Gov. Kitzhaber maligns loggers, Bill to bailout counties, More

by Rex Storm,
Associated Oregon Loggers,

Governor Maligns Timber Owners and Loggers: The rise in log exports to China has left coastal sawmills facing new price competition for timber. Oregon Governor Kitzhaber unfairly criticized log exports in his Nov. 3 testimony before the state Board of Forestry. “We are at risk of becoming a timber colony for Asia,” Kitzhaber said. “While (log exports are) undermining our mill infrastructure and surrounding communities…” The Governor’s deceptive remarks—repeated by the media—slanders those Oregon forest sector businesses and jobs that grow, harvest and deliver timber.

Congressmen Push for County Bailout: All six members of Oregon’s Congressional delegation announced bipartisan support for a bill to extend the county timber payments law. If the bill passes, the now-expired Secure Rural Schools Act would be extended for six years, providing declining subsidy payments to counties that lost federal timber receipts in the 1990s. Under the current federal budget deficit, renewing the Secure Act is a steep uphill revenue battle, pitted against needed federal timber receipts, run-away federal spending, and defaulting county governments across the West.

Legislature Ponders Timber Counties: An Oregon Legislative task force met in November to consider how damaged Oregon counties would survive if Congress in 2012 fails to renew the Secure Rural Schools Act. The federal subsidy has doled-out about $265 million annually to Oregon counties having lost federal timber receipts since 1990. The task force reports to the 2013 Legislature on ways the state and counties can address the subsidy loss. At least twelve Oregon “crisis counties” are dependent on the federal subsidy, and face imminent fiscal insolvency—a historical precedent.

Anti-Business=Higher Poverty: Oregon’s prevalent anti-business state and federal government policies translate into harsh realities for Oregonians at-large—high unemployment, poverty, and vast use of government food subsidies. Oregon has the 14th highest unemployment rate in the US, at 9.6% in Sept.; underemployment figure is near 20%. Oregon now has the nation’s highest percentage use of food stamps, according to Census data. Nearly 18% percent of residents said in a 2010 survey that they had relied on federal food stamps in the previous year.

Push for More National Forest Logging: Rural counties, having up to 75% of their land in federal ownership, are struggling to pay for county services and schools. Counties feel the US government has reneged on its century-long commitment of annual timber harvest receipts in lieu of taxes. Federal timber receipts largely evaporated in the 1990s, and the safety-net Secure Rural Schools Act has now expired. Several new legislative proposals are being drafted in US Congress, which would increase federal timber sale revenues for the counties, as a replacement for the expired Secure Act.

Governor’s Federal Forest Concern: Oregon Governor Kitzhaber met with the OR Forest Industries Council in Dec., addressing various forest business policy issues of the day. Expanding on his November Forestry Board speech, the Governor said real change is needed in Oregon’s federal forest management. Because of the imminent fiscal disaster facing federal timber counties in the state, he said Congressional inaction is not an option. He promised to support legislative proposals now being drafted in Congress, which could increase federal timber sale revenues for the counties.

Forest Owners Hopeful of Supreme Court: The US Supreme Court moved closer toward reviewing the 9th Circuit Courts’ wrong-headed reversal of the 35-year old exemption of logging roads from federal clean water permitting. In December, the Supreme Court requested input from the federal Solicitor General—representing the US Forest Service and BLM. This development is regarded by legal experts as an indication of the high court’s serious consideration to hear the case. The Supreme Court is expected to decide whether to hear the case by mid-2012.

Congress Supports Timber: The US House and Senate passed an Omnibus Appropriations package which funds the federal government through the end of Fiscal Year 2012 (Sept. 30). The bill includes several wins for the forest industry: a) stop EPA from requiring Clean Water permits for forest roads, through Sept. 2012; b) USFS timber sale target increased from 2.4 to 3.0 billion bdft/yr; c) stable funding for USFS forest products and hazardous fuels; d) streamline the broken USFS appeals process; and e) Alaska USFS to offer four, 10-year timber sales.

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.

Wallowa Mill Site Purchased: The newly-formed Wallowa County Land Acquisition LLC acquired the former Wallowa FP sawmill bare land from D.R. Johnson Co. for $600,000. The LLC will rent the property to Integrated Biomass Resources, who plans to relocate its fiber merchandising outfit from Wallowa. Integrated will build facilities to process posts, poles, chips, fuel, firewood, logs and co-gen. The LLC borrowed $500,000 from the county, plus $100,000 from OR Business Development Dept. Furthermore, Integrated received a $500,000 US Dept. of Energy grant.

Furtwangler on OFRI Board: David Furtwangler, president of Cascade Timber Co. in Sweet Home, joins 13-member board of directors of the Oregon Forest Resources Institute. Furtwangler replaces retiring two-term board member Jake Gibbs of Roseburg’s Lone Rock Timber. Wade Mosby of The Collins Companies and Steven Zika of Hampton Affiliates, both from Portland, were reappointed to their second three-year terms. OFRI is the important state agency charged with public education about forestry and the forest sector, which is wholly funded by the timber harvest tax.

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.

Tree Farmer of the Year: Jim & Phyllis Dahm of Klamath Falls were named Oregon’s 2011 ‘Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year,’ by the Oregon Tree Farm System (OTFS). The Dahms own and manage 1,900 acres of forest in Klamath and Lake Counties, and were honored for their effective management to accomplish goals for an array of timber, wildlife habitat, water quality, and local school & civic tours. OTFS is a chapter of the American Tree Farm System, a nation-leading forest certification, with over 90,000 acres certified in Oregon.

Nicholson Manufactures Madill: In April, the Victoria, BC-based Nicholson Manufacturing began building Madill log loaders, after acquiring the Madill brand earlier in the year. Nicholson, founded in 1948, aims to produce four Madill loaders, bunchers or yarders monthly, while keeping its de-barker machinery production. Founded by Sam Madill, the 100-year old Madill was a leading equipment producer, until its 2008 bankruptcy. Modern Machinery bought the assets to run a Madill parts business, before Nicholson bought and moved production to a seven-acre plant in N. Saanich.

Harvest at Rediscovery Forest: The “Rediscovery Forest,” offered in partnership with the Oregon Forest Resources Institute, is a dynamic demonstration forest, located in the regional tourist destination Oregon Garden in Silverton, OR. To promote growth and long-term health of the 40-year old forest, a commercial thinning operation was recently conducted. Logging contractor, Ziglinski Cutting, used a cut-to-length system to fell, delimb, buck and forward the logs. Watch the YouTube video at:

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 in 2011. 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 USFS could increase merchantable timber sale volume to harvest annual tree growth & mortality, then the agency might honestly be “green.”

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