Problems with Wyden-Merkley forest plan

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

Eastside Forest Bill Reintroduced: Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) has reintroduced a bill in Congress that would permanently ban large tree harvest, and then promise to seek more acres of “thinning” in Eastern Oregon national forests. This slight of hand, would still subject the thinning projects to the same legal barriers and conflicting laws that currently hamstring federal timber harvest. S.220, ‘Oregon Eastside Forests Restoration, Old Growth Protection, and Jobs Act’. The bill is co-sponsored by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and is scheduled for a May hearing.

Court Rejects Industry Road Runoff Appeal: On May 17th, an 11-judge panel of the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an unexpected and damaging ruling that would define forest road runoff as a source of water pollution. The panel concluded that ditch water runoff from logging roads, on four Tillamook State Forest timber sales, is a so-called “point source discharge”—for which a federal Clean Water Act permit would be required from the EPA. The panel confirmed a 2010 Ninth Circuit ruling, which had reversed the district court’s ’08 rejection of the pollution claim brought by an environmental lawsuit (NEDC v. Brown). It is likely that the defendants and intervenors—Oregon’s State Forester and Forestry Board, four timber purchasers, OFIC and AF&PA—will appeal this wrong-headed decision, possibly to the US Supreme Court. This heinous ruling overturns a 35-year old precedent about every US forest road considered an unregulated non-point source. Stay tuned for more legal action and remanding this matter back to the District Court—because if this harmful ruling remains unchallenged, nationwide ramifications would result.

Coquille Tribe Seeks BLM Forests: The Coquille Indian Tribe has proposed managing nearly 60,000 acres of federal forests in Coos County. That eventually might mean more revenue for Coos County government, and more jobs in the local wood-products industry. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar endorsed an experimental project earlier this week, where the Tribe and Bureau of Land Management will collaborate on a so-called “pilot project” timber sale offered within the next 12 months. It’s an opportunity to explore timber sales with fewer federal restrictions.

Seneca Celebrates, Greens Protest: Seneca Sawmill Company held a ceremony and public tour of its wood-fired biomass cogen plant, recently built alongside its Eugene sawmills. When the plant fires-up, heat will be used in its lumber dry kilns and surplus electricity will be sold to Eugene Water & Electric Board. Three of a dozen protesters were arrested outside the facility for disorderly conduct during the ceremony.

Ford’s Timber Address: A poor housing market, tight lending, and Chinese competition for logs characterize turbulent times for Douglas County’s timber industry. On May 9, Roseburg Forest Products CEO Allyn Ford delivered his eighth annual “state of the timber industry” address to the Roseburg Area Chamber of Commerce. Ford noted that this cycle is the worst since the Great Depression; and when the housing market recovers, it will be a challenge to find enough skilled workers—because our work force is aging and there aren’t enough jobs now to train a new generation of workers.

For the good news… Ford said, an increase in housing starts is predicted for 2012. China’s demand for logs is a bright spot, although it’s increased log prices at Oregon mills. NW mills may face less Canadian competition as Canada sells logs to China instead of selling more forest products to the US. Log exports from around the Pacific Rim—including from Oregon—will be needed to feed China’s expanding economy, which grows at 9 to 10% a year. “China has an unmet demand.”

SOD Eradication to “Contain”: A multi-year state program in Curry County to eradicate the forest disease Sudden Oak Death (SOD), this year will be downgraded to a “control program.” With insufficient state funding from the Oregon Legislature, OR Depts. of Forestry and Ag have given-up trying to eradicate the disease killing tanoak trees, and instead focus on containment. The infected area has spread to 170 square miles, and the disease potentially could infect 100 different plant species—endangering Oregon’s nursery & Christmas tree industries, and possible future timber trade impacts. People who live, work or travel in quarantined areas cannot remove host plants from the forest. Recreationists should comply with trail or area closures.

SE Tornadoes Damage Forests: The April tornado disaster knocked over tens of thousands of acres of timber in Alabama alone, according to Alabama’s State Forester. Most of the tornado salvage will become pulpwood. Much of the timber value is lost due to breakage and rapid decay/staining in the South’s humid heat. After Hurricane Ivan, just 41% of the damaged timber was harvested, but estimated at only 24% of its expected value. And hurricanes fall timber in a parallel pattern where recovery would be better, while tornado blowdown is jackstrawed and shattered from the twisting.

Truckers Rising Costs, Flat Rates: On trips through his District, Oregon Congressman Greg Walden hears tough stories from truckers. One trucking company was forced to close because flat rates unable to pay the costs for fuel, taxes, labor, training, repairs, complex new rules, and mounting state & federal regulations. Truckers say their challenges are greater than ever before, facing endless government regulations. Differing equipment, emissions, weight regulations vary by state—making interstate and export work prohibitive. Walden promised to fight for more practical trucking laws.

USFS Planning Rule Pivotal: At the end of a 90-day public comment period on the proposed new National Forest Planning Rule, on May 16th the forest industry and environmental groups both criticized the proposal for very different reasons. A broad coalition of forest users, local government and industry—including AOL—asked the Forest Service to rewrite the faulty proposal to restore true multiple use management of national forests. The draft Rule would shape local forest plans for 193 million acres across 155 national forests nationwide (13 forests and 14.3 million acres in Oregon).

Counties Meet with President: Tillamook County Commissioner Tim Josi represented Oregon in a select group of 65 commissioners nationwide to meet with President Barack Obama. The delegation from the National Association of Counties traveled to Washington, DC on May 3. Josi regretted that the agenda lacked economic issues, instead covering only social platitudes, such as sustainable communities, poverty, health care and unfunded mandates. There was no talk of the urgent need to increase federal timber harvest revenue, or the Rural Schools safety net funding—which ends in Oct.

Clatsop Commission Hears Forest Plan: In May, the Clatsop County Commissioners heard public testimony from 50 citizens about the proposed Clatsop State Forest 10-year Plan. A majority of the left-leaning Commission ignored testimony from an outpouring of timber supporters—instead voting to send a letter to the Oregon Board of Forestry emphasizing wildlife ahead of timber. Regardless, the proposed Astoria District 10-year plan calls for increasing annual harvest from 67 million bdft to 73 million. AOL testified to encourage a harvest increase, approaching 90% of the estimated 140 million bdft of annual growth.

BLM Forestry “Pilot Projects”: In December 2010, USDI Interior Secretary Ken Salazar set in motion a plan for three pilot projects, which would demonstrate “ecological restoration”— as suggested by Drs. Norm Johnson and Jerry Franklin. The projects are located on Western Oregon BLM forestland in the Roseburg, Medford, and Coos Bay Districts. Weekly Forest Pilot Project updates are available online at:

Jeld-Wen Sells Share: Canadian-based Onex Corp. will purchase 39% of Jeld-Wen, Oregon’s largest private company, for $675 million. Klamath Falls-based Jeld-Wen is the world’s largest maker of residential wood windows & doors. Onex will receive two seats on the Jeld-Wen board. The collapse of the housing market badly wounded Jeld-Wen, when annual sales dropped 26% from 2007-’09. Jeld-Wen employs about 2,500 in Oregon.

Canadians Win What Business Seeks in US Congress: Canada’s business-friendly Conservative Party stormed to a decisive victory in their May 2nd federal election, winning 54% of Parliament and securing a four-year term in power, after vowing to focus on improving its economy. Of the Parliament 308 seats, Conservatives won 167, New Democrats won 102, and Liberals won just 34. The victory signaled a relief for Canadian financial markets, as Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper said, “Our plan is to create jobs and growth without raising your taxes.”

NW Pulp Mill Scrap to China: The planned demolition of Smurfit-Stone Container’s shuttered pulp mill near Missoula, MT will likely ship the scrap metal to China, Southeast Asia or Turkey. Demolishing the mill in 2011-12 will raze the pulp & papermaking plant, with the scrap metal to be railed to a West Coast export facility. Smurfit-Stone had closed the Interior West’s largest remaining pulp mill in 2010, during its Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization.

Asia Consumes West Coast Scrap: Emerging Asian economies have an expanding appetite for commodities—including Oregon’s waste as well as its timber products. West Coast export of waste materials is increasing to nations where resources are scarce, labor is cheap, and new industrial capacity hungers for raw materials. Asian markets now buy increasing volumes of scrap metal, recycled wastepaper, plastic and even compressed grass straw. In 2009, the US exported to China $2.5 billion in wastepaper and $3.5 billion in iron and steel.

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