Photo by Ellen Miller

Friday, December 30, 2011

Applaud, support bipartisan forest plan

and Allyn C. Ford

We applaud the action of U.S. Reps. Greg Walden, Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader as they work to strike a much-needed balance in how our federal forests are managed — for those of us who live here.

It's hardly news that Oregon, particularly rural Oregon, is enduring crippling levels of unemployment, desperately needing jobs from our former economic base: natural resources. One key barometer of Oregon's economic condition is industrial electricity demand, and usage has dropped off severely because of wood products manufacturing decline and mills closing. But it's not just about running mills or selling kilowatts, which is why what our congressmen propose is heartening — a bipartisan plan to put Oregonians back to work in our own forests, in a sustainable way.

By setting aside the most sensitive areas under consideration for conservation and unlocking other areas for active management and harvest, the plan could provide what rural Oregonians — and local governments — need most right now: certainty. Today, there is no certainty for local communities that the federal government will continue providing the timber payments that currently fund even the most basic services — law enforcement, emergency response and other essential government functions most of us take for granted.

The congressmen's plan recognizes that as these federal payments dry up, the only sustainable solution for Oregon's natural resource dependent communities is to un-tether from the federal appropriations game and be allowed to meet their needs locally. Home-grown jobs and some certainty of locally generated revenue are crucial for the literal survival of many Oregon communities, which is an effort worth supporting.

We represent companies that have provided critical electric service for 100 years and a wood products company that has grown over a half century into one of the major innovators and suppliers of products internationally, while maintaining its roots here. Over the years, and by working together, we now have a partnership where Roseburg Forest Products generates most of its own electricity and even sells back to Pacific Power — sustainably. We know that Oregon can manage local resources and find creative ways to add value to our communities because we are doing it. We listened closely at the recent Oregon Business Leadership Summit and heard Governor Kitzhaber loud and clear when he said that we need a new and collaborative approach to forest management. OK, here you have it. We both see promise in Oregon's future and know that this kind of vision and plan can lead the way to realizing a sustainable forest-based industry with economic stability, jobs and support for critical public services.

To do that, though, these representatives of our great state need our full-throated support for seeking a path forward. We welcome other business, civic, natural resource and elected leaders to join us in moving this plan forward quickly to gain approval.

R. Patrick Reiten is president and CEO of Pacific Power. Allyn C. Ford is CEO of Roseburg Forest Products.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Down the center path on federal forests

Congress has to get cracking; time is running out on timber counties 
Published: Wednesday, December 28, 2011, 4:01 PM     Updated: Wednesday, December 28, 2011, 4:06 PM

Three Oregon congressmen recently described on these pages the outlines of a plan aimed at breaking the impasse on federal forests and preserving basic county services across timber country. It looks promising, and we're eager to see more.

Democrats Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader, and Republican Greg Walden, say they have worked through their differences and are preparing a bipartisan plan that would create thousands of new jobs by expediting harvest of previously logged forests, protect old-growth and critical wildlife areas and provide steady funding for rural schools, roads and law enforcement.

Of course, lawmakers have raised hopes for this sort of grand forest legislation before, only to have their best-laid plans go nowhere in the face of environmental opposition and congressional inattention. But now there's an unmistakable fiscal crisis looming across timber country, where federal payments to counties have expired and some local governments could plunge into insolvency in the coming year.

The prospect of failing local governments and families fleeing declining rural communities ought to focus minds both in Oregon and in Congress. The issues surrounding federal forests and rural counties simply can't be pushed off any longer.

The three Oregon congressmen seem to be headed down the right path. They describe a plan that would allow a steady and sustainable level of timber harvest primarily from younger second-growth forests. Sensitive areas and mature and old-growth forests would be set aside and protected. The forest lands open to harvest would remain under the ownership of the federal government, but be managed by a diverse, public board in trust for the counties.

Other elements of the proposal will appeal to those concerned with the future of the old-growth and other sensitive areas. The management of mature and old-growth forests would be transferred from the Bureau of Land Management to the U.S. Forest Service. The plan also proposes major new wilderness and wild and scenic river protections in key areas, such as the Rogue River area.

There's a lot to like in this broad outline, but Oregonians ought to reserve judgment until the lawmakers fill in the details early next year. But something has got to change on the federal forests that cover half or more of many Oregon counties.

The status quo -- the administrative gridlock and legal appeals, the drip, drip, drip of mill closures, the failing counties -- threatens to hollow out rural Oregon. Already, falling school enrollments across timber country indicate that many families don't see a future in these communities.

Of course, this congressional plan will trigger all the usual suspicion and reflexive opposition from those who have spent their lives fighting over activities in federal forests. But we still hope there is a place where most people can meet in the middle on federal forests, where timber harvest is carried out in a sustainable manner, where ancient trees are preserved, where rural counties can survive on stable federal timber revenues and fair contributions from local property taxpayers.

DeFazio, Walden, Schrader say they have put aside their differences and found that place in the middle. That's good. Now they must lead the rest of us there.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

In Curry County, Oregon's financial dependence on federal forest policy brings ruin in sight

Curry County's financial woes
Gold Beach, Oregon--12/01/2011-- Looking from the court house in Gold Beach. 
Curry County, and other Oregon counties, will cease to function if Congress does not renew federal funding intended to replace decades of timber harvest revenue. The county funding problem stems from the steep reduction in timber harvests on federal forests, which makes up 53 percent of the land in Oregon. Jamie Francis/The Oregonian Curry County could go broke in 2013 gallery (12 photos) 
GOLD BEACH -- On any given day, there may be no place in Oregon prettier than Curry County. Broad flat beaches, many littered with agate and quartz. The Rogue, Elk, Illinois and Chetco rivers rushing from forest to sea. The Kalmiopsis Wilderness.

And on any given day, in winter, at least 10 degrees warmer than where you're at. The far southwest corner is Oregon's banana belt.

On this given day, however, in a chilly, unadorned room at the Curry County Fairgrounds, 24 people sit at bare tables shaped into a U. Powerpoint presentations flash up front. A pair of mediators bustle a cordless microphone here and there, because you have to take turns speaking.

It's the end of November. Curry County government may fold next summer. The federal faucet that poured $230 million a year into Oregon counties is shut off. The political stalemate in Washington stymies a restoration.

Curry's not alone, just the first. Coos, Josephine, Klamath and Lane counties -- all deeply dependent on federally owned natural resource land -- are bunched up to follow Curry off the cliff.

The 24 people meeting at the fairgrounds are supposed to figure out a solution.

The dissolution of an Oregon county hasn't happened before. It may not be legally possible. Questions outnumber answers.

If there's no county government, who runs the jail, issues marriage licenses, records deeds, adjusts lot lines, inspects restaurants, counsels juvenile delinquents and assesses property? Who sends out the tax bills? Where do you send the payments?

Curry knew this day was coming but didn't do anything. About 61 percent of its general fund and 65 percent of its road fund revenues came from federal payments.

Without timber payments, Curry's expenses will exceed general fund revenue by more than $350,000 in 2012-13. The deficit grows to more than $3 million the next year, the county projects.

"It's anybody's guess," Commissioner Dave Itzen says, "how long we last."
Sheriff John Bishop grabs the microphone. He's a big man with a shaved head, wearing a coat and tie. Beneath his jovial persona is a no-nonsense coastal cop.

"I don't know how many more rabbits I can pull out of the hat," he tells the committee.

His patrol division has five deputies and a lieutenant to cover 80-some miles from Langlois to the California border south of Brookings; once there were as many as 16. Two jailers per shift watch more than two dozen prisoners. Two 911 dispatchers per shift, sometimes one, handle calls for deputies, two city police departments, eight fire districts and four ambulance companies.

Bishop says the jail is a lawsuit waiting to happen. "An absolute disaster," he says. Its fire suppression system doesn't meet standards; heating and ventilation are inadequate. The annual budget for inmate food, clothing and medicine is $147,600. If an inmate gets hurt, as when one attempted suicide a couple years ago, the hospital bill could exceed the budget.

In a letter to Bishop last August, an Oregon State Police lieutenant said troopers based in Gold Beach can't help except in life-threatening emergencies.

Two community corrections officers supervise 160 people on parole or probation. The sheriff's office gives a sex offender a bus ticket to travel unaccompanied to Coos Bay for treatment.

Bishop gives a knock-on-wood grimace and says it's worked, "so far."

GS.31TIMB120.jpgView full size
The federal and state governments own 60 percent of Curry County, much in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. Sometimes, county residents approach Alan Vandiver on the street and let him know things would be better if the U.S. Forest Service just opened up the woods for more logging.

Vandiver, the Gold Beach district ranger, is a patient man with a mustache. He hears them out, then asks, "Are you aware we sold 20 million board feet off the Powers and Gold Beach ranger districts last year?"

He acknowledges the districts might have produced 80 million board feet of timber annually, back in the old unsustainable days. Today, logging is part of a puzzle that includes jobs, owls, fish, recreation, watersheds.

"Could we responsibly cut more for the right reason?" he asks. "Yes."

He believes balance is necessary and possible. That means a healthy forest and still allowing people to make a living on public land: guides and outfitters, loggers, brushcutters and truck drivers, mushroom pickers.

"It's not an either-or situation," he says.

It is gospel in Curry County that Mike Keiser, developer of the internationally acclaimed Bandon Dunes golf courses and resort, first wanted to build near Gold Beach. True or not, missed economic opportunity is a sour spot in the community memory. Bo Schindler,  general manager of Freeman Marine Equipment recalls attending a meeting at Bandon Dunes and stepping outside to count 110 golf bags at the first tee.

"At $225 a pop!" he exclaims.

Imagine that tourism money here, the grumblers say, not to mention property taxes. Instead, Keiser built in Coos County, just north.

When the commissioners tried to jump into golf course development last summer, the deal fell apart. It required a land swap of more than 600 acres in the state-owned Floras Lake State Natural Area, and the state wasn't interested.

The commissioners approved another golf course and destination resort development at Crook Point, between Gold Beach and Brookings, but environmental groups appealed. The state Land Use Board of Appeals sided with them and sent it back to the county.

Schindler, thick-set and bearded, doesn't know what to say. He's no fan of government or property taxes, but he voted for 2010 levies for law enforcement and schools, neither of which passed. "If you don't care about kids and public safety..." he begins.

Freeman Marine, where's he's worked 36 years, is a homegrown success. Founded in 1975, it manufactures doors, windows, hatches and portlights for ocean-going vessels all over the world. Schindler partnered with Dugie Freeman and his family, impressed by their work ethic and ambition.

He doesn't know the solution for county government.

"Curry County is just the tip of the iceberg," he says. "It's just the first one."

Suspicion and pessimism cut through the conversation.

Curry hasn't shown any "bounce back" from the recession, says Guy Tauer, an economist with the state. The unemployment rate in September: 12.2 percent. Payroll figures for July, the most recent available, showed employment declined to about 6,300 jobs.

"That continues a streak of job losses that goes back to 2006," Tauer says. Five years.

Some are quick to blame environmentalists or "socialists" for blocking development. Others complain about perceived waste, salaries and benfits of public employees.

At the county committee meeting, the power blinks off twice. In the audience, resident Maggie Runyan leans over and stage-whispers, "Didn't pay the bill."

Runyan describes herself as a child of the Depression who made do with less.

"Don't tell me the county can't cut expenses."

In an ongoing poll by the Curry Coastal Pilot newspaper, 53 percent of 1,200 respondents say they'll vote no on any new taxes. About 27 percent would; the rest are wait and see.


At Riley Creek School, Principal Tom Denning displays a "snack pack" sent home with students on Fridays. Juice boxes, granola bars, pudding and beef jerky in a brown paper sack. Teachers noticed kids dragging, Denning says, and realized they hadn't eaten. The packs get them through weekends. If they have brothers or sisters, students can take extra.

Denning says 210 of the 317 students go home with snack packs. Two-thirds.

Denning has been principal since 1999, when he moved his family from Phoenix, Ariz. He and his wife wanted a small, safe community for their two daughters, now in college.

At the end of that first school year, the superintendent told Denning and the high school principal to cut.

"It seems like we've had that same meeting every year since."

Timber receipts once gave small rural school districts top-notch music, P.E., art and science programs. The school district hit the wall ahead of county government, Denning says. Parent volunteers keep the band alive but the science club is dead. Riley Creek, K-8, has two janitors who clean two hours a night. Building maintenance is a matter of "defer, defer, defer," he says.

The school had about 500 students at one time.

"The parents who can move are moving," says Denning, who was appointed to the citizen's committee.

He says loss of county services will be more reasons for parents to leave.


Jeff Griffin approaches the microphone. He's tall and slender, with a reserved bearing. He's from the governor's office, assigned to find intergovernmental and regional solutions. He doesn't have good news.

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden sponsored a bill to restore federal funding four more years, at reduced amounts. The bill has a chance in the Senate, but not in the House, Griffin says.

Meanwhile, a bill in the House to restructure federal resource land management and designate land for harvests might pass the House, Griffin says, but not the Senate. Even if either passed, counties wouldn't immediately see more money.

Finally, the state has no money to cover county losses. Sorry.


Dewey Powers appears tableside in his shirt and tie and with deferential manner. He's the owner of Spinner's, a steak, seafood and chops restaurant along Highway 101. One reason he enjoys winter: Business slows enough that he can take a shift waiting tables and chat up guests. During summer tourists flock to eat and there's sometimes an hour wait for a table.

As a business owner, Powers says he's had to cut, cut, cut. His friends and customers include managers with the county's leading industries -- Freeman Marine Equipment and South Coast Lumber -- so he knows they've done the same.

But Powers knows enough county employees, including his sister, to keep his budget opinions to himelf. He'll say this: It's disheartening to think Curry County could dissolve. "We hope not."


On any given day, people carry on.

The day after the first citizen's committee meeting was sunny, 60 degrees and not a breath of wind. Dewey Powers drove to Bandon Dunes to play. Shot in the mid-80s.

About the same time, a Canadian conglomerate called Advanced Marine Technologies was wrapping up the purchase of Freeman Marine. The new owners said Freeman Marine will stay in Gold Beach, and Bo Schindler and Dugie Freeman will remain with the company.

The following Saturday, the Gold Beach Panthers beat the Scio Loggers 30-0 to win the state Class 2A football championship, a reversal of last year. John Bishop, the sheriff, was one of the Panthers' assistant coaches.

Denning, the Riley Creek principal, cheered the result.

"That is good, really good. The community really takes it to heart, stuff like that."

--Eric Mortenson

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Oregon's forested communities: Congressmen offer bipartisan solution to fiscal crisis

By Greg Walden, Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader 
Published: Saturday, December 17, 2011, 10:00 AM The Oregonian
Oregon's rural communities cannot afford another 20 years of gridlock in our federal forests. Without a new path forward, mills will continue to disappear, forest jobs will be outsourced, and counties will be pushed off the budgetary cliff. 
During a time when it's particularly hard to find common ground in public policy, we think we have achieved a balanced forest health and jobs plan -- in a uniquely Oregon way.
As a bipartisan coalition, we have worked through our differences to forge a plan that would create thousands of new jobs in Oregon's forested communities, ensure the health of federal forests for future generations, and provide long-term funding certainty for Oregon's rural schools, roads, and law enforcement agencies.

Federal support payments to rural and forested communities, commonly known as "county payments," that helped support rural Oregon counties for over a decade expired on Oct. 1.

Absent a long-term solution, diminishing county payments will have serious consequences for Oregon families and businesses. A recent Oregon State University study found that without county payments, Oregon's rural counties will shed between 3,000 and 4,000 jobs. Oregon business sales will drop an estimated $385 million to $400 million. And counties will lose $250 million to $300 million in revenues.

For counties already near the financial cliff and facing depression-like unemployment, this could be the final blow. In fact, a few counties in our districts may soon call for a public safety emergency and will be forced to eliminate most state-mandated services -- including services that help the neediest citizens in our communities.

This should alarm all Oregonians, even those who do not live in rural communities. Failing counties will have both budgetary and quality of life consequences for the entire state. Vital county services would be severely restricted or altogether disappear. Counties will continue to release offenders and close jail beds. Pot-holed roads and structurally deficient bridges will be neglected. And already underfunded rural schools will be devastated.

Given the serious fiscal crisis our forested communities face, we believe a new approach is necessary to create jobs, help stabilize Oregon's rural communities, and better manage our forests.

We hope to release the full details of our plan early next year. But, given the importance and enormous amount of public interest in this issue, we wanted to update Oregonians on the broad outlines of our work:

Our plan would create an estimated 12,000 new jobs throughout Oregon. In order to preserve and expand Oregon's manufacturing base, our plan would continue the ban on exporting unprocessed logs from federal lands and impose penalties on businesses that violate the law and send family-wage jobs overseas.

Our plan would allow sustainable timber harvest primarily on lands that have been previously harvested. It sets aside sensitive areas and mature and old-growth forests. The timber harvest lands would remain under the ownership of the federal government but be managed by a diverse, public board in trust for the counties and under strict guidelines to ensure sustained yield and to protect and improve clean water and terrestrial and aquatic values. The mature and old-growth forests would be transferred from the Bureau of Land Management to the U.S. Forest Service.

Our plan would provide counties in western Oregon with a predictable level of revenues in perpetuity to support essential county services like law enforcement, health care, education, and transportation. It would reduce counties' dependence on uncertain federal support payments in favor of a long-term solution that allows them to return to the tradition of self-reliance that embodies the best traditions of our state.

Our plan is expected to save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars by reducing the annual federal management costs associated with the management of western Oregon timberlands and making Oregon counties self-sufficient and not dependent upon federal county payments.

Our plan proposes major wilderness and wild and scenic designations to protect some of Oregon's most incredible natural treasures, like the iconic Rogue River.

Our plan is a moderate approach. It will not appease those who insist on returning to the days of unsustainable logging and clear-cutting old growth on public lands.

It will not win the support of those who are content with the status quo -- administrative gridlock and endless legal appeals that have led to unhealthy forests, failing rural counties, and a deteriorating timber industry.

And, like all legislation in Congress, our plan is still subject to the legislative process. While we believe the plan we have crafted is a reasonable compromise that serves the best interests of Oregon, we must work with the House Committee on Natural Resources and our colleagues in the greater U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate and the Obama administration.

Fortunately, the most persuasive arguments are on our side. Our balanced, bipartisan plan would create thousands of jobs in our forests, mills and communities, stabilize rural communities, save taxpayers money, protect old growth and ensure the health of federal forests for future generations.

It's a solution that Oregonians deserve. We look forward to working with those who want to make this long-term vision a reality.

All three authors are members of the U.S. House of Representatives from Oregon. Walden is a Republican from the 2nd District, in eastern Oregon; DeFazio is a Democrat from the 4th District, in southern Oregon; and Schrader is from the 5th District, in the Willamette Valley, Portland-area suburbs and the central coas

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Call it a deep-forest case of can't win for losing.

Thinning Oregon forests develops spotted owl habitat, chases away flying squirrels -- the owls' chief prey 
Published: Saturday, December 17, 2011, 6:54 AM     Updated: Saturday, December 17, 2011, 10:07 AM
Eric Mortenson, The Oregonian

View full size 
Researchers found that thinning forests improves spotted owl habitat but chases away their primary prey - flying squirrels.

A new study by Oregon State University researchers indicates that thinning Douglas firs, which gives them more room to grow and develop the old forest characteristics favored by northern spotted owls, is bad news for the threatened bird's primary prey.

A study of four tracts in the Willamette National Forest showed the number of flying squirrels declined in areas that were commercially thinned. Not died, necessarily, but departed, vamoosed or otherwise didn't live there anymore.

The more thinning that took place, the fewer squirrels there were, the researchers found. It's clear, they concluded, that "densities of northern flying squirrels are particularly sensitive to thinning in young Douglas fir forests, for at least 12 years after treatment."

Squirrels evenutally may come back to thinned areas, but the findings "argue for caution" in thinning across large sections of the landscape, they said. "Especially if one eventual goal is to sustain the primary prey of the northern spotted owl."

Researchers caught and counted flying squirrels by setting live-capture traps in thinned areas of the Willamette's Oakridge and McKenzie Bridge ranger districts, east and southeast of Eugene-Springfield. Each of the four study areas had a control section that wasn't thinned and sections on which light to heavy thinning took place.

The report was written by Tom Manning and Brenda McComb, with OSU's Department of Forest Ecosystems & Society, and Joan Hagar, a U.S. Geological Survey employee who collaborates with OSU researchers and advises grad students.

Commercial thinning is done for multiple reasons: to reduce fire danger, provide small logs for mills, make room for remaining trees to grow larger and to aid eventual development of old-growth habitat characteristics.

Hagar said it's fairly common for such "restoration ecology" work to result in "winners and losers." Foresters should maintain connected areas of "dense, closed canopy" forest for flying squirrels when thinning is done, she said.

"It's good to leave some areas unthinned; we don't know how much," she said.

"The good thing to take away is that conundrum idea," Hagar said. "Everything we do out there affects some organisms positively and some adversely."

The lesson, she said, is "Don't do the same thing everywhere across the landscape."

--Eric Mortenson

Monday, December 5, 2011

Climate Contrarians Ignore Overwhelming Evidence

The Wall Street Journal
Monday, December 5, 2011 

Every snowflake is unique, but attacks on climate science all seem the same. I should know. I've been one of the climate contrarians' preferred targets for years.

A recent op-ed on this page by blogger and climate-change denier James Delingpole attacked the "hockey stick" graph my co-authors and I published more than a decade ago with well-worn, discredited arguments ("Climategate 2.0," Nov. 28).

Our original work showed that average temperatures today are higher than they have been for at least the past 1,000 years. Since then, dozens of analyses from other scientists based on different data and methods have all affirmed and extended our original findings.

Contrarians have nonetheless painted a misleading picture of climate science as a house of cards teetering on the edge of a hockey stick. In reality, my research is just one piece in a vast puzzle scientists have painstakingly assembled over the past 200 years establishing the reality of human-caused climate change.

Does that mean that everyone should have to drive an electric car and adopt a polar bear? Of course not. Policy decisions must balance matters of economics, international diplomacy and ethics in a way that is informed, rather than prescribed, by science.

In 2006, then-Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R., N.Y.) asked the National Academy of Sciences to look into studies like the hockey stick. It affirmed our conclusions.

In recent years, attacks on climate science have become personal. After my colleagues and I had our emails stolen and posted online in November 2009, attacks from climate contrarians were subsequently shot down by investigations from two universities, the National Science Foundation, two federal agencies and several media outlets. Contrarians declared that those institutions were part of an imagined global-warming conspiracy.

In April 2010, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli demanded emails I sent or received from other scientists while at the University of Virginia. A judge concluded Mr. Cuccinelli hadn't demonstrated any good reason to see that correspondence. Shortly after that, the American Tradition Institute, a group with ties to fossil-fuel interests, asked for the same emails under the state's open records laws. The university rightly asserted that much of my private correspondence is just that and not subject to release.

Many fossil-fuel interests and their allies are following the same attack-the-science strategy that tobacco companies adopted to delay smoking regulation. Climate scientists can also find kinship with Dr. Herbert Needleman, who identified a link between lead contamination and impaired childhood brain development in the 1970s. The lead industry accused him of misconduct. Later, the National Institutes of Health exonerated him.

Mr. Delingpole ends his piece by saying the anonymous hacker or hackers who stole emails from me and my colleagues deserve thanks. What they deserve is to be brought to justice. But British police have not determined who stole the emails. Recent reports of police expenditures suggest they may be devoting far fewer resources to it than other similar investigations.

Celebrating theft is silly. We should respect the role science and scientists play in society, especially when scientists identify new risks. Whether those risks stem from smoking, lead exposure or the increasing use of fossil fuels, scientists will always work to increase knowledge and reduce uncertainty. And we all benefit from that work.

Prof. Michael E. Mann
Meteorology Department
Penn State University
Director, Penn State Earth System Science Center
University Park, Pa.

Another perspective on managing fire-prone forests

Odion and DellaSala (Guest Opinion, Nov 20) shared some opinions about fire and thinning policy in federal forests of Southwest Oregon. Their message to the public was that fire is the natural feature of the Rogue River Valley landscape, and that action to suppress fire, in part by thinning, is contrary to the natural development of vegetation there. They imply that expending resources to suppress fires near houses and forest plantations is acceptable, but that natural forests, in general, benefit from the periodic fires of the region. I question the definition of "benefit" in this context, hence justification of the message.

The Forestry Intensified Research program at Medford facilities of Oregon State University focused a decade of intensive efforts on reforestation of public lands nearby. Their focus was on reforestation or afforestation (including fuel management) on areas that exhibit a repeated-fire tendency. This research was concentrated on potentially productive land where the federal government had abandoned efforts to maintain conifers.

The question of whether fire-promoted shrub/hardwood cover is the "natural" cover is worthy of examination. I refer that question to those, including Dr. Bob Zybach, whose work at Oregon State University reconstructed the use of fire in the livelihood of Native Americans. If those natives used fire to clear land for food crops hundreds and thousands of years ago, does that make it "natural"? What happens if the evergreen brush does not burn?

The FIR program discovered a number of low-impact practices that would restore conifers on the fire-prone landscapes. I have maintained the only FIR studies that continue to this day more than 30 years later. Our findings indicated that controlling manzanita, buckbrush and other fire-prone shrubs and hardwoods is relatively easy. Moreover, selective removal of the shrubs reveals that planted ponderosa pine grows very well on sites the feds had written off! After clearing and planting pines, there still are some ceanothus, manzanita, madrone and poison oak clumps out there, plus many herbs that disappear under dense brush cover within a few years. Let's follow this idea a bit more to get back to thinning as the primary forest practice.

Odion and DellaSalla and I agree on the point that thousands of acres of thinning are not likely to create the condition they prefer. (Note: it is not a scientist's responsibility to choose any particular outcome. They described their preference as what grows after repeated fires).

There are those advocating selective harvest only, including at least one or more from Oregon State University and elsewhere, who promote this approach as the salvation of public opinion in forest management.

The concern here is not biology, it is public protest over clearcutting; they postulate that "people" will allow "some" harvest if it is selective. It is a politically positive approach. So do it? This is a vote for process, not outcome.

Thinning is useful in long-term management. It takes far more than thinning to maintain all objectives. The fire-prone forests under discussion can maintain complete mixes of native species with "even-aged-wthin-stands" management on a landscape scale.

In this system, clearing existing vegetation (clearcutting or site preparation) in patches of 20 to hundreds of acres, yields some timber and prepares for planting local conifers. After 30 or so years, thinning every 10-20 years is continued until the stand is about 80-100 years old and has 30-50 big trees per acre. Then the stand is allowed to grow 50-plus more years in near-old-growth condition to create habitat. Harvesting by clearcutting then begins the cycle again.

This kind of management maintains forest cover in all stages and provides protection for all species, and fuel management. Within each cycle are all the stages with habitats for all species that come and go with time. Each is always present somewhere when the cycles are all in different phases. The research that I continue to lead after more than 50 years suggests that controlled disturbance is a part of keeping the long-term objective in sight.

Many of our mature forests in the area are now living because fires have been suppressed. It is hard to satisfy everyone. Helping people understand long-term consequences of breaking the fire cycle, as we approach in our research, is a part of our job as professors at public institutions.

Part of that story is that clearcutting is a relatively low-impact alternative to wildfire, and manages fuel and habitat within specified boundaries. If we allow random fires to manage our vegetation, fires will run until they threaten houses and forests that are doing their jobs well. Do we fight them only after thousands of acres have been made into snags? At what price? The Biscuit fire sure did a number on a lot of species. And how much old-growth habitat is left there?

Mike Newton is professor emeritus at the Oregon State University College of Forestry.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Great Global Warming Fizzle

The climate religion fades in spasms of anger and twitches of boredom.

How do religions die? Generally they don't, which probably explains why there's so little literature on the subject. Zoroastrianism, for instance, lost many of its sacred texts when Alexander sacked Persepolis in 330 B.C., and most Zoroastrians converted to Islam over 1,000 years ago. Yet today old Zoroaster still counts as many as 210,000 followers, including 11,000 in the U.S. Christopher Hitchens might say you can't kill what wasn't there to begin with.

Still, Zeus and Apollo are no longer with us, and neither are Odin and Thor. Among the secular gods, Marx is mostly dead and Freud is totally so. Something did away with them, and it's worth asking what.

Consider the case of global warming, another system of doomsaying prophecy and faith in things unseen.

As with religion, it is presided over by a caste of spectacularly unattractive people pretending to an obscure form of knowledge that promises to make the seas retreat and the winds abate. As with religion, it comes with an elaborate list of virtues, vices and indulgences. As with religion, its claims are often non-falsifiable, hence the convenience of the term "climate change" when thermometers don't oblige the expected trend lines. As with religion, it is harsh toward skeptics, heretics and other "deniers." And as with religion, it is susceptible to the earthly temptations of money, power, politics, arrogance and deceit.

This week, the conclave of global warming's cardinals are meeting in Durban, South Africa, for their 17th conference in as many years. The idea is to come up with a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which is set to expire next year, and to require rich countries to pony up $100 billion a year to help poor countries cope with the alleged effects of climate change. This is said to be essential because in 2017 global warming becomes "catastrophic and irreversible," according to a recent report by the International Energy Agency.

Yet a funny thing happened on the way to the climate apocalypse. Namely, the financial apocalypse.
The U.S., Russia, Japan, Canada and the EU have all but confirmed they won't be signing on to a new Kyoto. The Chinese and Indians won't make a move unless the West does. The notion that rich (or formerly rich) countries are going to ship $100 billion every year to the Micronesias of the world is risible, especially after they've spent it all on Greece.

Cap and trade is a dead letter in the U.S. Even Europe is having second thoughts about carbon-reduction targets that are decimating the continent's heavy industries and cost an estimated $67 billion a year. "Green" technologies have all proved expensive, environmentally hazardous and wildly unpopular duds.

All this has been enough to put the Durban political agenda on hold for the time being. But religions don't die, and often thrive, when put to the political sidelines. A religion, when not physically extinguished, only dies when it loses faith in itself.

That's where the Climategate emails come in. First released on the eve of the Copenhagen climate summit two years ago and recently updated by a fresh batch, the "hide the decline" emails were an endless source of fun and lurid fascination for those of us who had never been convinced by the global-warming thesis in the first place.

But the real reason they mattered is that they introduced a note of caution into an enterprise whose motivating appeal resided in its increasingly frantic forecasts of catastrophe. Papers were withdrawn; source material re-examined. The Himalayan glaciers, it turned out, weren't going to melt in 30 years. Nobody can say for sure how high the seas are likely to rise—if much at all. Greenland isn't turning green. Florida isn't going anywhere.

The reply global warming alarmists have made to these dislosures is that they did nothing to change the underlying science, and only improved it in particulars. So what to make of the U.N.'s latest supposedly authoritative report on extreme weather events, which is tinged with admissions of doubt and uncertainty? Oddly, the report has left climate activists stuttering with rage at what they call its "watered down" predictions. If nothing else, they understand that any belief system, particularly ones as young as global warming, cannot easily survive more than a few ounces of self-doubt.

Meanwhile, the world marches on. On Sunday, 2,232 days will have elapsed since a category 3 hurricane made landfall in the U.S., the longest period in more than a century that the U.S. has been spared a devastating storm. Great religions are wise enough to avoid marking down the exact date when the world comes to an end. Not so for the foolish religions. Expect Mayan cosmology to take a hit to its reputation when the world doesn't end on Dec. 21, 2012. Expect likewise when global warming turns out to be neither catastrophic nor irreversible come 2017.

And there is this: Religions are sustained in the long run by the consolations of their teachings and the charisma of their leaders. With global warming, we have a religion whose leaders are prone to spasms of anger and whose followers are beginning to twitch with boredom. Perhaps that's another way religions die.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Forests, fishing and now wind!

It just never ends…

After living through the exploitation of the spotted owl as a surrogate for stopping scientifically sound management of first Federal, and then private and state-owned forest lands, I should not be surprised that 20 years later, anti-everything activists would rule the day.

Recently three wind energy projects in the Pacific Northwest were cancelled due to the developers’ frustration with wildlife officials’ demands to protect species, not to mention the millions of dollars wasted on preliminary wind farm activities.  Southwest Washington Wind Energy

In Southwest Washington, four public utilities cancelled a 32-turbine wind farm on state-owned forestland due to requirements to shut the windmills down during daylight hours for six months to protect the marbled murrelet, a seabird listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. 

Environmental concerns also led developers to cancel two wind farms on private land in the Steens Mt. area of Southeastern Oregon.  Steens Mountain

Environmental activists used the marbled murrelet and the spotted owl to shut down forest management on Federal forest lands in the 1990s.  A large spoonful of sugar is definitely needed to buy into the plight of the murrelet and the need to stop forest management or windmills.

See, the marbled murrelet is a seabird.  That means the birds spend most of their life at sea.  They only come ashore to nest and reproduce.  However, the murrelet doesn’t just come to the beach, these birds fly 60-70 miles inland looking for a suitable nest site.

That means murrelets fly over roads, industrial development and metropolitan areas up and down the I-5 corridor.  Renewable (so-called clean) energy developers have to accept the theory that although, murrelets fly over all sorts of human progress, they will shrivel up and go extinct if they have to fly over a windmill in the daytime.   We won’t even mention the hundreds of thousands of marbled murrelets in Canada and SE Alaska…

Sunday, November 20, 2011

"Restoring the West"

From: Bob Zybach

For those of you with interests more specific to biomass utilization
and related forest management issues, there were a number of great
presentations that are also presented on this website:

The squeeze around our neck of the woods

If a governor cuts down 20 years of forest mismanagement and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound -- or more importantly, a difference?

We'll see. Gov. John Kitzhaber recently delivered a powerful but little noticed speech to the Oregon Board of Forestry in which he argued that current policies across the sweep of federal, state and privately owned forests that cover over 30 million acres of Oregon conspire to hurt rural communities, the economy, fish and wildlife and the forests themselves.

Kitzhaber has spent years thinking about and trying to redirect forest policy, and his speech to the forestry board deserves a wider audience. The governor's central point: Today's policies are badly out of balance, they don't serve anyone or anything well, and they must change if Oregon is to have healthy forests and a vibrant economy.

Harvest numbers prove his point: The federal government owns and manages nearly 60 percent of Oregon forest lands, but these lands produce only about 12 percent of the annual timber harvest. Oregon's relatively tiny state forests, at 3 percent of forest lands, produce nearly as much timber.

Meanwhile, Oregon's private and industrial forests, which total 19 percent of Oregon forest lands, produce 75 percent of the harvest. Here's the kicker: Nearly a billion dollars' worth of private logs are not going to feed the Oregon sawmills struggling to survive; they're being exported to China. "This amounts to nothing more than exporting our natural capital and our jobs," Kitzhaber said. "We are at risk of becoming a timber colony for Asia."

Kitzhaber describes current policies as "de facto forest zoning" that harms forests and puts pressure in the wrong places. Timber exports force sawmills to seek more logs from public forests. The failure of federal management shifts more demand onto state forests. But adjusting the timber harvest on 3 percent of Oregon forest lands solves little.

But Oregon can demonstrate a way forward. Kitzhaber urged the forestry board to "break the mold of conflict and polarization" by adopting truly sustainable policies for state forests. He urged the board to adopt a land allocation system that explicitly protects high-value conservation and recreation areas while also delineating areas for commercial logging.

This is more or less the same philosophy that Sen. Ron Wyden, Rep. Peter DeFazio and other members of Oregon's congressional delegation have embraced and are pursuing for federal lands. Wyden's eastside forest compromise, which has idled for more than a year in Congress, would protect remaining old-growth forests while allowing more commercial logging in other areas. DeFazio's idea of carving out conservation and logging "trusts" on some westside forests is a variation of the same theme.

The word is that DeFazio and other Oregon members of Congress may be poised to roll out a serious plan to spur more activity in federal forest lands in Southwest Oregon. It would take a big push to move something through this Congress. Meanwhile, we keep hearing that the state wants to be a player in the federal forest debate. It can start by getting its own forests in order.

The Board of Forestry should get cracking on a land allocation system, and it shouldn't take forever -- the agency knows where salmon and spotted owl strongholds and other key conservation and recreation areas lie in its forests. The agency already is protecting many of these areas; formally setting them apart from commercial logging would give recognition to their stewardship. The board also should be unafraid to dig into the controversial issue of log exports, and explore ways to keep logs here by making them more valuable to Oregonians than to the Chinese.

Meanwhile, Kitzhaber, the entire congressional delegation and leaders of the timber industry and environmental groups must keep pressing for thoughtful, collaborative change in the management of federal forests. If Oregon is ever going to get the most out of its forests, the governor has to deliver a lot more than one great speech.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Have Occupiers Missed Their Log…er Boat?

My friend, Certified Forester Greg Miller, raised a good point today: Where were the 99 per centers twenty years ago, when the federal government and radical environmentalists were shutting down the sustainable forest management of our federal forest lands and destroying the lives of rural, and some urban, hard working citizens in the Pacific Northwest? 

The war on the livelihood of hundreds of thousand’s of timber workers continues today as environmentalists continue to use the courts and the Obama Administration to frustrate both scientifically sound forest management and generate economic activity for depressed rural communities while nearly bankrupting local governments.

As federal County Payments come to an end, one hears squeals of “Broken Promises” from elected officials who think that the U. S. Treasury should continue to provide welfare payments to counties to ease the pain of shutting down the timber industry.  With the country deep in debt, this is unlikely to happen.

The Occupiers and 99 %’rs were nowhere to be found when the ultimate federal promises were broken.  After World War II the federal government encouraged the timber industry to build mills and provide family wage jobs throughout Oregon, Washington, and Northern California.

In fact, the promise of a sustained yield of timber was a distinctly non-capitalistic notion that one would think the current protesters would embrace.  Instead, we’ve tossed hundreds of thousands of jobs aside and watched rural communities struggle to stay intact as crime, hunger, and domestic problems explode.

Let’s call for the protesters to take up the struggle of the 99%’rs in the rural Pacific Northwest.  This would not only help citizens, but can also apply some much needed management to our critically ailing federal forests.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Forest biomass as a fuel source and solution for maintaining forest health

Letter to Oregon Board of Forestry from the Committee for Family Forestlands

The Committee for Family Forestlands (CFF) urges the Board of Forestry and State Forester to continue working with the Governor, the Oregon Forest Resources Institute, Oregon’s Forest Biomass Working Group, and the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to explore the potential for expanding the forest-based energy production industry. The EPA is presently engaged in a 3-year review of the proposed “Tailoring Rule”, the rule which would determine the acceptable limits of CO2 emissions from biomass-fueled energy generation facilities. The parameters outlined in the final Rule will effectively determine whether large-scale forest biomass-based energy production is permissible and economically viable. The current review period provides an important window of opportunity for the State of Oregon to concurrently examine the pros and cons of using forest biomass as an energy source, and to provide important and convincing input to the federal government and the EPA.  The CFF believes it is crucially important that the EPA’s review of the issues related to forest biomass includes a holistic consideration of forest ecology and forest economics as well as potential impacts on air quality.

The CFF suggests that a forest biomass-based energy production industry should:

1.     Be guided by the goal of achieving and maintaining forest health.
2.     Recognize that without a reliable market paying reasonable prices for raw materials, restoration thinnings that remove only the smallest diameter classes may not be fiscally realistic. Until such markets are available, forest operators will be financially unable to undertake small-diameter forest restoration thinnings unless these projects are publicly subsidized or unless larger-diameter, more profitable timber can be simultaneously harvested from the site to defray the cost of removing the less profitable biomass.
3.     Establish a sustainable, even flow biomass harvest rate so that infrastructure and labor pools can be appropriately matched to the ecological capacity of the forests.
4.     Be consistent with established best forest management practices as outlined in related state and federal laws and regulations.
5.     Encourage cross-boundary collaboration to achieve landscape-level forest restoration goals.
6.     Be visionary, and adaptively responsive to emergent scientific knowledge and social expectations.

A forest biomass energy industry offers an important means of improving forest health and sustainability while simultaneously helping to stabilize the nation’s renewable energy sector. This is particularly true in fire-adapted western forest ecosystems. An estimated 12.2 million acres of forests in Oregon have been identified as overstocked and in need of thinning or prescribed burning to restore their vigor and reduce their susceptibility to aggressive wildfires. In many instances these forests are so heavily overstocked that they cannot be safely treated with prescribed fire until the excess biomass has been removed through mechanical thinning. In many other cases, particularly in the wildland-urban interface where many family forests are located, prescribed fire is not a realistic treatment option due to problems related to unfiltered smoke pollution and the risk of escaped fire. In such locations, thinning is the only realistic restoration option.

Forest thinning treatments, however, are typically expensive. The excess biomass is frequently too small in diameter to be sold for conventional wood products such as dimension lumber, and its quantity vastly exceeds the demand in established markets such as the particleboard industry that can utilize small-diameter material. Consequently, there is presently no market for the excess forest biomass that needs to be removed through restoration thinnings. Most restoration projects must therefore be subsidized with tax dollars on public forests, or a combination of personal funds and public cost-share programs on private forests. Small-forest owners find it particularly difficult to accomplish forest restoration, because their smaller-scale projects often cannot generate sufficient profit to attract forest operators who depend upon conventional forest products markets. Particularly in the current economic climate, wherein adequate public and private funding for forest health improvement products is less and less available, the absence of a reliable commercial market for excess forest biomass means that most of these forests will be doomed to a continuing state of decay. Forest restoration biomass would be, however, eminently marketable as a renewable fuel source that could substantially reduce US dependence upon fossil fuel supplies. The thoughtful development of a forest biomass energy industry would, therefore, help Oregon and America meet two of its most pressing environmental goals: forest sustainability and energy sustainability.

There are many who caution that enabling a new forest energy production industry may lead to overharvesting rather than sustainable harvesting within our forests, and also that the ecological impacts of removing small diameter biomass are not yet fully understood. We agree that there is need for caution. Scientific understanding of the implications of biomass extraction is indeed incomplete. There is, however, solid scientific understanding of the ecological, social, and financial risks associated with leaving forests overstocked and in declining health, and of the validity of thinning as a technique for restoring and maintaining forest vigor. We therefore concur with the Oregon Forest Resources Institute’s conclusion that “Biomass utilization for energy should be considered a tool for improving the health of our forests. To ensure a sustainable, appropriate level of development, the needs for forest restoration should determine the scale of the forest biomass energy industry” (OFRI Report on Biomass Energy and Biofuels from Oregon’s Forests, Page 1-v.) 

The CFF also recognizes that there is ongoing debate regarding how the burning of forest biomass as a fuel may affect air quality, particularly with regard to “greenhouse gas” emissions. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is by far the most troublesome of the “greenhouse gases”. Forests naturally absorb CO2 during their respiration process, and subsequently “sequester” or hold the carbon in the form of new wood growth. If the tree is harvested and the wood is used for building materials, the carbon remains safely stored until being gradually released as the wood eventually decays. Forests, therefore, are highly desirable carbon repositories. They are widely understood to be nature’s most effective tool at helping to combat this particular type of air pollution. If wood burns, however, all of its stored carbon is quickly released back into the atmosphere, thereby contributing to “greenhouse gas” pollution. Consequently, some contend that burning forest biomass as a fuel may actually add to energy-related air pollution, rather than substracting from it. This argument, however, overlooks the problem of wildfire, which releases not only massive amounts of CO2 but also many other toxic chemical and particulate pollutants in the form of unfiltered smoke.

Wildfires already run rampant through the West’s overstocked and unnaturally flammable forests each year. It is well understood that if forest overgrowth is not reduced to site-appropriate stocking levels, the incidence and intensity of wildfires can only increase. Wildfires produce levels of air pollution far exceeding any that would be produced from thoughtfully constructed wood-burning energy production facilities equipped with pollution control equipment. Furthermore, the high cost of controlling the wildfires deprives the state of funds that could be directed to other forest management practices that could directly improve forest health and sustainability. The Oregon Department of Forestry currently ranks wildfire control as its top priority and foremost expenditure.

Healthy, appropriately stocked forests provide optimal wildlife and fisheries habitat. They are invaluable as recreational sites. They are unparalleled sources of pure water. They produce the oxygen we breathe, the vistas we cherish, the wood products we use to build our homes, and the paper products we need for effective communication. With the development of a restoration-oriented biomass utilization industry, the CFF believes they can also provide a sustainable, renewable source of energy.

Oregon has long been a leader in innovative forest policy. The CFF urges the Oregon Board of Forestry and State Forester to continue this legacy by continuing to explore the potential benefits of a holistic forest biomass utilization policy.

Most sincerely,

The Oregon Committee for Family Forestlands
Craig Shinn, Chair
Susan Watkins, Vice-Chair

The Committee for Family Forestlands is a statutory committee appointed by the Board of Forestry to provide advice and recommendations regarding family forests and includes family forestland owners from different areas of the state, environmental organization and forest industry representatives, a citizen-at-large and ex-officio members representing the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF), Extension Service, Oregon Forest Resources Institute, the Oregon Small Woodlot Association and logging or forestry consulting interests.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Kitzhaber wants Oregon forests to be model for region

Majority of state's timber being shipped overseas

From Salem Statesman Journal
Written by

By Jeff Barnard

Gov. John Kitzhaber on Thursday called on the state Board of Forestry to take a new approach to managing state forests that will make them a model for resolving regional conflicts that have pitted logging against fish and wildlife habitat in the Northwest for more than 30 years.

Speaking to the board at its regular meeting in Forest Grove, Kitzhaber said since national forests in Oregon cut logging 90 percent to protect old-growth forest habitat for salmon and northern spotted owls, the bulk of the timber now comes off private lands. Too many of those logs are being shipped to China rather than sustaining jobs in Oregon mills, he said.

"This amounts to nothing more than exporting our natural capital and our jobs," Kitzhaber said. "We are at risk of becoming a timber colony for Asia, while undermining our mill infrastructure and their surrounding communities."

The governor's speech comes as his office and Oregon's congressional delegation are struggling to save rural timber counties from going broke when a federal safety net expires at the end of this year. The Secure Rural Schools Act has made up for the big drop in federal revenue sharing based on logging.

In the past four years, West Coast log exports from private lands have gone from $42 million to $500 million, Kitzhaber said. Meanwhile, federal forests, which amount to 59 percent of Oregon's land mass, produce just 12 percent of the timber. State forests produce 10 percent of the timber from 3 percent of the land. And private forests produce 75 percent of the timber from 19 percent of the land.

Legislative efforts to increase logging have just eroded trust on all sides, he added.
To make Oregon a model for resolving these issues, Kitzhaber said the state will have to work closely with agencies managing federal and private forests.

He suggested the board adopt strict performance standards to measure the success of forest policies and re-examine the longstanding model that produces timber by cutting forests in a way to encourage structures similar to old growth, rather than for maximum timber yield.

He also encouraged the board to act more aggressively to protect fish and wildlife habitat, particularly along salmon streams and on hillsides vulnerable to landslides, which will create conservation jobs and give everyone a better idea about what to expect from state forests.

Kitzhaber told the board to take a new look at its business model, taking into account the economic problems faced by timber counties, where plummeting federal timber revenues have left them struggling to survive.

Oregon Board of Forestry Chairman John Blackwell said he liked the fact the governor was giving them permission to be more aggressive protecting fish and wildlife habitat.

Ray Wilkeson of the Oregon Forest Industries Council, a timber industry group, said he was encouraged by the governor's recognition that management on public forest lands, state and federal, is not working and needs changing.

Josh Laughlin of Cascadia Wildlands project, a conservation group, said the speech did not follow with the governor's recent vote to approve a 40 percent increase in clear-cut logging on the Elliott State Forest.

Gov. John Kitzhaber says forest policies must balance health of habitat and rural communities

FOREST GROVE -- Gov. John Kitzhaber called on the state Board of Forestry Thursday to step back from the "politically driven seesaw management" of the state's timberland and adopt a balanced approach that can be extended to the much larger federal forests as well.

Kitzhaber, in a rare appearance by a governor before the board, said current management practices put state, federal and private forests in isolated silos, when they should be viewed as an interconnected landscape.

"We are mired in ongoing conflict -- timber sale by timber sale, forest by forest -- rather than engaging in a holistic strategy" that balances environmental, economic and community values, the governor said.

The result is unhealthy forests and damaged rural communities, the governor said. The 18 million acres of federal forests, which make up nearly 60 percent of the forestland in Oregon, are choked with unmanaged stands of young fir and pine and produce only 12 percent of the annual timber harvest.

That puts harvest pressure on the relatively tiny state forests, which make up only 3 percent of the forestland base but produce 10 percent of the timber. Meanwhile, private forests make up 19 percent of the land base and produce 75 percent of the timber.

Much of the private timber, however, is exported overseas. West Coast log exporters are on pace to ship $900 million worth of logs this year, compared to $42 million four years ago, the governor said.

Kitzhaber said excessive log exports undermine Oregon's mill infrastructure, hurt communities and put more harvest pressure on the public forests.

"This amounts to nothing more than exporting our natural capital and our jobs," he said. "We are at risk of becoming a timber colony for Asia."

Kitzhaber challenged the board to make several management changes. Among them, he said the board should establish conservation zones in state forests, and likewise define the amount and location of land that will be used for timber production.

He said the state should move away from "structure based" management and should not let harvest revenue targets drive forest management. Timber harvest revenue from state forests supports counties and school districts.

A "land allocation" management approach with both timber production and conservation emphasis would provide stability and certainty for everyone concerned, he said.

To manage Oregon's forests as a joined landscape, the board will increasingly have to work closely with federal and private forest managers, Kitzhaber said. The governor said increased management -- thinning and other logging -- is required to restore the health of federal forests.

Groups at both ends of the state's long-running forest arguments found things to like among the governor's ideas.

The Sierra Club, Wild Salmon Center and Association of Northwest Steelheaders issued a joint statement applauding the idea of establishing conservation areas.

Ray Wilkeson, president of the Oregon Forest Industries Council, said Kitzhaber's ideas are worth a try both on state and federal land.

"If anybody can do it, it would be him," Wilkeson said of Kitzhaber.

In other business Thursday, the board voted 4-2 to approve a management plan for the Elliott State Forest near Coos Bay.

Under the plan, the Elliott's annual timber harvest will increase to 40 million board feet, compared to 25 million board feet under a plan implemented in 1995. The new plan increases the targeted annual harvest to 1,100 acres with up to 850 acres to be clear-cut. The previous plan logged 1,000 acres annually, half by clear-cutting. The new plan will produce annual net revenue of up to $13 million, compared to about $8 million currently.

Board members John Blackwell, Cal Mukumoto, Jennifer Phillippi and Gary Springer voted in favor of the plan. Peter Hayes and Sybil Ackerman opposed it

More than 90 percent of the 93,000-acre Elliott consists of Common School Fund lands under jurisdiction of the State Land Board, made up of Kitzhaber, state Treasurer Ted Wheeler and Secretary of State Kate Brown. The land board unanimously approved the plan Oct. 11.

--Eric Mortenson

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Governor Kitzhaber testimony before the Board of Forestry

November 3, 2011 Forest Grove Oregon

I.  Introduction
Thank you for this opportunity to speak with you today.  It comes at an important time. While there is chaos in our nation – Oregon remains an island of sanity; a place where we can still bring our problems and differences to a common table and seek win/win solutions.

In the past legislative session – and confronted with a larger per capita budget deficit than either California or Washington – we balanced our budget with civility and integrity; without tearing  our state apart like Wisconsin; or shutting it down like Minnesota.

I would like to apply that same spirit to the management of our forest lands, which remain embroiled in controversy.  The vast federal forests of Eastern Oregon continue to need environmentally sound active management to restore their health at a landscape scale.  In SW Oregon, the conflict over how the O&C forest lands should be managed has reached a new chapter.  All the while, many rural counties and communities across our state face a relentless slide into fiscal insolvency and social disintegration.  And earlier today, you engaged in rulemaking on the management of the Elliott state forest – an issue that has also fostered deep and ongoing controversy.

So while I am here to speak to the Board of Forestry about Oregon’s state forest lands, my overall concern, my hope and my vision, centers on Oregon’s forested landscape as a whole; and on creating a path forward that can unify the often competing interests that have divided us in the past.

As you know, I have had a long involvement in forest policy in Oregon, dating back to the two rewrites of the Oregon Forest Practices Act in 1987 and 1991 when I was President of the State Senate; the Eastside Forest Health Project and the Blue Mountain Demonstration Project; the development and implementation of the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds; and carrying through to the initial development of the management plan for the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests during my service as Governor from 1995-2003.

Over the years I have witnessed legislative attempts to establish timber primacy on our state forests; as well as ballot measures which attempted to set aside half the landscape for preservation purposes. Both approaches reflect the politically-driven see-saw management of these lands which has colored our past; and both approaches erode trust and diminish our capacity to put in place the kind of sustainable forest policy which can help inform the management debate across Oregon’s larger forest landscape.
Given this history it is understandable that your recently revised management plan for the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests of northwest Oregon is not without controversy, with many on all sides expressing a familiar set of concerns.  The environmental community is concerned that the increased harvest level is not sustainable and will jeopardize conservation values; the wood products industry is concerned that any reduction in harvest – particularly given the timber supply problem being exacerbated by raw log exports -- will jeopardize the viability of our local mill infrastructure and the jobs associated with it; and counties are concerned that any reduction in the harvest level will further erode the already strained financial integrity of local government.

These are variations of the same concerns we are hearing surrounding the Elliott state forest; the current and future management of our O&C lands; and of the much larger federal forest landscape managed by the U.S. Forest Service.  It is an old litany.  And all of these concerns have merit – certainly when viewed in isolation – but perhaps less so when viewed through a larger lens.

II. Providing a Larger Context
The state forests that are managed by the Oregon’s Board of Forestry represent an opportunity to craft a model for public forest land management.  I suggest to you that we have not yet perfected that model.  It is a work in progress, and it is part of a much larger picture and should be viewed in that context.

Almost 60% of Oregon’s land base is in federal ownership, almost 18 million acres of which is forest land managed either by the U.S. Forest Service (14.7 million acres) or the Bureau of Land Management (3.2 million acres).   This means that of the 30.5 million acres of forest landscape in Oregon, the federal government owns and manages 59% (17.9 million acres); and state owns and manages 3% (871,000 acres); and 38 percent is in private ownership (5.8 million acres in family forest land; and 5.7 million acres in private industrial forest land).

What happens on these federal lands, therefore, plays a significant role in overall public forest land management policy; which, in turn influences what happens on our state and private forest lands.  I believe that one of the central flaws in our current effort to develop a rational and balanced policy for managing public forest land in Oregon is that we operate in silos, viewing state lands in isolation from activities on federal and private forest lands.  This becomes obvious when we look at forest land ownership in Oregon and the relative contributions that these lands make to annual timber production.

Total Forest Land in Oregon = 30,499,733 acres
Ownership           Percent Land Base       Percent Timber Production
Federal                          59%                                         12%
State                              3%                                          10%
Private (Industrial +        19%                                         75%
Commercial non-industrial)

As you can see, the vast majority of annual timber production (75%) comes from private land. And while the fact that private industrial timber lands are producing most of the volume may not be surprising, when viewed in a larger landscape context – and given the current market forces – this is not necessarily a healthy situation; a point I will return to in a moment.

Furthermore, while at a level much less than private industrial lands, our state lands are producing a significant volume of timber when compared to federal lands.  The 870,000 acres of state forest land is producing 10% of annual timber volume; while the 17,900,000 acres of federal forest land are producing only 12%.

These realities on private and state lands have caused some to look to federal public lands as the de facto conservation-base – they perceive these federal lands as the portion of the landscape that produces the habitat needs for fish and wildlife.  This attitude towards federal lands increases pressure for harvest on both state and private lands, and it under-recognizes the unique habitat needs on state and private lands as well as the efforts that have been made -- and that could still be made -- by landowners and managers to address this.  That is not healthy either.

My point is that our current private, federal and state management framework results in a de facto zoning of Oregon’s forest landscape that does not necessarily correlate with species needs, with forest health, or with economic and local community values.  The consequence of this condition is the existence of three unsustainable and, in my view, undesirable symptoms:
  1. If you are a rural community or a mill located in a landscape dominated by federal land, you are in real trouble -- if you are still in existence today.  Federal lands are producing wood products at levels 90% lower than those in 1989.  Let me be clear that I am not suggesting that we return to the unsustainable practices and logging levels of the 1980’s and early 90’s.

But when you see production levels at 400 million board feet today across acreage 21 times larger than our state forest land base -- compared to nearly 5 billion board feet on that same landscape in 1989 -- I submit this is not desirable either.  It ignores the legacy of a century of federal forest management policy characterized by active fire suppression, excessive livestock grazing, the removal of over story old growth pine and fir – compounded by an era of staunch resistance to active management by conservation groups.

The legacy of these management practices – particularly in Eastern Oregon –is forests overstocked with stands of younger fir and pine; the loss of older fire-resilient forest structure; a mammoth road system that has disconnected healthy hydrologic function and fragmented habitat; a significant reduction in watershed health; the destruction of habitat for sensitive species; a steep decline in employment for timber dependent communities; and a high risk of catastrophic fire.

Because of these conditions, I do not view calls for increased federal management—such as the April 2011 memo I received from groups including OFIC, AFRC, and a variety of other timber interests—as inconsistent with my conservation or broader social values.  Indeed, I believe that reversing this legacy requires environmentally sound active management to restore the health of these federal forests. 

Active management requires local mill infrastructure and a skilled contractor base; an operational market which rests upon a predictable and sustainable supply of wood and other products of restoration work; and adequate capacity for management within the federal agencies.

Today, through Congressional budget cuts, market downturns and dwindling supply, this local mill infrastructure and Forest Service management capacity has suffered greatly in the federal land dominated parts of Oregon – and,  not coincidentally, so have the surrounding communities.  Failure to reverse this trend will further jeopardize the health of these vast forest ecosystems; and increase pressure to ramp up the timber volume taken off our state and private lands.
  1. If you are a mill, a mill worker, or a secondary market business living in a landscape dominated by private industrial land, you are likely seeing real trouble as well, because so many of the trees being cut on these lands today are being shipped across the Pacific Ocean as raw logs.  Despite the continuing weakness of the U.S. housing market, lumber production both in the U.S. and Canada is higher in 2011 than in 2010.[1] Yet Oregon mills face an acute timber supply problem despite the fact that west coast log exporters are projected to send over $900 million dollars worth of logs overseas this year, compared to only $42 million just four years ago.    
This amounts to nothing more than exporting our natural capital and our jobs.  We are at risk of becoming a timber colony for Asia; while undermining our mill infrastructure and their surrounding communities – and, at the same time, further increasing the pressure for harvest on public forest lands.   
  1. Finally, if you are a forest-dependent species that relies on old-growth habitat, then you are in trouble too.   Old-forest habitat is in a deficit condition across Northwest Oregon and other places as well.  We’ve seen the impacts of the spotted owl listing…which is a cautionary tale regarding species recovery, and potential future listings. 
  • The US Fish & Wildlife Service recently issued its Spotted Owl Recovery Plan, highlighting actions that are still needed to address habitat and population health for this species. 
  • In the National Marine Fisheries Service’s recent decision to keep coastal Coho salmon listed under the ESA, it highlighted limiting factors to recovery related to forest management;
  • And, the US Fish & Wildlife Service just issued a “warranted but precluded” decision for the Red Tree Vole, creating a Northwest Oregon Distinct Population Segment for this species and making it a candidate for listing under the ESA. 

We don’t want to see the listing of another old-growth dependent species.  This is Oregon.  We can do better, and now is the time to take proactive measures that better allow us to show success stories around species recovery instead of the continued shackles of federal Endangered Species Act listings.

III. Moving Forward
The answer to meeting these challenges is not to expect that the private industrial sector is suddenly going to shift away from a timber production framework as its primary focus.  Nor is it to expect that federal land logging will return to the levels of the 1980’s and early 90’s.  That is not what I’m saying.  Clearly there are different histories, legal frameworks and standards applicable to private versus state forest management; and state versus federal forest management.

What I am saying, however, is that the three symptoms I just described are just that – symptoms; symptoms of a larger underlying problem: the fact that the status quo in terms of our economic, community and conservation values does not represent a sustainable or, quite frankly, a defensible balance.  We are mired in ongoing conflict: timber sale by timber sale; forest by forest – rather than engaging in a more holistic strategy that can move us toward a collaborative solution that balances our environmental, economic and community values in a sustainable manner.

To achieve this vision, new and innovative approaches are needed across many areas tied to public forest management.  This includes diversification of product lines and business models, including ties to community-scale biomass energy.   Examples of this can be found in John Day and the partnership between Malheur Lumber and the local hospital and airport; and in the integrated wood product campuses from Wallowa County.

Innovation also includes the expansion and diversification of revenue sources for counties, for the Department, and for the health of forest lands and affected communities.   We need to examine responsible ways to increase revenue options, including community forests, carbon sequestration markets, and other market-based approaches that help avoid the conversion of forest lands to non-forest uses.

This also includes expansion of state-forest ownership – and I would like to applaud the Board and the Department’s work on the Gilchrist State Forest and your help in keeping a working forest active in a place that needs working forests.  I am also interested in looking at innovative new loan programs, funding partnerships, the use of bonding authorities or the expansion of voter-backed funding in support of conservation-based working landscapes and rural economic development around forest management.

Innovation also includes considering the establishment of a signature research center (like ONAMI and BEST) dedicated to innovation in the use of wood – perhaps a partnership between the Forestry Department at OSU, the School of Architecture at U of O; and the proposed Sustainability Center in Portland.

Finally, we need to support pathways that lead to consensus in management, particularly on the federal landscape.  Since my last term as governor-- and my work on the en libra principles -- the good work of collaboration has grown significantly across many Oregon regions and communities closely linked with federal forests.  In many places, projects have not been appealed or litigated for years.  This is a positive trend.  Gaining collaborative agreement across diverse constituents on public forest management provides stability, and in a world of increasingly limited funding, the consensus these local forest collaboratives produce represents a sound place to invest.  That said, the ecological, social, and economic needs we face today demand restoration work at a larger scale.  I will continue to support forest collaboratives – but will also challenge them to advance project work at a pace and scale that is meaningful for forest and community health.

We have an opportunity to break the mold of conflict and polarization by how we choose to move forward on our state forests.  I believe you join me in wanting Oregonians and the nation to look at Oregon as a model for public forest management.  To do so, two things are required.

First, we must view our state forests not in isolation but rather in the context of the larger forest landscape of which they are a part.  This means that in addition to the management policies set forth by the Board of Forestry for state lands; we must aggressively pursue the latitude to engage in environmentally sound active management to restore the health of our federal forest lands; through our Congressional delegation, through the US Forest Service via channels like our Federal Forest Advisory Committee, and through our network of community-based forest collaboratives.

It also means we must develop polices and strategies that will result in logs harvested off private lands being as valuable here in Oregon as they are in Asia.  In short we need to be exporting value added products, not our natural capital and our jobs.  Both of these efforts will be priorities for my administration.

Second, the management of our state forests must reflect the kind of sustainable forest policy which can help inform the management debate across Oregon’s larger forested landscape.

IV. Specific Charge to the Board of Forestry
My specific charge to you today is related to the development of exactly that kind of sustainable forest management policy.  This notion of sustainability is why I have supported the application of the “Greatest Permanent Value” rule interpretation that recognizes and respects the wide variety of values that exist on State forest lands, and why I continue to support that approach.  I applaud your work on review of that rule—working with your Public Advisory Committee—and support the Department’s recommendation that you affirm the rule in the near future.

But we need not get hung up on GPV today -- or in the future; we need not fight about whether to narrow or expand the definition of the term because I believe we can achieve our economic, environmental and community values if we focus on a shared management vision that includes five key elements, some of which you are already working on.  As you discuss your 2012 work plan this afternoon, I would like you to consider addressing these five elements in the coming year.

Element 1: Performance Measures
Performance measures define the collective targets for our management of public lands.  They are the outcomes against which we measure management success.  Begin to strengthen your existing suite of performance measures in a way that clarifies the expected outcomes from state forest -- not just revenues but the full range of values. In the coming year, take the time to refocus on these.

To illustrate the importance of this point, let me cite your recent Forest Management Plan revision around revenue from the Tillamook – which, in my view leads us to the wrong conversation and reinforces the old zero sum conflict that has characterized and constrained forest management policy in the past.

Revenue is certainly an important part of the state forest picture, and it is specifically important to forest counties as well as our forest industry.  As I stated earlier, we need to increase the value of logs here, versus shipping them overseas.  And we need to ensure county revenues.  To be clear, I have no problem deriving revenue from our state forests, so long as the management plan is sound.  And if some years produce more revenue than others because of market conditions, then that is a reason to look to diversification and other tools to stabilize revenues rather than a reason for large swings in harvest.

Unlike a stock market investment, however, we manage public forests for a balance of dividends beyond dollars.  If hard revenue targets drive management, then this limits the management tools and prescription options available to foresters in attaining the variety of these values across the landscape.  If we instead first define our targets around the amount and location of acres that will be our timber production base, what acres involve too much risk due to erosion or other reasons, and what acres are needed to advance conservation values or public recreation values, then a system will emerge on which we can project stable, predictable revenue outcomes in concert with other outcomes.

Element 2: Strategy
Based upon the increased clarity around performance measures, I encourage you to examine the tenets of structure-based management to consider if they; or other forest management strategies -- or some combination of strategies -- are best suited to deliver on these outcomes.  There is still a need to address the issue of restoring diversity within the existing structural conditions across the state forest landscape, especially in the direction of layered and old-complex forest, which is extremely deficit in light of desired ranges.  Specifically, I would like y0u to consider how a land allocation approach -- with both wood emphasis and conservation emphasis -- might help you better address your performance measures while providing a better degree of certainty for all interests.  A determination of whether such an approach is superior to current management should rest on the best available science.
Remember, too, that the collaborative and inclusive approach to management that I am encouraging on federal lands should also guide your development of state forest plans.

Element 3: Conservation
Examine and then act upon the authority vested in the Board and Department to establish areas managed primarily for conservation on state forests.  Consider ways of establishing and managing these areas that provide certainty and improved habitat and species recovery outcomes, restoration jobs, and other economic benefits such as recreation.  These could be areas that protect against undesired risks (such as erosion on steep slopes), recognize special places with high value to the public or to species conservation, and -- while not in an industrial harvest rotation – these areas might still see active management to restore and enhance conservation values.  Be careful to use a scientific basis for determining where and how large such a network of these areas should be so as to ensure landscape-level habitat value and hedge against impacts from disturbances.

I recognize that the Department already provides protection to certain sensitive areas under current management.  Your challenge as a board is to provide a visible and durable conservation area commitment in a scientifically meaningful manner … doing so as an expression of the Board’s conservation values in action.

My request that you consider establishing clearly defined conservation areas could compliment the land allocation approach I just mentioned – and as such would require that we also clearly define timber production areas and grant these areas the same certainty granted to conservation areas.

Element 4:  Adaptation
I have heard State Forester Decker refer to acting with humility, and recognizing that as land managers, we don’t have all the answers and the state of the science is always evolving. This is an important concept at the heart of adaptive management. In the year ahead, take a close look at your research, monitoring and adaptive management strategies to ensure you have sufficient data and information to inform and evolve your forest management approach into the future. This begins with a realistic identification of the resources and partnerships necessary to implement these strategies.

Element 5: Business Model
Finally, I encourage you to review your financial and business model for operating Oregon’s state forest system—within the context of your expected outcomes.  For the long-term stability of Oregon counties and other beneficiaries of state forest management, we must find a way to diversify both the revenue portfolio of our counties and of our forest revenue streams as well.  Your scheduled consideration of  ecosystem services later today is an encouraging first step and I look forward to working with you and with our county partners over the months ahead to address this important issue.
Let me close this afternoon with a few final comments.

First, if we are to develop a landscape approach to the management of forestland in Oregon, the Board will increasingly have to work with both federal and private forest land managers.  I will do whatever I can to facilitate that interaction.

Second, in terms of federal land management, I have intentionally focused today on what I see as a need to increase management activity.  Even though you as a Board and I as governor do not directly manage these lands, we do have influence.  In addition to the work of the Federal Forest Advisory Committee, with which you are familiar, I see one additional pathway in which you as a Board could have a positive effect: the work of forest collaboratives, where diverse voices are working through differences to find common ground for the good of the community and the good of the forest.  The collaboratives provide a framework for my call for increased federal management. Currently the State of Oregon provides modest support for these collaboratives, and we need to do more.  I’ve asked members of my team to consider ways to ensure reasonable technical and capacity support for collaboratives working to break the gridlock. We’ll need your help—and the assistance and support of the Department of Forestry—to make that work.

As you do this, and as you examine your business model, I ask you to work closely with me, with the Legislature, and with your partners and stakeholders to identify sufficient political and financial resources to deliver on the outcomes.

Third, I realize that work on the above elements will require significant work and lead you to a variety of decision points.  But my belief is that by focusing on these key elements, you have within your reach the ability to shape a sustainable approach to managing forests that can be a model for how to simultaneously address environmental, economic and community values. An approach that is financially sustainable, politically sustainable, and environmentally sustainable, and that can inform future state forest management plans; as well as management on Oregon’s larger forested landscape.

Finally, let me thank you for your service to this Board, to our forests, to our state and to our common future.

[1] Wood Resource Quarterly, “Global Timber and Wood Products Market Update” (a news brief from Wood Resources International LLC) (August 2011).  If the trends of the first seven months of 2011 continue, U.S. and Canadian softwood exports will more than double from last year.