Part 3 covers July, 2018 to December, 2018. The full document can be found here.
Part 2 finished up with the questioning of whether or not proper procedure had been followed for the creation of the YFYF website. The document below starts with trying to clean up the mess with disclaimers, followed by the SVS invoice for the second quarter of 2018.
Starting on page 5 are results from observer impressions of the Salmon Challis forest planning meetings. One observer noted the forest plan efforts were being "picked on" by a small vocal group, Custer-Lemhi Resource Advisory Council, which is a citizen group with whom the forest service is supposed to be collaborating with. It is also noted the forest service is "working well" with the Central Idaho Public Lands Collaborative (CIPLC). But this would be expected since the CIPLC was created by SVS and is comprised primarily of non-governmental organizations, forest service members, and others, with little citizen involvement. It is a group that primarily includes individuals who hold the same perspectives on how forest planning should be done. Not what citizens want, but what these groups want. In an effort to placate the Advisory Council a special three hour meeting was held with them without forest service personnel. Why did the forest service create a group through SVS and not with citizens? The upshot of the impression was that forest service planning personnel had concerns over the attention the Advisory Council was getting. If this issue was about having citizen involvement why would they be concerned over this? Perhaps because those citizen concerns did not align with the mission the forest service, with their SVS partnership, had already decided upon.
Of course SVS thinks they are being inclusive, even though citizens have complained that their voice is being shut down or ignored in meetings. The next observer's impression was more accurate, "Communication between all three groups seems to be a major problem", and that "lines of communication are seriously broken". Some of his recommendations included bringing in an outside facilitator, insist that SVS be more inclusive, and help the Advisory Group be more positive.
Perhaps the third observer had them most accurate impression, the concern over "the obvious close relationship between the paid staff of Salmon Valley Stewardship and out FS collaboration specialist who worked as the executive director of the organization prior to accepting the FS position." This observer captured the true essence of the problem, the embedded relationship between the forest service and the non-profit SVS. He suggested suspending the revision until the entire community could be engaged. Yes, this alliance between the forest service and a non-governmental organization should end. These alliances are the problem with our government. Decisions are already made by this collusion and why citizens have no voice.
By August, page 12, a new agreement was being drafted between the forest service and SVS due to some procedural changes in the forest service, with notice that Ms. Townley would be transferring to the WO (Washington Office) on page 13. By September, page 14, the decision for Region 4 to get out of SVS by 2019 was made and removal from funding by December 31, 2018 on page 15. The third quarter invoice of SVS is on page 16.
What better solution to fix this problem than to move the website to another forest service office and create a new forest service advisory council, page 18. Do they realize reinventing this mess with another place and group does not absolve them of the inappropriate handling of it from the start? A detailed meeting note between the forest service and a citizen begins on page 21 describing all of the biases in the forest revision planning process. The forest service should take a hint at this, all of the issues raised point out how the revision planning process is contaminated by federal and non-governmental partnerships.
From these communications it is apparent the forest revision process between the forest service and SVS has been a concern, enough to the point that the whole project is being moved out of Region 4. Part 4 will cover communications from 2019.
The next period of time covered from the records request is January, 2018 to June, 2018. In the document below, there are periodic references to page numbers of the complete document found here. Page 1 is the SVS invoice for the end of 2017, and first quarter of 2018 on page 6.. There is an odd statement by Colleen O'Brien, USFS on page 4, "How can communication on forest plan revision be optimized and managed internally and externally for the rest of FY 2018?" What does that mean?
Because of reduction in travel funding on page 14, some salaries were increased. On page 15 the agreement funding was decreased by $70,000, but on page 17 it shows a funding increase of $238,081.80!
By June, page 19, questions started to arise about proper channels being followed for this project, with Elizabeth Townley, USFS confirming authorization on page 20. So began the talk about expanding this project beyond the region on page 21. Questions of ownership of the website arose on page 22, with a statement that it was "not a forest service website", " even though the forest service "owned the content". That statement is in direct conflict with the agreement, that SVS was authorized to sell what was developed.
By June, page 23, it was discovered that the "videos and website...have not been vetted and approved by the WO (Washington Office)", with a request to pull all information from the website, and consideration of cancelling the agreement. This was from David Rosenkrance, Deputy Regional Forester.
Because of a USFS employee questioning if the proper procedure had been followed for approval of this website, it was discovered that the procedure had not been followed. Part 3 will cover July, 2018 to December, 2018.
Information from a records request was recently obtained regarding the partnership between the U.S. Forest Service and Salmon Valley Stewardship (SVS). The essence of the partnership was to create a website called Your Forests Your Future (YFYF). Because the document is well over 800 pages, is not in chronological order, and contains repetitive information, it has been broken down into four time frames. This will be a four part series on some highlighted information that was obtained from the period of January, 2017 through June, 2019. The complete document can be viewed here. On page 132 in the complete document, it states, "The Salmon Valley Stewardship Board of Directors has identified forest plan revision as a key opportunity to align Salmon Valley Stewardship mission to ongoing planning process over the next 10-15 years". Seems pretty clear this website, paid by tax dollars, was intended to promote the SVS mission for land protection. while leaving citizen involvement out. Much of the financial graphics are not listed in these posted documents but can be found in the complete document.
From January to June, 2017 a series of emails between Elizabeth Townley, USFS, Toni Ruth, SVS, and Mindy Crowell, SVS, provide the backdrop to the creation of the YFYF website with other USFS employees involved in the communications. Amazingly, none of the forests covered on the website included the Salmon-Challis National Forest. Ms. Ruth has been, and continues to be on the coordinating committee of the High Divide Collaborative, which has included other non-governmental organizations, USFS, land trusts, and US Fish & Wildlife Service. Perhaps the collaboration and discussion for this website began on this committee for purposes of being created during the forest revision plan.
Below, on page 1 from the 2017 summary, is part of the agreement between the USFS and SVS. F clearly states that permission to use the USFS insignia must be obtained from the USFS Office of Communications. Citizen complaints about the use of this logo on the YFYF website was an issue never really addressed, nor was there any communication that approval was obtained from Ms. Townley to Ms. Ruth.
Page 2, U, indicates SVS was encouraged to give public notice of this agreement, this also not being done. On page 3, GG, SVS was given permission to "sell" any publication developed from this agreement, which means your tax dollar to create "products" for a website could be used for the monetary benefit of a non-profit.
Early on, page 19, there was outreach to More Than Just Parks, a multimedia organization to help produce videos and podcasts for the website, and outreach to Pew Charitable Trusts on page 22.
While there were several modifications in funding during the full time period, on page 23 an additional $128,040 was requested by SVS. Invoices submitted by SVS are on page 20 and 40.
A brief description of the website's purpose is on page 26, stating it "was started by the USFS to engage diverse voices to conversations surrounding public lands, specifically public lands planning". One of the concerns expressed about this website was the bias towards protection and non-use. From page 27-30, federal agencies and employees were notified about the launch of the website. And on page 31, Ms. Townley apparently changed her title to Wilderness Specialist and YFYF Coordinator, admitted to by Ms. Townley on page 32.
More specifics are given about partnering with Pew Trusts on page 44 followed by possible partnering with Patagonia and REI on page 45. In Part 2, January to June, 2018 will be covered.
Your Forests Your Future (YFYF) is a partnership between the US Forest Service (USFS) and Salmon Valley Stewardship (SVS), even though it is a "national campaign" that is comprised of a media company for the purpose of "shaping the future of our national forests". This partnership intends to "engage" "diverse voices" in forest planning and management through multimedia tools. Liz Townley, USFS employee, is the project coordinator, with partners that include National Geographic, Yahoo, and the Weather Channel. Videos on national forests include Bridger Teton, Dixie, Black Hills, Flathead, Chugach, and Podcasts are also available on the Custer Gallatin forest planning. Using these technological avenues, they want to "tell a story" about forests. If all they wanted to do is tell a story, why the SVS partnership, why not just create this solely by the USFS?
As it turns out, the background information on this endeavor has been made available, a 865 page document that contains communications between the USFS and SVS. It is too large to post here but can be accessed on this link. The document identifies who was involved and the funding, accomplished with no public involvement. Several other USFS employees were involved in this project besides Ms. Townley and Toni Ruth from SVS signed the agreement in January, 2017 ( pg 146). The original agreement can be found on page 131. Page 156 lists $497,570 as the amount of funding for this project, however there were several funding modifications found throughout the document. SVS was required to show a 20% match of cash, non-cash, and in-kind contributions (pg 34).
Why was SVS selected? The answer might be in the agreement on page 132, SVS has "...identified forest plan revisions as a key opportunity to align the SVS mission to ongoing planning process over next 10-15 years", "Align the SVS mission"? Since when does the SVS mission have anything to do with the responsibility of the USFS to serve, and listen to, citizens? SVS even had access to USFS facilities and computers! Another responsibility was increasing collaboration with the community, but as everyone is aware, this meant stacking collaboratives with non-governmental organization individuals, and collaboration on this YFYF project with the community never occurred. Even more fascinating, SVS is located in the Salmon-Challis forest area, but the YFYF website is about other forests!
Page 270 describes the project as being "consistent with the Regional Forest Planning Strategy", and Ms. Townley was to engage "a broad and diverse audience in forest planning". A different version is on page 77, stating the effort came out of wilderness planning in R4, wanting a planning process consistent across the region and with the 2012 planning rule, how to conduct wilderness inventory and evaluation, and the goal "....to have a robust engagement process for getting the public involved in planning, a "diverse audience with a planning tool to get new ideas and people to the table". This YFYF website is their interpretation of bringing citizens to the table?
The total project "value" of $400,033 is listed on page 280. Even more abhorrent is that SVS was "granted sole and exclusive right to copyright any publications developed as a result of this agreement", and given authorization to "sell any publication developed as a result of this agreement", page 144-145. "Marketing Outlandish", a media "product", was referenced on page 430 by Gina Knudson, Collaboration Specialist for the Salmon-Challis National Forest. Taxpayers are funding SVS prosperity.
While there are many items of interest in this document about USFS and SVS activities, it is too exhaustive to list all of them here. However, there is one that needs to be reviewed. As seen below, it appears, as a result of citizens questioning this project, David Rosenkrance, USDA Deputy Regional Forester, was given a copy of an interview (pg 178) by James Melonas, Forest Supervisor of the Santa Fe National Forest, with Mark Bethke, USFS Director, Planning & Financial Resources, who was involved in the project in May, 2019. This whole project may have violated forest service policy. It also appears the project was removed from Region 4 and turned over to the Washington office, expanding SVS involvement to a national level. Future posts will highlight other sections of this large document with a timeline.
Nowhere in the document does it state that citizens were involved in any decisions about this project, its development, or its existence, but was rather shared among select individuals. Because of multiple amendments to the funding throughout the document it is difficult to determine what the end cost was. These people live in their own little world, having a heyday with their projects instead of their responsibility to work with local citizens whose tax dollars seem to be a bottomless pit for their whims, congratulating themselves on their work and for winning awards, while in reality, they do not even come close to how Idahoans feel about their right to use their own forests. How much of this money could have been spent on preventing forest fires?
If we do not get control over our federal agencies, none of this will stop. It is time to demand that these NGO partnerships with the federal government are either eliminated or significantly diminished. The federal government is accountable for its responsibility to the citizens who pay for their existence, and that time is now.
Money is flowing into environmental groups for the connectivity agenda in the High Divide (HD) area. Just alone in 2016, Wilburforce gave $553,750.00 to various groups for assistance with their HD objectives. Some of those groups are local such as Salmon Valley Stewardship, Heart of the Rockies Initiative, and Lemhi Regional Land Trust. As usual, there were also donations to organizations with specific objectives in the High Divide such as the Idaho Conservation League, Wildlife Society, Wildlife Conservation Society, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, and Center for Large Landscape Conservation.
There were also a couple of obscure groups that were given money for their HD objectives, Ecoflight and People & Carnivores. Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and Future West also received money for their HD objectives. Interestingly, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) was given money for "State Wildlife Agency Reform".
Senator Risch seemed to support the NWF in their objectives for a Collaborative Wildlife Conservation bill, which died in a previous session, but is now sponsoring a new bill for the same called the Recovering America's Wildlife Act, S. 3223. Never doubt who Sen. Risch represents.
All of these donations begin on page 27 in the PDF below.