Category Archives: Forest

AFRC: Timber seeks injunction barring contract suspensions

Timber seeks injunction barring contract suspensions

October 16, 2013

By American Forest Research Counci
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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CHF: Watching Arizona Burn

Watching Arizona burn


August 23, 2013

by Jayson Bailey of Chandler, Arizona

Communities for Healthy Forests

Living in the Southwest, can sometimes feel a bit like living in a matchbox. It’s dry, it’s hot, and at any moment things can ignite. Fire season is nothing new to us in Arizona, each year Arizona experiences more than its fair share of wildfires and witnesses the destruction of hundreds of thousands of acres of forest land.

In 2011, Arizona battled one of the largest fire seasons on record. Anchoring 2011, the Wallow Fire was the largest fire in State history, consuming more than 841 square miles of land. The fire blazed its way through some of Arizona’s most treasured forest areas, devastating rural communities, and handicapping local economies. More than a dozen rural communities were evacuated and the costs of damages exceeded $100 million by the time fire crews were able to contain the blaze. According to news reports, the costs associated with suppression and clean up of the Wallow Fire exceeded $109 million when all was said and done.

Just this past May, I took the family on a weekend fishing trip in the White Mountains. The high mountain lakes had just thawed and been stocked and it was the perfect time to catch pan sized trout, that is if you were willing to drive a bit out of the way. As we set up the windy mountain road only lush green Conifer Pine was in sight. But as we rounded a bend we came face to face with the remnants the Wallow fire. Huge tracts of scorched earth lay between what forest was left. The landscape looked like something out of a sci-fi film, barren strips of blackish ground twisted amongst groves of charred trees – some still partially standing, others lying in decaying piles on the forest floor. My kids noted that it looked like someone “nuked” the area. As we wound up the mountain and looked back we could see the path of the fire so clearly that it was like someone had taken a brush, dipped it in black paint, and dragged it along the scenery, stopping here and there to re-dip the ink. In the midst of our enthusiasm, it was a solemn reminder of the threats facing our State’s beauty land.

Not a month later we witnessed an even more immediate and somber reminder of the dangers of fire season in the Southwest. My children were visiting their grandparents in Northern Utah for the summer and my wife and I were headed up to retrieve them before the school year began. It was late June, and we knew the fire season was under way. The Yarnell Fire just outside of Prescott, Arizona had just begun to burn, and we had caught several news stories covering the fire. As luck would have it, our route took us right past the area the Yarnell Fire was burning. From the highway we could see the glow of the fire peaking over the mountain ridge. The area was thick with smoke and as we stopped for gas we noted how poor the air quality was and how the whole town smelled like a campfire or barbecue. At the moment the fire was nothing out of the ordinary, and didn’t seem like any significant cause for alarm. Being that close to a wildfire seemed like more a surreal and curious experience than a tragic one.

As we left the area and headed down the highway suddenly the winds changed direction. A massive gust nearly forced our SUV off the road. My knuckles gripped the wheel tighter, and my wife went from her half asleep state to wide awake and alert. “Wow,” I said. “Did you feel how strong those winds are? I hope it doesn’t hurt containment efforts over the hill.” The date was Sunday, June 28, 2013.

A few hours later the report came over the radio, 19 of Arizona’s most elite firefighters had perished when winds shifted and turned the fire back on top of them. The blood drained from our faces. We had just passed through that area. We had just felt those winds. We awed at the fires majesty and power as we traveled past, but didn’t pause to think about the permanent dangers it posed. Now 19 lives had been lost, and countless others devastated – all in a split second. In moments the Yarnell Fire had becomes the most devastating fire in Arizona history and responsible for the largest loss of Firefighters since the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

The remaining drive through Northern Arizona’s Painted Desert was somber to say the least. As I stared out the window, I couldn’t help but think just how fragile this beautiful environment was. How it only takes one lightning strike, one forgotten campfire, or one loose ember to destroy thousands of years of God’s great work. How the stakes are bigger than just structures and dollars, that every wildfire in the United States puts real people, with real families, in jeopardy.

As we pulled into the town of Kingman, Arizona, in the far Northwest portion of the State, just before you reach Las Vegas, another wildfire was burning. The fire had consumed a collection of small hills and ridges and was encroaching on local neighborhoods. Although smaller and less notable on the grand scheme of things, it was yet another staunch reminder to us that wildfire season in the Southwest is not a matter of fringe politics, fiscal budgets, or moral ideals. It’s a real danger, one that should be taken seriously before any others have to pay the ultimate price.

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Bad idea to create forest monopoly plan

Bad idea to create forest monopoly plan


July 25, 2013

Editorial by Washington Examiner,

Looming job losses should concern everyone, especially those in an obscure industry like forestry, which, though not as glamorous as, say, oil field wildcatting or tornado chasing, is nevertheless essential to the health of the U.S. economy. Forestry is a crucial industry for the obvious reason that it provides employment for hundreds of thousands of Americans who find, harvest and craft the raw material for homes, offices and so many other products. Those products are used every day by billions of people around the globe.

As it happens, the forestry industry also provides a useful illustration of the problems created by monopolies, according to a new study from George Mason University’s EconoSTATS program. There are currently three main forest certification standards programs recognized in the U.S., including the American Tree Farm System, the Forest Stewardship Council, and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. These programs govern how forests are managed and harvested.

An effort is on to make FSC the dominant standard in the U.S. Big Green environmentalists are aggressively lobbying Congress to make it the sole accepted standard for U.S. forestry. That would be a mistake because, the George Mason study found, more than 31,000 jobs would be lost in Oregon. In Arkansas, the other state studied by the George Mason researchers, the losses could reach 10,000. Profitability in the Oregon forestry industry would drop by as much as 46 percent and by as much as 26 percent in Arkansas.

A big part of the problem is the complexity and vagueness of the FSC standards. “When policies are vague or open to interpretation by either the industry or the regulator/auditor, uncertainty arises,” George Mason’s Wayne Winegarden said in the study’s forward. “Regulatory uncertainty is the enemy of business growth, whether that business is manufacturing, finance or forestry.”

Another consequence of FSC’s variability and vagueness is heightened potential for environmental harm. Granting monopoly status to the FSC would provide a strong incentive for U.S. companies to seek timber products from cheaper foreign suppliers in countries with lax or no forestry certification programs. “The result is greater environmental degradation from a global perspective,” according to Weingarten. “Thus, the FSC program imposes large economic costs and greater global environmental degradation unintentionally creating the worst of both worlds.”

“Effectively managing global forests, including U.S. forests, is a daunting task. And, the stakes are high. Poorly applied policies could incent excessive forest degradation. Alternatively, they could create problems of unemployment and declining incomes. In the worst of both worlds, poorly applied policies could simultaneously injure the environment and create significant economic harm,” Weingarten warned.

Competitive markets are the best way to provide goods and services to consumers. If only one certification program – FSC – is recognized in the U.S., the resulting monopoly would not only harm the economy, but also the environment itself. A range of forestry certification program options for authorities to choose from would provide a more effective and productive balance between environmental and business concerns, leading to better regulatory practices.

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Wyden-Merkley pressed on forest bill

Wyden-Merkley pressed on forest bill

May 1, 2013

Forest Industry Urges Comprehensive Solution for Federal ForestsAFRC
–Requests that Wilderness Legislation Not Advance Separately
American Forest Resource Council,

A group of forest products industry associations sent a letter to Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley urging enactment of a meaningful legislative resolution to the paralysis affecting federal forest management in Western Oregon.

The American Forest Resource CouncilAssociated Oregon LoggersDouglas Timber Operators and Southern Oregon Timber Industries Association sent the letter in advance of a hearing of the Public Lands Subcommittee of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee scheduled for April 25, 2013 to consider a number of public lands bills. Among them is the “Oregon Treasures Act of 2013” (S.353) which includes the proposed Wild Rogue Wilderness and Molalla Wild and Scenic Rivers designations. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is chaired by Senator Wyden.

“Our industry is opposed to the passage of these proposals, as well as other Wilderness areas proposed for Western Oregon, unless they are coupled with, or preceded by, the enactment of a meaningful legislative resolution to the paralysis affecting federal forest management in Western Oregon,” the letter states.

The letter notes last week’s closing of Rough & Ready Lumber Company, the last sawmill in Josephine County, where the unemployment rate is 11.6 percent and the average poverty level is 17.8 percent. The mill closed for lack of timber supply from nearby federal forests managed by the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The BLM managed Oregon and California Railroad Grant Lands (O&C Lands) grow over 1.5 billion board feet to timber per year, but recent timber sale levels have been well below 200 million board feet. In fact, in 2011, the total timber volume awarded by the BLM was only 137 million board feet. Harvesting on Forest Service lands remains well below the drastically reduced levels called for in the Northwest Forest Plan.

“This very real crisis, not additional Wilderness designations, should be a priority issue for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee,” say the letter’s authors.

The letter references a March 19, 2013 opinion piece in the Oregonian in which Senator Wyden wrote, “with cooperation from stakeholders on all sides we will have a solution that works for all of Oregon” and “that solution must increase timber harvests and economic activity on some lands while permanently conserving others.”

The letter concludes by expressing the hope that Oregon’s Senators will join Oregon delegation members Representatives Peter DeFazio, Greg Walden and Kurt Schrader and Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber in their efforts “to find a true, lasting solution for Oregon’s federal forests and rural communities.” The O&C Trust, Conservation and Jobs Act, a draft bill supported by the majority of Oregon’s House delegation, contains provisions for both forest management to produce jobs and revenue for counties and for permanent conservation of areas included in S. 353.

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AFRC: Lawsuit Filed to Overturn Latest Spotted Owl Critical Habitat

Lawsuit Filed to Overturn Latest Spotted Owl Critical Habitat

 March 25, 2013

Oregon Timber Industry Comments on Senate County Payments Hearing and Outlines Real Solutions

By American Forest Research Counci

The American Forest Resource Council joined the Carpenters Industrial Council, Siskiyou County, California, and a group of forest products manufacturers and private forest landowners in a lawsuit to overturn the latest Northern Spotted Owl critical habitat designation. The case was filed in federal District Court in Washington, D.C., against the Secretary of Interior and the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“We just don’t understand why the Fish and Wildlife Service persists in writing rules that hurt the folks living in our rural communities, while doing very little to help the species they are trying to protect,” said AFRC President Tom Partin.

“Habitat is no longer the limiting factor in the owl’s survival. The real threats are barred owls and wildfire. This rule does nothing to address these threats and in fact will make our forests more prone to wildfire.”

The final critical habitat covers 9.29 million acres of mostly federal forest lands and 291,570 acres of State of Oregon lands, nearly double the 5.3 million acres designated in 2008. The proposal will have a significant impact on forest management throughout the range of the northern spotted owl in Oregon, California and Washington.

Of the acres identified in an earlier critical habitat designation in 2008, over 1,160,000 acres (22%) were inexplicably not included this year. The new rule designates 57% (1,270,000 acres) of the Oregon and California Railway Grant lands (O&C lands) managed by the Bureau of Land Management. BLM biologists consider 42% of those designated acres not to be suitable spotted owl habitat.

“Although the new rule implies that ‘active forest management’ will be permitted within the critical habitat boundary, the cost to agencies of consultation and of obstructionist environmental lawsuits make this a hollow promise,” said Partin. “We are already seeing this in a lawsuit filed against a project on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest in California.”

The designation makes it necessary for federal agencies to consult with the FWS before conducting management activities. This will have the effect of further curtailing timber harvest on public lands, with a consequent impact on revenues to counties from public timber sales. The milling infrastructure throughout the West will be negatively impacted by a tightened supply of raw material and an increased cost for what logs are available. This is likely to lead to fewer shifts and even more mill closures, eliminating the living wage jobs of mill workers in rural communities.

“Put simply, we expected better from an agency that is required to use the best available science and also balance economic harms when making decisions regarding endangered species. This rule is plainly illegal,” said Partin. “The fact that our filing with the Court exceeds 100 pages tells you how serious and extensive the flaws are and how important it is to get this turned around.”

The rule was published in the Federal Register on December 4, 2012 and became effective January 3, 2013. AFRC submitted extensive comments on the draft rule, as well as information from the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement and Western Ecosystems Technology, Inc. explaining the deficiencies and flaws in the draft rule. Those deficiencies and flaws were not corrected in the final rule. AFRC is suing to stop violations of the O&C Act, the Forest Land Planning and Management Act, the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

The American Forest Resource Council represents forest product manufacturers and landowners throughout the west and is based in Portland, Oregon.

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Ore Timber groups on Senate payment plan

Ore Timber groups on Senate payment plan

March 21, 2013

Oregon Timber Industry Comments on Senate County Payments Hearing and Outlines Real Solutions

By American Forest Research Council

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is holding a hearing in Washington, DC today entitled “Keeping the Commitment to Rural Communities” to review the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (SRS) and Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) county payment programs.

Tom Partin, President of the American Forest Resource Council (AFRC), is urging Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, to take action on meaningful solutions to restore active, sustainable forest management to Oregon’s Forest Service and BLM O&C forests.  The data suggests that relatively modest timber harvest levels could generate county payments significantly higher than those expected from SRS while also providing thousands of new jobs in rural Oregon.

“If the federal government is truly interested in honoring the nation’s commitment to Oregon’s rural, forested communities it will promote real solutions to restore the health of our forests and the vitality of rural communities through balanced, sustainable management of our federal forests,” said Partin.  “Merely doling out dwindling Secure Rural School payments clearly falls short of meeting the needs of local governments and does nothing to generate the private sector employment these communities so desperately need.”

Beginning with “Spotted Owl Guarantee Payments” in the early 1990’s and continuing through today with SRS payments, Pacific Northwest counties have received billions in often deficit spending subsidies from Washington, DC when all they’ve asked for is the sustainable management of the federal forests in their backyards.  Secure Rural Schools payments have declined significantly in recent years and many Oregon counties receive less than half of what they received as recently as 2008.  Rural Oregon now faces chronic unemployment, record food stamp use and insecurity from an underfunded law enforcement and criminal justice system.

Last month, Oregon Congressmen Peter DeFazio (D), Greg Walden (R) and Kurt Schrader (D) wrote Chairman Wyden asking that he convene a hearing to explore lasting solutions for Oregon’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Oregon & California Grant Lands forests, including their O&C Trust, Conservation and Jobs Act.  The bipartisan House proposal would permanently protect all of the old growth on BLM lands while managing the remainder of the land on a sustained yield basis to provide over 500 million board feet of timber, over 5,000 jobs and $165 million to the counties every year into the future.  The harvest level called for under their proposal represents less than half of what these forests grow each year.  Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber has also called upon the entire Oregon Congressional Delegation to promote this type of meaningful solution, but thus far Chairman Wyden has largely avoided addressing the issue.

“We hope Chairman Wyden will join his bipartisan House colleagues to develop real, balanced solutions for Oregon’s O&C counties,” continued Partin.  “Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber has also called for federal legislation providing lasting certainty for Oregon’s O&C counties, but if today’s hearing is any indication it appears that the Senate is inclined the kick the can down the road yet again.”

Meanwhile, AFRC has provided an outline of the modest harvest levels that would be required to generate county timber payments nearly double of those expected this year from Forest Service lands if Congress merely increased revenue sharing from 25% to 50% and reformed how a small portion of these lands are managed.  In addition to providing nearly double the revenue to local county governments this approach would generate tens of thousands of new jobs across Oregon’s hardest hit communities and provide additional receipts to the federal Treasury.

“The facts clearly show that you can provide significant revenue to local counties and schools as well as jobs in rural communities through the sustainable management of our federal forests, concluded Partin.  “In most cases the harvest volumes are less than the volume of timber that dies each year, a small portion of the annual growth and a minor fraction of the standing volume on our federal forests.”

The American Forest Resource Council represents forest product manufacturers and landowners throughout the west and is based in Portland, Oregon.

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