Federal wildfire hypocrisy & exploding trees

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

When Wilderness Isn’t Wilderness: When the US Forest Service wants to act fast to protect natural resources, it can. But, when it needs to act fast to prevent catastrophic timber loss to pests or fire, it predictably fails to act. June’s double standard example is within the still-burning 297,000 acre Whitewater-Baldy Fire in New Mexico’s Gila Wilderness, Gila National Forest. As the fire burned, biologists used electro-shockers to capture rare Gila trout from streams, then the trout were netted and lifted-out of the Wilderness via helicopter. No Environmental Impact Statement; no appeal period; and no public input for mechanized machinery or fish-snatching in a designated Wilderness. Go figure.

Exploding trees — Forest Service Believe It or Not: US Forest Service workers in Montana’s Helena National Forest are using high explosives to fall beetle-killed pine trees that pose danger to scenic highways and recreation sites. An engineering program leader at the USFS Missoula Technology Development Center said the danger of cutting down rotted trees in tough locations is a reason to use explosives. “We just don’t have a whole lot of really good sawyers. The days of going out and doing that activity are long gone in the Forest Service.” Sometimes, fact is stranger than fiction.

Lawsuit Challenges State Forest Harvest: Three environmental groups filed a federal lawsuit against Oregon Governor Kitzhaber, the State Land Board, and a litany of other Oregon Dept. of Forestry (ODF) and Forestry Board officials. The suit claims that the marbled murrelet seabird is being harmed by coastal timber sales in the Elliott, Tillamook, and Clatsop state forests. Plaintiffs are requesting an injunction to halt state forest logging and planned sales, until ODF gets a federal Endangered Species Act “incidental take” permit from the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

Governor Hires Forest Adviser: Tom Tuchman has been appointed to be Forestry & Conservation Finance Advisor, serving on Oregon Governor Kitzhaber’s staff. Tuchman will focus on solutions to manage Oregon’s BLM forests (O&C), work with Dept. of Forestry on other federal forest issues, and to develop “conservation finance opportunities to conserve private working forests.” He previously was president of the consulting firm US Forest Capital, and also director of the federal team that developed President Clinton’s 1994 Northwest Forest Plan.

USFS Awards 10-Year Contract to AZ Mill: Montana-based Pioneer Associates will pay the US Forest Service $6.6 million to operate a 10-year stewardship contract that thins 30,000 acres a year of Coconino, Kaibab, Apache-Sitgreaves, and Tonto national forests in Arizona. The long-term contract assures Pioneer the timber supply needed to build a new small-log ponderosa pine mill, starting production in Winslow by the fall of 2013. The new sawmill/laminated plant will saw & join cutstock—used in doors, windows, and furniture. The Pioneer contract is part of a 20-year plan to restore 2.4 million acres. The project is expected to employ 600 people from stump to mill.

Truck Rates Expected to Rise: Upward pressure on US trucking rates is expected to continue into through 2012 and ’13, as available capacity tightens nationwide, according to FTR Associates (reported by the Journal of Commerce). The FTR Associates research firm forecasts rates to be pushed higher, as demand for trucks increases in the future—due to tight current capacity, the effect of new regulations and taxes, rising labor costs, and escalating truck operating costs.

USFS Collaborative Groups in NE Oregon: Each of the three national forests in Northeast Oregon now has a collaborative group regularly meeting to guide US Forest Service managers in a portion of its timber sale planning. While the Malheur NF group has been meeting for over a year, the Umatilla and Wallowa-Whitman groups began meeting this spring. Representatives from forest industry, local government, citizens, and environmentalists seek agreement and make recommendations about proposed timber projects. AOL participates with the Umatilla and Wallowa-Whitman collaboratives.

USFS Planning Advisory Committee Appointed: USDA Secretary Vilsack in June named 21 members of the US Forest Service ‘Forest Planning Advisory Committee,’ which will provide recommendations to Forest Service Chief Tidwell about implementing the new National Forest Planning Rule, and future forest plan revisions nationwide. Oregon forest interests will be well-represented by Tom Troxel, with the Intermountain Forest Association, and member of the Federal Forest Resource Council—in which AOL is a member.

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.

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.

Rogue-Siskiyou Supervisor: Rob MacWhorter in May became forest supervisor of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, located in Medford and Grants Pass. MacWhorter previously was supervisor of the Dixie Nat. Forest in UT, 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 Univ. MacWhorter replaces Scott Conroy, who retired at the end of last year.

Umatilla HQ Moves: The Umatilla National Forest headquarters in May moved to a smaller new office building, located north of I-84, exit 216, near Wildhorse Casino. This is directly across from Arrowhead Truck Plaza. The new address is: Umatilla National Forest; 72510 Coyote Road; Pendleton, OR 97801.

Siuslaw Headquarters: The Siuslaw National Forest in March moved into a new headquarters just built on the Oregon St. University campus in Corvallis, located next to the Peavy-Richardson forestry complex. The new building is co-located with the Forest Service PNW Research Forest Sciences Lab. The Siuslaw is the only Forest Service HQ located on a research university campus.

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.

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

Retardant Plane Lost: A large air tanker Forest Service contract crashed near the Utah-Nevada border, killing its two-man crew and leaving the Forest Service with just 9 heavy air tankers under contract this season. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) helped pass a bill that waives a 30-day notification requirement for large government contracts, allowing the Forest Service to secure more large air tankers on an expedited basis.

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