Red Zone forest threat, Biomass bust, Bark beetle troubles

by Rex Storm,
Associated Oregon Loggers

“Red Zone:” Symptom of Broken Federal Forest Policy: The Oregon Board of Forestry toured a vast area of dead trees in the Fremont-Winema Nat. Forest on Sept. 8th. The tour was a platform for AOL and other industry groups to ask the Board and Governor John Kitzhaber to intervene with federal agencies concerning national forest mismanagement in Eastern Oregon. The now-gray “Red Zone,” an expansive 300,000-acre pest-killed federal forest in Klamath and Lake Counties, threatens private forests, and it is a certain wildfire hazard.
Private forestland owners have twin worries: federally-born bark beetles are damaging their timber; and a monstrous federal forest fire will likely spread onto private forestlands. The Forest Service should have begun harvesting on a massive scale years ago—10,000 to 40,000 acres a year—to restore forest health and reduce potential wildfire losses. The industry sees the Red Zone as an indictment of a federal forest policy that’s hobbled by legal gridlock. The Red Zone could have been harvested and reforested; but only fire-breaks are now being logged. The Red Zone debacle is a symptom of a larger disease, and that disease is broken federal forest policy.

Biomass Plant Bust: Citing industrial zoning and pollution concerns, the Vancouver, WA city council voted for a six-month moratorium on a proposal by Clark County and Schneider Electric to build a biomass power plant in Vancouver, WA. The County had hoped to build the plant near downtown Vancouver, which would have supplied both heat and power to the city center. The renewable advantages of biomass power were lost on the urban policymakers, as they affirmed their ‘not-in-my-backyard’ idealism.

Beware of “One-Pot Meth Labs”: In rural areas around the US, illegal and dangerous “one-pot” methamphetamine cookers have been found. Liter cola bottles and water bottles are filled with toxic chemicals and used in a process known as “shake & bake,” a method of making meth in a single container. The bottle may have a hose from the top and contain a white powder or an ammonia scent. If a possible toxic meth bottle—or any suspicious chemical item—is found in the forest, do not touch or attempt to transport these dangerous items. Call law enforcement or 911.

Walden Seeks Federal Timber Solution: In an October speech at the Oregon Forest Industries Council annual meeting, Rep. Walden (R-OR) said Congress is obligated to deliver a law that would create jobs from Oregon federal forests—through more timber harvest. As a long-term solution for the now-expired “Secure Rural Schools” county payments, Rep. Walden helped sponsor a bill that would increase federal forest management. Until such a bill passes Walden supports a proposal to temporarily extend the current county payments for just five years.

USDA Bioenergy Research in NW: The US Dept. of Agriculture awarded $80 million to Washington St. Univ. and U. of Washington—to research conversion of forest biomass into biofuels and renewable energy markets. The UW leads research on converting hybrid poplar to aviation, diesel and gasoline fuels, while WSU leads research on making fuel from logging slash. Project partners involve businesses and universities, including Oregon St. U., which received $5 million to assist with forest biomass logistics research.

Coos Railroad Opens: In October, the Port of Coos Bay reopened the coastal railroad that it purchased after Central OR & Pacific Railroad abandoned the line four years ago. This initial slow-speed opening involves just the repaired 110-mile section from Eugene to Coos Bay’s North Spit, as bay bridge repairs are incomplete. Sometime next year, the Coquille line should open, and more upgrades are planned as the economy improves. Rail freight shippers could include Roseburg Forest Prod., Southport FP, Georgia-Pacific, NW Hardwoods, American Bridge, and Oregon Resources Corp. mine.

Lakeview Biomass Cogen Tabled: Portland-based Iberdrola Renewables announced that its Lakeview 26-megawatt biomass cogen power plant construction is put on hold indefinitely, due to lack of a profitable power purchase agreement. Iberdrola had gotten permits, secured federal grant funds, arranged a hogg fuel supply, and began site preparation—but then decided to stop plant construction. The $100 million project, located next to Collins Pine’s Fremont sawmill, has been halted until electricity prices improve and California’s new renewable portfolio standards are fixed.

Board Approves Elliott Plan: Amid a protest, the Oregon State Land Board unanimously approved a new forest plan for the 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest, located near Reedsport. Board of Forestry approval is expected in Nov. The Plan increases Elliott logging from 27 now, to 40 million bdft/year, effective in 2012. The Elliott grows over 75 million bdft annually. Although the new Plan sets-aside 28,000 acres for species habitat, the environmental industry threatens to litigate. The new plan will produce annual net revenue of up to $13 million for the Common School Fund, a $5 million boost.

Dollar Lake Fire Concerns: A wildfire on the Mt. Hood Nat. Forest burned 6,200 acres and cost taxpayers $9 million in firefighting. Local residents affirm that inadequate initial attack in the first week allowed the fire to needlessly explode into a catastrophic incident. The costs go far beyond firefighting—smoke pollution & human health problems, business loss, timber and habitat loss, threats to a BPA powerline and the city of Portland Bull Run water supply. Rep. Walden (R-OR) and Sen. Wyden (D-OR) sent explanation inquiries to the Mt. Hood National Forest supervisor.

Congress to Reign-In EPA Proposals: The US House of Representatives is debating several bills that would put a halt to the avalanche of newly-proposed federal Environmental Protection Agency regulations, which would threaten jobs and increase costs for Oregon business. Under the Obama Administration, federal agencies have proposed 4,257 new regulations. Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) supports several bills that would prevent the EPA from its attempts to: regulate farm & forest dust, escalate water standards, and create unachievable emissions rules.

Wisconsin Storm Cleanup: This summer across a 130,000-acre swath of NW Wisconsin, a 100 mph wind storm blew-down an estimated $160 million worth of timber—comparable to the statewide 2 million cord annual harvest volume. Some say salvage logging and reforestation could take two years to address the region’s worst forest devastation in 50 years. The Wisconsin DNR estimates 65% of the area is private forest, and a similar acreage was impacted in MN.

Obama Approval Hits New Low: Showing that American’s are becoming disillusioned with the President’s broken election promise of “hope & change”, Barack Obama’s job approval rating slipped to just 38% the week of Aug. 22, its lowest level yet. According to the Gallup Poll weekly tracking, 54% of Americans disapproved of the job the President is doing. The President’s approval rating has hovered between 40% and 42% through September and October.

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