Category Archives: Forest

AFRC: Timber seeks injunction barring contract suspensions

Timber seeks injunction barring contract suspensions

October 16, 2013


By American Forest Research Counci
l
Timber Industry Seeks Injunction Barring Federal Government’s Suspension
of Timber Contracts

Purchasers of federal timber sales and stewardship contracts filed suit yesterday against the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). They are asking the Oregon Federal District Court to enjoin the agencies from suspending timber contracts during the government shutdown.

The American Forest Resource Council (AFRC), an industry trade association, joined an action brought by Murphy Company, High Cascade, Inc. and South Bay Timber, LLC.

“It makes zero sense for the cash strapped government to shut down operations that pay millions into the United States Treasury,” said Tom Partin, President of AFRC. “These companies employ loggers and truck drivers that need to be making money to feed their families. Getting logs out of the woods and into mill decks is especially important at this time of the year. Otherwise, these companies won’t be able to operate through the winter.”

Under contract law, the government cannot summarily stop timber operations. Contractors operate under harvest plans already approved by the agencies before ground work begins. As long as critical inspections are not needed, they can continue to work. Scheduled payments are made electronically, similar to those made by businesses making quarterly income tax payments.

“One of the purposes for these contracts is to improve forest health and reduce fuel for forest fires and protect federal and adjoining property. Issues of public safety in campgrounds and along roads are involved. Shutting down operations means these objectives won’t be met and things will get worse,” Partin said.

“A timber operation isn’t something you can turn on and off like a light switch. Once equipment has to be moved out, it can be months before it can be moved back in. For example, operators have waited through the fire season for helicopters to be available. If they can’t fly, they will start work on private contracts and it could be another year before they can come back. Meanwhile, downed timber rots on the ground,” Partin said.

“What is happening to our members is particularly frustrating when other businesses with contracts to operate on federal land, such as ski areas, are being allowed to continue working,” Partin said.

The National Forest System includes approximately 190 million acres of public land throughout the United States. The BLM administers approximately 264 million acres of public lands. A blanket, unwarranted suspension of revenue-generating timber operations on these vast acres will have a devastating effect on individuals dependent on the timber industry and will exacerbate the impact of the government shutdown on the nation’s economy.

Murphy Company employs over 500 people in its manufacturing facilities in Oregon and Washington. Timber from Forest Service and BLM contracts supplies over one-third of the raw material needs of its Oregon plants. High Cascade purchases timber from the Gifford Pinchot, Mt. Hood and Ochoco National Forests to supply mills in Carson, Washington and Hood River, Oregon. South Bay Timber currently has cutting rights under four stewardship contracts with the Forest Service and BLM on which it employs about 40 people.

AFRC is a regional trade association representing some 60 lumber, plywood and wood products manufacturers in California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. Its members utilize public timber in their manufacturing operations. In many areas where its member mills are located, the national forests are a significant source of timber supply because there are few private lands.

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OSU: Forests unable to grow after wildfire

OSU: Forests unable to grow after wildfire

October 14, 2013


by Jayson Bailey of Chandler, Arizona

Communities for Healthy Forests

What if when the trees are gone, they’re gone? It might sound like a line from a Dr. Seuss book, but the reality is that for some wildfire ravished forests it’s true. Researchers have been studying the effects of increases in temperature and drought on post fire sites, and the findings might surprise you.

Researchers from Oregon State University concluded that moisture stress is a key limitation for conifer regeneration following stand-replacing wildfire, which will likely increase with climate change. This will make post-fire recovery on dry sites slow and uncertain. If forests are desired in these locations, more aggressive attempts at reforestation may be needed, they said.

The study focused on an area in the eastern Cascade range in Oregon that experienced a significant wildfire in 2002. Before the fire the area was almost exclusively covered by Douglas Fir and Ponderosa Pines. The test site was left to its own devices. No salvage logging or replanting efforts were performed and the forest was left untouched and monitored. Nearly a decade later, almost no tree regeneration has occurred. Scientists with OSU’s Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society warn it could be a long time before the forest comes back. That is, if it ever does.

As we deal with changing climate systems and continued drought, researchers warn that similar situations may become commonplace, especially through the western United States. Low level forest areas that receive less moisture are at an increased risk. Once burned, these areas may never be able to fully regenerate on their own. Combine these limitations with increases in the severity and frequency of wildfires in recent years and the dangers are all too clear. The conifer forests throughout the western US could literally be disappearing.

So why then do forest management policies place so much emphasis on fighting fires and protecting wilderness areas from human disruption, but do little to prevent fires or help restore areas that have been affected by wildfire damage? Washington’s misguided attempts at protecting our forests have actually contributed to a situation that could drastically cut our forest lands by devastating amounts.

Budget cuts and government restrictions on preventative activities literally have the hands of those tasked with managing forest lands tied. Meanwhile the costs associated with fighting wildfires skyrockets as blazes become bigger and more aggressive each year.

In light of new scientific research, including the study by OSU researchers, it’s time we look to shift the focus from simply fighting fires to preventing them. Washington needs to accept the fact that our forests are at a greater risk than ever, and help support the experts tasked with caring for them. If the latest research has taught us anything, it’s that we can’t just wait until it’s too late. We have to take a proactive approach to preventing wildfires and improving the health and resiliency of our forests. Otherwise future generations might not be able to experience and enjoy our beautiful stands of trees.

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