EPA biomass attack, Forest die-off, more…

Forest Policy Briefs
by Rex Storm,
Associated Oregon Loggers,

Scientists Oppose EPA Attack on Biomass:
When the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently proposed air/carbon regulations that would severely cripple the growing US forest biomass industry, the Society of American Foresters wrote a stern letter to Congress—criticizing the EPA’s outlandish actions. The letter was signed by 114 scientists, including 4 OSU scientists and 2 Oregon consultants. The EPA’s proposed Tailoring Rule, if not corrected, could stop any new biomass energy plant, or worse, cause existing biomass plants to shut or convert to fossil fuel.

Rocky Mountain Forest Die-Off: Nearly a decade into the largest bark beetle epidemic in modern-day Colorado & Wyoming history, a recent US Forest Service aerial survey shows that beetles in 2010 killed 3.6 million acres of ponderosa and lodgepole pine trees in the two states, an area the size of Connecticut. That’s up from 2.5 million acres infested there in 2008. Foresters predict all mature lodgepole pines in Wyoming’s Medicine Bow Nat. Forest will be dead within five years. The USFS Regional Forester says the dead trees are recreation hazards and will fuel catastrophic forest fires.

Judge Orders USFS to Look for Species: Yet another irrational ruling has been rendered by a federal judge, who stopped the Bussel Ck. forest health timber sale on Idaho’s Panhandle National Forest. In a lawsuit brought by environmentalists, US District Judge Lodge ordered that the Forest Service search and find all key wildlife—such as pileated woodpeckers and n. goshawks—in the project area, before logging or road building is authorized. It’s unknown at this time how this poorly-written ruling may impact Forest Service project planning elsewhere.

Fire Season Ends on Cool Note: Industrial forest fire season ended in October for forest protection districts, with the Douglas Forest Protective Association recording the second-lowest number of acres burned since the association was formed in 1912. During a short 105-day fire season beginning June 28 and ending Oct. 10, DFPA firefighters fought 38 fires that burned 48 acres. Over the past decade, DFPA has averaged 88 fires that burn nearly 700 acres per year. In recent times, 1987 was the worst fire season, when 172 fires burned 30,469 acres of forest.

Appeal Filed to Overturn Roads Ruling: The State of Oregon (Forestry Board & ODF), Oregon Forest Industries Council, and four timber companies have asked the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to re-hear an unfavorable federal court ruling that would seriously impact all forest roads. The ruling had wrongly declared that forest road runoff would be a “point-source of pollution,” and therefore required a federal Clean Water Act NPDES permit. The original 2006 case was filed by Northwest Environmental Defense Center, against Oregon’s State Forester, Board, and four state timber sale purchasers.

Court Challenge to Coastal Forestry: Twenty years ago, the Oregon legislature, at the request of the timber industry, gave the Board of Forestry and OR Dept. of Forestry legal authority to protect water on private forestland through the Forest Practices Act. Yet, another environmentalist lawsuit is threatening this sole authority of the Board. The suit attempts to misuse the federal Coastal Zone Management Act by forcing the US Environmental Protection Agency and OR Dept. of Environmental Quality to compel changes to the OR Forest Practices Act. The DEQ intends to continue their existing forest authorities, within the guidance of the court rulings.

Recession Over? The National Bureau of Economic Research—official referee of the US economy—announced in Sept. that the recession had ended and economic recovery began in June 2009. One cannot help but wonder whether this feel-good pronouncement was politically-motivated, timed just before November’s general election. Many US business analysts scoffed at this illogical pronouncement, as economic conditions for many American business sectors are stalled in the pre-June 2009 recession cycle, and most economic indicators remain far below the pre-recession years.

Cool Summer, Bad Fire Business: The shortest summer in recent memory has left private firefighting and helicopter companies struggling to survive amid massive layoffs. The 2010 fire season is among the slowest fire years in recent history. Most companies saw revenues plunge by more than half this year, as federal and state agencies spent about $50 million less than in a typical year on firefighting contracts in Oregon alone. Compounding the hurt, it was a short & cool fire season west wide, and Oregon is home to a majority of the region’s forest fire contractors.

Climate Research Draws Federal Funds: Secretary of the Interior Salazar announced that Oregon State University would become one of eight federal Climate Science Centers (CSC), located across the US. OSU is part of the Northwest Regional CSC, along with U. of WA, and U. of ID. The new Centers receive federal funds to conduct research addressing climate change on natural resources. Salazar said this new federal CSC bureaucracy would be a top Interior priority. Apparently, the CSC is higher priority than the failed timber harvest from the BLM’s Western OR forest plan.

Trucking GVW Reform Introduced: In August, US Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) introduced gross vehicle weight reform in Congress, as ‘The Safe & Efficient Transportation Act’ (S.3705). Senator Crapo and his co-sponsors seek to use federal highways more efficiently, to reduce fuel consumption, emissions, and traffic congestion, while improving safety and supporting our land-based industries. This bill would give states the option to increase interstate truck weight limits, so that more goods move from the farm, forest or factory to consumers in fewer trips and fewer vehicle miles.

New HOS Rule Moves Forward: On July 26, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration sent its proposal for a revised Hours of Service rule to the Office of Management & Budget for review. OMB reviews typically last 90 days, so publication of the draft rule for public comment would presumably occur in November. Response from industry executives has been forceful, as one major shipper points out, cutting driver hours by 10% does not reduce productivity by merely 10%, but in many cases by something closer to 50%.

New Satellite Phone Launched: AT&T Advanced Enterprise is selling a satellite phone that may be a tool for forest contractors. With blanket US coverage, the new ‘TerreStar Genus’ phone costs up to $799, using an AT&T cell service plan, plus an extra $25/month, 65 cents/minute. Genus connects via cell tower, and then switches to satellite when cell coverage lacks. It’s the first “smart” satellite phone with e-mail, web use, and slightly-thicker than a BlackBerry. Genus requires a clear view of the southern sky, having no trees, hills or buildings blocking the sky view.

Harvest Little; Pay Big in Rockies: The US Forest Service in CO & WY has focused its bark beetle treatments almost exclusively on hazard tree salvage only in campgrounds, along roads and near communities. The USFS is spending over $30 million in federal stimulus dollars to treat 14,000 acres—that’s more than $2,100/acre on these uneconomical projects. Planned projects are hobbled by an impotent USFS bureaucracy, low timber volumes, plus exorbitant transportation & logging costs to reach a single sawmill and a few pellet mills in the two states.

Colorado Congressman Cries the Blues: After his own environmentalist allies shut down the national forest timber program in the past 20 years, US Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) is now in a panic because there’s no timber industry to buy or harvest the trees on millions of acres of dead & dying pine across his state. Because of the national forest-caused demise of a once productive CO timber industry, the state’s only timber mill just shut in bankruptcy proceedings. Senator Udall now seeks $50 million/year entitlement from Congress to deal with beetle-killed federal timber in CO.

Diamond Lake Restoration Project Slashed: The US Forest Service announced that the 621-acre D-Bug Timber Sale, located near the Umpqua Nat. Forest Diamond Lake resort area, would be scaled-back to just 78 acres (13% of plan). Because most of the planned project was in a Roadless Area, the US Forest Service reduced the project, succumbing to environmental and political pressure from the Obama administration. Without far more harvesting than is now planned, there is little chance firefighters could stop a wildfire racing from the Roadless Area toward the resort area.

Fire Safety House in Silverton: The Oregon Garden Foundation announced a partnership to develop the nation’s first full-scale fire prevention and safety house. Teaming with Oregon Dept. of Forestry, OR State Fire Marshal, Moonstone Garden Management, and OR State Univ., the foundation secured $600,000 in federal FEMA grant funds and donations to remodel a home located at The Oregon Garden in Silverton. The ‘Fire Safety House’, championed by ODF, will showcase fire-resistant landscaping and building construction, as well as home fire prevention and safety.

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