Tag Archives: United States Forest Service

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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Timber tweak cures baseball bat breaks

Timber tweak cures baseball bat breaks


August 8, 2013

Rate of shattered baseball bats 50 percent less, thanks to Major League Baseball, Forest Service

 By USDA Forest Service

As the 2013 Major League Baseball (MLB) season slides into the All-Star break, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the results of innovative research by the U.S. Forest Service, and funded by MLB, that will result in significantly fewer shattered baseball bats.

baseball bats. courtesy of TECO

Photo courtesy of TECO.

“This innovative research by the U.S. Forest Service will make baseball games safer for players and fans across the nation,” said Secretary Vilsack. “The U.S. Forest Products Laboratory has once again demonstrated that we can improve uses for wood products across our nation in practical ways – making advancements that can improve quality of life and grow our economy.”

Testing and analyzing thousands of shattered Major League bats, U.S. Forest Service researchers at theForest Products Laboratory (FPL) developed changes in manufacturing that decreased the rate of shattered maple bats by more than 50 percent since 2008. While the popularity of maple bats is greater today than ever before, the number of shattered bats continues to decline.

“Since 2008, the U.S. Forest Service has worked with Major League Baseball to help make America’s pastime safer,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “I’m proud that our collective ‘wood grain trust’ has made recommendations resulting in a significant drop in shattered bats, making the game safer for players as well as for fans.”

Outfielder Kensuke Tanaka’s bat cracks on impact with the ball during a San Francisco Giants game. The U.S. Forest Service has worked with Major League Baseball on bat design that greatly reduces the number of bats broken during a season. (Photo @2013 S.F. Giants)

Outfielder Kensuke Tanaka’s bat cracks on impact with the ball
during a San Francisco Giants game. The U.S. Forest Service has
worked with Major League Baseball on bat design that greatly
reduces the number of bats broken during a season.
@2013 S.F. Giants

“These results would not have been possible without the outstanding work of the Forest Products Laboratory and the tireless efforts of its project coordinator, David Kretschmann,” says Daniel Halem, MLB’s Senior Vice President of Labor Relations. “Major League Baseball greatly appreciates the invaluable contributions of the Forest Products Laboratory and Mr. Kretschmann on this important issue.”

The joint Safety and Health Advisory Committee of Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association began working to address the frequency of bats breaking into multiple pieces five years ago. FPL wood experts looked at every broken Major League bat from July to September during the 2008 MLB season.

The research team found that inconsistency of wood quality, primarily the manufacturing detail “slope of grain,” for all species of wood used in Major League bat manufacture was the main cause of broken bats. Also, low-density maple bats were found to not only crack but shatter into multiple pieces more often than ash bats or higher-density maple bats. Called multiple-piece failure, shattered bats can pose a danger on the field and in the stands.

Courtesy Major League Baseball

Photo courtesy Major League Baseball.

Slope of grain refers to the straightness of the wood grain along the length of a bat. Straighter grain lengthwise means less likelihood for breakage.

With the help of TECO, a third-party wood inspection service, the FPL team established manufacturing changes that have proven remarkably successful over time. Limits to bat geometry dimensions, wood density restrictions, and wood drying recommendations have all contributed to the dramatic decrease in multiple-piece failures, even as maple’s popularity is on the upswing.

The Forest Service research team has been watching video and recording details of every bat breakage since 2009. The team will continue monitoring daily video and studying broken bats collected during two two-week periods of the 2013 season, working to further reduce the use of low-density maple bats and the overall number of multiple-piece failures.

The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live.


USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).

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Go Wood: Wood Science 101 (10) – Where Does Lumber Come From?

Wood Science 101 (10) – Where Does Lumber Come From?

One of the more interesting phenomena of today’s world is the insulation we have from the source of our sustenance, or raw materials. Many modern folk would have a hard time explaining where the natural gas in their home comes from, or how bread is made, or even what the very walls around them are made of.So when Mike Wolcott sent me some nice photos of what I call a “lumber log”, that is a re-constructed log made of the lumber and bark sawn from it, I thought it a good opportunity to share just a little bit of the story of lumber.


This artistic work is a nice way to demonstrate in a visual way just where lumber comes from. One sees many different sizes of boards, and a cant in the center of the log; it begins to give one a sense of how many different products can be produced from a log depending on how the log is sawn up. And the placement of all cuts, and therefore the size and value of each board produced, depends most importantly on the very first cut into the log.

In the early 1970’s, the US Forest Service developed a computer program that mathematically calculated the highest volume of lumber that could be sawn from a log of specified dimensions based on what it called the “best opening face“.  Soon, computerized sawing equipment incorporated this computer algorithm into their equipment along with scanning technology that allowed the log to be spun and scanned prior to sawing, thereby allowing the computer to determine just exactly where that first critical cut should be made. The resulting “face” of the log. then, would produce the widest pieces of lumber, and subsequent narrower lumber would be produced as the log is turned.  In the photograph above, the sawyer, or the computer he operated, determined that the best first cut would be on what is the top of the log in the picture. The cut was made just at the edges of the top piece of bark, producing a “slab” from which the top two narrow boards were re-sawn. Then, once the slab was sent on its way, the two-by-six and two-by-eight pieces (the third and fourth boards from top) were sawn and sent on to an “edger” where the square edges of the boards were formed as the rounded corners were sawn away. The log was then rotated and sawing continued on the next face, with most of the pieces in this case being sent on to a “re-saw” or a “gang-saw” to produce the narrower strips you see.

Not long after the computerized saws were capable of producing the highest amount of lumber, or “yield” from a log, technologists figured out how to allow the mill operators to assign market values to the different sizes of lumber in “value tables” built into the software. This allowed the mill operator to then produce not the highest “yield” of lumber in board feet (one board foot is equal to a square piece of wood 12 inches long, by 12 inches wide, by 1 inch thick), but the highest value of lumber in dollars based on ever-changing current lumber market values.

This system works well for softwood lumber, for which most of the value is determined by the dimension of each piece. But in hardwood lumber production, the real value of the lumber is determined by the internal characteristics of the log…the number and size of knots and other defects, the coloring and figuring of the wood, and the surface area of “clear units” in each piece of lumber. These characteristics are determined again by the sawing technique used for each log. The three most common methods of sawing hardwood logs are called “plain or flat sawn” (the most common and highest yielding method), quarter-sawn (the most popular for certain applications where highly figured wood is desired), and rift sawn (used when straight-grained lumber is highly desired).

The following is an excellent high-quality educational video from the folks at the Frank Miller Lumber Company, an Indiana lumber producer that specializes in quartersawn hardwood. It provides a nice way to visualize the sawing process one has to try to imagine when looking at a piece of lumber. http://gowood.blogspot.com/2013/07/wood-science-101-10-where-does-lumber.html

And that’s how it’s done. Show the video to your kids, and then take them to the nearest lumberyard. You might be surprised how much fun you’ll all have.

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Extreme fire risk & danger for NW forests forecasted

Extreme fire risk & danger for NW forests forecasted

February 6, 2013

Timber News Update

by Rex Storm, Forest Policy Manager
Associated Oregon Loggers

USFS Forester Says Forests at Risk: Kent Connaughton, US Forest Service Regional Forester who manages 16 national forests in OR & WA, in January addressed the both Oregon Board of Forestry and The Oregonian newspaper editorial board. Connaughton said undesirable overcrowding on the region’s federal forestlands is accelerating at about twice the rate that restoration projects are able to address the overcrowding problems. He predicts that future federal forest wildfire risk will be extreme and damaging, and that it is now necessary to treat more forest acreage, more aggressively.

Governor and Eastside Federal Forests: At its January meeting, Governor Kitzhaber addressed the Oregon Board of Forestry for the second time since his 2010 election. The Governor shared his serious concern over the unworkable status quo surrounding dry-side federal forest management. He briefly mentioned his advisory group now working on an O&C BLM forest proposal, but urged Board action on two eastside federal forest matters: to engage in improving federal forest polices; and support of his state budget proposal to spend $4.5 million on federal forest collaboration.

Plum Creek Gives to OSU Forestry: In January, Plum Creek Timber, one of the nation’s largest private forest landowners (6.4 million acres in 19 states), has committed $500,000 to establish an endowed research position in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University. The endowed funding supports a permanent professor to study active forest management effects on water quality and aquatic systems. Oregon’s forest industry businesses have a long history of funding forest science and higher education at OSU, a feat that is unmatched by environmental organizations.

Malheur Stewardship Deal Pending: Malheur National Forest managers held local meetings in January to discuss a proposed large 10-year stewardship contract offered later this spring. With the details still undetermined, the contract would create a timber & service contract that harvests some portion of the Malheur’s newly-promised 55 million bdft/year target, beginning in 2013. The Malheur’s target has been promised by Regional Forester Kent Connaughton to speed forest work and prevent industry infrastructure loss by ramping-up to 75 million annually in future years.

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Governor wants to help Ore. timber industry by sharing wildfire costs with industry, state

Governor wants to help Ore. timber industry by sharing wildfire costs with industry, state

By JEFF BARNARD  AP Environmental Writer

January 19, 2013

GRANTS PASS, Oregon — For years, Oregon’s major timberland owners have felt they were paying too much of the cost of fighting wildfires, especially in years when blazes stayed relatively small.

A bill in Gov. John Kitzhaber’s budget would allocate $3.6 million over the next two years to change the payment formula, so the state picks up a bigger share of the costs in years when fires don’t rage out of control. The proposal also would pay up to $6 million to keep two air tankers on call and other resources to keep minor wildfires from getting big and expensive.

“Landowners since 1993 have paid 82 percent of the cost” of putting out large fires, said Kristin McNitt, executive director of the Oregon Forest Industry Council, which represents the timber industry. “And it’s killing us.”

The governor also wants to use $4 million in lottery-backed bonds to help the U.S. Forest Service turn out more timber sales from federal lands in the dry forests east of the Cascades.

Natural Resources adviser Richard Whitman said the governor sees the two proposals as vital to maintaining the struggling timber industry in central and eastern Oregon, both as a source of jobs and as a necessary part of the infrastructure for logging that will improve forest health and reduce wildfire danger.

The region almost lost one of the half-dozen surviving mills last year, for lack of timber from national forests, Whitman said.

“If there is any further decline, it will be very hard to get back,” he said.

A wildfire policy watchdog group, however, sees the funding change as a “scam” on taxpayers that benefits the timber industry — but not the public.

Andy Stahl, director of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics said any money spent on air tankers and helicopters is a waste, because there is no data to show that they are effective tools for keeping fires from getting out of control.

“At a time when we are struggling to fund schools and fund health care, why we would want to divert those dollars to some of Oregon’s largest corporations is a bit mystifying,” said Stahl. “Historic data shows no correlation between the amount of retardant dumped on a (forest) and the success rate of keeping fires small.”

The timber industry has been trying for years to change the wildfire funding formula, and last year the state Board of Forestry appointed a committee representing forest landowners, government agencies and the governor’s office, which came up with the Wildfire Protection Act.

Under the current funding formula, private landowners, whether large timber companies or homeowners with a few acres of trees, pay a tax to cover the costs of the Oregon Department of Forestry’s firefighting efforts. The tax ranges from 80 cents per acre on the wetter west side of the state, to $1.70 on the drier east side.

The first $10 million of the cost of fighting large fires is covered by private landowners. The next $15 million comes from the state general fund. After that, a special insurance policy kicks in $25 million up to a total of $50 million. In recent years, the cost of fighting large fires has averaged $8 million, so landowners have covered it alone.

The bill calls for sharing the costs evenly from the start, up to a total of $20 million. The amount the state pays would increase gradually over six years, so that at the end the cost would be split 50-50, up to $20 million. Despite the lower deductible, the cost of the insurance policy would remain at $1 million, due to increased firefighting resources, said Travis Medema, deputy chief of fire protection for the Oregon Department of Forestry.

The idea behind the state taking a greater share is that the public benefits from keeping forests green, so they provide recreation, fish and wildlife habitat, and clean water, said Whitman, of the Natural Resources Department.

As for the bottleneck in turning out more timber from national forests in eastern and central Oregon, Whitman said the problem has been a lack of funding for the Forest Service.

Sales developed collaboratively by groups that include representatives of the timber industry and conservation groups typically are not held up by court challenge. The $4 million would go to planning and laying out timber sales.

“We put money into economic development projects all the time,” Whitman said. “In terms of bang for the buck for job creation” and helping mills and logging outfits stay in business, “it looks like a pretty good investment.”

The state is still in negotiations with the Forest Service, but wants to receive payment from the sale of timber in return for the investment in preparing sales, Whitman said.

Stahl said a similar arrangement had been worked out in Arizona to promote thinning to reduce fire danger. He said it was ironic for the state to pay the federal government to log, when federal payments to timber counties to make up for reduced logging revenues have expired.

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Read of the Day: Kitzhaber report to restore east-side forests

Kitzhaber report to restore east-side forests

December 11, 2012

New report: Restoring Oregon’s east-side forests is a win-win

By Oregon Forest Resource Institute,

Accelerating the work to restore ailing federal forests will help both the environment and the economy in eastern Oregon. This is the conclusion of a new report prepared at the request of Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber and legislative leaders: “National Forest Health Restoration: An Economic Assessment of Forest Restoration on Oregon’s Eastside National Forests.”

The Oregon Forest Resources Institute and The Nature Conservancy  teamed up to produce a four-page summary of the report.

The report looks at doubling the number of acres of east-side national forestland that undergo restoration – such as selective harvest, thinning and underbrush removal – from 129,000 annually to 250,000. Doing so, the report states, could create an additional 2,300 jobs in eastern and south central Oregon. The study says every $1 million invested in restoration generates $5.7 million in economic returns.

The work brings timber to struggling mills, provides jobs, and restores fire resiliency to the forest, the report states. Because of fire suppression, historic practices and passive management, some dry-side federal forests are choked with as many as 1,000 trees per acre, where historically about 75-100 trees per acre were typical. Some 80 percent of the 11.4 million acres of east-side forests under U.S. Forest Service management are at moderate to high risk of devastating crown fires.

The report highlights the importance of local collaboratives – in which government, industry and conservation interests work together to plan and implement restoration jobs.

The report was assembled with funding and guidance from conservation groups, government agencies, academic institutions and business trade associations. The full 94-page report  also is available for download.

For county-by-county information on Oregon’s forests sector and how it fits into the state’s overall economy please see the executive summary of OFRI’s recent economic study, “Poised to Rebound,”  or visit OFRI’s dedicated website, TheForestReport.org.

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