1. Murrelet Delisting Denied
2. FS/BLM Budget Support
3. Forest Management Legislation
Murrelet Delisting Denied
On January 21, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) published a notice in the Federal Register denying a petition to delist the marbled murrelet as an endangered species. The delisting petition was filed May 28, 2008 by AFRC, Carpenters Industrial Council, Douglas County and Ron Stuntzer. The Federal Register Notice can be found at http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/pdf/2010-951.pdf
The decision not to delist is based in part on a finding contained in the FWS’s 2009 status review that marbled murrelets in Washington, Oregon and California form a distinct population segment (DPS) from the birds in Canada and Alaska. The finding is a reversal of a 2004 finding that determined there was no DPS. The apparent difference in reasoning is based on how the agency compares Canada’s regulatory protections of the species with those under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). AFRC sought delisting based on the 2004 finding, prior to the agency’s decision to conduct the 2009 5-year review. The 2009 status review can be found at http://ecos.fws.gov/docs/five_year_review/doc2417.pdf. In announcing the decision not to delist, Assistant Secretary of Interior Tom Strickland stated, “This decision strongly reflects the Obama administration’s deep commitment to basing ESA decisions on the best available science.” AFRC has significant concerns about the scientific validity of the analytical methods used in the 2009 status review. Whether the international boundary justifies viewing the species as endangered in the southern end of its normal range is a question open for interpretation. — By Ann Forest Burns
FS/BLM Budget Support
As President Barack Obama prepares the 2011 budget request (the first budget to be entirely prepared under this Administration), which will be delivered to Congress in early February, a host of Senators and Representatives have written to the President in support of increased federal forest management funding to promote forest health projects, preservation of the forest products industry infrastructure, and survival of our rural communities.
Four Congressional support letters have been sent to the President since November 20, 2009. The first letter, sent on that date, from Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee stated that “Additional funds are desperately needed and I am writing to encourage you to consider a very modest increase in forest management for the USDA
Forest Service as a part of the 2011 budget. With an increase of just $57 million in forest management funds we can create over 6,000 jobs.”
A second letter dated December 17, 2009 was sent to President Obama by Representative Kurt Schrader (D-OR) and 18 other Democratic members of the House of Representatives. The letter noted that “Our federal, state, and private forests have served as an economic and social cornerstone in American history. However, past policies have largely ignored forest health. With just a modest increase in funding for forest management at the USDA Forest Service we can reverse this trend and put people back to work. Studies indicate that an increase of $151 million in forest management funds for the FY 2011 budget will create over 17,600 jobs.”
A third letter dated January 13, penned by a bipartisan group of nine members of the Senate stated “while several budget line items contribute to the Forest Service’s ability to conduct active management, the Forest Products activity is perhaps the most significant. It is essential to implementation of an integrated and sustainable program as called for in forest plans in all regions of the country. Congress appropriated $336,722,000 for the Forest Products activity in the FY 2010 Interior Appropriations Bill, which represented a nearly $8 million increase over the Administration’s request. There is clearly strong support in the Congress for this important program and the role it plays in maintaining the health of our national forests and the viability of the nation’s forest products industry.” Northwest Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jim Risch (RID) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) signed onto the letter.
Finally, on December 4, 2009 five Democratic members of the Oregon delegation sent a letter to President Obama urging him “to prioritize funding for forestry activities on Bureau of Land Management Oregon & California (O&C) forestlands. This funding is critical to maintaining healthy forests in our state and creating jobs in some of the country’s most economically distressed rural areas.”
Clearly, increased funding for federal forests is becoming an important issue nationwide. We can only hope that President Obama and the Office of Management and Budget take this strong support into account as they get ready to deliver the 2011 budget request. For copies of the budget letters please contact the Portland office. / By Tom Partin
Forest Management Legislation
Three separate bills were introduced in the Senate during the last two months of 2009 that highlight the support for accelerating Forest Service management activities. Each bill includes provisions meant to encourage additional forest management to protect our forests and the forest products industry infrastructure that depends on those forests.
Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) introduced the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, which would revamp how federal agencies manage large swaths of federal forestland in Montana. The bill would designate 680,000 acres on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest as Wilderness, while releasing other lands that are currently designated as wilderness study areas. An additional 336,000 acres would be classified as national recreation, protection, or special management areas, while keeping them open to motorized recreation. The legislation would require the Forest Service to mechanically treat a minimum of 70,000 acres over the next decade. The legislation applies to the entire Beaverhead-Deerlodge and portions of the Kootenai and Lolo National Forests. The Beaverhead-Deerlodge is currently performing mechanical treatments on only about 1,000 acres per year. A hearing was held on the bill in the Senate and Natural Resources Committee in mid-December.
Senators Mark Udall (D-NM) and Jim Risch introduced the National Forest Insect and Disease Emergency Act. The bill would authorize creation of insect emergency areas that the Forest Service can prioritize for treatment to reduce fuel loads and fire risk, expand the use of the Healthy Forest Restoration Act in analyzing projects, extend throughout the West the “Good Neighbor Authority” to treat public lands adjacent to private property, and make the current stewardship contracting authority permanent. The legislation would also provide incentives for converting beetle-killed trees into biofuel or biopower. Both Senator Udall and Risch have seen much of their respective states consumed by insect infestations and wildfires in recent years. The intent of the bill is to focus management on areas ravaged by insects, to make our national forests healthier, and to maintain and develop the industry infrastructure needed to address the problem. The bill has not received a committee hearing.
Senator Ron Wyden introduced the Oregon Eastside Forests Restoration, Old Growth Protection and Jobs Act of 2009 (see AFRC December 21, newsletter). The goal of the legislation is to promote more active management on 8.3 million acres of National Forest land in eastern Oregon while maintaining current protections for watersheds and larger diameter trees. The legislation would also require the decommissioning of temporary roads within two years of project completion and that any new permanent roads replace existing permanent roads. Finally, the legislation would establish a Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel that would provide guidance to the Secretary on forest restoration and when to harvest trees larger than 21” in diameter and when to retain trees smaller than 21” in diameter.
The eastern Oregon legislation places a heavy emphasis on increasing mechanical treatments to generate sawlogs to help sustain the remaining industry infrastructure east of the Cascades. Currently, only about 40,000 acres are being mechanically treated on the six eastside forests designated under the bill per year. The long-term goal beginning approximately three years after enactment is to plan one project of at least 25,000 acres per forest per year. During the three year interim timeframe acres treated will ramp up in the following increments: Year One -80,000 acres, Year Two – 100,000 acres, and Year Three – 120,000 acres. The bill also includes an authorization for an additional $50 million in funding for project implementation during the three-year interim period or about $17 million per year to those eastside forests. While the bill has not yet been scheduled for a hearing, Senator Wyden chairs the Forests Subcommittee.
All three of these bills signal a growing concern in Congress related to the Forest Service’s current ability to accomplish forest health projects. However, Agriculture Undersecretary Harris Sherman expressed some concerns with the Tester legislation during a December hearing and asked for additional time to improve the agency’s efforts. We are seeing first hand in the West, however, that business as usual is not keeping up with a growing forest health crisis. More to come on these bills as they work their way through the Congressional process. / By Tom Partin
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