Photo by Ellen Miller

Sunday, March 19, 2017

State Land Board: Delaying the inevitable?

Delaying the inevitable?
The State Land Board has delayed their decision on the proposed sale of the Elliott State Forest to Lone Rock Resources and two American Indian Tribes from April to May.  The delay allows Governor Kate Brown who was outvoted when new State Treasurer Tobias Read proposed amending the pending sale agreement to buy back $25 million worth of special recreational or environmental acres. New Secretary of State Dennis Richardson joined Read in supporting the sale.

Brown is trying to use $100 million in bonds to pay the Common School Fund for the Elliot, which Oregon already owns. That is less than half of the $220.8 million Lone Rock is willing to pay. The legislature would have to approve both Brown’s $100 million and Read’s $25 million. This is problematic since there is currently a $1.6 billion hole in the budget.

The Governor has enlisted the help of the Department of Forestry, ODF, to develop an option for the state to maintain the Elliott. ODF has managed the Elliott on behalf of the SLB since the Elliott became Oregon’s first State Forest in the 1930s. Funding for ODF’s management of the Elliott runs out on June 30th of this year.

In anticipation of not having the sale finalized and needing someone to care for the Elliott, the Department of State lands has issued a Request For Proposal for an interim manager of the forest. Yet another strange twist in the Elliott saga…

If the Governor is successful in rounding up $100 million, she still needs one more vote from the three-member board. Read has been under tremendous pressure from shocked environmentalists to change his position. Old time environmental advocates have come in from the hinter lands and have been seen in the Capitol Lobbying Read.

Read has proclaimed his responsibility is to Oregon’s school children to protect the value of the Common School Fund asset. John Charles, longtime follower of the Elliott, and President and CEO of Cascade Policy Institute also calls for selling the Elliott in a recent OpEd. Charles pegged the value of the Elliott at $850 million in 1995. The current appraised value of $220.8 million reflects the restrictions the SLB has placed on the Elliott.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

New Members Overrule Governor

New Members Overrule Governor

The two new members of the State Land Board voted to move forward with the sale of the Elliott State Forest in SW Oregon. Secretary of State Dennis Richardson and State Treasurer Tobias Read Outvoted Governor Kate Brown in accepting Read’s motion to proceed forward with three amendments. Brown, clearly upset, directed the Department of State Lands to prepare an alternative to keep the Elliott in state ownership.

The SLB decision means that the $220.8 million sale to Lone Rock Timber Management Co., the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Indians and the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siskiyou Indians will proceed with the new conditions proposed by Treasurer Read.

The 84,000 acre Elliott State Forest has been the center of controversy following the adoption of a new land management plan in 2012. The SLB decided to sell the Elliott when it began costing the Common School Fund millions of dollars to maintain ownership of the forest. School interests, including school administrators and teachers. support selling the forest.

Fifty entities expressed interest in buying the Elliott. However, in 2016 Lone Rock and the two tribes were the only bidders.  Read called for using $25 million in bonding to buy back special conservation and recreation areas of the Elliott, adopting Forest Stewardship Council management prescriptions for parts of the Elliott with 250-year-old trees and allowing five Indian Tribes the first right of refusal should Lone Rock decide to sell any part of the Elliott.

What happens next is unclear. The SLB meets again in April. The legislature needs to approve the $25 million in bonding. Lone Rock needs to decide if the amendments that Read proposed are acceptable to them to move forward. Governor Brown will spend the next couple of months trying to undo the SLB action and keep the Elliott in state ownership.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Will we see BIG changes in Forestry from the Trump Administration?

Will we see BIG changes in Forestry from the Trump Administration?

The inauguration of Donald Trump as President has many questions and expectations for the forest community. Will the new Administration harken big changes for our National Forests and Bureau of Land Management lands? What about private forests? The Environmental Protection Agency has been seeking changes to Oregon’s Forest Practices Act for over a decade. The OFPA prescribes rules and regulations for state and private forests. Will the EPA back off?

The speculation may soon be coming to an end. President-Elect Trump’s team will take over on January 20th. The Departments of Agriculture, Interior, Commerce and EPA will have a more significant impact on the forestry community in Oregon than most initiatives from President Trump.

Trump’s Cabinet officials have a big role to play, however the Federal Agencies that run the country have civil servants that will continue policies of the Obama Administration. The new leaders will eventually have an impact on the agencies, but it takes time.

Federal government watchers have observed that the government is like a large ocean liner. The President and his Cabinet may turn the rudder of the ship, but it will be many nautical miles before the government heads in a new direction. The slow movement was most likely the design of the Founding Fathers to ensure that changes come about following thoughtful analysis.

However, the new Administration can have a prompt impact in a few ways that can help Oregon. Increasing the pace and scale of National Forest restoration projects and adopting a management strategy for the O & C lands that respects the timber dominate nature of the 2 million acres in Western Oregon would quickly revitalize rural communities throughout Oregon.

It would be good to get away from the rhetoric of the 2016 election and undertake a few changes to federal forest management that will pay untoward dividends,

Monday, January 9, 2017

Forest policy requires a balanced approach

Register Guard


Forest policy requires a balanced approach


As the 40-year timber veteran cited in Andy Kerr’s Jan. 3 guest viewpoint, I am cautiously optimistic the next two years will offer new opportunities to bring balance to federal forest management.
With better management and proactive policy changes, our leaders have the ability to create and support family-wage jobs, conserve natural resources, maintain access to public lands, restore forest health and protect our drinking water. We believe it’s better to actively manage our forests for the future, for multiple uses and benefits, rather than locking them up and walking away. 
Far from being “Big Timber,” Oregon logging companies are predominately small, family-owned businesses. We are trained in the latest, science-based forestry practices and continually invest in cutting-edge equipment and technology. 
In fact, a large majority of Oregon’s municipal drinking water comes from actively-managed watersheds that utilize modern timber harvest and resource-protection methods. 
As loggers we are proud of what we do, and proud to work in an industry with an average annual wage of $49,200, compared to $45,000 for all Oregon employment. We’ll continue to provide the renewable and sustainable materials that support our communities and make civilization possible.
Yet Kerr is eager to re-ignite the timber wars. After all, that is good business for the environmental conflict industry, and useful for soliciting contributions from anonymous benefactors.
But replaying the 1990s will not fix the socio-economic problems in rural Oregon. 
It will not help rural counties that are on the brink of fiscal insolvency, nor will it meet the needs of our public lands. Oregon loggers do not cut more trees than what grows naturally. We don’t even cut “old growth” on federal lands, so maybe it’s time to leave Kerr and his tired rhetoric behind.
I am cautiously optimistic because our political leaders can no longer ignore the costs of hands-off forest management. The current approach has failed our citizens, forests and wildlife. Our federally owned forests have become overgrown and vulnerable to high tree mortality, which contributes to unnaturally severe wildfire, disease and insect infestations. Last October the Oregon Forest Resources Institute reported there are more than 350 million standing dead trees across 14 million acres of federally-owned forests within the state. 
According to OFRI’s data, forests in the National Forest system have a timber harvest rate of just 8 percent of total growth, but have a mortality rate of about 55 percent. 
Meanwhile, private and Native American forestlands, which have the highest timber harvest rate at 71 percent of total growth, have only 9 percent mortality.
More than 70 percent of the standing dead timber on federal lands is on non-reserved lands open to harvest. If Kerr chooses to sit in a tree to “protect” it, there’s a good chance that tree is already dead. And if the forest burns, the wildfire can emit up to 100 tons of greenhouse gasses, aerosols and particulates per acre. Most of Oregon’s forest sector companies, from logging to primary and secondary manufacturing, do not operate at capacity. The reason is not lack of demand. It now takes one tree every year for every man, woman and child to meet their needs for paper, packaging, fiber compounds, lumber and panel products.
Rather, it is because most companies cannot secure a long-term source of wood fiber. The real legacy of Kerr’s forest policy is to outsource timber jobs and products to other countries, rather than having locally sourced timber responsibly harvested and manufactured here at home.
A modest increase in timber harvests on federal land will enable companies to add shifts, invest more in equipment and technology, and create more opportunities for the scores of businesses that service the industry. A reliable fiber supply would also secure Oregon’s position as a leader in the development of advanced wood products.
For example, cross laminated timber, sourced from small- and medium-diameter trees, helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions by storing carbon and requiring significantly less energy to produce than concrete or steel. 
We need modern federal forest policies that are responsive to the needs of our ever-changing economy and environment. The Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service need the policies and resources to better manage our public lands, support wildlife populations and adapt our forests to drought and changing climate conditions. 
Bringing balance to federal forest management will also create family-wage jobs where they’re desperately needed in rural Oregon, and generate revenues to support basic public services such as law enforcement and health care. Kerr can continue to look to the past, but it’s time for our leaders to look forward with policies that recognize 21st century forest management.
Jim Geisinger is executive vice president of Associated Oregon Loggers in Salem.