Wyden bill attacked, Ag jobs exit, Eco-lawsuits

Forest Policy Briefs
by Rex Storm, Forest Policy Manager
Associated Oregon Loggers

Chief Says Wyden Bill Wrong-Headed: Former US Forest Service Chief Jack Ward Thomas wrote a guest opinion in the Oregonian newspaper, blasting US Senator Ron Wyden’s proposed bill on Eastern Oregon forests.  Thomas accurately attacked the Senator’s bill, saying, “The approach is flawed, inappropriate, less than fully-informed and has implications for management of the entire national forest system… Clearly, the governance of national forests is dysfunctional due to numerous, overlapping, contradictory laws continuously and variously interpreted by the courts. That’s the problem. Would it not be better to recognize and comprehensibly address that dysfunction?”

Ag Workers Seek Work Elsewhere:
Oregon’s agriculture industry saw only a 2.2% year-over-year employment drop in the second quarter of 2009.  While the decline isn’t as severe as in the logging industry, ag workers are finding it increasingly difficult to find work in their specialty.  Ag employment experts suggest that large numbers of unemployed ag workers will retrain, relocate and ultimately leave the sector for jobs in other industries—thereby being unavailable for agriculture job openings when ag markets improve.  We suspect that this sort of exodus is occurring in the now-unemployed segment of the forest sector workforce.

Lawsuit Blocks CDF and Cal Logging: Environmentalist lawsuits were filed in seven California counties challenging California Dept. of Forestry approval of timber harvest plans on 5,000 acres of Sierra Pacific private timberland.  The suit falsely claims that CDF failed to conduct proper environmental review for many issues, such as climate change, carbon and water.  SP and the California Forestry Association dismiss the lawsuit as yet another attempt by environmental groups to cripple the logging industry, noting that 40% of the state’s sawmills have closed since 2000.

Industry Supports Haiti’s Wood Reconstruction: The American Wood Council, a trade group comprised of America’s leading wood forest products companies, pledged to help Haiti rebuild safer, more earthquake-resistant buildings after its recent earthquake.  Much of the severe devastation is from collapsed, unreinforced concrete-masonry structures, which could have been prevented if they’d been built from wood building that can withstand a 7.5 magnitude earthquake.  In addition to its structural capability, wood’s affordability, renewability, ease of handling, low environmental impact, provides the optimal combination of green building and stability for earthquake-prone areas.

National Forest Road Spending Up: The budget approved by Congress for US Forest Service road maintenance and closure will rise slightly for fiscal year 2010, which began last Oct. 2009.  National forests in Oregon and WA will get $19.1 million for road work, compared with $9.5 million last year.  The agency has simply failed to maintain its road network for the past 20 years, after the 1990 shutdown of its normal forest management program—when road maintenance was largely financed by timber sales.  The nationwide USFS road repair backlog is estimated at billions of dollars.

Two Appointed to Forestry Board: During the February Special Legislative Session, the Oregon Senate confirmed two new individuals to the 7-member Oregon Board of Forestry.  The Senate confirmed Governor Kulongoski’s nominations—forestland owner Gary Springer and conservation group director Sybil Ackerman.  They replace two term-limited board members, Bill Hutchison, a Portland attorney, and Larry Giustina, principle in Eugene’s Giustina Resources timberland firm.  Board Chair John Blackwell says Springer and Ackerman bring competent leadership to the Board of Forestry.  An excellent appointment, Springer is a forester with the family-owned Starker Forests of Corvallis, and also owns and manages his 80-acre family tree farm near Harlan.  Until the 1990s, he was a partner in Springer Logging Co.  Active in Oregon environmental groups since the 1990s, Ackerman however, is currently executive director of the Portland-based Lazar Foundation, which funds environmental projects throughout the Northwest.  More information on the Board of Forestry can be found at: www.oregon.gov/odf/board

New ‘Gilchrist State Forest’: After four years of legislative arrangements, the Klamath County Commission and Oregon’s Board of Forestry approved the purchase of 43,235 acres of lodgepole & ponderosa pine forestland, located 45 miles south of Bend and east of US Hwy 97.  The purchase is funded by a 2009 Legislature-passed law, which authorized $15 million in lottery-backed bonds.  The Forestry Board targeted the purchase to avoid its division into small real estate tracts.  An adjacent 26,453 acres is held by the non-profit ‘Conservation Trust,’ targeted for purchase within a decade using additional lottery funds.

Elliott Plan Revision Delayed: Oregon’s State Land Board and Board of Forestry both voted to delay Elliott State Forest decisions until 2011:1) an increase harvest; and 2) to drop its 10-year long effort to complete a federal Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP).  If OR Dept. of Forestry cannot satisfy the US Fish & Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries by the end of 2011, ODF will drop the HCP, and apply the conventional “take avoidance” species protections, similar to those used by private forestland owners.  ODF then intends to have both Boards adopt and implement a much-needed Elliott forest plan revisions during 2012, which would increase harvest to at least 40 million bdft/year.

Business, Income Tax Hikes Approved by Voters: By a 53% to 46% margin, Oregonians narrowly approved Measures 66 and 67, increasing income taxes for high earners, corporations and businesses.  But common-sense opponents say the results simply reflect the nationally bankrolled “yes” campaign, which outspent the tax opponents by over 2 to 1 margin.  Voters still want state legislators in Salem to tighten their belts in the ongoing recession, and to find solutions that reduce state government spending without even more future new taxes.

2010 Election Becomes More Important: Although business-minded Oregonians did not win January’s ballot election to turn down Democrat’s wrong-headed permanent income tax increases, public opinion is trending against Democrat policies.  Democrats still blindly push their broken policies of taxing our way out of recession, and out-of-control government spending.  Now, a majority of Oregonians are seeing that government needs huge changes in Salem and Washington, DC to return responsible fiscal policies.  January’s ballot defeat simply provides another reason for common-sense Oregonians to rally toward the 2010 general election—because public opinion is ripening for Republican gains in both Legislature and Congress.

Capitol Rally Held Feb. 15th: The campaign for 2010 has only just begun!  Hundreds of opponents to higher taxes and out-of-control government spending held a rally on February 15 at the Oregon State Capitol Building.  Angry folks from all corners of Oregon demanded fiscal responsibility from legislators, and spread the message that November’s election will elect new legislators and governor, who will not be “tax & spenders.”  New blood at the capitol can accomplish more than what defeat of 66 & 67 would have done.  Protest signs read: “We Have Only Begun to Fight” “Your Job Is on the Line Too” “Taxes Too High”

Walden Rises in Congress: US Representative Greg Walden (R-OR) in February was appointed Chairman of the Republican Leadership, by House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH).  Walden has been a proven leader and a champion for business and smaller government for six terms.  As chair, Walden participates in GOP leadership strategy, and continues to serve as House minority deputy whip and deputy chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Forest Landowners Honored for Restoring Habitat:
Three private-sector land managers received awards from the Oregon Fish & Wildlife Commission and OR Board of Forestry for their forest stewardship work to improve fish & wildlife resources—under the voluntary Oregon Plan for Salmon & Watersheds.  Bud Henderson, Hampton Resources, Astoria/Knappa, was recognized for habitat improvements and innovative forestry practices that benefit fish & wildlife on the Hampton Tree Farm.  Tom Hoesly, Menasha Forest Products, and Joel Nelson, Plum Creek, North Bend/Coos Bay, received recognition for their partnership with Coquille Watershed Assoc, ODF&W and ODF to improve habitat in 20 miles of streams in the North Fork Coquille watershed.

Summer Forecast Dry: Oregon Dept. of Forestry’s meteorologist in February looked ahead to the summer’s fire season, and forecasted the growing potential for hot and dry forest fuels over the summer.  Although too early to be certain, indicators for a possible severe fire season are beginning to catalyze.  Below normal snowpack and warmer spring temperatures could lead to early snowmelt; plus, long-range forecasts show a likelihood of below average rainfall June–August.

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