Photo by Ellen Miller

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Changes ahead for State Forests

Elliott State Forest
Bids are due next month for Southwestern Oregon’s Elliott State Forest (ESF). The Common School Fund forest will be given to a new entity for $220.8 million and promises to keep the forest open for recreation, provide wide stream buffers, preserve the oldest forests and provide 40 jobs per year.

The unique process was set in place by the State Land Board (SLB) over two years ago following millions of dollars in losses the State incurred trying to manage the ESF in the face of a lawsuit over protection for the Marbled Murrelet. John Charles, president and CEO of the Portland-based Cascade Policy Institute, has maintained for over a decade that the ESF should be sold to the highest bidder.

The price for the ESF is set in stone after the SLB spent over $1 million on determining the value of the ESF. Timber experts were shocked at the low $220.8 million value. Others had previously pegged the ESF’s value at over $800 million.

NW Oregon Forests
Things may not be any better for the State Forests in Northwest Oregon. Linn County has filed a $1.4 billion lawsuit against Oregon for breach of contract after timber revenues have dwindled over the past 15 years. The Class Action suit heads to trial in 2017.

In the 1930s the Counties deeded the forests to the State following massive tax delinquencies. In exchange, the State was to share the revenue from the management of the very productive forests.

The arrangement worked well until the Department of Forestry came up with new plans that reduced timber revenues for the Counties. The combination of declining receipts from federal and state forests have put rural counties in an economic crisis. Linn County felt they had no choice but to turn to the courts. The timber industry, troubled by declining timber sales, has provided early funding for Linn County’s suit.

Proposals are due for the Elliott State Forest by November 15th, the State Land Board will choose a successful owner in December. However, it will be sometime in 2017 before there is certainty over the future for the NW Oregon State Forests.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Linn County plans class-action lawsuit against state

Linn County takes state forestland fight to court

Lawsuit could seek $1.4 billion in damages for breach of contract in the Oregon Forest Trust Lands program. 

SALEM — Linn County plans to seek more than $1.4 billion in damages in a lawsuit against the state for breach of contract in management of forestland in 15 counties. 
Linn County special counsel delivered a letter to Gov. Kate Brown and State Forester Doug Decker Wednesday, Jan. 13, telling them of the county’s plan to file the suit after a mandatory 30-day waiting period. 
The governor's office has not commented on the lawsuit. 
Up to 150 local taxing districts that receive timber sales receipts from harvests from the Oregon Forest Trust Lands contract could be eligible to join the suit. That includes schools, libraries, public safety agencies and other districts. 
Other counties that benefit from the trust are Benton, Clackamas, Clatsop, Columbia, Coos, Douglas, Josephine, Klamath, Lane, Lincoln, Marion, Polk, Tillamook, and Washington.  
A judge would have to approve class-action status of the lawsuit. 
“There have been general discussions and angst for years about the distribution formula and how counties have been deprived of revenue by state,” said Portland attorney John DiLorenzo, who represents Linn County in the suit. “It’s no surprise they’re not getting as much of a return from the arrangement as they should be.” 
The 15 counties have contracted with the state since the 1930s to manage forestlands for the land’s “greatest permanent value.” Linn County and the state are at odds over the meaning of that term. The county claims that the term means greatest economic value allowable under state and federal regulations and that returns ought to match what a private land manager could glean off the land. In 1998, the state defined the term to mean economic, ecological, recreational and aesthetic returns and implemented a management plan based on that definition starting in 2000, DiLorenzo said. 
Linn County estimates that the 150 local districts in the 15 counties have missed out on $35 million per year in revenue in the past 15 years from the state’s management of the forestland. That number is based on forest modeling, much of which was borrowed from the Department of Forestry, DiLorenzo said. 
“All of those local districts are in need of funding especially in the area of public safety,” he said. “Lives would be vastly improved if these monies were distributed to these districts.” 
DiLorenzo and Linn County Commissioner Roger Nyquist declined to specify whether the county first approached DiLorenzo’s law firm, Davis Wright Tremaine, or whether the law firm approached the county to propose the class action suit. 
DiLorenzo said the lawsuit was “one of those perfect storms when everything came together.” He said he had been watching how the state had been managing the forestland. Meanwhile, timber counties had expressed growing contention over the state’s performance. 

By Paris Achen
Portland Tribune Capital Bureau Reporter
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Thursday, August 13, 2015

State Officials hoping for magic

State Officials hoping for magic

Oregon’s State Land Board, Governor Kate Brown, Treasurer Ted Wheeler and Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins, are counting on a collective agreement amongst timber management interests, anti-logging groups, recreation supporters and community backers.

Pot of Gold becomes drain
The State Land Board can no longer meet their fiduciary responsibility to produce revenue for the Common School Fund from the Elliott State Forest. In fact, in 2013, the Elliott cost the CSF over $3 Million for the privilege of owning this once valuable forestland.

For decades, the Elliott provided millions of dollars in timber receipts to K-12 education in Oregon. Now the SLB is looking to sell or transfer the Elliott to a new entity that one way or another finds peace amongst radicals who don’t support any timber harvest, community supporters and school backers.

That new body could be none other than the State of Oregon. Magic would be necessary if a State agency is selected as the new owner/custodian of the Elliott, since Oregon already owns the Elliott.  Magically transferring the Common School Fund trust obligations away from the Department of State Lands to a different branch of government would make Alice in Wonderland come to life.

So sad…
Giving up on traditional forest management for the Elliott is a sad conclusion for what was once the quintessential managed forest. The Elliott came to life following a massive forest fire in the 1860’s.

A recent study by former Oregon State University Professor Dr. John Session found that the Elliott could produce 60-75 Million Board Feet/year forever. Now, the economic goal for the Elliott is to produce enough timber for 40 jobs, less than 5 MBF/year.

No speedy resolution
The Elliott will remain in Oregon’s front position as the route for legally and financially transferring the Elliott will have to plow uncharted w

aters.  Meanwhile, the trees keep growing, water keeps flowing and the local economy continues to reel.

Only in Oregon…

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Let’s Talk Timber, Madame Governor!!!

Following President Barack Obama’s visit to Oregon last week, the Salem Statesman Journal published a letter to the President: Let's talk timber, Mr. President.

In the letter/editorial, the newspaper thanks the President for talking up Salem-based Oregon fruit products. However, the letter notes, “there's an even more important issue that cries for your help: increasing timber harvests on federal lands.”

Me, Too!
The same plea could be addressed to Governor Kate Brown for increasing timber harvests on State Forest land. Previously, the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources considered, House Bill 3210. HB3210 was a bill that increased timber production on the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests.

The Council of Forest Land Trust Counties in Northwest Oregon supported modifications to the original bill. The counties, who were the original owners of the forestland, sought to increase sustainable timber harvests from the State Forests.

The counties and several House Ag and Natural Resources Committee members are frustrated with the length of time it has taken the Board of Forestry and the Department of Forestry to craft a new plan that increases timber sales.

Died too soon…
As the Committee prepared to adopt the counties’ proposal, Chairman Rep. Brad Witt announced that he was pulling HB 3210 due to a letter he received from Board of Forestry Chair Tom Imeson and State Forester Doug Decker. The letter promised to keep the forest plan changes on a fast track.

Meanwhile, the counties are suffering financially from dwindling federal and state timber revenue. In fact, the Department of Forestry is seeking to replace timber receipts with scarce money from Oregon’s General Fund.

All State Forests
Northwest Oregon isn’t the only place the Governor could increase revenue from improved forest management. The State Land Board, Chaired by Governor Brown has over 80,000 acres of very productive forestland on the Elliott State Forest. These Common School Fund trust lands have seen a sharp decline in timber production following the settlement of an Endangered Species Act lawsuit filed by environemntalists upset with the new forest management plan to manage the ESF.

Madame Governor, it is not just the US Forest Service’s National Forests and the USDI Bureau of Land Management’s Oregon & California trust lands that need the President’s attention. State Forests in northwest and southwest Oregon could help produce County revenue, School funds and most importantly jobs!  Act now, while the 2015 legislature is still in session!!!

Timberman Trades Forest Products for University

Tom Insko, Boise Cascade’s Area Manager for its Inland Region in Northeast Oregon and Northeast Washington, has been selected as the next President of Eastern Oregon University in La Grande.

Tom, an EOU alumnus, is currently serving as a member of Oregon’s Board of Forestry.

According to the Blue Mountain Eagle newspaper, Tom’s first task will be to listen to faculty, staff and students as he transitions from forestry to academia.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

T.W. Scott: The Strategy of “Greenspeak,” Is This How the West Will be Lost?

T.W. Scott: The Strategy of “Greenspeak,” Is This How the West Will be Lost?

For more than 50 years, there has been a growing campaign against the beneficial use of natural resources.   The campaigners have several names:  preservationists, conservationists, radical environmentalists, and greens.  
I will use “greens,”  since it is rather inclusive and short.  Years ago, it may have started as a movement to preserve some outstanding scenic or historic locations as parks, however it has expanded into a much more general opposition.    The targets have been timber and mining, and more lately, hydro and even agriculture.
There are three main components to most of the campaigns: persuasion, litigation and legislation.   Persuasion relies on greenspeak to convince and justify the litigation and legislation to follow.  greenspeakers use favorite words that are chosen to elicit favorable or unfavorable images or concepts.
Greenspeak is based on psychological principles, - guilt manipulation, loss aversion, and use of the indirect approach.  If this sounds cynical, it is, but it also has been quite effective.   In order to combat this sort of manipulation, one must be able to recognize when and why greenspeak is being used.    So how can you identify greenspeak and greenspeakers? 
Some of the most frequently used buzzwords are:  roadless, pristine, wild, ecosystem, wilderness, clean water, biodiversity and ancient forests (or old growth ).  Actually, they have become code words. “Old growth” means, “don’t cut that tree; it’s older than you are!  It would be like killing your old white-haired grandma!”  It is probably no accident that the word “cut” is used.   It sounds painful.
Another example of using implied pain is the phrase, “It would be like mugging a burn victim.”  This was originated during the opposition to the proposed salvage of the 1987 Silver Fire.   It so successful, that when the Biscuit Fire started in 2002, there were so many snags and large down trees remaining in the Silver Fire area, it was extremely hazardous for firefighting crews.  They had to fall back  to safer firelines.   Consequently the Biscuit fire soon grew to 500,000 acres.
Loss aversion
 “Save” is another favorite word, used to imply that anything it is attached to will be “lost” if they are not able to keep your hands off it!   This is based on the principle of “loss aversion,” which is the strong desire not to lose something one has, which is stronger even than the desire for new acquisitions.   This tactic is used most frequently for wilderness, as a compare and contrast scenario: “Look at these pictures of an untrammeled, scenic view versus this nasty field of stumps in a clearcut!”  What they don’t show  you is a wilderness after a fire that spread because roadless access restrictions prevented timely fire control.  And, like in “Animal Farm,” where some animals were “more equal than others,” most of these buzzwords appear “more equal” and have an aura of “goodness” that the greenspeakers cleverly use to capture the high ground in any verbal battle.
On the negative side, some of their favorite words are: extinction, pollute, and (their all time favorite) clearcut. “Clearcut” seems to be an almost universal word for any cutting they don’t like, which is pretty much any cutting. Recently, there is a new forestry concept called “Forest Restoration,” which involves thinning the smaller trees and leaving the bigger trees, which would eventually become “old growth” and thence off limits.
But even this type of harvesting has recently been protested as “clearcutting!”  Their eco-mercenary vocabulary is generally based on these words and concepts so, when you see them, you will know that there is a “green” message being sold.
Spurious analogies
Another favorite tactic is their use of the spurious analogy, or false comparison, that is intended to leave you with a shockingly horrible image, such as the “mugging a burn victim,” as mentioned above.  They want to leave you with an image of a burned and bandaged person, not the actual situation.  It’s just a clever way of changing the subject, sort of a bit of magician’s sleight of hand.
An older spurious analogy was the classic “Canary in the Coal Mine,” comparing an endangered species (the northern spotted owl) with the proverbial canary, as an “indicator species.”   Since coal mines are not the naturally favored habitat of canaries, this comparison doesn’t really work and also appears really to be obsolete. But, lacking new buzzier words, it has come back, just as spurious as before.  Most people’s reaction to the suggestion that the forests and timber industry would be shut down by this small owl would be, “You’ve got to be kidding!”  But no, greenspeakers use the Endangered Species Act with a straight face. They take it even further by claiming that “virtual” (theoretical) owls need protection.
Indirect Approach
Their use of the Northern Spotted Owl was a classic example of how to use the  “indirect approach.”  This was originally described by the ancient Chinese general, Sun Tzu, in a book the “Art of War.”   It means looking for the enemies‘ weak point and attacking there, not where they are strong.  So, when they wanted to stop timber harvest, rather than simply saying “Don’t cut that tree, you nasty logger,” which likely would have elicited the response “why not?” instead they looked for a weak point.  In the northwest forests,  the handiest weak attack point turned out to be a bird, the Northern Spotted Owl, which was declared to be “threatened” under the 1973 Endangered Species Act.  This gave owls “more equal” status, and meant that its survival was put first in BLM forest management planning, - even ranking ahead of the 1937 O&C Act, which mandated priority to forest timber production under sustained yield management.
As It turned out that the main threat to the little owl turned out to be its bigger cousin, the barred owl, and not the cutting of “old growth,” which had been pretty much stopped anyway by the NW Forest Plan in 1995.  So it is not surprising that the owl has continued to decline, as competition with the barred owl  is the real problem.
Who are the Greenspeakers? 
How can you recognize their groups? As well as their selling buzzwords, they have favorite words they like to use for their organization names, such as:  council, task force, alliance, project and center.   The message that they are trying to convey is that there are large numbers of activists involved and, in the world of politics, numbers count.
Any serious campaign needs foot soldiers to carry out the the program on the ground.  I call them “eco-mercenaries,” - somewhat like the troops hired by the British during the American Revolution.  In this modern case, it has been the big green 501(c)(3)s, the tax-free foundations that do much of the major funding of these local groups which are usually found in cities, generally with colleges or universities, to facilitate recruiting of young greens.
These young people are often impressionable and can easily be taken in by greenspeak if they are not widely informed.  So, what better place to recruit than in a college town, where there is usually a shortage of practical experience, but idealism and theory are in ample supply.  This might be called the “Pied Piper of Hamlin” system of recruiting. Many college students are living away from a familiar home environment for the first time, and trying to fit into new surroundings with their new friends and acquaintances.  So it is not surprising that, when “Pied Pipers” come along, singing their song of saving the world, they can find recruits.
One might expect that these environmental organizations would try to recruit graduates with backgrounds and expertise in the environmental sciences. However, that’s not the case, according to the executive director of the most active litigating green group, the Center for Biological Diversity:
 “I’m more interested in hiring philosophers, linguists and poets.  The core talent of a successful activist is not science and law.  It’s campaigning instinct.  That’s not taught in the universities, it’s discouraged.”
Their lack of technical training frequently allows them to ignore facts they don’t understand.
This may explain an observation by Senator Wyden recently, that “environmentalists have an allergy to compromise!”   (The old expression, “don’t confuse me with facts!” comes to mind.)
Their “campaigning instinct” also includes much more than the use of greenspeak words for persuasion; it includes litigation and legislation.  The litigation is used to stop or stall government management programs, and the legislation is used for the more permanent “fix” - wilderness status.  And greenspeak words and tactics are used to support and sell these more aggressive aspects of their agendas.
Watch what we do, not what we say
A rather good bit of advice came from a surprising source, an environmental attorney. It was: “Watch what we do, not what we say!”  The “say” is the persuasion and selling part, which may sound good enough to fool some, but the “doing” he was referring to is the real “teeth,” - litigation, not persuasion.  He said this, more in the nature of a threat, as he went out the door at a Congressional hearing, but it is good advice even if he didn’t really intend it to be.  He should know, since he works at one of the litigation factories.   They have developed litigation into a successful “cottage industry” that has brought them many millions of dollars, -  $21 Million at last count in 2014 - from the Equal Access to Justice Act alone, which is considerable but not their main financial support. 
Follow the money
So, how has the green movement gotten so large and  financially powerful?    The old saying, “follow the money,” is the key.   This can be a bit like looking for icebergs; only a small part shows above the waterline. Mainly, these are the “little green” 501s, while the “big greens” are largely out of sight underwater.  Although, the fact that they are out of sight hardly means they are unimportant.  Reputedly, as much as a billion dollars annually flows down to the little greens.  This buys quite a bit of the greenspeaking agenda!
One has to wonder what really motivates the big greens.  Could some of them even have been sold by the little greenspeakers to get their financial support?  In the Middle Ages, the church developed a system (although gimmick might be a more accurate word) called the “indulgence,” which allowed guilty rich “sinners” to buy their way into heaven!   Since much of greenspeak is built on implied guilt, maybe it also works upward, like the old indulgences. Plus, these contributions are tax deductions for the big green foundations!
Whatever the motivation, they have undertaken major campaigns and, despite all their green talk, what is it they really want?  By “watching what they do,” it is pretty clear that their eventual aim is to stop timber cutting and other utilization of Federal lands.  The best way they have found to do this permanently is by wilderness designation.  They usually claim this will “save” the area, but from what exactly is often not specifically stated, (although “clearcutting” or worse is usually implied.)   The contradiction here is that “saving a wilderness” actually causes the loss of its resources and can make it more vulnerable to loss by fire.  Despite these realities, “more wilderness!” has been the greenspeakers answer to pretty much everything.  Loss aversion stood on its head!
Following the money locally is still useful, since many of the little green groups are run by eco-mercenaries, some of whom are very well paid.   It can be revealing to see where their money is coming from, since it usually comes with the big green agenda.  Their IRS filings, and even the organizations own web sites, can tell you quite a bit about identifying the opposition.  Publicizing their stated agendas can make it clear that often they are not really working in the best interests of the local communities.  Some green groups gather local business supporters who may not be aware of the negative impacts the local greens have on the local areas and their own businesses and customers. Ask them if they know what they are really supporting.
Another big dollar expense caused by the green appeals and lawsuits is the $1.1 billion that flowed from the U. S. Treasury and the U.S. taxpayers to the Oregon O&C counties under the “Secure Rural Schools Act of 2000.”  This doesn’t benefit the greens directly, but it is largely to help minimize the damage to county government finances caused by their activities.  However, it does little to reduce unemployment or to help the local economies, which have withered away due to the raw material shortages.   These artificial shortages have even caused measurable changes in rural demographics - a tilt to the older age classes - as the younger working group had to move away to find employment.  As regional economies have declined, there are further negative changes in effected areas, falling public safety budgets, increased crime and drug abuse and declining real estate values.   In fact these are all the attributes of a recession - an artificial recession but all too real.
So what now?  The nationwide situation has become so serious that the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee formed an Endangered Species Working Group that held hearings on the abuses.  In 2014 they proposed four bills, HR.4315 thru HR.4318, which were approved by the House, but were among the many bills that were not acted on by the Senate last year.  When reintroduced in this session, they should have a better reception in the Senate.  We can let our legislators know that we support these changes so the ESA can get back to the stated job of actually working on species recovery.
In a more general context, we must demand that decisions - affecting vast areas, major natural resources, and extensive rural populations - be based on peer reviewed, real science.  One step in the right direction is a 9th Circuit law case which stated that, when Federal agencies’ research decisions are based on “best available science” and not found to be “arbitrary or capricious,” they were presumed to be correct and not vulnerable to appeals or lawsuits.
Any new wilderness areas or monuments proposed must to have recreational values that are outstanding and clearly be of a higher priority than any other values that will be foregone.  And new proposed areas should be rigorously examined as to whether their fire protection plans are realistic.
The broader lesson we need to learn from greenspeak is that fine sounding proposals, concepts and words can be adopted and used by groups with entirely different aims from the common usage of the words themselves.  And, if they are clever and unscrupulous, their use of greenspeak can continue to mislead most of the public as to what their motives actually are.
Their use of greenspeak has allowed the greens to largely escape responsibility for these negative effects.   By pointing out their methods and the long term consequences, it is hoped that this study will allow us, as they suggest, to “watch what they do,”  and no longer be fooled by “what they say.”
T.W. Scott is a contributor to Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities.
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