Final Planning Rule Issued: On March 23rd, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack announced the US Dept. of Agriculture’s final Forest Service Planning Rule—intended to dictate future forest planning for 193 million-acres of national forests. The FS considered more than a quarter million public comments before adopting its final Rule. Although the Forest Service naively claims that the final rule strengthens public involvement, species protection and best science—environmental litigants have proven in the past that these attributes are fodder for using courts and appeals to sink any good forest plan or timber sale decision. The faulty final Rule, fraught with litigation lightning rods, and lacking its claimed “broad support”, is sure to be enjoined by user group lawsuits in the coming months.
Forester Says Industry Important: On March 30th, US Forest Service Regional Forester Kent Connaughton sent a letter to Forest Supervisors in OR and WA. Connaughton underscored the importance of the region’s timber milling, logging and transportation infrastructure—by assuring that USFS timber contracts were economically viable. The letter suggested specific actions to be considered in project design and implementation. Although much appreciated, the letter failed to reinforce how slightly more volume per acre and larger trees would improve economic performance.
Presidential Meddling in Business: The latest Obama administration interference with American business has been through federal agency regulation. A proposed US Dept. of Labor scheme proposes a new regulation requiring most federal contractors to employ at least 7% of their work force as disabled persons. Illustrating the proposal’s irrationality, federal law prohibits employers from asking job applicants if they’re disabled. The change would impact roughly 200,000 federal contractors. Business groups and Congress are working to torpedo this boondoggle.
Pilot Timber Sale: The Wagon Road Pilot Timber Sale sold in late March, to offer 6.1 million bdft of timber from the Coos Bay District, Bureau of Land Management. The Coos Bay Wagon Road “pilot” sale is a cooperative effort between the BLM and Coquille Tribe to offer a timber sale that demonstrates ecological restoration principles. The sale was originally offered in February, but received no bids. The reoffered sale sold to Scott Timber for $561,990., or $165,000 under the original advertised rate.
BLM Plans More “Pilot” Timber Sales: On Feb. 21st, USDI Secretary Ken Salazar visited the Bureau of Land Management Pilot Joe timber sale south of Ashland, and announced that the BLM would add more future such “ecological timber projects.” Salazar said he wants the BLM in Western Oregon to develop five new ecological timber sales by the end of 2012. Currently, three such BLM pilot timber sales are underway, to demonstrate small-scale regeneration harvest units designed by ecologists Norm Johnson (OR State Univ.) and Jerry Franklin (Univ. of WA).
Forest Service Acquires Land: USDA Secretary Vilsack announced that the US Forest Service spent $40.6 million in FY2012 for 27 land acquisition projects in 15 states, including OR, ID, WA, AK, and CA. The land acquisition funds were authorized in annual congressional appropriations. Contrasting this illogical expansion of federal land ownership in the West, during the same year significant cuts were made to the Forest Service asset and road maintenance budgets. While the land and facilities fall further into disrepair, the agency is wrongly buying more land.