October 17, 2011
Forest Policy Briefs
by Rex Storm, Forest Policy Manager
Associated Oregon Loggers
Politically-Correct Biomass: Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Nancy Sutley, visited John Day in August to tour only those forest industries deemed to offer politically-correct jobs subsidized by federal taxpayer debt. Sutley met with the Blue Mtn. forest collaborative and toured Malheur Lumber’s biomass pellet plant—projects subsidized by federal funds. The tour failed to include the valley’s two moth-balled sawmills, idle cogen plant, or unemployed loggers—all which cannot source enough timber to operate from surrounding national forests.
Judge Dislikes Columbia Salmon Dam Plan: For a third time, US District Court Judge James Redden rejected the federal government’s plan to operate hydropower dams in the Columbia River basin without jeopardizing salmon listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. Redden’s August ruling rejected the overall Columbia basin hydropower plan, saying it was “arbitrary & capricious,” as it failed to identify habitat improvements to protect salmon after 2013—such as stream, road & irrigation regulations. Fortunately, the Judge lacks authority over dam breaching.
New Lobby Group Aims at Federal Forestry: Timber executives from across the US have formed the Washington, DC-based Federal Forest Resource Coalition (FFRC). This new lobbying group will press for increased federal forest management on national forests and BLM lands, as well as strengthening forest sector infrastructure (mills & contracting). The FFRC aims to influence urgently-needed improvement in federal policies and timber sale programs nationwide. FFRC members include companies and trade associations from 24 states—including AOL.
Streamlined FPA Ahead: Oregon Dept. of Forestry has begun a project to define how to administer the OR Forest Practices Act (FPA) more efficiently, effectively, and at a lower cost. The project was prompted by a legislative requirement attached to ODF’s 2011-13 budget, and will be conducted by an outside contractor. AOL and other forest sector representatives are advising ODF concerning needed upgrades to FPA administration, including suggested automation of notifications, written plans, and inspections. A completed report and upgrades will begin no later than July 1012.
FPA Compliance Audit Planned: A second legislative requirement for the Oregon Dept. of Forestry directs the agency to conduct an audit of compliance with the OR Forest Practices Act (FPA). The last such study of forest landowner and operator compliance with the FPA rules was in 2001. Industry has long-sought periodic ODF compliance audits of FPA performance, because an audit verifies successful accomplishment, as well as identifies needs for improvement. This compliance audit will also be completed by an outside contractor in 2012.
Forest Service Cancels Rocky Contracts: The US Forest Service has given timber sale purchasers the option to cancel or renegotiate contracts in the Rocky Mountain Region. With just four sawmills left in CO and WY—two of those shut—high priced stumpage bid in the mid-2000s reportedly would sink all four mills. The USFS, facing the repeat specter of its forced elimination of all Southwest US milling capacity, for the first time is considering timber contracts that might maintain an industry milling and logging infrastructure—critical to the agency managing unhealthy national forests.
Walden Asks Forest Service to Start Over: The USDA Forest Service is rewriting its rule that guides forest planning for all 155 national forests. The FS accepted public input on its draft rule until May, receiving over 300,000 comments. AOL, joined by hundreds of resource user groups and local governments nationwide, roundly criticized the draft rule as a draconian environmental manifesto. A letter organized by US Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), and signed by 59 congressmen, asks USDA Ag Secretary Vilsack to “start over” on the draft rule. A final rule is expected from the FS in November.
Environmentalists Appeal Recreation: Again disproving their claims of rarely challenging federal forest projects, a total of 26 environmental groups in July filed appeals challenging US Forest Service approval to expand Mt. Ashland Ski Area. Located on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, the Mt. Ashland lessee had hoped contractors could begin logging this fall to clear for additional ski runs, chairlifts, buildings and parking. Environmentalists say they will litigate if their appeals fail. The expansion has been tied in a years-long appeals and court battle.
Report on Sustainable Forests: The US has more forest acreage and forests have remained stable over the last 50 years, according to the US Forest Service 2010 National Report on Sustainable Forests. The report illustrates current conditions and trends in the nation’s forests, forest industries and forest communities. Other observations:
• US forest area stable for 30 years (751 million acres)
• Net timber growth far exceeds harvest–all US regions
• 91% of US timber produced on private lands
• Forest health seriously declining… esp. public forests
Watershed Scheme on National Forests: In June, USDA Agriculture Secretary Vilsack announced the US Forest Service Watershed Condition Classification Map, as the first step in the agency’s ‘Watershed Condition Framework’. The new map outlines a top-down scheme to characterize the health and condition of National Forests in more than 15,000 watersheds across the US. The Framework intends to begin establishing priorities for “watershed restoration & maintenance” projects—adding another needless layer of accountability that fosters potential litigation.
Salazar Plans to Add Wilderness: US Interior Secretary Salazar wrote to members of Congress in June, promoting a pending bill to identify Bureau of Land Management land that should be designated as Wilderness. He says his plans are similar to the 2009 omnibus public lands bill that was jammed through the former super-majority Democrat Congress, which designated 2 million acres of new BLM Wilderness across the western US. Off-road recreation, energy, grazing and timber interests strongly oppose Salazar’s draconian scheme. Such a bill is likely to fail in the House.Forest Policy Briefs (Excerpts)
by Rex Storm, Forest Policy Manager
Associated Oregon Loggers