Forest Policy Briefs
by Rex Storm, Forest Policy Manger
Associated Oregon Loggers
Forest Service Threatens Contempt of Congress: Oregon’s US Forest Service says it cannot complete a land exchange required by a federal Wilderness law passed in April. The law requires that by October 2010 the USFS complete an exchange that gives 120 acres of Mt. Hood Nat. Forest land near Government Camp to the firm, Mt. Hood Meadows LLC, in exchange for 770 acres of LLC private land, located near Cooper Spur on the mountain’s north side. Mt. Hood NF Supervisor, Gary Larson, says it will cost $2,000,000 and take 2-3 more years to complete the exchange.
IP Shuts Albany Paper Mill: International Paper announced plans to permanently close its Albany pulp & paper mill by mid-December. The Albany containerboard plant employs 270, with an annual capacity of 580,000 tons from two paper machines. The 3-plant announcement also shut mills in VA and LA, eliminating 2.1 million tons (13%) of IP’s total paper capacity. Built by American Can in the 1950’s, the upgraded Albany mill was once a flagship for Willamette Industries, and then Weyco before its ‘08 sale to IP. IP said the closure is due to surplus US capacity and reduced paper demand, caused by a global recession that’s unlikely to dissipate in the near-term. With the loss of the Albany pulp mill, only six wood-furnished pulp mills remain in Oregon—statewide having lost an alarming five pulp mills in the past 12-years (most recently, Boise’s St. Helens mill went to recycled fiber).
Pulp Mill Loss is Loss to Forest Sector: The recent shuttering of pulp mills in Albany, OR and Samoa, CA removes tens of millions of dollars from the region’s forest sector economy—because of the loss of their huge appetite for wood fiber. Every mill closure further devalues timber prices; it reduces allied contractor & mill operations; and it hamstrings communities with fewer options and employment. The closure of these two mills is symptomatic of the two-decade-long decline of our Western timber industry—a decline now spurred harder by the current economic slump. Western Wood Products Assoc. says softwood lumber production and prices are at their lowest level in the last 50 years.
Got Milk, Got Logs, Got No Profit: Oregon dairy farmers share a common dilemma with contract loggers. Both have been losing money since the financial crisis drove down milk prices and logging rates throughout 2008 & ‘09. For two years, both have seen the commodity price for their product/ service below the cost of goods delivered. Farmers don’t see many options besides continuing to sell at a loss, since cows must be milked and farms can’t cut costs anymore without compromising cow health and regulated milk quality. No one wants to buy dairy cows, and selling cows for ground beef is a huge loss. Farms stopped investing in long-term herd, technology and labor improvements. Most farmers now rely on exhausting their saved equity and costly credit—just to stay in business. The contract logger and dairy farmer are in the same predicament—with little improvement in sight.
Oregon Democrats Seek Socialized US Health Care: In November, Oregon’s Congressional Democrats all voted for a nationalized government-run health care debacle. The US House vote was disappointing for Oregonians, as Representatives Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrader, and David Wu ignored voter concerns—by ramming a trillion dollar, government-run health care bill through Congress. As the Democrat majority pledged transparency and bi-partisanship, lawmakers had just hours to read the 1,990 page bill, and not a single Republican vote favored the bill. If the bill passes the US Senate, Oregonians for generations would be forced to deal with the consequences of this legislation—such as increased health care costs, more small business taxes, less middle-class health care access, Medicare cuts, and rude government interference in your medical care. Oregon voters will remember this unconscionable Democrat vote when they cast their ballots Nov. 2010.
“Cap and Tax” Bill Supported by Oregon Democrats: In June, the Democrat-majority Congress also passed so-called “Cap & Trade Climate” legislation (HR.2454), which would tax all energy producers—and many users—via extraordinary “caps” on carbon output and emission. Such federal government limits on energy use, would effectively raise prices for electricity, natural gas, fuel, gasoline a projected 50% or more. Furthermore, the bill would wrongly limit use of forest biomass as a “renewable energy” source. Americans clearly oppose these government taxes, and the junk climate science that the bill is based, but the Democrat-majority Congress is blindly forcing costly new government energy mandates onto the US economy. Oregon Democrats Earl Blumenauer, Kurt Schrader and David Wu chose to vote with their liberal buddies at the US Capitol, rather than in the best interest of their constituents back home. This outrageous Democrat vote will not be forgotten by Oregon voters casting their ballots Nov. 2010.
Senate Democrats Draft Climate Bill: In Oct., US Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) released a revised bill to create a costly climate-cap& trade/tax-energy law, which was previously introduced by Sens. Boxer and John Kerry. The draft bill includes details on emission allocations, which largely mirror the already-passed House climate bill, HR.2454. This latest draft bill still fails to include an acceptable renewable biomass definition, and the bill lacks offset provisions or incentives for forest landowners to grow carbon. Hearings were held in October, but the fate of the Democrat’s foolhardy “cap & trade (tax)” climate bill is slim to pass in the current session of Congress.
Democrat Fails to Walk their Talk about Rural Economy: Once again, Rep. Peter DeFazio, (D-OR) is sponsoring a bill to lock-up a 29,600-acre Devil’s Staircase Wilderness, without any reciprocity for the improving the timber economy derived from the impacted national forest. Meanwhile, US Sen. Baucus (D-MT) introduced a Montana Wilderness bill that would also assure higher timber harvest for 10-20 years. Rep. DeFazio—long-time incumbent for Oregon’s 4th congressional district often promises his allegiance to rural timber communities—once again acts to reduce the timber base, yet fails to include comparable improvement in national forest timber. Even more frustrating, Oregon’s Senators Wyden and Merkley have pledged their support for such Wilderness additions that dramatically-reduce the region’s future timber economy.
Cascade Monument Gets Funds to Enlarge: The recently-passed $32.2 billion US Interior Appropriations bill for fiscal 2010 includes $1 million to complete the BLM’s purchase of private inholdings within Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou Nat. Monument. Created in 2000 by President Clinton, the 52,940-acre monument SE of Ashland, has 40% of its area in private inholdings. The funds will complete transfer of 5,000 acres from the nonprofit Pacific Forest Trust to the BLM. The Trust previously purchased inholdings from willing sellers, and now will deed lands to the BLM.
Fremont-Winema Forest New Supervisor: Rick Newton, who served as deputy forest supervisor the past two years, on Jan. 1 becomes acting supervisor for the Fremont-Winema National Forest, located near Lakeview, Chemult, and Klamath Falls. Newton replaces Karen Shimamoto, who retires after seven years heading the Fremont-Winema, and 30 years with the US Forest Service.
USFS Budget Up in 2010: According to the National Association of State Foresters (NASF), trees and forests across the nation will benefit from the 2010 Interior Spending Bill appropriations bill passed by Congress and signed by President Obama over the weekend. A $4.6 billion boost for the Dept. of Interior and US Forest Service budgets includes a 16% increase for the FS State & Private Forestry programs, which helps state foresters assist private forest programs. The funding bill also creates new funds for Forest Service firefighting. Borrowing from the concept of the Federal Land Assistance, Management & Enhancement (FLAME Act), which the House had passed previously, the firefighting funds reduce the need for agencies to rob funds from timber an other vital programs to pay for firefighting.
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