Gov. Kitzhaber’s mixed messages on our forests

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

Governor’s Mixed Message: Something of a rare event, Gov. John Kitzhaber addressed Oregon’s Board of Forestry at its November meeting, delivering a rambling speech of conflicting platitudes. On one hand, the Gov. suggested re-examining state forest harvest to improve economic input to communities; and a new approach to federal forest management involving “a need to increase management activity.” Alternatively, the Gov. criticized private forest policies that allow log exports, saying that it’s wrong to “export our natural capital and jobs.” The Governor fails to understand that without exports Oregon’s forest sector simply would have fewer markets and jobs from our growing timber. Repeating a list of worn-out, politically-correct slogans, the Gov. emphasized resolution of public forest problems by increased “collaboration…landscape-wide sustainable forestry…and conservation areas.” The Board thanked the Gov. for his concern.

Fires Above Average: Although the Northwest had a mild 2011 fire season, forest & rangeland wildfires burned near record acreages in the Southwest and Southern US. Through Nov. 14th, 64,943 fires had burned 8.21 million acres nationwide. The 10-year average is 70,000 fires over 6.87 million acres—indicating much larger fires this year. The US Forest Service reported in August that a research study concluded, again, that thinned forests harvested to leave 50-100 trees/acre are effective at reducing future crown fires and timber losses to wildfires in Western forests.

Foresters Ask LEED Rating for Wood: The Society of American Foresters submitted written input to the US Green Building Council, Leadership in Energy & Environment (LEED), requesting that its 2012 Green Building Rating for Home Construction give greater preference for forest products. SAF urged the Council to recognize SFI forest certification, and urged favorable scores for wood products. North American wood currently receives poor scores, and SFI certified products are not recognized in LEED green building ratings.

Timber Mill Temporary Closures: During 2011’s 4th quarter, dozens of sawmill and plywood mill curtailments plagued Oregon’s forest sector. Companies attributed the one to two-week shutdowns to severely-depressed forest product prices under weak demand, as well as high timber costs in short supply. Swanson Group President, Steve Swanson said, “We are impacted most severely by the inability of our area’s largest landowner, the federal government, to provide a meaningful supply of timber…we are forced to rely almost exclusively on private timber supply…”

Road Water Appeal Gains Industry Support: The National Alliance of Forest Owners, and 11 associations nationwide, submitted an amicus brief to petition the US Supreme Court to overturn the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling about forest road water runoff. That ruling wrongly asserts that forest road runoff is a “point source” of water pollution needing a federal permit under the Clean Water Act. AOL is engaged in the appeal—as a member of American Forest Resources Council. Altogether, the associations join a coalition including 26 state attorneys general in the briefs.

Road Water Bill Appeal Gains Industry Support: As of Oct. 26, the ‘Silviculture Regulatory Consistency Act,’ a bill which would give a legislative remedy to the heinous 9th Circuit ruling about forest road water runoff, had attracted bipartisan support from dozens of congressmen in the House (HR 2541), and Senate (S 1369).

Western Governor’s Forest Restoration: The Western Governors Association sent their recently-adopted resolution on “Large-Scale Forest Restoration,” to key congressional committees in November. The Governor’s letter stresses the need for more active management on federal forests, as well as promoting larger-scale restoration projects. The resolution says that “critical wood processing (and logging) infrastructure…is necessary for the many needed forest health restoration treatments to be economically viable.”

Leaning Toward Republican President: Registered voters in key states are now evenly-divided in the 2012 general election race between President Obama and a Republican candidate. Based on an October Gallup poll from the 12 “swing states” most crucial to win the presidential election, Mitt Romney (47%) leads Republican candidates against Pres. Obama (47%). Concerning the federal deficit & economy, swing state voters prefer any Republican over Pres. Obama, by a margin of 54% to 38%. The 12 swing states are: CO, FL, IA, MI, NV, NH, NM, NC, OH, PA, VA, and WI.

National Forest Plan Rule Meeting: Representatives of the Federal Forest Resource Coalition (FFRC) met with US Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell to suggest changes to the proposed national forest planning rule. The rule’s species viability provisions are completely unworkable, and if implemented as proposed, would open the USFS to more litigation. The forest industry has closely monitored planning rule development, scheduled for final release after the New Year. AOL participates in FFRC through its membership in Portland-based American Forest Resources Council.

New Wilderness Proposed: Interior Secretary Salazar’s announced a proposal for 18 new Wilderness declarations in nine Western states, including enlarging Oregon’s Wild Rogue Wilderness. Congress would have to pass the declarations into law. The proposal is the latest green plank of the Obama administration’s ‘America’s Great Outdoor Initiative.’ Earlier in Nov., the Interior Dept. identified 101 “high-priority conservation projects.” BLM director Bob Abbey also announced that additional BLM Wilderness proposals were pending.

Lawsuit Challenges Thinning: The Forest Service and BLM have been sued by the environmental group ‘Bark,’ which claims Endangered Species Act violations by thinning timber sales on the Mt. Hood & Willamette Nat. Forests, and Eugene & Salem BLM Districts. The plaintiffs and a National Marine Fisheries Service biologist want wider no-harvest buffers along riparian areas, as well as improved NMFS consultation. As no injunction has yet been filed, timber purchasers are proceeding to operate the 11 affected timber sales, covering 12,500 acres.

Malheur Forest Proposal to Get Funds: A proposal, backed by the Blue Mountain Forest Partners and the Harney County Collaborative, was ranked second among the 26 proposals considered by the USFS Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program. If funded by Congress, the Malheur National Forest would receive an additional $2.5 million annually for a decade, to accomplish “restoration” thinning and fuels reduction on a landscape scale. However, Congress has not yet appropriated the $40 million necessary to fund the nationwide collaborative program.

Deschutes Forest New Office: The Deschutes National Forest supervisor’s office and Bend-Fort Rock District moved into a newly-built Bend office. The $8.5 million palace—mostly paid by the 2009 ARRA federal stimulus law—is the first owned by the Deschutes, as prior offices were leased. The Forest Service touts the “green” facility for its wood pellet heat, electric car chargers, and other features. If only the FS could increase merchantable timber sale volume to harvest annual tree growth & mortality, then it might honestly be “green.”

Umpqua New Forest Supervisor: US Forest Service has assigned a new supervisor Alice Carlton, to head the Umpqua National Forest, based in Roseburg. Carlton in August replaced Cliff Dils, who promoted to SW Region Resources Director in New Mexico. Carlton was previously supervisor of the Plumas Nat. Forest in California, and has worked for the Forest Service for 33 years in CA, UT and OR. An Oregon St. U. graduate, Carlton began her career on the Siuslaw Nat. Forest.
Dec-Rex-PolicyBriefs

January Special Election—Congressional Seat: Republican Rob Cornilles and Democrat Suzanne Bonamici won their special primary elections in Oregon’s 1st Congressional District. They will face off in a Jan. 31st Special Election to fill the seat vacated by Democrat David Wu, who resigned in disgrace last summer. The District spans from Beaverton to Oregon’s North Coast. Cornilles, a successful Tualatin businessman won 73% of the vote. Lawyer, turned State Senator Bonamici, won two-thirds of the vote over State Representative Brad Witt and State Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian. Learn more about the business-solid Cornilles at: www.CornillesForCongress.com