Controlling the Narrative

 

For decades in Oregon, traditional recreation and traditional, land dependent jobs have been grossly misunderstood and mischaracterized.  Methods were not commonly straightforward and direct, but the effects are clear. Rural communities are suffering from a lack of family-wage jobs and county and city services are at risk.

Anti-forest products groups use tools like misinformation campaigns including instigating fear and playing on emotion to occasionally fabricate facts and ideas. Those that want our lifestyles and livelihoods to disappear have done a devastatingly “wonderful” job of playing on public sentiment and lack of knowledge about the forest products industry.

A section of the long-term communication strategy for AFRC includes public education. In the process of analyzing and simplifying the message of AFRC, a variety of facts have come to light that can be used to tell the story of responsible land and forest management and the direct benefits to communities and the environment.

One example is on the Okanogan-Wenatchee Forest in Washington. Extensive struggles to adequately manage the forest have resulted in spotted owl habitat being lost at a factor of 9:1 from wildfires versus harvest (according to USFS data). Wildfires have devastated the landscape on that forest and decimated habitat that was supposed to be protected. This is ironic and sad considering harvests to reduce fuel loads and responsible management would have helped prevent some of this loss.

 

afrc-spotted-owl

 

This is a stellar example of public education – quick, easily digestible and scientific fact. We turned this into an infographic and posted it in our social media pages. For context, roughly 1,800 people had “liked” our Facebook page. Likes translate to people engaged with our posts and demonstrate who is interested in using our page to track forestry-related issues.

This post – and the issue it touched on – has currently reached 225,000 people. Reach is determined by shares, clicks, and people “engaging” or reacting in some way to the post on our page or someone else’s. This means with one post and no money spent, we’ve had the chance to reach and educate over 200,000 people.  With one post.  Expanding that, our page only had 1,800 likes but the post itself was shared over 3,300 times.

The next day, an environmental group posted this in response.

“Fire isn’t always as devastating as what we hear on the news. Last summer’s hot spots on the Umpqua National Forest have changed the landscape some but hiking in burned areas can be fascinating.”

This is what it looks like when you begin to change the narrative and play offense.  You see responses like this.  Catastrophic fires that impact families, homes, public health, and our state’s incredible beauty?  Who Cares?  Fires make for really “fascinating” hikes!

We hope this is a continued trend through social and traditional media, and a sign that the public has begun to join us in changing the narrative around forestry and forest management – we are certainly starting to see some change in our courts (see below)! We are committed to telling the real story of our lands and our members to continue to grow our incredible industry.

 

Legal Success Highlights

May 4 & June 7 – The district court denied a preliminary injunction and the Ninth Circuit denied a motion for an injunction pending appeal regarding the Pioneer North and Pioneer South projects on the Boise National Forests.  This comes after the district court denied a motion for TRO in November (AFRC News, November 2017).  These projects are essential to maintaining the management infrastructure in southern Idaho.  AFRC represents Boise County and the Boise Forest Coalition.

May 18 – The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s approval of the Frog Project only three days after hearing oral argument.  This brought an end to over a decade of litigation on a modest forest health project- the project was approved in 2000 and first contracted to Sierra Forest Products in 2001.  After a fire and the first round of litigation, the project was on hold from 2005 to 2014, and was then halted again in 2016 to collect additional tree mortality data.  AFRC represented Sierra Forest Products as an intervenor.  (AFRC News, May 2018.)

May 30 – The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Lava Project on the Modoc National Forest.  The primary purposes of the project’s 8400 acres of treatments are fuel reduction and to protect valuable electrical infrastructure.  The court rejected plaintiffs’ claims regarding effects to wolves and spotted owls, as well as claims regarding the need for an EIS and the range of alternatives.  AFRC Staff Attorney represented intervenors AFRC, Loggers Association of Northern California, and Associated California Loggers, and AFRC member Franklin Logging has purchased one of the sales.  (AFRC News, May 2018.)

June 7 – Plaintiffs challenging the Joey and Bald Mountain projects on the Sequoia and Sierra National Forests dismissed their case as a result of the decision in Frog.  AFRC represented Sierra Forest Products as an intervenor.

June 8 – The Ninth Circuit approved the Forest Service’s use of emergency authority under NEPA to build a community protection line and acknowledged that yes, fires are emergencies.  AFRC represented amicus Lake Wenatchee Fire and Rescue.

June 11 – The magistrate judge issued a positive Finding and Recommendation regarding the Lostine Project on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.  Of interest, Judge Sullivan agreed with AFRC that uses of the Farm Bill Categorical Exclusion (CE) do not require analysis of whether there are “extraordinary circumstances” under NEPA regulations.  AFRC participated as an amicus.