Forest Policy Briefs
Update on Current Policy News Affecting Forest Business & Timber Supply
By Rex Storm
Governors Want National Forest Reform: Pointing to ‘significant dissatisfaction’ with national forest management, the Western Governors’ Association on June 28th approved a resolution that proposes a US Forest Service overhaul. The resolution resulted from efforts by WGA Chairman, Montana Governor Steve Bullock. Key resolution statements are: “Western Governors… believe it is reasonable to expect that some portion of the federal (national forest) landscape will be focused on long-term, ecologically-sound forest management — where jobs, forest products, and revenues are priorities and generated through sound stewardship… There is significant dissatisfaction in the West among many stakeholders… that the current level of forest management is not meeting anyone’s needs, whether it’s putting logs on trucks… or other important community needs. Successful forest management reform will achieve a balance among all of these important objectives, and provide the opportunity for certainty such that diverse interests will be encouraged to work together to achieve shared outcomes.”
Blue Mountain Forest Plan Delayed Again: Northeast Oregon’s forest sector and local communities will have to wait another six months for the now 15-year long US Forest Service planning effort to complete a statutorily-required forest plan for the Blue Mountains—Malheur, Umatilla, and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests. Continuing its history of routine 6 to 12 month plan release delays, the Forest Service’s final plan date was postponed from June to Dec. 2017. The final new forest plan would mandate forest & rangeland management over the next 20 years for 5.5 million acres of NE OR national forests. The latest unexpected delay is due to the chronically-broken federal bureaucracy of endangered species consultation, among the FS and federal regulators at NOAA Fisheries Service and the US Fish & Wildlife Service. During the plan’s most recent 2014 public comment period, AOL and forest user interests unanimously criticized the overly-restrictive and nonsensical plan proposals.
Forest Burning Program Under Review: The first of five monthly meetings was held in May, of a 20-person advisory committee commissioned to review Oregon’s forest prescribed burning program. Administered by the Oregon Dept. of Forestry, the ‘Smoke Management Plan’ permits controlled burns utilized by forest landowners and contractors to reduce woody slash in a way that minimizes smoke impacts on communities and public health. Burning is an important forest management tool necessary to improve reforestation, help reduce near-term fire hazards, and prevent future wildfire costs. The committee is comprised of representatives from AOL, forest landowners, associations, public health, collaboratives, environmental, tribes, elected officials, state & federal agencies. In late 2017, the committee will report its ‘Smoke Management Plan’ improvement recommendations to the Oregon Board of Forestry and Environmental Quality Commission. The Plan is administered by OR Dept. of Forestry and approved by the BOF and EQC, as agents implementing the federal Clean Air Act. Controlled burns are authorized by ODF to protect air quality at times when weather conditions disperse smoke away from communities.
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