Forest Policy Briefs
by Rex Storm, Forest Policy Manager
Associated Oregon Loggers
Sen. Wyden Wants Entitlement, Not Timber Income: Oregon’s US Senator Ron Wyden announced that two bills—intended to reconnect county receipts to increased federal timber sale revenues—lack his support and would be “a nonstarter” in the Senate. Sen. Wyden instead urged passage of a one-year extension of the Secure Rural Schools Act. The “Secure Act” simply continues the taxpayer-funded subsidy payments to timber counties—entitlement payments made since the 1990s when counties lost federal timber sale receipts.
Lawsuit Challenges EPA Water Delegation to States: An unfavorable decision in February, Northwest Environmental Advocates vs. EPA, by Judge Acosta ruled that the nonpoint best management practices for farming and forestry are so intertwined with water quality standards that they must be reviewed and approved by EPA. Northwest Pulp & Paper Assoc. and the State of Oregon were intervenors. EPA argued they had no authority to regulate nonpoint source pollution. Appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court is being considered to reverse this decision.
RFP Buys Blue Sky Power: Roseburg Forest Products will up its investment in renewable energy by purchasing 358,000 kwh/month to power its mills through Pacific Power’s Blue Sky Renewable Energy Program. Blue Sky power is generated elsewhere from wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal. RFP already generates renewable power at its Dillard biomass cogen plant. Founded in 1936, the company employs 3,000 in six states, owns 600,000 acres of timberland, and operates numerous plants producing plywood, panels, melamine, engineered wood, lumber, wood chips and hog fuel.
Final Planning Rule Issued: On March 23rd, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack announced the US Dept. of Agriculture’s final Forest Service Planning Rule—intended to dictate future forest planning for 193 million-acres of national forests. The FS considered more than a quarter million public comments before adopting its final Rule. Although the Forest Service naively claims that the final rule strengthens public involvement, species protection and best science—environmental litigants have proven in the past that these attributes are fodder for using courts and appeals to sink any good forest plan or timber sale decision. The faulty final Rule, fraught with litigation lightning rods, and lacking its claimed “broad support”, is sure to be enjoined by user group lawsuits in the coming months.
Lumber ‘Check-Off’ Launches Website: The Binational Softwood Lumber Council announced its new website offering information about activities of the North American lumber public marketing campaign, funded by assessments on all lumber producers in the US and Canada. The “check off” program is designed to increase international and domestic demand for softwood lumber. For more information about the lumber check-off program online: www.softwoodlumber.org/check-off/lumber-check-off.html
Wildfire Season Ignites in CO: In late March, a 4,140-acre forest fire created panic among residents of Conifer, CO, as it destroyed 27 homes and killed 3 residents in the rural forested foothills 25 miles southwest of Denver. The fire, ignited when windblown embers from a controlled burn conducted by the Colorado State Forest Service spread into dying forests during the region’s normally-dry spring fire season. About 400 firefighters and air tankers extinguished the fire, so the nearly 1,000 evacuated residents could return home to their now-blackened forest.
State Delays Pesticide Study: Oregon Health Authority officials have postponed its investigation into aerial forest herbicide spray affect on human health in western Lane County, near Triangle Lake. The study was initiated at the behest of local environmentalists—the so-called ‘Pitchfork Rebellion’. The OR Pesticide Analytical & Response Center Board postponed this spring’s planned aerial spray drift study because nearby forest landowners would not be spraying. Preliminary findings in 2011 found no evidence of herbicides at harmful levels in either food or water samples taken in the area.
Forester Says Industry Important: On March 30th, US Forest Service Regional Forester Kent Connaughton sent a letter to Forest Supervisors in OR and WA. Connaughton underscored the importance of the region’s timber milling, logging and transportation infrastructure—by assuring that USFS timber contracts were economically viable. The letter suggested specific actions to be considered in project design and implementation. Although much appreciated, the letter failed to reinforce how slightly more volume per acre and larger trees would improve economic performance.
Snow Basin Project Approved: The Wallowa-Whitman National Forest approved the Snow Basin project, to harvest 48 million bdft of timber in several timber sales over three years. The Forest Service goal for 28,500 acres in eastern Baker County is to create historic conditions of open, park-like stands dominated by single-storied forests of large trees and patches of mixed conifers. The project includes: 8,256 acres of skidding, 2,284 acres of cable yarding, 955 acres of cut-to-length, 35 miles of road reconstruction, 5.3 miles of new temporary road, and cutting some trees over 21” dbh.
Kintigh a Tall Tree Remembered: Bob Kintigh, Oregon’s only forester and small woodland owner to serve in the State Senate, passed away at age 90 on March 21st. In 1957, Kintigh and wife Margaret bought 160 acres of hills & fields east of Springfield, and over the years grew a thriving forest, nursery and consulting business, Kintigh’s Mountain Home Ranch. The three-term senator left the Legislature in 1999, and was the nation’s only tree farmer ever honored as both National Grand Champion Christmas Tree Grower and National Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year.
Wallowa-Whitman Road Conflict: Forest users and local county governments alike are bristling over the final Wallowa-Whitman National Forest Travel Management Plan, released in March. Under pressure of unanimous opposition from the local community, in April Forest Supervisor Monica Schwalback rescinded her decision to implement the Plan on June 1st. Forest recreation users would face legal closure of over half the forest’s current road and trail system. Cross-county travel would also be banned forestwide, under a complex prohibition of vehicle types, seasons and schemes.
Plant & Animal Guide: A new 119-page publication, A Guide to Priority Plant & Animal Species in Oregon’s Forests, is available from Oregon Forest Resources Institute. The guidebook helps forest landowners and managers identify and protect priority plant and animal species. The guide lists species with special threatened, endangered, and conservation status. OFRI was created by the Oregon Legislature to provide public forest education; and is paid by a portion of the timber harvest tax. The guide can be downloaded or ordered at the OFRI website: oregonforests.org
Guestworker Bill in Congress: A bill to tighten rules for the federal H-2B guestworker program probably won’t go far this year, a Washington, DC, labor attorney says. The American Jobs in American Forests Act, HR.4159 would require forestry, landscaping, amusement and hospitality companies to aggressively advertise for local US workers—before hiring foreign workers under the H-2B visa program. The H-2B is limited to 66,000 non-agricultural workers nationwide. Forestry employers have difficulty filling jobs that are short-term, manual-labor, with difficult conditions.
Presidential Meddling in Business: The latest Obama administration interference with American business has been through federal agency regulation. A proposed US Dept. of Labor scheme proposes a new regulation requiring most federal contractors to employ at least 7% of their work force as disabled persons. Illustrating the proposal’s irrationality, federal law prohibits employers from asking job applicants if they’re disabled. The change would impact roughly 200,000 federal contractors. Business groups and Congress are working to torpedo this boondoggle.
Pilot Timber Sale: The Wagon Road Pilot Timber Sale sold in late March, to offer 6.1 million bdft of timber from the Coos Bay District, Bureau of Land Management. The Coos Bay Wagon Road “pilot” sale is a cooperative effort between the BLM and Coquille Tribe to offer a timber sale that demonstrates ecological restoration principles. The sale was originally offered in February, but received no bids. The reoffered sale sold to Scott Timber for $561,990., or $165,000 under the original advertised rate.
BLM Plans More “Pilot” Timber Sales: On Feb. 21st, USDI Secretary Ken Salazar visited the Bureau of Land Management Pilot Joe timber sale south of Ashland, and announced that the BLM would add more future such “ecological timber projects.” Salazar said he wants the BLM in Western Oregon to develop five new ecological timber sales by the end of 2012. Currently, three such BLM pilot timber sales are underway, to demonstrate small-scale regeneration harvest units designed by ecologists Norm Johnson (OR State Univ.) and Jerry Franklin (Univ. of WA).
Forest Service Acquires Land: USDA Secretary Vilsack announced that the US Forest Service spent $40.6 million in FY2012 for 27 land acquisition projects in 15 states, including OR, ID, WA, AK, and CA. The land acquisition funds were authorized in annual congressional appropriations. Contrasting this illogical expansion of federal land ownership in the West, during the same year significant cuts were made to the Forest Service asset and road maintenance budgets. While the land and facilities fall further into disrepair, the agency is wrongly buying more land.
Siuslaw Forest Headquarters: The Siuslaw National Forest in March moved into a new headquarters just built on Oregon St. University’s campus in Corvallis, located next to the Peavy-Richardson forestry complex. The new building owned by the federal government is co-located with the Forest Service Pacific NW Research Forest Sciences Lab. The Siuslaw is the only Forest Service HQ located on the campus of a major research university. Its former office was a leased building just west of Corvallis.
Rogue-Siskiyou Supervisor: In May, Rob MacWhorter becomes forest supervisor of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, located in Medford and Grants Pass. MacWhorter previously was supervisor of the Dixie National Forest in Utah, and various positions in Washington, DC and the Ochoco, Fremont, Deschutes, Eldorado, and Mt. Hood national forests. He has a forestry degree from West Virginia University. MacWhorter replaces Scott Conroy, who retired at the end of last year.
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