1. HFRA Attacks Continue
2. Wyden Bill Hearing
3. Greater Sage-Grouse Not Listed
HFRA Attacks Continue
For the second time in three months, environmentalists have objected to a Healthy Forest Restoration Act (HFRA) project on the Klamath National Forest. The Eddy Gulch Project located on the Salmon River Ranger District, is designed to protect communities and local home owners within the Salmon River area, and to provide protection measures from catastrophic wildfire to the Eddy Late-Successional Reserve (LSR). It was designed in close coordination with local fire safe councils and the established Community Protection Plans. However, the groups objecting are not part of the local fire safe council. The objectors have raised six issues which include: 1) their concerns will not be addressed in the Record of Decision; 2) the forest is not consistent with the latest court ruling for Survey and Manage; 3) mastication work is not an environmentally feasible activity; 4) work proposed within the LSR are not consistent with HFRA; 5) when subpart A of the travel rule will be implemented; and 6) no multiparty monitoring was identified in the FEIS.
As part of the resolution, the objectors want their concerns addressed to meet the intent of the latest Survey and Manage court decision; drop all mastication proposals; change prescriptions to maintain 60 percent canopy closure in the LSR stands; develop a Memorandum of Understanding with the objectors to develop a timeline for Subpart A implementation and describe how this project will meet the new travel rule; and develop a multiparty monitoring effort for this project. As a side note, the forest believes they are consistent with the Survey and Manage direction as they followed the 2001 direction.
Wyden Bill Hearing
On March 10, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests convened a hearing on the Oregon Eastside Forests Restoration, Old Growth Protection and Jobs Act of 2009, which was introduced by Subcommittee Chairman Senator Ron Wyden. The bill, which was the result of discussions between members of the eastern Oregon forest products industry and the environmental community, would mandate a significant increase in mechanical treatments on eastern Oregon’s national forests with a focus on generating sawlogs over the next several years. Following this interim period and the completion of a landscape restoration assessment, at least one landscape sized project of 25,000 acres per forest per year will be required. The legislation would also require compliance with several existing regulations including no harvest of trees over 21” in diameter and riparian protections. However, there would be an exceptions process to the 21” inch diameter limit, which does not currently exist.
The legislation also places restrictions on the building of new roads and requires that any temporary roads need to be decommissioned within two years. The legislation would also waive administrative appeals for projects proposed during the interim period and create a shorter objection process for large scale projects. Senator Wyden has repeatedly stated that he recognizes the plight of the eastern Oregon forests and the remaining logging and sawmill infrastructure that depend upon them, including the need for more mechanical thinning and more sawlogs. Wyden has also signaled his understanding that additional funding will be needed to accomplish these goals and has stated that this will be his highest priority.
Those testifying at the hearing included: Harris Sherman, Undersecretary of Agriculture; John Shelk, Ochoco Lumber Company; Andy Kerr, Oregon Wild; Dr. K. Norman Johnson, Oregon State University; Stephen Fitzgerald, Oregon State University (representing the Society of American Foresters); and Larry Blasing, Grant County Public Forest Commission. John Shelk summed up how the individuals who worked with Senator Wyden’s office on the legislation labored with their differences by stating “I think it is fair to say that it is not the bill any of us would have written, but we believe it is a workable compromise that will improve the health of Oregon’s Eastside forests and help to preserve the livelihoods and tax base of our rural communities.” Harris Sherman expanded on some of his agencies concerns stating that hitting the acreage targets could be problematic, the collaborative process outlined in the bill could be more cumbersome than what is already in play in some areas, and that a scientific and technical panel is not necessary because the people within his agency have the knowledge needed to prioritize and manage the lands.
It is likely that Forest Service staff will begin working with Senator Wyden’s office and Committee staff to see if the Administration’s concerns with the legislation can be addressed. AFRC will continue working with Senator Wyden’s office as this process moves forward. / Tom Partin
Greater Sage-Grouse Not Listed
On March 5, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced it will not list the greater sagegrouse as endangered at this time. The decision is based on a finding by the FWS that accumulated scientific data and new peer-reviewed information and analysis, protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is warranted, but listing the species at this time is precluded by the need to address higher priority species first. The greater sage-grouse will be placed on the candidate list for future action, meaning the species will not receive statutory protection under the ESA and states will continue to be responsible for managing the bird. In announcing the agency’s decision, Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar noted that voluntary efforts may offer the best hope for the survival of the species. This was echoed by Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Tom Strickland. “There is much we can accomplish for sage-grouse working with private landowners who care about the future of this iconic western species,” he said. “Voluntary conservation efforts on private lands, when combined with successful state and federal strategies, hold the key to the long-term survival of the greater sage-grouse.” The previous day, the 36-member Congressional Western Caucus sent a letter to Secretary Salazar urging him not to list the species, saying to do so would have a devastating impact on public land use, and would disproportionately hurt ranchers and energy producers whose livelihood depends upon access to the land.
As a result of the “warranted but not listed” finding, the FWS will continue to conduct annual reviews of the bird’s population. A marked decline could lead to a listing; if numbers significantly improve under voluntary measures, the species could be removed from the candidate list. The greater sage-grouse is a ground dwelling bird found throughout the West. It is the largest grouse species with males weighing between 4 and 7 pounds, is known for its elaborate mating dances and occupies approximately 56 percent of its historical range. The Federal Register Notice is available at http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/birds/sagegrouse/FR03052010.pdf. /Ann Forest Burns
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