Forest Policy Briefs
by Rex Storm, Forest Policy Manager
Associated Oregon Loggers
State Forestry Sees Further Budget Cuts: In May, the State Economist released the latest state revenue forecast, showing continued weakness in the economy and a $577 million shortfall in state income tax & fee revenue for the current 2009-2011 budget. Governor Kulongoski directed all agencies to immediately reduce general fund spending by 9%. Combined with required losses in private cost-share dollars, this means OR Dept. of Forestry reductions of $4 million in fire protection, $226,000 in private forests, and $158,000 in administration. Private forests and administration will absorb losses through unfilled vacancies and deferred purchases, while fire would have to severely reduce initial attack capability.
Roadless Prohibition Extended: US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack extended for another year a moratorium on logging and other national forest management for 63 million acres of so-called “roadless areas,” defined during the Clinton-era. Under Vilsack, most USFS management projects in roadless areas have been shelved, while waiting for federal courts to resolve the decade-long legal battle waged in federal courts. In 2005, the US Forest Service tried to free roadless areas, by authorizing state-written plans to determine roadless area management. However, environmentalists overturned this state-plan compromise, and the Obama administration reinstituted the Clinton-era 2000 roadless prohibitions.
Field Hearing on Eastside Forest Bill: The US Senate Public Lands & Forests Subcommittee held a June 4th hearing in Bend. It took testimony on Senator Ron Wyden’s controversial election-year bill (S.2895), which offers a distasteful compromise that would attempt to increase thinning east of the Cascades. For decades environmentalists have litigated to stall eastside national forest timber management—nearly eliminating the forest sector infrastructure in that region. Seeking more logs for the remaining mills, some in the industry are desperate for the bill’s promise of possible federal small-log timber supply. Environmentalists like the bill because it permanently enacts into law prohibitions on cutting trees over 21” diameter and expands stream buffers widths beyond reason.
Interior Secretary Meeting Requested: In May, several of Oregon’s Congressional delegation sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar requesting a meeting in the immediate future to get an update on what actions the Department of Interior is taking to address implementation of BLM forest management in western Oregon. The delegation wants Salazar to disclose his strategy for replacing the Western Oregon Plan Revision for BLM forests, and the ongoing lack of timber sales from bLM forests.
Federal Clean Air Rule Hurts Biomass Power: In May, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final Tailoring Rule that defines which manufacturing plant emission controls for greenhouse gases (GHG), beginning January 2011. For the first time, EPA proposes to include GHG emissions from biomass power plants, as a way to constrain future biomass plants under the Clean Air Act. The forest products industry will be severely impacted by this regulation. EPA’s recent decision is will discourage responsible development and utilization of renewable biomass in the future.
Land Board Approves Forest Plan: The Oregon State Land Board in June approved an amendment to the NW OR State Forest Management Plan, would increase Tillamook & Clatsop State Forest timber harvest to 195 million bdft/year, a 5% increase from current volume. Although the OR Board of Forestry had previously adopted the plan amendment in April, Land Board made its approval contingent upon conducting another scientific report subject to their approval. The Land Board—Governor Kulongoski, Secretary of State Brown, and Treasurer Wheeler—has jurisdiction over less than 4% of the NW state forests.
ODF Bows to Reduce Fire Protection: Oregon Dept. of Forestry’s fire program budget has previously been drained to barely provide the legally-required “adequate level of protection.” At the same time timber industry lobby was working to restore the lost $4 million for fire protection, ODF State Forester Brown, told the Legislature and Governor that the funds were not needed. Contrasting forest landowners, ODF says that $4 million can be cut from its fire budget. Industrial landowners and protection associations were previously on record saying that ODF fire protection district budgets cannot be cut further without putting private forests at severe risk of failed initial attack needed to keep small fires from escaping.
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.
Biofuel Plant at Boardman: In June, Colorado-based ZeaChem, Inc. broke ground on a biorefinery near Boardman. By year-end, the $73 million plant will be capable of producing 250,000 gallons/year of cellulosic biofuel from woody biomass. GreenWood Resources will supply hybrid poplar from its local fiber farms as feedstock. The plant will initially produce ethyl acetate, and in 2011 begin making cellulosic ethanol. The project is supported by a $25 million federal USDOE renewable energy grant, and will qualify state & federal for biomass production tax credits. Although such renewable energy is touted as the so-called “sustainable” future, it’s interesting that every startup has been subsidized by taxpayer-funded grants and renewable mandates.
Biomass Power Plant in K. Falls: Several months ago, Klamath Falls Bioenergy, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Northwest Energy Systems, LLC, applied for permits to construct a bioenergy plant in Klamath Falls. Their intent is to build a 35 megawatt power plant costing between $70-120 million. The location is on property owned by Collins Timber Co. Fuel for the plant for the first 20 years would come mostly from JWTR lands and sawmill residuals, rather than national forests. Plans are for construction to begin May 2011, and to be operating by June 2012.
Biomass Energy Rises in Sweden: In 2009, biomass surpassed oil to become the top energy source in Sweden, accounting for 32% of total energy consumption. Driven by major energy tax, subsidy and regulatory laws, biomass power and heat is projected to increase another 10% in 2011 alone. Biomass power companies in Sweden increasingly compete with pulp mills for roundwood and mill waste. Last year, the Swedish government passed a law pushing renewable energy to reach 50% of the nation’s total energy use by 2020.
Biomass Power Plants Have Critics Barking: Plans for electricity-generating biomass plants are in the works around the country, and they’re under attack from environmentalist critics, who claim that burning wood is not as environmentally-friendly as other types of so-called alternative energy—such as wind, solar or geothermal.
Schools Installing Wood Heat: Oregon’s Elkton and Days Creek school districts are installing wood-fired biomass boilers, replacing their former oil and diesel boilers. With grant funding from the state, through the federal stimulus program, each school will use wood pellets to heat their school buildings. The capital investment should be paid off in a few years from the heating cost savings amounting to tens of thousands of dollars per year. Other commercial heating across the nation is converting to wood pellet heat, as such systems are becoming more cost effective.
Forestry Biography: ‘Corks & Suspenders: Memoir of an Early Forester’ is Bill Hagenstein’s story. In his 35 years as executive vice president of the Industrial Forestry Association, he helped to advance the cause of science-based forest management. Now 95, he remains as passionate about forestry as he was 70 years ago, and his message has never changed: good forestry is good for America. Copies of his book can be ordered at: www.corksandsuspenders.com
Don’t Let a Catastrophe Go to Waste: President Obama spent June trying to channel public outrage about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill into support for the Democrat’s boondoggle “climate-change bill” in Congress. The Pres. pitched for the costly cap & tax carbon emission legislation, arguing that the Gulf’s environmental catastrophe makes the case for breaking the nation’s “addiction to fossil fuels.” He vowed to gather votes for a climate bill in the coming months—a threat that would regulate & tax every petroleum use known to man.
Disclaimer: Articles featured on Oregon Report are the creation, responsibility and opinion of the authoring individual or organization which is featured at the top of every article.