7 Mar 2009, 7:37pm
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2008 Oregon and Washington lumber exports increase

Pacific Northwest Research Station - Newsroom 03/02/2009 [here]

Portland, Oregon - A total of 293.0 million board feet of softwood lumber was exported from Oregon and Washington in 2008. “The volume was up 26.6 percent from the 2007 total of 231.4 million board feet,” says Debra Warren, an economist at the Pacific Northwest Research Station, USDA Forest Service. “During this same time period, Oregon and Washington imported 1.7 billion board feet of softwood lumber, mostly from Canada.”

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6 Mar 2009, 1:20am
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For sale soon: Beetle-killed trees

Forest officials trying to find out if there is really a market

By LEE JUILLERAT, Klamath Falls Herald and News, March 4, 2009 [here]

What do you do with thousands of acres of dead and dying trees with a low commercial value?

Fremont-Winema National Forest officials say people are interested — from individual and commercial firewood cutters to industrial loggers who want to create chips for pulp or hardboard manufacture.

“Most likely we’re going to offer some large sales and find ways to satisfy small commercial cutters,” said Kevin Moore, the forests’ timber program manager.

Moore said questionnaires were sent to more than 500 potential purchasers to determine market interest and demand for dead and dying trees. The die-off was created by a mountain pine beetle epidemic on 330,000 acres of forestlands in Lake and Klamath counties. About 220,000 acres are on national forest land with the rest on adjacent private timberlands. …

About 7,000 total acres of trees will be cut or thinned, following environmental approvals. Green trees also will be thinned to promote forest health. Moore said the Fremont-Winema annually offers timber sales of 15,000 to 20,000 acres of green, or healthy, trees. … [more]

5 Mar 2009, 12:07am
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Big court victory for rural property owners

The state Supreme Court has handed a huge victory to rural property owners in King County who fought a part of the Critical Areas Ordinance package that requires them to keep native vegetation on 50 to 65 percent of their land.

By Keith Ervin, Seattle Times, March 4, 2009 [here]

Rural property owners who fought a King County law severely restricting how much land they can clear have won a huge victory.

The state Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to review an appeals-court decision that struck down the law as an improper tax or fee on development. Chief Justice Gerry Alexander signed an order in which he and four other justices unanimously denied the county’s petition for review of the Court of Appeals ruling.

The clearing restrictions, part of a package that includes the Critical Areas Ordinance, require rural property owners to keep native vegetation on 50 to 65 percent of their land, depending on its size. They were adopted as a way of protecting streams and wildlife, including the threatened chinook salmon.

Steve Hammond, president of the Citizens’ Alliance for Property Rights, said the order “puts the nail in the coffin” of the most controversial element in the critical-areas package.

“I’ve been saying since 2004, when I was on the [County] Council, this is not the right thing to do,” Hammond said of the clearing law. “This is the homeowner having to make a donation to the open-space program. Two-thirds of your property is a pretty significant donation. That’s bad.

“The only way I know how to get folks who don’t live in the affected area to understand it is to say, ‘What if I walked into your bathroom and said you have three fixtures: You can keep one and the other two have to go?’ ”

Stephanie Warden, director of the county Department of Development and Environmental Services, which helped draft the clearing law and enforces it, said she was disappointed by the court’s ruling and will meet with attorneys to discuss the county’s legal options. … [more]

4 Mar 2009, 8:36pm
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Grants Pass school removes book over portrayal of logging

AP, March 04, 2009 [here]

GRANTS PASS — A book about saving forests has been removed from first-grade classes in the Grants Pass School District after complaints about the way loggers are portrayed.

School officials say the decision was made after complaints over material in “Help the Forest” by Rita Crosby.

The Daily Courier newspaper in Grants Pass said complaints included a letter to the editor from a man who read the book when his grandson brought it home from school.

The book shows a photo of a logger cutting down a tree with a chain saw while another photo shows litter. The text accuses loggers of not taking care of the forest.

23 Feb 2009, 12:20pm
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Forest report cites dangers to water source

by Joe Hanel, Durango Herald, February 21, 2009 [here]

DENVER - Calling Colorado’s high-altitude forests a national asset, the region’s top forester thinks urban water utilities should consider charging their customers a monthly forest-health fee.
Many bills, little money to fight wildfires

Rick Cables, head of the U.S. Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain region, told state lawmakers Wednesday that forest protection is every bit as important for water supplies as building dams and pipelines.

“The new water project is protecting the headwaters - investing in where the water comes from,” Cables said.

Cables and Colorado State Forester Jeff Jahnke visited the Legislature’s two agriculture committees to release the annual forest health report, which this year focuses on threats to high-altitude forests.

Trees above 9,000 feet provide biodiversity and homes for wildlife, Jahnke said.

“Probably more than anything - and I think of national strategic value - is their role in producing water,” Jahnke said.

Cables agreed. People in 143 counties in 10 states rely on water from Colorado’s headwaters, he said.

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5 Feb 2009, 10:12pm
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$10 million Sought for Fuel Removal in San Bernardino Mtns

by Joe Nelson, San Bernardino Sun, 02/04/2009 [here]

San Bernardino County Fire Chief Pat Dennen has been given the green light to apply for $10 million in federal aid for the continuing removal of dead trees and brush in the fire-prone San Bernardino Mountains.

The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday authorized Dennen to submit a grant proposal to the U.S. Forest Service for the additional funds and to extend the termination date for the county’s Tree Mortality and Fuels Management Grant Program from Sept. 30, 2011, to Sept. 30, 2013.

In the last decade, severe drought and an unprecedented bark beetle infestation killed more than a million trees in the San Bernardino Mountains. More than $70 million has been spent in that time in tree and brush removal, Dennen said.

In July, the Forest Service allocated $3.5 million to the county to assist private property owners in the removal of dry brush and timber from their properties to create defensible space and reduce the threat of fire.

The $10 million the county is seeking from the Forest Service will complement that $3.5 million. Creating more defensible space around homes and businesses will continue to be the number one priority, Dennen said.

Drastic steps have been taken by the county in recent months to diminish the threat of wildfire in the mountains.

In October, the Board of Supervisors adopted an ordinance requiring all mountain residents to replace their wood shake shingle roofs with fire-resistant roofs within five years. The board also approved the revision of an ordinance that now mandates green vegetation, as well as dead and dry vegetation, be cleared from properties in order to create defensible space. Both mandates are now in effect.

The San Bernardino County Fire Department will provide a 10 percent match of $1 million each year of the grant period as part of the deal.

5 Feb 2009, 6:44pm
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Official: Tahoe fire bill must be rewritten

by Brendan Riley (AP), Tahoe Daily Tribune, February 5, 2009 [here]

CARSON CITY — A measure to enact some of the recommendations of a California-Nevada fire commission formed following a catastrophic Lake Tahoe fire in mid-2007 must be rewritten because of concerns about its wording, state lawmakers were told Wednesday.

Members of the Senate Government Affairs Committee were told by Allen Biaggi, head of the Nevada Conservation and Natural Resources Department, that SB94 will be brought back to the panel once the issues are resolved.

“Like most things in the Tahoe Basin, nothing is particularly easy,” Biaggi told Government Affairs members in describing concerns such as the prospect of Nevada ending up with California-style fire safety requirements that it doesn’t really want.

“We don’t want to have a regulatory structure like California’s,” Biaggi said. “In fact, the Tahoe Basin Fire Commission recognized Nevada as having pragmatic and commonsense regulations.”

SB94, one of the products of the fire commission’s efforts over a 10-month period following the June 2007 Angora Fire, includes wording that says Nevada shall adopt rules that are similar to California laws dealing with ways to control fire hazards in wildland and adjacent areas.

Biaggi said the intent of the bill is to have uniform standards for open or “defensible” space around homes so that fires can’t easily spread from one property to another. He said there had been a lot of homeowner confusion about such standards.

Besides the defensible-space standards, the bistate fire commission said thinning of overgrown forests around communities should be completed by about 2013 and by about 2018 throughout the Tahoe Basin.

The Angora Fire destroyed 254 homes and caused $140 million in property damage in the South Lake Tahoe, Calif., area. The fire also exposed long-standing rivalries between local, state, federal and regional agencies charged with protecting Tahoe’s environment or promoting fire protection.

A report by The Associated Press exposed numerous examples of bureaucratic backbiting that delayed tree clearing throughout the basin, sometimes for years. More than 4,000 pages of internal documents from numerous agencies illustrated a dysfunctional planning and fire-prevention process.

Alaskans brace for Redoubt Volcano eruption

By DAN JOLING, Jan 30, 2009 [here]

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Hardware stores and auto parts shops scored a post-holiday run of business this week as Anchorage-area residents stocked up on protective eyewear and masks ahead of a possible eruption of Mount Redoubt.

Monitoring earthquakes underneath the 10,200-foot Redoubt Volcano about 100 miles southwest of Anchorage, scientists from the Alaska Volcano Observatory warned that an eruption was imminent, sending experienced Alaskans shopping for protection against a dusty shower of volcanic ash that could descend on south-central Alaska. …

On Nov. 5, geologists noted changed emissions and minor melting near the Redoubt summit and raised the threat level from green to yellow. It jumped to orange - the stage just before eruption - on Sunday in response to a sharp increase in earthquake activity below the volcano. …

Redoubt blew on Dec. 15, 1989, and sent ash 150 miles away into the path of a KLM jet carrying 231 passengers. Its four engines flamed out.

As the crew tried to restart the engines, “smoke” and a strong odor of sulfur filled the cockpit and cabin, according to a USGS account. The jet dropped more than 2 miles, from 27,900 feet to 13,300 feet, before the crew was able to restart all engines and land the plane safely at Anchorage. … [more]

26 Jan 2009, 2:05pm
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Senators support logging as stimulus

by Rocky Barker, Idaho Statesman, 01/26/09 [here]

Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch joined a bipartisan group of senators urging the stimulus package include $1.52 billion in funding to log and thin national forests to reduce the potential for huge fires.

The money, which would be spent over two years, would go to the $2.75 billion worth of hazardous fuel reduction projects identified by the Forest Service. Sen. Ron Wyden, the principal author of a letter calling for the spending, said it would create 50,000 jobs.

In additional to Wyden, Crapo and Risch, the letter was signed by Oregon Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley, Washington Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell, California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Montana Democratic Sens. Jon Tester and Max Baucus, Democrat Tim Johnson of South Dakota, and New Mexico Democrats Tom Udall and Jeff Bingaman, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

They said the projects will quickly create jobs and help rural communities. “The projects would also lead to significant cost savings in the long term as the reduction of the hazardous fuel loads and the restoration of forest health would help prevent uncharacteristic and costly wildfires.”

How costly?

Last year the Forest Service and Department of Interior agencies spent more than $1.85 billion on fire suppression. The senators hope that investing in fuels reduction and forest restoration, fire-suppression costs could be reduced by half in five years. That may be optimistic, but if the projects are done right that will make communities feel safer.

Then forest managers can make better fire decisions. That can be good for the budget and for the health of the forest ecosystems.

11 Jan 2009, 10:54pm
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Senate Leaders to Kick Off New Congress with an Earmark-Laden Omnibus Lands Bill

Office of Sen. Tom Coburn, January 7, 2009 [here]

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) released the following statement today regarding a decision by Senate leaders to make a $10 billion omnibus lands package the first order of business in the 111th Congress. More than 100 organizations ranging from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the National Wildlife Refuge Association have expressed their opposition to this package due to its wasteful earmarks, anti-conservation provisions and anti-domestic energy production provisions. In addition, the non-partisan Congressional Research Service has released a report calling the package “controversial.”

“The decision by Senate leaders to kick off the new Congress with an earmark-laden omnibus lands bill makes a mockery of voters’ hopes for change. This package represents some of the worst aspects of congressional incompetence and parochialism. Congress should spend the next few weeks holding hearings on an economic stimulus package and identifying areas of the budget to cut to pay for that proposal. Instead, the Senate is set to resume business as usual,” Dr. Coburn said.

Egregious provisions in the omnibus lands package include the following:

• A provision that takes about 8.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 300 million barrels of oil out of production in Wyoming, according to the Bureau of Land Management. The energy resources walled off by this bill would nearly match the annual production levels of our two largest natural gas production states – Alaska and Texas.

• $3 million for a “road to nowhere” through a wildlife refuge in Alaska.

• $1 billion for a water project designed to save 500 salmon in California. At this price, each salmon would be worth far more than its weight in gold.

• $3.5 million to help celebrate the 450th birthday of St. Augustine Florida, in 2015.

• $4 million to protect livestock from wolves that Congress helped reintroduce into the wild.

• $250,000 to help bureaucrats decide how to designate Alexander Hamilton’s boyhood home.

• $5 million on botanical gardens in Hawaii and Florida.

“The American people have a right to know how we plan to spend their money. I would welcome the opportunity to spend several days discussing the contents of this legislation on the Senate floor. However, the millions of Americans who are worried about their jobs and their homes are hardly eager for Congress to build roads to nowhere, spend $1 billion to rescue 500 salmon, and help a city in Florida plan a party six years in advance. Congress has a nine percent approval rating precisely because it continues to show little understanding of the priorities that matter to working families,” Dr. Coburn said.

“If the Senate wants to debate lands legislation once we’ve helped stabilize the economy we should begin by better managing the land we already oversee. We have a $9 billion maintenance back log within the national park service because Congress prefers to create new pet projects rather than responsibly oversee the parks we’ve already created. Moreover, we are not suffering from a lack of wilderness areas in the United States. According to the Census Bureau, we have 106 million acres of developed land and 107 million acres of wilderness land. What we are suffering from, however, is a lack of common sense in Washington,” Dr. Coburn said.

11 Jan 2009, 10:53pm
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Congress Gets an Early Start to a Banner Year for Wilderness

by Paul Spitler, The Wilderness Society, January 7, 2009 [here]

Congress took an important first step today towards making 2009 one of the most important years for wilderness designation in nearly two decades.

Senator Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., today introduced the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009, S. 22, which includes 16 separate wilderness bills totaling more than two million acres across nine states. Once passed, this will be the largest expansion of the National Wilderness Preservation System since 1994. … [more]

11 Jan 2009, 10:52pm
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Timber companies appeal lynx change

by Ann Butler, Durango Herald, January 08, 2009 [here]

Timber industry organizations have filed an appeal of the lynx amendment to the management plan for national forests in Colorado.

The Colorado Timber Industry Association joined the Intermountain Forest Association in appealing the Southern Rockies Lynx Amendment, which was released in November. It would apply to all seven national forests in Colorado, including the San Juan and Rio Grande in Southwest Colorado, and the Medicine Bow National Forest in southern Wyoming.

“In particular, our members question the Forest Service’s decision to virtually eliminate pre-commercial thinning in lodgepole pine stands in lynx habitat,” Carl Spaulding, the president of the association, said in a written statement. “Lodgepole pine typically regenerates in very dense stands. Pre-commercially thinning those dense stands is a critical step in long-term forest management and in avoiding the forest conditions that have contributed to the current pine beetle epidemic.” … [more]

9 Jan 2009, 5:35pm
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Fire, climate and thinning

Sierra Summit: Conversations and observations about California’s mountains — Tom Knudson’s Blog, Scaramento Bee [here]

January 8, 2009

My recent article about the Moonlight Fire in Plumas County - and how scientists now believe climate change is helping to spark more destructive wildfires - drew a number of responses about the value of thinning over-crowded stands before a fire starts. You might think of it as preventative medicine - and while controversial among some environmentalists - it has been shown to reduce the damage caused by today’s increasingly severe fires.

From Chester, Jay Francis, forest manager at the Collins Pine Company - wrote to say that the same day the Moonlight Fire began (Sept. 3, 2007), another fire started on his company’s property about 15 miles to the west. “Officials estimated it had been burning for about 10 hours (overnight) when they first arrived on scene yet they were able to catch it with just 1 engine and a water tender,” Jay wrote in an email. “Human caused, probably a cigarette, but probably not intentional. The big difference is that our fire was in an area that had been biomass thinned about 12 years ago and then logged again (for the 4th time) about 3 years ago. Quite a contrast.”

Jay attached a photo of the Collins Pine fire, shown immediately below. A few smaller trees have obviously been killed, but many more bigger ones survived. Now compare that with a different photo - one at the bottom of this blog. That picture, which I took this fall, shows an over-crowded mixed conifer stand in the Plumas National Forest north of Indian Valley that not been thinned and was severely burned by the Moonlight fire. Not much living remains. … [more]

and a blog comment, by oldforester:

As a ‘65 Cal graduate forester and retired U.S. Forest Service District Ranger from the Lassen National Forest with 33 years of forest fire fighting experience, I can state without reservation that restoration forestry, including forest thinning, is the only way that we can maintain our vast and beautiful forests. They must be returned to conditions similar to what the pioneers encountered over 100 years ago: fewer conifer trees per acre with sunlight feeding the wealth of plants which provided food and cover for a greater variety of animal life than we now find. The only way to return to these conditions is through sound forest management practices. Forest fuel loadings must be reduced or we will see more fires with greater devastation to watersheds, wildlife habitat and people. Those truly interested in a healthy forest ecosystem and carbon sequestration, realize that we must tend the garden as the Lord ordered Adam those thousands of years ago. The native peoples did it, now it is [our responsibility].

9 Jan 2009, 12:09pm
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Public Lands Fee Alert from the Western Slope No-Fee Coalition

THE FIX IS IN [here]

Report Charges Federal Land Agencies With Suppressing Public Participation In Fee Decisions

DURANGO, CO The Western Slope No-Fee Coalition today released a report charging the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management with intentionally suppressing public involvement in the implementation of access fees on public lands.

The report, entitled “The Fix Is In,” provides examples from around the country showing that the federal advisory committee process that is supposed to bring the public to the table when fee decisions are being made is instead keeping the public out.

The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA) requires that new Forest Service and BLM fees, as well as fee changes, be recommended for approval by Recreation Resource Advisory Committees, or RecRACs, before they can be implemented. Committee members are appointed by the Forest Service and the BLM to represent a variety of public lands users. The FLREA requires that the agencies document general public support for each fee proposal they submit, before the RecRAC can recommend approval of the proposal.

The most fundamental problem with the process, according to Western Slope No-Fee Coalition President Kitty Benzar, is the committee selection process. “Members are supposed to represent the public, but they are hand-picked by the Forest Service and BLM. They are from groups that are beholden to the agencies for their particular recreational activity, and are likely to do the agencies’ bidding,” she explained.

To date, the RecRACs have approved at least 523 fee increases and 228 new fee sites in less than two years. Only 27 fee proposals have been turned down.

“It’s a rubber-stamp operation,” said Benzar.

The report cites and substantiates numerous cases where fee proposals have been approved without the required documentation of public support, and even in the face of documented public opposition. … [more]

2 Jan 2009, 11:20pm
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BLM Western Oregon Plan Decisions Released

For release: December 31, 2008 [here]

Portland, OR – The BLM has issued the six Records of Decision (ROD) for the Resource Management Plans (RMP) that were developed under the Western Oregon Plan Revisions. With this action, the BLM has completed its revision of the land use plans that will guide the management of 2.6 million acres in western Oregon in the BLM’s Salem, Eugene, Roseburg, Medford, and Coos Bay Districts, and the Klamath Falls Resource Area of the Lakeview District. The RMPs also comply with all applicable Federal laws including the O&C Lands Act, Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.

The RODs formally adopt the Proposed Resource Management Plan (PRMP) that was put forward in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which was released in October 2008. Overall, when fully implemented, the six land use plans are expected to increase the timber harvest from current levels, increase receiprs to the O&C Counties, meet the conservation needs of the northern spotted owl, increase habitat for marbled murrelet, maintain water quality, and improve habitat for Federally-listed fish.

According to BLM Oregon State Director Ed Shepard, “Substantially all of the existing older and more structurally-complex forests outside the Late-Successional Management Areas would not be available for harvest until the year 2023. This means that the issue of harvesting old growth forest on BLM lands is ‘off the table’ for the next 15 years.”
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