Photo by Ellen Miller

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.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Land Board Bails on Elliott Solution

Land Board Bails on Elliott Solution

The long-running saga of the Elliott State Forest in Southwestern Oregon has just been extended for an unknowable length by the State Land Board. The SLB, made up of Governor Kate Brown, State Treasurer Ted Wheeler and Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins, rejected a comprehensive plan from Lone Rock Timber Management Partners, the Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Tribe of Indians and the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians.

At a packed hearing on December 13th, school boards, school administrators and teachers all testified in support of the sale to Lone Rock and the Oregon Tribes. Evidently, the Governor and Treasurer were moved by the 80 people that demonstrated, begged and threatened the SLB to reject the sale and decouple the Elliott from the revenue mandate of the Common School Fund.

Previously, the SLB called for selling the Elliott to an entity that would protect the oldest forests, provide wide stream buffers, keep the forest open for recreation and produce 40 jobs. The August 2015 decision to sell came after failing to produce revenue and in fact costing the Common School Fund millions of dollars rather than producing revenue as it had since 1930.

Following prior SLB action to increase timber production from the Elliott, environmentalists sued to stop timber management in Marbled Murrelet habitat. Rather than fight the suit and continue to offer timber sales outside of Marble Murrelet habitat, the State surrendered without a trial and paid $400,000 in attorney fees.

Fifty entities had expressed interest in purchasing the Elliott. However, after the SLB set the no-bid purchase price at $220.8 million only Lone Rock and the Oregon Tribes were interested. Prior to the restrictions, the SLB placed on the future owner of the Elliott, experts estimated the Elliott’s value at more than $400 million.