Update on Current Policy News Affecting Forest Business & Timber Supply
by Rex Storm, Forest Policy Manager
Associated Oregon Loggers.
Congress Attempts to Defund USFS Planning: When the US House Interior Appropriations Committee passed its FY2013 budget for the US Forest Service in June, it eliminated all funding for national forest planning and implementing its horrible new Planning Rule. The Committee said the Forest Service blatantly ignored Congressional direction stated in the National Forest Management Act, and the agency ignored local government & stakeholder input during rulemaking. The new Rule places unworkable requirements on future forest plans, and would increase litigation. Stay tuned.
Budget Committee Demands USFS Timber Sale: The US House Interior Appropriations Committee, in its FY2013 US Forest Service budget, increased Forest Product funding by 2% over 2012, to $342.2 million. The Committee expects the Forest Service to increase vegetation and timber management to sell not less than three billion bdft of timber in fiscal 2013, with the expectation of increasing this target in future fiscal years. The budget language specifies that the USFS plan larger projects, reduce unit costs, and increase future timber sale targets further.
Extend Federal Payments to Counties: In early July, a divided Congress passed a simple one-year extension of federal payments to timber counties dominated by federal forestlands. Attached to a national transportation bill, Congress authorized $346 million paid to 700 federal timber counties in 41 states during fiscal 2012. Oregon counties will receive $100 million, a 31% reduction from 2010 payments. This temporary reauthorization expires at the end of 2012, and counties will face the same crisis in January. Again, Congress has regrettably kicked-the-can down the road another year, rather than take needed action to reconnect country payments to higher federal forest timber sale revenues.
National Forest Health Catastrophic: The Forest Service currently removes less than 10% of annual net growth on national forests. This lack of harvest, combined with conflicting policies has resulted in unhealthy forests susceptible to catastrophic loss to pest, disease, fire and storm. To improve unhealthy national forests, forest product mill and logging infrastructure must be reinforced. Without this forestry infrastructure, no amount of appropriated taxpayer dollars would be sufficient to pay the high future cost of fixing unhealthy national forests and fighting catastrophic damages.
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.
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