor it closely for their own benefit, the eight counties with land included in the QLG area have agreed to hire a full-time County Forester to represent their interest in the QLG process and the QLG Pilot Project.
One major component of the QLG monitoring effort will be to publish all available data and evaluations, from the Forest Service and other parties, as well as QLG, on the QLG web site, www.qlg.org.
QLG actions regarding the California Spotted Owl.
One could argue with considerable justification that QLG was formed as a response to the California Spotted Owl controversy. Other issues are involved, but the owl has been a continuing major theme, and was the defining issue for some members. In July 1992 the Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station published The California Spotted Owl: A Technical Assessment of its Current Status (the CASPO Report), and early in 1993 the Regional Forester published an environmental assessment and decision notice adopting California Spotted Owl Interim Guidelines. The QLG Proposal, adopted in the summer of 1993, specified that the Interim Guidelines would be followed, endorsed the CASPO Report recommendations for fire and fuels management, and set the term of the QLG Proposal at five years while the Regional EIS for CASPO is being prepared, decided, appealed, and litigated. As noted above, the Draft Environmental Statement (DEIS) was published early in 1995, and QLG was greatly disappointed in its failure to handle QLG area issues adequately. These deficiencies spurred QLG to undertake a thorough analysis of the DEIS in order to support a detailed response. Recognizing that this job would be more than part time volunteers could handle, QLG decided to raise money to meet expenses and hire two of its members as consultants whose main job would be to coordinate the QLG response and seek the support of other interested parties for the QLG position. An initial fund of $100 thousand was raised, with contributions from local business and industry, county governments, school districts, members of the union representing mill workers, and individual citizens. Continuing work on the spotted owl and other issues involving the QLG Proposal have been financed by the initial fund and other contributions and grants obtained by QLG, to a three-year total of over $250 thousand. Since QLG is not equipped to handle money, these and other funds for the support of QLG-sponsored activities have been received, disbursed, and accounted for by the Plumas Corporation, a non-profit economic development organization headquartered in Quincy.
Partly as a result of more than 4,000 comments received, the Regional Forester did not adopt any one of the seven alternatives presented in the DEIS, but ordered that a Revised Draft (RDEIS) be prepared. This was printed and became widely available in the summer of 1996, but was withdrawn just before it was due to be officially published. Objections had been made that the RDEIS failed to take account of newly available science, particularly the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project (SNEP) report (see below). Subsequently a Federal Advisory Committee of scientists was established for the purpose of reviewing Cal Owl science and management practices, then recommending how to proceed. After receiving that report, the Regional Forester announced, in May 1998, a new initiative to address the Cal Owl and other major issues in a process that would include a two-month Sierra Nevada Science Review (SNSR) then proceed to amendment of the individual Land and Resource Management Plans (LRMPs) of the affected national forests in a year-long process called the Sierran Nevada Conservation Framework (SNCF) that would produce an EIS and Record of Decision by the end of July 1999.
Thus QLG has been heavily involved for over five years in a Cal Owl process that was supposed to be all wrapped up by now, but only now is starting once again. Because the SNCF EIS and the QLG Pilot Project EIS are separate but will be developed simultaneously, QLG will be very heavily involved in making appropriate inputs to both these processes during the coming year.
QLG cosponsorship of the ethanol feasibility study.
A major goal of both the QLG Proposal and the Pilot Project is to reduce the high and growing hazard of catastrophic wildfire by reducing the fuel load in our forests. One barrier to achieving that goal at sufficient scale within a reasonable time is lack of a market that can both absorb the huge amount of biomass (woody debris and small trees) that must be removed, and pay something toward the cost of that removal. Seeking to find opportunity in a problem, QLG has cosponsored, along with the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and with support by other state, local, and private entities, a study of the feasibility of manufacturing ethanol, primarily for use as a gasoline additive, from wood chips and other forest biomass and mill waste. The final report, Northeastern California Ethanol Manufacturing Feasibility Study, was released in November 1997, and two companies with local facilities have announced their interest in building such a plant in or near the QLG area. One of these, the Collins Pine Company, a founding member of QLG, recently announced that it had entered into a variety of international partnerships to get such a plant built as soon as possible, and on September 9, 1998, the California Energy Commission announced a Strategic Research grant of $1.15 million to Collins Pine in support of the ethanol project. QLG believes that manufacturing ethanol from forest biomass has win-win-win potential. It would make possible and help finance the removal of hazardous biomass from our forests, it would create local jobs and economic stability, and it would improve air quality by converting dirty-burning forest fuel into cleaner-burning automobile fuel.
Collateral QLG activities.
In addition to its major efforts on the QLG Proposal, the QLG Bill, Cal Owl processes, and the Ethanol Project, QLG has participated in other activities to support various aspects of its total program. QLG members participated in the Seventh American Forest Congress and have attended numerous other workshops on forest management issues. QLG commented extensively on the Inter-Agency Fire Policy Review conducted a few years ago by the agencies in the Department of Agriculture and Department of the Interior that have fire management responsibilities. QLG has been a member of the Lead Partnership Group, a regional consortium of organizations involved with resource management issues, and QLG has been represented on the California Fire Strategies Committee, the California Biodiversity Council, and in the Western Biomass Association. QLG members made half of the presentations in a 12-lecture series on QLG at the University of California at Berkeley early in 1998. Others who spoke included scientists, State of California and Forest Service officials, and a prominent opponent of QLG.
Three activities have been or are expected to be of particular importance.
Water issues. QLG members connected with county government have been very active in attempts to involve water users in the task of restoring and maintaining the health of upper watershed forests and riparian areas. Just to teach urban residents that water isn't created at the dams has been a difficult task, but local initiatives brought to the California Department of Water Resources, and in connection with hydro-electric re-licensing (FERC) and water distribution issues in the lower Sacramento and San Joaquin river system (CAL-FED), are beginning to get appropriate attention.
The Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project (SNEP). In 1993 Congress appropriated funds for a review of remaining old growth in the national forests of the Sierra Nevada and a study of the entire Sierra Nevada ecosystem by an independent panel of scientists. In June 1996 a summary and three volumes of the SNEP Report were published, followed in 1997 by an addendum of articles finished too late for the 1996 volumes. QLG hosted meetings with a number of SNEP scientists during preparation of the Report, and QLG members participated in various workshops connected with the project as it developed. QLG believes that the SNEP Report says nothing that would contradict the main elements of the QLG Pilot Project, and provides numerous examples of direct support for management practices suggested by QLG.
A proposed Fire and Fire Surrogates (FFS) study. In the Forest Service, fuel management has traditionally meant pile and burn logging residues, and treat natural fuels with prescribed fire. But fuel reduction by these methods has never kept up with fuel accumulation, which leaves us after many years with a huge and very dangerous fuel load in the forest. Attempts to address the scale of this fuel problem with prescribed fire alone are doomed, because even if funding and expertise were available to conduct the required burning, the public would not accept the increased risk or the huge amount and long duration of the smoke it would produce. Recognizing the need to depend much more on other methods to remove the fuel, not just prescribed fire, QLG is closely following a proposal by Forest Service scientists at the Pacific Southwest Forest and Range Experiment Station in Redding, California, to conduct a long-term nation-wide study of the ecological consequences and tradeoffs if other treatments are used in conjunction with or in place of prescribed fire. The first stage of planning for the Fire and Fire Surrogates Study has been funded, and QLG expects one of the experimental sites will be in the QLG area. This study is of particular interest to QLG, because (1) the QLG Pilot Project will employ both prescribed fire and other fuel reduction treatments, but at a scale where prescribed fire can be only a relatively small part of the total treatment, and (2) because the FFS study can show universities and other research organizations the advantage of conducting a variety of scientific studies in conjunction with the QLG Pilot Project.
Adjustment of long term goals.
A number of developments have occurred that QLG could not have foreseen when it formulated its 1993 Community Stability Proposal. The goal then was to suggest some improved methods for managing the national forests in our area, get these methods implemented on an trial basis, use that experience to develop longer term amendments to the Land and Resource Management Plans, then go out of business at the end of the five years that all this was expected to take. Things didn't exactly work out that way.
On one hand, QLG did not achieve its original goals, because five years have elapsed and QLG's suggestions have not yet been fully implemented, even on a trial basis. On the other hand, QLG has seen its goals and suggested methods strongly vindicated, because during those five years the Forest Service has moved slowly but steadily toward the management theory and practices that QLG suggested. This is not to suggest a cause and effect relationship -- the Forest Service didn't suddenly decide to do the QLG thing -- it is instead a matter of convergence. In other words, QLG anticipated some trends, but did not necessarily create them. Therefore QLG has tuned up its strategy for implementing its goals, but has not found it necessary to make major changes in the goals themselves.
Evaluation of the QLG process.
Effect on the Community. One immediate effect of initiating QLG was to stop the belligerent talk and acts that had previously characterized the local timber wars atmosphere. Before QLG the local newspaper reported a charge of bad faith, an act of sabotage, or a threat of retaliation every few weeks; after QLG was formed, such reports just stopped. This is probably because the QLG process required the contending interests to deal more with the issues, and much less with doctrines or personalities. With their leaders engaged in peace talks, it became much less fashionable for the troops to skirmish. Appeals to Forest Service decisions are still filed by various individuals and organizations, but they are not so often treated as attacks on the system, and the Forest Service seems to be handling them better.
Effect on Forest Health. Some questionable Forest Service projects have been stopped or changed, and project implementation has generally improved. Planning for fuel reduction and ecosystem monitoring has been greatly improved, but the effect of these changes will not be adequate until the scale and pace of implementation are brought up to the levels required by the QLG Bill.
Effect on the Forest Service. The QLG Proposal and the QLG Pilot Project are becoming better understood, more widely validated, and increasingly accepted by Forest Service managers and resource specialists. Local Forest Service employees begin to see the Pilot Project as a likely way to keep their units functional in the face of general downsizing. Nevertheless, it is very likely that at various levels the agency harbors a residual antagonism to QLG, because some of the issues QLG raised have fed into sharp Congressional criticism of the Forest Service in recent months (e.g. a joint House-Senate oversight hearing of March 26, 1998).
Tentative conclusions: Does it work? What makes it work?
QLG members would probably say that QLG is working, because progress is being made, but it has not yet worked, because the Pilot Project is not yet implemented.
As to what makes it work, we can't be sure why it works in our community, much less how to export it, but a few reasons that are probably more important than others can be listed, some of them already mentioned above.
1. A project of great importance was taken on. The kind of sustained effort that members have put into QLG could only have been justified by the prospect of achieving something of great importance to the members and the community. Therefore, it may be better strategy to bite off too much rather than too little.
2. Convergence of attention on the issues chosen. This can be seen two ways. At first it meant that the group carefully selected a short list of issues, then brought tight focus to those issues. But as the process unfolded there has also been convergence on our issues from many other directions and from many other sources. Whether QLG was a significant agent of this convergence or just its beneficiary is difficult to say, but it is certain that internal convergence on some key issues prepared the group to take greater advantage of the external convergence that developed.
3. Decision by true consensus. It is hard to over-state the importance of this factor in keeping QLG together and on point. Looking at a QLG meeting you would see something resembling Robert's Rules, because motions are made and seconded, then votes taken. But what actually happens is not majority rule, because votes are not taken until the group is pretty well convinced that the decision will be unanimous. If it isn't, then more discussion takes place, and if anybody is still opposed, the decision is either dropped or postponed for still more discussion. Votes are simply to record decisions already agreed by unanimous consent.
Giving everybody an effective veto seems a very inefficient way to operate, but it has at least three indispensable advantages for QLG: (1) Requiring true consensus greatly limits the range of issues the group can take on, which automatically provides more focus and therefore puts more power behind the decisions that are made; (2) When members do agree, they are very tightly bound by that agreement, because they can't later claim they weren't in favor of it in the first place; and (3) Wide representation is maintained, because members don't tend to drop out due to a feeling that they are in a powerless minority.
4. Maintaining unofficial status. Seeking or accepting a seat at the table where government decisions are made looks like a short-cut to having influence over those decisions, but QLG has found much greater power in having complete flexibility to choose when and where to put pressure on the system. When suggestions to local Forest Service management didn't work, QLG didn't hesitate to jump the chain of command by going right to the top, or the middle, or the lowest working level -- wherever the chances of progress looked best.
5. And finally, the key factor may be just the luck