Interview of Barry Rosenberg ― Resistance Radio

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Hi, this is Derrick Jensen and this is Resistance Radio on the Progressive Radio Network. My guest today is Barry Rosenberg. He lives with his wife Cathe off grid in a remote wooded location in Priest Lake, ID. He’s the founding chair of the Selkirk Conservation Alliance; Forest Watch Director for the Inland Empire Public Lands Council, and executive director for the Kootenai Environmental Alliance in Coeur d’Alene ID.

So first, you are one of my environmental heroes and environmental mentors; and second, thank you for your work; and third, thank you for being on the program.

BR: You’re welcome.

DJ: So talk about how you got started as an environmental activist.

BR: My wife and I moved into this remote area in North Idaho in the woods near Priest Lake in 1975. We just bought 40 acres of raw property, and ended up back-to-the-landers, ended up developing it. In 1981 I got notified – I didn’t get notified; a friend of mine who works for the Forest Service said “They’re going to log your watershed.” And I said “Well, I haven’t heard anything about it.” And he said “Well, you have one day to make a comment and oppose it.”

So I went and saw the district ranger, my wife and I, and said “Hey! You guys are going to log our watershed, it’s going to destroy our – we get water from the creek, that’s our domestic water supply.” And he said “Oh well, it might be muddy for a little while but it’ll clear up.” I said “That’s not adequate.” So that’s how I got started. I went in and spoke to a lot of people. I spent three years writing letters back and forth to the Forest Service and studying the effects of logging on water quality and fisheries, and finding out how the Forest Service evaluates their impacts, and so on. And I just kept on studying and doing it and they kept saying “Barry, we appreciate your concern but it’s apples and oranges. You just don’t know what you’re talking about.” Plus I came across the fact that they were just lying to my face about the potential effects of this timber sale. Finally I got angry and after three years I went and hired a lawyer, and he looked at all the stuff that I’d accumulated and he said “Good. Give me $500 and we’ll take care of it.”

Two weeks later the sale was withdrawn, and I asked him “What did you do?!?” He said “Well, I wrote an appeal.” I said “What’s an appeal?” The Forest Service never told me in all those years that I had a right to appeal the timber sale. But they took my letter, the letter I wrote opposing the timber sale, and interpreted it as an appeal.

Well, nevertheless, I just got involved and I said “You know, I can do that.” And so I started challenging all the timber sales in the Priest Lake Ranger District and was successful in shutting quite a few down. Then I helped form the Selkirk-Priest Basin Association, and working with this grassroots group, we stopped a huge timber sale in old growth in the upper Priest Lake area. To make a long story short, I worked for about nine years by myself challenging timber sales and getting involved in the process, and the Lands Council based in Spokane, Washington; John Osborn called me and said “Would you be interested in working for us?” And I said “Sure.” And he said “Well, we can’t afford to pay you very much money.” I said “Fine. What do you want me to do?” He said “I want you to clone yourself.” And I said “What do you mean?” He said “You do what you need to do to give your message to the grassroots groups that are struggling around here with the Forest Service.”

So that’s what I did. And their attention was a help in that matter and also you were very much a help. And I went out, and we got calls. We said “We’re going to help you challenge illegal and destructive timber sales.” And the first group that called me was the Kettle Range Conservation Group in Kettle Falls. And I went out with them and spent about two weeks with them, camped out with them in their house and went out in the woods and met Forest Service people, and I gave them all the information I had accumulated, and we sat down together and we wrote an appeal. And then I went off to another group and did exactly the same thing. And when I was with that second group I got a call from the Kettle Range Conservation Group saying “Hey! We stopped this terrible timber sale!”

I said “Great!” He said “Yes! And we’re going to do more appeals!” I said “That’s wonderful.” And that’s what happened. That traveled all around in the northwest. North Idaho, eastern Oregon, western Montana. And I did this, and within three years the timber sale volume dropped by 75%. It was a very successful thing and the Lands Council was extremely supportive of my work and that’s basically how I got started.

DJ: So before we go any further; you’ve said the phrase “timber sale appeal” a few times. People might not know at all what that means. What is a timber sale appeal?

BR: The public has a right to an administrative challenge of a timber sale. The Forest Service puts out a document called an Environmental Assessment, where they describe the kind of timber sale they’re having and what the potential effects of that timber sale are going to be. And what we do is look at that EA. They always come out saying there aren’t going to be any significant impacts. But we look at it based upon science and information we’ve acquired over the years, and see that they’re wrong. That indeed the timber sale is going to have a significant environmental impact, and so we have a right to challenge that. And we write a document, and it has to be pretty scientific, discussing all the aspects of our opposition to this particular timber sale. How water quality is going to be affected, fisheries and so on.

Our big emphasis here in the inland northwest was water quality. And so we filed that appeal. You have a certain number of days, like 45 days after the decision is issued. You file an appeal and the forest service has a certain timeframe in which to respond. And in the beginning, they were upholding all of our appeals because we caught them with their pants down. The Forest Service had not been challenged, hardly at all, on their timber sales until we started this Forest Watch program. And I think I filed my first appeal in 1981 and I think it was one of the first appeals in Idaho.

And so that’s it. That’s the right the public has to challenge timber sales.

DJ: This is really important, because so many people complain about how bad things are but so few people actually get off their butts and do something. And you were able to, simply by getting off your behind and doing the work, and then helping other people to do the work as well, you were able to tangibly protect parts of the real world.

BR: Yes. Up until recently.

First of all: I get too much praise for this. I worked with people, grassroot groups, who were just dynamite. They were passionate, they were hard workers, tenacious, and I was just kind of a catalyst to them. They were already smoldering and I just blew on the flame a little, and they just took off. They’re the ones who did the work, and that’s why grassroots activism is so important. The big groups are so often compromised by the politics that they weren’t doing it on the ground. They weren’t looking at individual timber sales.

What happened over time is that we were so successful that the Forest Service finally said “What are we doing?” And they stopped approving our timber sale appeals. Also Larry Craig, the senator from Idaho at that time, worked very very hard to get rid of the appeals process, and finally in 1995 – ever since we started winning appeals, the Forest Service was trying to find a way they could circumvent our opportunity to challenge timber sales. And in 1995, they put out what they call a Rescissions Bill, a salvage rider, and we called it “logging without laws.” It suspended all the environmental laws and it just said we have to log because the forest is sick and it’s ridden with disease and insects and it’s fire prone. And so what they did was take all the sales that we had successfully appealed off the shelf, and said “Now these are salvage timber sales.” Originally they never said they were salvage timber sales. They were just timber sales. Now they’re all sick and dying.

So we went out and looked at these timber sales and the trees were all alive. It was such a sham. And we couldn’t do anything about it. Finally we complained to the Secretary of Agriculture and we got things to slow down a little bit. One of the greatest quotes I ever had – we took the press out into the woods, into the timber sale, where they said everything was dying. And everything was green. So one of the reporters called the Forest Service and spoke to a representative there and he said “Oh, these trees are dead. They just don’t know it yet.” That was one of the most classic quotes I’ve heard. I love it.

So that’s what happened. And they were forcing us to go to court all the time. You can’t afford to go to court. It’s very expensive. But we were winning, even in court. But the thing was, the Forest Service was getting slicker. They were taking our arguments and our insight and twisting them to make it sound like they picked it up and now they were dealing with the problems in a very scientific and environmental manner, which they weren’t. One of the biggest successes of the Forest Watch program, which was run by the Lands Council, is that it reduced the timber staff in many national forests. For instance, the Idaho Panhandle National Forest, which is based in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, lost 50% of their staff because the money that comes from timber sales funds the Forest Service. And if they didn’t have timber sales and couldn’t meet their timber target, they weren’t getting the money and had to reduce the staff.

And that has led into another thing, which is the collaborative process. And we could talk about that if you’re interested.

DJ: I would like to go there in a second. But I want to step back for a second. I have talked about you in many of my talks over the decades, and there’s an example that … I don’t know what this proves, but it’s always just blown me away. I was spending all day one day trying to tear apart an environmental assessment for a timber harvest plan, and I’d spent all day working on this thing, and I’m getting nowhere, and then you come in and you literally open the EA to a random page, you look at one paragraph, and you say “We got ‘em right there. That’s a violation of the National Forest Management Act.” And then you go to another page and you say “Look! We got ‘em right there too. This is a violation of the Endangered Species Act.” And then another page. “Oh, this is 36 CFR 4.19.”

And by then you’d been doing this for 10-12 years. And one of the things that that taught me is the importance of experience. And I’m guessing that when you started, you were sort of floundering around like I was. We all have to go through that process, and then eventually you can get to the point where you could pick those things apart almost in your sleep.

BR: The greatest law was the National Environmental Policy Act. That’s the one we got them on. That means that it has to show why they’re choosing a particular alternative, why these things are not going to have an effect on the forest, whether water or fish or wildlife, and they have to go into all the details of clearly explaining why there’s not going to be a significant effect. They couldn’t do it. They were so vulnerable in that respect, and that’s how we won all our appeals. They did not follow the National Environmental Policy Act.

The way I learned how to do it was when this thing first happened, I just went to the Forest Service specialists and talked to them. And they were more than happy to share their knowledge about fisheries and water quality. And plus we had a couple of really sympathetic hydrologists working for the Panhandle, who, eventually one of them was asked to resign, and they moved the other one out. But they gave me all this information. That’s how I accumulated it. It was not easy, but it was very available, and these people in the Forest were more than happy to help me, even though they finally realized I was using the information to stop timber sales, which they didn’t like.

Then what happened is because they reduced the staff by so much – each National Forest has a timber target, which indicates how many trees they have to log each year in order to get their budget. Congress assigns this number. And they couldn’t make their timber target, as a consequence of losing their staff, and what happened was this led into what they call the collaborative process. And groups like the Lands Council who were the leaders in stopping illegal destructive timber sales sat down with the Forest Service and the timber industry, and other special interests who benefited by logging or extraction methods of the Forest Service, and they said “We’re tired of appealing timber sales and challenging them. Maybe we can work together with you.” I think the Lands Council was one of the first groups who started, up in the Collum National Forest. They came out and said “We’re going to change the way logging is done. We’re going to log just in the wild-urban interface.” That’s the area around urban areas that can be most affected by fire. And we’re working with Vaagen Brothers Lumber Company and all they’re interested in is small diameter trees. And that’s what they said was going to happen.

It didn’t happen. These timber sales started growing bigger and bigger and bigger. And they’re major timber sales, and they were signing off on all these things. And there was no monitoring. In other words, the Forest Service was making claims that “We’re going to do this timber sale. It’s going to improve forest health. It’s going to make everything so much better.” And yet they never evaluated the effects of the timber sale.

So then the Forest Service began in the 90’s talking about forest health. They said the forests were sick, they’re going to burn, we need a logging to save them. It’s like “destroy the village to save it.” And they used the same prescription that they used in the first place to make the forest sick, and that’s chain saw medicine. And that’s trashed our forests, and they always use the same claim to virtue, which I got from you, that phrase. “We’re going to restore it, make it healthy,” and so on. And they kept repeating this message, that the forest is sick and is going to burn. They fanned the flames of fear, and people respond to fear. And we’ve had a lot of forest fires. But the problem is the logging doesn’t do anything to stop them, and there were no severe outbreaks of insects and disease. It was just a sham, but they kept repeating it over and over and over again, and people buy into it.

It’s just like, I remember reading a book called “Toxic Sludge is Good For You.” It’s about the advertising industry. You repeat something enough and people are going to believe it. Even progressive politicians, Democratic politicians, fell for it and support this collaborative effort. And because it was collaborative, it kind of legitimized the situation. “Oh, look! We have environmentalists working with the industry and the Forest Service, and everybody’s hunky-dory and they’re putting out wonderful timber sales.” And it was just a sham. Quite frankly, I don’t know why the Lands Council, which was once the leader in protecting the forest, has now become its biggest enemy.

DJ: This is a process that we see quite often, where a group will start off really good and then get captured by those who end up de facto serving industry. Can you talk about how that process took place in this specific case, with an eye to how somebody working in the forest in Appalachia or in Maine can try to protect their group from undergoing the same sort of transition? How did it happen?

BR: I think the Lands Council started it in the Collum National, as I mentioned. And I followed three timber sales that were collaboratively supported. And it was not just the Lands Council. It’s the Kettle Range Conservation Group, the group that I first worked with back in 1990. Conservation Northwest and the Lands Council on the Collum National Forest. And one of the biggest things they did, one of the most dramatic things, is they approved what they call the agency timber sale, which gave the timber sale to a member of the collaborative group, Vaagen Brothers Lumber Company, who paid $1 million in a no-competitive bid, and they took over the work of the forest service. They did everything. This led to the privatization of national forest. They did the environmental assessment, they decided where they’re going to log, how much they’re going to log, and so on. They did everything. The burning, deciding where the roads are going to be. It turned out to be a huge timber sale. They built 50 miles of new roads in this area in the Collum National Forest in a very damn extreme system. And they said “everything is going to be better.” It was a horrible, horrible situation.

It turned out to be 136 million board feet. Most people don’t understand what that is, but it turned out over 27 thousand logging trucks for this one timber sale. And these collaborative groups are spreading in other places, and the Lands Council also was supportive of the Panhandle Forest Collaborative, which is made up of the Lands Council, the Idaho Conservation League and Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness, plus all the timber companies and private interests and politicians. And they approved the Hanna Flats timber sale up in Priest Lake, which, probably the most dramatic thing they did was approve the state to be able to log Forest Service lands. And that came about with the 2014 Farm Bill. That part was called the Good Neighbor Authority, which allowed the state’s timber agencies to log federal land, and this was a horrible thing. The rationale they gave was that the Forest Service was understaffed and dealing with wildfires.

And so this reduced staff came back to bite us. Now they say with the state working on it, they can log a lot more timber sales. In Idaho, the State of Idaho is now logging ten timber sales with twenty more coming right up. It’s just a horrible thing. The State of Idaho is notorious for supporting industrial forestry.

I’m giving these specific examples because they’re so dramatic. The Lands Council is definitely the leader in the collaborative program. The other giant sale they did was called the Bottom timber sale, Bottom Canyon in the north fork of the Coeur d’Alene River Ranger District. Mike Petersen got interviewed by Evergreen Magazine and they asked “What was one of your best successes?” And he says “The Bottom Canyon project in the Idaho Panhandle Fernan Ranger District comes immediately to mind. The Forest Service developed the initial plan, which we who make up the Idaho Panhandle Collaborative all thought was too small. So we asked them if we could take a crack at revising it, and they surprised us and said ‘Yes.’ We took it from 1200 to 2400 acres and from seven million board feet to thirty million board feet.” Well, it actually turned out to be twenty-seven million board feet.

And he knows better. Because when you clearcut those ranges that have been heavily cut over already – he says they’re very resilient, there’s no problem. But they’re not resilient. And so they’re sitting above Lake Coeur d’Alene, the Coeur d’Alene River, you clearcut them and midwinter rain-on-snow events, because of all these openings, flush toxic metals into the Coeur d’Alene River and into Lake Coeur d’Alene. It’s because in the Silver Valley there’s an area, Bunker Hill Mine, all these mining companies that over the last 100 years have been producing lead and silver and so on, and the byproducts are toxic metals. And as a result they contaminated the whole floodplain of the Coeur d’Alene River. So when you clearcut all these areas in Little North Fork it flushes, you get much more water coming down off of this than normally, if you hadn’t logged it, and it flushes these heavy metals into the river and into Lake Coeur d’Alene.

One year, in 1997, one million pounds of lead went into Lake Coeur d’Alene in one day. So these groups are not only just destroying the forest, but they’re actually endangering people’s health.

DJ: So let’s be really clear about what we’re saying. That circa 1989-1990, the Lands Council, which was called the Inland Empire Public Lands Council at that point, but the same organization – was one of the leaders in protecting the forests of northern Idaho, eastern Washington, western Montana. And now that same organization is working to make quadruple, basically, the size of timber sales, and to make it so that logging companies are able to write their own timber sales on public lands. So that’s basically what has happened, correct?

BR: That happened in one instance in the Collum National Forest, the privatization. And the Forest Service says “Well, we’re going to oversee the whole project.” As far as making timber sales bigger, yes they are. There was a sale in the Hanna Flats that I mentioned, which falls under this Farm Bill, which is an extremely important aspect of the problem today. The Farm Bill allows you to log 3000 acres without doing a very detailed environmental assessment, and prohibits people from appealing or challenging those timber sales, except in court. And it limits this to 3000 acres. This one timber sale, the Hanna Flats up in Priest Lake was 2200 acres, and the Lands Council says “Hey, you can log up to 3000 acres. Why don’t you do that? And then also there’s a lot of old growth in there that doesn’t quite meet the old growth definition. So then why don’t you log this old growth?”

It boggles my mind because Mike Petersen, who worked for me when I was Forest Watch director, and worked very hard at preventing timber sales, turned around and when I left he became Executive Director of the Lands Council, and then he became one of the leading collaborators. I don’t know.

DJ: Again, part of the point here is that this is a process that we see quite often, and you mentioned Conservation Northwest, and they’re actually pretty notorious for helping – not to put too fine a point on it, but for helping to turn strong environmental organizations into frankly anti-environmental pro-logging organizations. I have a friend who has worked for decades with various forest defense organizations in Oregon, and what he has found is that when – Conservation Northwest is really good at raising money, and when they’ve been able to get someone on the board of these organizations, and then to help raise money for these organizations, many of the organizations have gone from having a position of zero cut on national forests to actually promoting old growth logging.

So this is a process that we have seen. And I’m going to mention a phrase here that listeners may not have heard of, but there was the old Quincy Library Board collaboration back in the 90’s that was sort of a model for this, where … it was a California group and they founded a select group of “environmentalists” who were willing to collaborate with timber industry and come up with a plan that then became a big propaganda coup for the timber industry, because they were able to say “Look, these logging sites are so great, this logging is so safe that even environmentalists are signing on.” And of course the environmentalists who didn’t sign on were pretty much ignored. So one of the things I’m trying to get at with this is this is a process by which the timber industry and capitalism in general is able to routinely capture organizations that are great, and turn them into anti-environmental organizations.

BR: And it’s not just the little grassroots groups that are involved. We got the Wilderness Society, the Nature Conservancy, National Wildlife Federation. All these national groups have bought into this also. There is a financial aspect to this. It’s called the Collective Forest Restoration Collaborative Program, which is put out by the Forest Service and federal government. And it gives donations for in-kind work associated with forest restoration. I’ll give you an example. One group submitted $900,000 of in-kind work that they did, and turned around and got funded for $2,500,000. It boggles the mind, but it’s the truth. And these – it’s not just … working on projects to help restore streams or little timber sales, or promoting the collaborative process. Whatever they do, they’re getting money. And I don’t quite understand all I know about how much money they’re all getting. But I know it’s a significant amount. So that could possibly be one of the justifications, or one of the reasons you’re doing it because when you were so successful – and when I say “we” I mean environmental groups throughout the country who are challenging Forest Service timber sales. And we got a lot of support from foundations. They were supporting Forest Watch programs all over the country. And we’re doing good work. And then all of a sudden the funding dried up. And so these groups who were able to support a Forest Watch program no longer were able to do that. The Pew Trust gave a lot of money supporting collaboration, in the beginning. I know they gave it to the Idaho Conservation League. And what it is, it’s turned into right now, as a result of all this, the worst possible, in all the years I’ve been working, this is the most catastrophic Forest Service logging program I’ve witnessed, since I started working.

I’ll give you one more example. The size of timber sales is mind boggling. In the Clearwater National Forest, Clearwater and Nez Perce National Forest, which is kind of in north central Idaho panhandle, they have two timber sales coming up. One is called the Hungry Ridge, which is 175 million board feet, and the other one’s called the End of the World Timber Sale, which is 250 million board feet. To put this in perspective, a whole forest – the Idaho Panhandle National Forest, when we first started, was logging 260 million board feet. This is a giant forest and now it’s turning into one timber sale, is logging that amount of volume. It’s exponentially, it’s just going absolutely nuts. And people cannot afford to go to court all the time.

You have one group, the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, based in Helena, Montana, who’s been challenging timber sales in court very successfully. But then you have – when I was working for the Kootenai Environmental Alliance, I couldn’t afford – we didn’t have any money to challenge timber sales. There’s only one conservation group that I know of, in Idaho, that is actually really going after challenging timber sales, and that’s Friends of the Clearwater, working in the Clearwater and Nez Perce National Forest. That’s the only one. Except for – then in Montana you have the Alliance for Wild Rockies, Swan View Coalition, Friends of the Wild Swan, and I think maybe one or two other groups that are actually challenging timber sales. But it’s very, very expensive to go to court. It’s just horrible.

DJ: This is something I used to think about a lot, back when we were doing timber sale appeals. That I was volunteering and I would be sitting there all day on a Saturday, all evening on a Saturday night, whatever, doing this timber sale appeal. And I was thinking “I’m actually not getting paid for doing this, and the people who are writing these timber sales are getting paid $40 thousand a year.” Now it’s even worse because the environmentalists who are promoting the timber sales are getting paid as well, as opposed to the real environmentalists who are not getting paid. Or who are getting paid, I don’t know what you made in the 90’s, but it was I’m sure nothing.

BR: Actually I started off with $15 thousand a year and worked my way up to, after I worked for seven years at the Lands Council I worked my way up to $30 thousand a year. And then I worked for the Kootenai Environmental Alliance and started at $30 thousand a year, and then at the end of my tenure there – I worked there for nine years – I had one year where they paid me $36 thousand. You don’t make any money. And I was getting paid. I felt fortunate. How about all these grassroots groups that are doing this on a volunteer basis? It’s kind of like what you were doing, Derrick. It’s nuts. And that’s driving it. I think the financial situation is really driving it. Plus we’ve got a president of the United States now who is, I’m sure his subordinates, the Secretary of Agriculture and the people who run the Forest Service now are under the gun to put out all these timber sales.

One more thing that they’re not considering besides. The environmental assessments are just as bad as they ever were, only they’re like hundreds of pages more than they ever were. They’re thicker. They’re just bad. And one thing that they don’t consider, which is really interesting, is climate change. They say the amount of logging going on in the national forests is so insignificant compared to all the carbon emissions in the world that they don’t even really have to consider it. And they don’t. And another thing that really bugs me –

DJ: Which is crap, by the way. That’s all completely crap. Deforestation is one of the primary sources of greenhouse gases around the world. It’s a huge source. It’s not more than 50% or anything like that, but deforestation worldwide is a significant source of greenhouse gases.

BR: Right. And they consider it insignificant. They never consider the cumulative effects of anything. What’s happening here added to what’s happening there, what they’re doing is not considering cumulative effects. And what really bugs me is the fact that – how much do you hear on national news about forests? I listen to NPR all the time, and other shows. They never talk about forests. I mean really. They never do, in relation to climate change. And one of the problems is that our forest issue is really being buried under all this other junk. It’s the big elephant in the room and all the other things that are going on – you just don’t hear about it. We need to do something about it. All methods of appealing timber sales or challenging timber sales and going to court, we’ve been doing it for years and years and years, and is it working? Well, it was working but it can’t be sustained in light of the change in the laws and so on. So we need to figure something else out.

DJ: I’m going to ask you about figuring something else out in a moment. There are a few things I want to mention. One of them is the timber sale names have always just killed me. It’s like a lot of these timber sale planners just know what they’re doing. The End of the World Timber Sale? Are you kidding? Or the A to Z Timber Sale? That’s exactly what they do.

BR: (laughing) I love that one.

DJ: So that’s the first thing. The second thing is that I want to mention something that happened when I was working on a timber sale, this is twenty-some years ago, that just was a moment for me when something happened. I’m reading an environmental assessment – I’m saying this just because most of the people listening to this have never looked at an environmental assessment and I just want to give an example of how completely frustrating it is to read these things. That I remember one page where they said “We have a graph on page 76” or whatever, and on page 120 they said “We’re reproducing the graph from page 76 for your convenience,” but it’s the same graph, and they were using the graph to show a different point, and they cheated and changed the graph to show the different point. So when they said “We’re reproducing this same graph,” it was a different graph.

And I remember looking at that and literally getting up, walking outside and yelling. My mind couldn’t take it. All they’re doing with a lot of these environmental assessments is just writing a bunch of crap, just hundreds of pages of crap, to rationalize what they want to do anyway.

Oh, I’m going to ask you a question here. Out of all the timber sale documents you ever saw, they’re required by law to include the option where they will do zero cutting, right?

BR: Yeah. When you have an environmental assessment they put out alternatives, and one is “no action” alternative.

DJ: And how many timber sales ever put out chose the “no action” alternative?

BR: None. The decisions are already made. When they decide to do a timber sale, they already know how much logging and everything is going to be done, and yet they go through this process of scoping, “we’re going to do a timber sale and we want your input,” and then they put out a draft and say they want your input on that, and they just ignore what you say. They say they want people’s comments and input. They might make a minuscule change of a timber sale if you caught them making a big mistake. But other than that, they just don’t care. They don’t respond to people’s comments. And that’s what the NEPA process is about. It’s a joke.

One of the things you see in all the timber sales is “Here are all the wonderful reasons why we’re going to log this. We’re going to improve the watersheds, we’re going to do this, we’re going to do that.” Even though they’re not scientifically credible at all. Yet they never, in the documents, put in opposing points of view. They never put credible scientists, very notable scientists, in there saying “Well, if you cut and thin areas to reduce the risk of fire, you’re not going to reduce fires. There’s a chance that you’re actually going to increase the risk of fire.” But they never would put that in there. And so it’s so one-sided. And it’s been like that ever since I started reading environmental assessments. They’re always pushing their case by never allowing anybody else to, who’s credible, in the document to say “No, this might not work.”

DJ: So you mentioned earlier the salvage rider of 1995, and you said just a moment ago that the timber sale appeal process, the timber sale appeal approach worked very well for awhile but now it doesn’t. And I remember in ‘95 with the salvage rider that both you and John Osborn and also I, but you and John really articulated that when we figure out how to use the rules that the system gives us in order to stop the destruction, they change the rules on us.

BR: Exactly. Like Congress just passed this farm bill in 2014, which now means that they can put out categorical exclusions for timber sales under 3000 board feet as long as it’s a collaborative timber sale. As long as it mentions fire, insects, disease, and it’s a restoration timber sale, they can get away with that. And they get away without putting any details in an environmental assessment. They don’t even have to do them anymore. They just have to do this – and they put these things out and you can’t even comment on them. It’s absurd. And you can’t challenge the timber sale except via litigation. Things are changing dramatically and they want to increase that to a six thousand acre minimum.

DJ: We have a couple three minutes left. What do you want people who care about forests to do? How can we reproduce your early success? By “your” I mean your and everybody else’s. What can we do now that they’ve changed the rules, how do we change to stop the destruction?

BR: I want to read you a quote that was in the Spokane Review. Remember in 1993 the Spokane Review did a three part series called “Our Failing Forest?”

DJ: I do. And I just have to say; the timber industry responded with a full-page ad showing a stump with a quote “They axed the facts.” It was the stupidest ad I’ve ever seen in my life. Anyway, go ahead.

BR: I’ll read this really quickly. There was an editorial in the Spokane Review, which is normally a very conservative newspaper, but they really tore the Forest Service apart. But anyway, it said “The U.S. Forest Service, which he (and they’re referring to Gifford Pinchot) founded has degenerated into a tool for the logging industry. Over the years, powerful senators and congressmen browbeat local forest managers into swallowing conscience and regurgitating logs. The logging companies appreciated the profits, the county governments appreciated their cut of the timber sale revenue, constituents appreciated jobs, the politicians appreciated Big Timber’s contributions. What a system. What a mess.” This was in November of 1993. And now we can add to that the collaborators. And one of the definitions of a collaboration is collaborating with the enemy, and that’s what’s happening. So in other words, you not only have county government, timber industry, Forest Service, politicians. Now you have environmental groups being part of this thing and it’s exactly the same. The same thing is happening as in 1993, it’s happening today.

And how do we – what are we going to do? I’ll tell you. I dunno, but when I look back at the Cove-Mallard timber sales, which were proposed in the biggest wilderness in the United States, in central Idaho, and the Forest Service wanted to log the hell out of it. And then a group called the Cove-Mallard Coalition entered that area and made it impossible for the Forest Service to log there. They didn’t spike trees. They didn’t put sugar in gas tanks. They just built these elaborate things that would prevent – they’d like tie themselves to a catapult and if anybody tried to interfere it would throw the person away. It kept the Forest Service from entering. They did a little bit, and then they couldn’t enter it. It was this monumental classic direct action and I think that’s what we need today. Not to do things illegally, but to occupy situations we really care about. I mean, this has happened with the Women’s March, it happens with Black Lives Matter, and it’s getting a lot of publicity. We need to do the same thing for the Forest Service. We need to tie ourselves to trees and say the hell with it. I know we did that a long time ago, but we need to get this thing back into the eyes of the public. The public has no idea what’s going on. I mean, they have NO idea that our forests are just being decimated under this BS claim to virtue that we can destroy the forest to save it. It’s like in Viet Nam. It ain’t gonna happen, Jack.

DJ: Well thank you so much, Barry. Thank you for the interview today, and thank you for all of your decades of work and thank you for teaching me how to be an activist. And I would like to thank listeners for listening. My guest today has been Barry Rosenberg. This is Derrick Jensen for Resistance Radio on the Progressive Radio Network.

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No Responses — Written on June 24th — Filed in Interviews by Derrick Jensen

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