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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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AOL: BLM Ordered to Increase Timber Sale

Fire case tossed, Judge slams BLM, more…

by Rex Storm, Forest Policy Manager
Associated Oregon Loggers

BLM Ordered to Increase Timber Sale: On June 26, the DC federal district court ordered the BLM to sell the volume amount specified in its 1995 forest plans, and stop using a flawed computer model to predict exaggerated owl use in its forests. Although the ruling orders the BLM Medford and Roseburg Districts to increase annual timber sale by 54 million bdft, another 2011 case before the same judge was filed by the forest industry, and AFRC (AOL is a Member), which seeks to require the BLM to sell more timber in compliance with the O&C Act on all western Oregon districts.

Judge Tosses Fire Case: In July, a Plumas County Judge dismissed the state of California’s lawsuit seeking $8 million in state firefighting damages from timber sale purchaser Sierra Pacific Industries, sought for the 2007 Moonlight Fire. Cal. Dept. of Forestry failed to prove that SPI caused the fire. This ruling contrasted with an earlier case brought by the US Forest Service against SPI for the same fire, where a federal judge ordered SPI in 2012 to pay the government an outlandish $150 million (approx.) for resource damages and firefighting—about 40 times the damaged land appraised value.

Fire Salvage Plans Begin: With thousands of acres of private, BLM and national forest land burned in this summer’s wildfires across southwest and eastern Oregon, landowners have begun plans for salvage logging and reforestation to restore the damaged landscapes. Of note, in SW Oregon there is over 80,000 acres of burned forests in the Roseburg and Medford BLM districts, Umpqua Nat. Forest, industrial forests, and small private woodlands. Small BLM salvage sales of downed fire line timber could be offered this fall. The most immediate logging will begin on private forestlands.

Congress Advances Federal Forest Bill: The US House Resources Committee on July 31st approved HR. 1526, Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act. The bill would make needed reforms for the US Forest Service harvesting half its annual timber growth. Additional provisions divide 2.5 million acres of Western Oregon BLM forestland in into two parcels: half managed under a timber yield trust authority; and half allocated to the Forest Service for habitat. The bill is slated for a House vote in September, prior to an uncertain fate in the Democrat-majority US Senate.

Congress Hearing on Wildfires & Forests: Amid an active fire season across the West, the House Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands in July held a hearing focusing on the need for increased federal forest management to address forest health and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire. All witnesses agreed that more harvesting and restoration is needed on federal forests to reduce fires. Remedies were discussed that would treat more acres to prevent increased future catastrophic wildfires that destroy millions of acres, take more lives, and destroy communities.

State Funds Eastside Forestry: A first-in-the-nation effort, the Oregon Legislature and Governor passed a bill (SB. 5521) to help fund US Forest Service timber sale planning. As part of its 2013-15 biennial budget, industry supported the Legislature-approved $2.885 million in lottery-funded bonds to help national forest timber sale planning and collaboration in eastern Oregon. Funds will be administered by OR Dept. of Forestry and OR Watershed Enhancement Board, to help fund increased scale & pace of forest health harvests and streamlined new business models.

Land Board Considers State Forest Sale: Forced by a lawsuit and court injunction to harvest less than 15 million bdft/year, the Oregon Land Board may instead sell 2,714 acres in the Elliott State Forest to raise money for the Common School Fund. The lawsuit, filed by environmental groups who claim logging harms the marbled murrelet sea bird, has blocked the current forest plan that directs 40 million bdft/yr timber sale from the Elliott, located east of Reedsport. With future timber revenue in doubt, the Board is considering selling three isolated parcels to generate school funds.

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