House hears ESA problems, Senate debates forest payments

February 16, 2012

Forest Policy Briefs
by Rex Storm
Associated Oregon Loggers

House Committee Hears ESA Problems: US House Resources Committee Chair Doc Hastings (R-WA) held a hearing on economic impacts from the 40-year old Endangered Species Act. Tidal waves of ESA litigation block economic activity and hundreds of species listings overwhelm federal agencies. The ESA wrongly encourages environmental lawsuits and maliciously condemns all economic activity. While Rep. Hastings touted the hearing as a first step towards reform & reauthorization, lack of consensus assures that any reform will be politically charged.

Senate Debates Forest Payments: We expect the Democrat-majority US Senate to hear a bill to reauthorize the ‘Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act’—the federal subsidy payments to national forest & BLM county governments that lost timber receipts in the 1990s. The payment of nearly $300 million by the former ‘Secure Act’ expired in 2011, with the counties receiving their last entitlement checks January 2012. While a path forward in the Senate remains murky, President Obama’s fiscal ’12 budget proposal does include the payment reauthorization.

House Seeks Federal Forest Reform:  Oregon congressmen Walden (R), DeFazio (D) and Schrader (D) are preparing a bipartisan bill in the US House, which would replace the now-defunct ‘Secure Act’ subsidy payments to counties, with increased timber harvest receipts from BLM forests and national forests. The Republican-majority US House favors a bill that would end the US Treasury payments—and instead generate higher timber supply, county revenues and jobs from intensively managing just half of Oregon’s federal forests for timber output. Stay tuned, as the House and Senate battle over opposing bills to remedy the federal forests and county receipts debacle.

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