Photo by Ellen Miller

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.

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…