Update on Current Policy News Affecting Forest Business & Timber Supply
by Rex Storm, Forest Policy Manager
Oregon Association of Loggers
Budget Cuts Impact Fire Protection: Local fire protection associations say the spending cuts put OR Dept. of Forestry fire protection districts and private forests at greater risk of escaped wildfires, because of less initial attack firefighting capability. A $577 million shortfall in state tax revenue led Governor Kulongoski to direct agencies to reduce general fund spending by 9% for the current 2011 budget. ODF took a $4 million immediate reduction in its fire protection program. Forest contractors are urged to take extra effort to prevent fires, and aggressively control any smoke that ignites on the jobsite. Because ODF districts may not be able to always provide the “adequate level of protection” this summer, contractors must work cautiously—taking due diligence to implement appropriate fire prevention measures, conduct self-inspections, or shutdown operations if extreme fire conditions occur.
Save The Squirrels: Arizona Dept. of Transportation wants to spend $1.25 million to build squirrel crossings over state & county roads for the endangered Mt. Graham red squirrel. Vehicles are known to kill five squirrels/year—an endangered species crime ADOT fears would subject it to fines and jail time under lawsuit threats from the Center for Biological Diversity and others. Federal highway grant funds have been acquired to build rope bridges, canopy tunnel crossings, crossing signs and surveillance cameras. That’s $250,000 per saved squirrel! Another example of taxpayer dollars paying for Endangered Species Act abuse.
Fire Tax Drops: Forest fire patrol assessments levied on November’s Oregon forest property tax bills were recently adjusted downward, to roughly match the 9% drop in General Fund support for OR Dept. of Forestry’s fire protection program. The lower rates range from $0.68/acre in West OR district to $1.69/acre in Central OR district. Timber harvesters also currently pay $0.625/mbf into the firefighting fund. The combined state & private reductions amount to a $4 million shortfall below the former budgeted “adequate level of protection,” which is needed to prevent & fight forest fires.
Groups Threaten Lawsuit Over State Forest Plan: Eleven environmental groups presented an unusual petition to Oregon’s Board of Forestry in June, asking for reconsideration a previous Board forest plan decision to modestly increase timber harvest in NW Oregon state forests (Clatsop & Tillamook SF). Although the decision had strong backing from county governments and the Board, the petitioners have threatened litigation if the Board does not change its forest plan to satisfy their environmental demands. The environmental groups falsely allege that that the decision’s clearcutting would imperil watersheds & salmon, it ignored science, and it would break state law.
Spotted Owl Shameful Legacy After 20 Years: The northern spotted owl’s listing as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act on June 26, 1990 marked the beginning of the demise of the federal forest management program in western Oregon. Federal forest harvest was nearly shut-down to allegedly “protect” the owl’s old growth habitat. The owl’s Oregon legacy continues to haunt the forest sector, as federal forest management on national forests and BLM forests remains in legal and bureaucratic gridlock—additionally, catastrophic federal forest fire & health problems abound, and paltry timber sale volumes are uncertain from month-to-month. Ironically, although the harvest prohibitions were supposed to cure the spotted owl’s problems, its population numbers today remain under attack—not by logging—but rather attacked by forest fires and predation by another owl, the barred owl. In 1989, logging on federal lands accounted for about 4 billion bdft/year in Oregon, over half the state’s harvest. By 2000, it fell to less than 10% of its former importance. The Clinton administration’s Northwest Forest Plan in 1994 locked-up over 6 million acres in Oregon, but was supposed to guarantee 1 billion bdft/year of federal harvest. The promised harvest never materialized, about 3.5 billion bdft of annual timber volume output was lost, and a major segment of the forest sector evaporated over two decades.
Biomass Source of US Jobs: Two new studies commissioned by American Forest & Paper Association show that federal energy policies can be designed to increase the supply of woody biomass available for renewable energy production goals, while conserving the high-paying forest industry jobs. The first study found that for a given volume of wood, the forest industry sustains nine times as many jobs as stand-alone biomass energy production. The second study identified 50 million dry tons of logging slash and urban waste wood is readily available to sustain a viable biomass energy—without disrupting the log supply already used by the forest products industry. It’s crucial that policymakers best utilize America’s forests to support good jobs and produce more renewable energy.
BLM WOPR… One Year Later: July 16th marked the first anniversary of withdrawal of the Bureau of Land Management’s Western Oregon Plan Revision (WOPR), by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. The balanced plan to sell 504 million bdft/year of timber was adopted in 2008. Planned timber production would have returned revenue to 18 Oregon counties, reducing the need for federal payments under the Secure Rural Schools Act, which expires in 2011. It took the Obama Administration only six months to trash a good forest plan that took five years to complete. Although Secretary Salazar announced a year ago that a replacement 230 million bdft of ‘non-controversial’ young plantation thinning sales would be guaranteed this fiscal year, less that 30% of that promised volume has been auctioned—with only 2 months left in the fiscal year. Broken promises.
Governor Candidate First Visits Mill: Just a day after the May primary election, Oregon gubernatorial candidate Chris Dudley toured Boise Cascade’s Medford plywood plant—putting a stamp on Dudley’s support for Oregon’s forest sector. The Republican nominee will challenge 2-term former governor John Kitzhaber (D) in November’s general election. Dudley sees the forest sector as part of the solution to rise from the economic slump, saying “Government doesn’t create jobs. It helps create an environment where business creates jobs. (Let’s) get the timber industry up and running at full strength. Timber is one of the state’s biggest assets. We need to tap into our natural resources.”
Huffman Faces Senator Wyden in Election: Attorney and legal scholar Jim Huffman is campaigning to unseat 3-term US Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR). Huffman, a 13-year dean of Lewis & Clark Law School who grew up as a Montana rancher, is a superior candidate who could bring to Washington, DC a commitment to work for Oregon business, natural resources, responsible spending and smaller government. Senator Wyden has failed to deliver responsible lawmaking in his Capitol Hill tenure. For information about supporting Jim’s campaign, online: www.huffmanforsenate.com
Challenger Huffman Favored: A July survey of Oregon voters reveals that US Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) is now vulnerable in the November general election to lose his over-25 year congressional tenure to Republican challenger Jim Huffman. The poll shows that any Republican is favored by 37%, while a Democrat is favored by just 36%, with the remaining 28% are undecided. Just 44% believe Ron Wyden deserves reelection, while 45% prefer a new candidate like Huffman, and 11% unsure.
Business-Friendly Candidates Run for Congress: In November’s general election, voters will have a clear choice between the failed big government, anti-business agenda supported by two of Oregon’s incumbent US Congressmen: Rep. Wu (D-1st District) and Rep. Schrader (D-5th District). Oregon voters are looking favorably at the Republican nominees, Rob Cornilles and Scott Bruun to unseat Wu and Schrader. Cornilles’ and Bruun’s commonsense, conservative, business-savvy solutions of limited government, lower taxes, and fiscal restraint. For information about supporting Cornilles’ and Bruun’s campaign, online: www.cornillesforcongress.com and: www.joinscott.com
Clearcut Ban Fails to Reach Ballot: Among the 15 ballot initiatives actively seeking to gather the required 82,769 signatures to be placed on November’s general election ballot, Initiative 42 was one that failed to get the signatures by the July 2nd deadline. The initiative would have asked voters to change the OR Forest Practices Act to ban clearcutting, forest herbicides and other important methods. Chief petitioner was Eugene’s Gary Kutcher, a perennial anti-clearcut wingnut, who attempts to place a clearcut initiative in every general election. The only time Kutcher’s measure reached the voters was in 1998, when Measure 64 failed to receive over 19% of the vote.
Forest Service Awards Biomass Grants: US Dept. of Agriculture announced award of $4.2 million in grants to 13 small businesses and groups, to develop renewable energy projects using woody biomass from hazardous fuels harvested on national forests. Projects use woody biomass, such as small-diameter or low-value wood. Grant recipients are required to provide at least 20% of total project cost. Of the 13 recipients in 2010, the only Oregon grantee is Foothills Firewood of Lyons, receiving $325,014.
Fire Destroys USFS Office: The Forest Service office in Enterprise burned to the ground July 11th. The huge 20-year-old log building housed 100 USDA and FS employees with the Wallow-Whitman National Forest. Speculation on the fire’s cause has been fueled by the palatial structure that symbolized a wrong-headed federal presence in a county where federal forest programs have largely failed—catastrophic wildfires let-burn, timber industry demise, three sawmills shut, grazing allotment prohibitions, rights-of-way obstacles, and proposed motorized use ban on 4,200 road miles.
Large Air Tanker Use for Firefighting Declines: An effective firefighting tool in Western wildfires has been the contract fleet of large fire retardant bombers. However, the air tanker availability has dwindled from 44 in 2004 to 17 this year, because the aging planes are permanently grounded by engineers. The big planes will begin to be completely phased-out by 2012. Until the US Forest Service is willing to pay sufficient rates to warrant capital replacement, the agency will increasingly rely on helicopters and small single-engine air tankers to battle wildfires.
Data Center Jobs & Power Use: Facebook revealed in January that it would be building a 147,000-square-foot, $188.2 million data center in Prineville, employing 35. A data center is not inherently exciting—it’s a warehouse stuffed with computers. Although the digital age is supposed to be a greener era, such data centers are notorious power hogs. Facebook says its new Oregon data center will consume 30-40 megawatts of electricity—making it one of the state’s single largest power users.
Logging Career Recruitment Film Wins Award: An excellent in-woods career recruitment video received the highest award for such productions. The Pacific Forest Foundation’s new xx-minute video, ‘This Is My Office’ received a Telly Award in the Online Recruitment category. The Foundation, an arm of Pacific Logging Congress, produced the award-wining DVD, which has already seen wide application on the PLC website, schools and other education venues as a career recruiting tool. It’s gratifying that our industry is recognized for its modern technology and many career opportunities. Learn more online about ‘This Is My Office’: www.pacificforestfoundation.com
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