25 Dec 2008, 9:41pm
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Editorial: Leave timber management to foresters

By Andy Martin, Wallowa County Chieftain, 12/24/2008 [here]

Judge doesn’t consider fire danger

For nearly two decades, the vast majority of the logs that keep the handful of Oregon lumber and plywood mills still around in business come from private forest lands, or state forests.

A meager 8 percent of the trees come from federal forest lands, despite the fact the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and other federal agencies control nearly 60 percent of the forests in Oregon.

While logging on national forest land has become next to impossible because of the Endangered Species Act and other laws, a few timber sales get past the heap of anti-natural resource use regulations. The Forest Service has the authority to approve small logging projects on sites less than 1,000 acres with a quicker environmental study. Known as “categorical exclusions,” the sales are possible under a 2003 policy adopted by the Bush administration as part of the Healthy Forests Initiative.

Environmental groups, however, have found a way around the policy that allows wise use of Oregon’s natural resources by filing lawsuits in a California federal court where judges are more likely to ignore sound science, the threat of catastrophic wildfires and the impact of forest policy on local communities and economies.

That’s what happened earlier this month when U.S. District Judge Garland Burrell halted timber sales already under way in Wallowa County. The judge ruled in favor of the Sierra Club, which sued the Forest Service to stop the logging.

Why is a judge with no experience in forest management deciding how our natural resources should be used when professional foresters are recommending the opposite?

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Obama picks Salazar as Interior secretary

By Jim Tankersley and Julie Cart, LA Times, December 16, 2008 [here]

Reporting from Washington — President-elect Barack Obama plans to name Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) to lead the Interior Department — an appointment that could put the brakes on several controversial energy development projects across the West.

Two senior Democrats said Monday that Obama would name Salazar, a Latino, to the post, rounding out an energy and environmental policy team announced at a Chicago news conference.

If confirmed, Salazar would head a department with a broad portfolio, including managing the troubled Bureau of Indian Affairs. Salazar, 53, would also oversee the nation’s national parks and other large swaths of public lands, making him the country’s foremost landlord. And he would be responsible for the Bureau of Land Management, which sets policy for oil and gas drilling, mining and other resource extraction on public land. … [more]

14 Dec 2008, 11:46pm
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U.S. forest chief could have local ties

By Keith Chu, The Bend Bulletin, December 13, 2008 [here]

WASHINGTON — Two U.S. Forest Service officials with Central Oregon connections are being mentioned as candidates to head that agency after President-elect Barack Obama takes office, according to environmental groups and former Forest Service officials.

The Forest Service chief is a civil servant, not a political appointee, but past presidents have chosen chiefs who reflect their policy goals. Because of that, Obama isn’t expected to retain current Chief Gail Kimbell.

Two names that have been floated as replacements are Forest Service Associate Chief Sally Collins, who is currently number two at the agency, and External Affairs Officer Leslie Weldon. Both served as supervisors of the Deschutes National Forest and now work in the agency’s Washington, D.C., headquarters.

But with an abundance of high-profile problems to tackle, it will likely be sometime next year before the next administration chooses a new agency head, according to people in contact with the Obama transition team. After all, Obama has yet to name a secretary of agriculture or the undersecretary of agriculture who oversees the Forest Service, let alone a Forest Service chief. … [more]

14 Dec 2008, 11:43pm
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Could WOPR resurrect industry and wildlife?

Adam Pearson, The News-Review, December 14, 2008 [here]

TYEE — Chris Foster lumbered into the fog-enshrouded forest — recognized by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a model of structural diversity for threatened species — without much expectation of eyeing the resident pair of spotted owls.

Breeding is out of season, the BLM wildlife biologist said.

And it’s a big patch of forest.

But if two management plans — one a logging ramp-up designed by the BLM, the other a new recovery plan for the northern spotted owl designed by the Fish and Wildlife Service — have got it right, this area above the main Umpqua River near Tyee could one day teem with 15 to 20 pairs of spotted owls.

And the timber industry will rebound.

Rural Oregon — especially Douglas County — will become self-sufficient again, weaning itself off federal timber payments that for nearly a decade have kept counties solvent.

Designed to do what the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan couldn’t, the BLM’s Western Oregon Plan Revisions is a set of management guidelines designed to provide clean water for fish, diverse habitat for wildlife, and steady harvests for industry. … [more]

13 Dec 2008, 11:55am
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Forest experts gather in Aspen

Scientists: Questions remain about beetles and global warming

by John Colson, The Aspen Times, December 12, 2008 [here]

ASPEN — Not enough is known about the mountain pine beetle infestation of Colorado’s forests, and similar infestations in other forests around the world, to say for sure whether the phenomenon will contribute heavily to global warming in the coming decades.

That’s according to scientists, government bureaucrats, community activists and elected officials who gathered this week at The Aspen Institute to discuss a broad array of topics relating to the beetles. A local organization, For The Forest, convened the meeting. …

Colorado’s forests have been under siege by the mountain pine bark beetle, also known as the mountain pine beetle, for several years.

The current wave of infestations of Rocky Mountain forests began in Canada, where it has killed off as much as 50,000 square miles of forest, and is rapidly spreading south. Some experts believe the infestation eventually will get as far as Florida. The beetles attack primarily lodgepole and ponderosa pines, but they have been known to jump to other species when neither of their favorites is available. …

A Canadian study released earlier this year maintained that, in killing off huge swaths of forest, the infestation is “on pace to release 270 megatons of C02 into the atmosphere by 2020.”

“That is the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions that Canada is committed to reducing by 2012 under the Kyoto Protocol, and would effectively doom that effort to failure, the study says,” according to an article in a Canadian environmental journal, TerraDaily. …

Other topics discussed during Thursday’s meeting included a talk by Dr. Jessica Clement of Leadville about what a community can do to prevent being destroyed by a catastrophic forest fire; and ideas from research entomologist Nancy Gillette and Dr. Ingrid Aguayo of the Colorado State Forest Service on what landowners can do to treat trees threatened by the mountain pine beetle. … [more]

13 Dec 2008, 11:47am
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Beetle-kill Salvage Planned in Colorado

By Bob Berwyn, Summit Daily News, December 12, 2008 [here]

SUMMIT COUNTY — The U.S. Forest Service has proposed speeding up the regeneration of beetle-killed lodgepole pine forests in the Lower Blue by clear-cutting large chunks of the Lower Blue River Valley.

The 4,300-acre forest-health project currently under public review would be one of the largest recent logging projects on the Dillon Ranger District in recent memory.

Because of the extent of the beetle-kill, many of the areas will be clear-cut.
Along with promoting regrowth, the project is aimed at protecting neighborhoods and watersheds from catastrophic wildfires. About 73 acres slated for treatment are within defensible space on national forest land adjacent to private land.

Logging is planned in the vicinity of Maryland Creek, Pebble Creek, Boulder Creek, Harrigan Creek, Slate Creek, Brush Creek and Spring Creek, and on the east side of Colorado 9 near Pioneer Creek and Ute Pass Road.

In a sense, the project is a race against time, as the trees start to lose commercial value within three to five years after they die.

Forest Service officials hope to start logging in 2009, but it’s not yet clear if the project is economically feasible. … [more]

10 Dec 2008, 5:10pm
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Whitebark pine subject of petition

High-elevation tree is being eliminated across most of its range, enviros say

By JASON KAUFFMAN, Idaho Mountain Express, Dec. 10, 2008 [here]

The clock is ticking down on the whitebark pine tree, environmentalists warned this week.

On Tuesday, the Natural Resources Defense Council petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the tree under the federal Endangered Species Act. If it is listed, the tree species would be one of very few trees on the federal list.

Across the northern Rocky Mountains, the tree faces numerous threats. The whitebark pine grows in some of the Rockies’ most inhospitable and least-visited landscapes, including high-elevation ridges and remote alpine cirques.

In south-central Idaho, the tree’s traditional range extends across the Smoky, Sawtooth, White Cloud, Boulder and Pioneer mountain ranges. Extending farther out, its range is distributed across much of the high-elevation western United States and in southwestern Canada.

Just about everywhere that whitebark pines exist, scientists report troubling declines. Though they point to a number of factors contributing to the tree’s rapid decline, scientists say mountain pine beetle outbreaks and the arrival of an introduced threat—-white pine blister rust-—are chief among their concerns. … [more]

Ed Note: not to mention catastrophic wildfires that convert old-growth whitebark pine (and other white pines such as sugar pine) forests to lodgepole pine thickets and fire-type brush. By the way, excess competition in the absence of anthropogenic fire and/or restoration forestry have weaken trees and invited beetle and fungus attacks, catastrophic fire, and the spread of blister rust (which was ‘introduced’ nearly 100 years ago).

23 Nov 2008, 8:33pm
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Invasives rule would allow DNR to enter private property

Legislative council seeks constitutional justification [here]

by Richard Moore, Lakeland Times, 11/21/2008

A proposed rule being promulgated by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources would allow DNR wardens to enter private homes and properties to conduct searches for invasive species.

The wardens would have the right to enter property whenever they “reasonably” believed an invasive species was present on the premises.

The rule has passed the public hearing stage, and a legislative council review has been forwarded to the agency. The next step is for the DNR to submit a final rule to the Natural Resources Board for approval and forwarding to the Legislature. … [more]

20 Nov 2008, 12:20am
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National forests see fewer visitors

by Michael Milstein, The Oregonian, November 17, 2008 [here]

National forests have long been prime recreation spots in the Pacific Northwest and around the nation, but new federal figures show far fewer people are visiting them since 2004 — especially in this region.

Now researchers are trying to determine why people are staying away from the prized public playgrounds, including the nearby Mount Hood, Gifford Pinchot and Deschutes national forests. …

The visitor decline turned up last month when the Forest Service released new figures from visitor monitoring in 2007. The numbers provided the first comparison against figures from 2004.

The figures are estimates based on surveys and counts around each national forest. Total forest visits dropped from 204.8 million in 2004 to 178.6million in 2007, a 13 percent decline. Visits to Oregon and Washington national forests fell from 28.2 million in 2004 to 20.5 million in 2007, a 27 percent drop.

That’s the sharpest percentage drop of any Forest Service region in the country. The next largest drop was 24.3 percent decline in the Forest Service’s Eastern Region, which encompasses several Midwest and northeastern states. …

The Forest Service developed the new counting system to replace an earlier method that wildly overestimated numbers of recreational visitors. Recreation has become an increasingly prominent use of national forests — and an important economic driver — as logging declined. …

Visits to undeveloped national forest wilderness areas also dropped, from 8.8 million in 2004 to 6.3 million in 2007. Wilderness visits typically involve longer hikes or backpacking. About two-thirds of wilderness visitors were men. … [more]

31 Oct 2008, 11:09pm
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Forest Service needs saving from itself

The Payson Roundup, October 28, 2008 [here]

The Forest Service wants help saving the forest.

And we’re kind of groping for a metaphor here.

So did you hear the one about the guy who killed his parents and threw himself on the mercy of the court on account of being an orphan?

How about the one about getting Wall Street grifters to advise the federal government on how to dole out $700 billion to, well, Wall Street?

So now the Forest Service, with great sincerity and community spirit, wants to set up an advisory group to help update and transform the current, nearly meaningless, quarter-century-old forest plan.

It’s an urgent task — given the desperate and dangerous condition of the forest, almost entirely as a result of a century of Forest Service mismanagement.

Once upon a time, the Rim Country had rolling miles of ponderosa pines, grasslands and myriad streams. Harmless ground fires burnt through every five years and you could fish Pine Creek.

Then the Forest Service took over and started managing the forest as a great, money-losing tree farm. So now, instead of 50 trees per acre, we have 1,000. Instead of harmless ground fires, catastrophic wildfire threatens every Rim community. Instead of organics comprising 5 percent to 10 percent of the soil, they make up about half a percent. Instead of 1,000 miles of trout streams, we have dusty washes. Oh yeah — and the timber industry’s gone and the ranchers are going.

Thank you, boys.
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31 Oct 2008, 11:08pm
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Markets fall, trees don’t, raising risk of wildfires

Michelle Roberts, the Oregonian, October 26, 2008 [here]

Wallowa-Whitman National Forest managers are concerned as the housing construction market continues to stagnate.

The decreased demand for wood products means that mills are struggling, and in some cases closing. Without them, says Steve Ellis, the forest supervisor for the past four years, forests, already at a high risk for wildfires, could become even more dense.

Q: How is the timber industry affected by the troubled housing and construction market?

A: What we’re seeing here in northeast Oregon is that some (timber) sales this year went without bid. That is very unusual. Within the Blue Mountain Forest this last fiscal year, there were several timber sales in which no one came to bid. Last year in Wallowa-Whitman, we had to repackage one sale to make it go. The other thing is that the price that we’re getting is less this past year. In September, one (timber sale) went for just the appraised price. Nothing more.

Q: What does it mean for the mills?

A: The mills, economically speaking, are struggling. This year, two mills in our area have stopped operating, including Wallowa Forest Products and, more recently, a mill in Prairie City. I find that troubling because we depend on mills to cut down trees to help us manage these forests. To do active forest management, we need this infrastructure. The mills need us, and we need them.

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15 Oct 2008, 9:38pm
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Congress fuels Forest Service waste wood removal

By Kris Bevill, Biomass Magazine, Oct. 15, 2008 [here]

A bill signed into law by U.S. President George W. Bush on Sept. 30 could offer potential benefits to biomass companies working with waste wood.

Chapter six of The Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act of 2009 includes an allowance of $175 million for the U.S. Forest Service to use in removing wood determined to be “hazardous fuel” in areas of the country that are prone to wildfires.

The issue of waste wood removal from federal lands, and specifically from national forests, has been an issue of contention among members of Congress since the passage of the 2008 Farm Bill which included language disallowing the removal of such wood. In August, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., held a senate energy subcommittee hearing to discuss the matter, focusing on the removal of woody biomass in the Black Hills National Forest of South Dakota. Forestry experts who testified at the hearing contradicted the language of the farm bill, stating that not removing waste wood posed more risk to the health of a forest than if such debris was removed.

Thune had introduced a bill amending language in the farm bill to include waste wood in national forests as “woody biomass.” It now appears that the issue has at least been partially rectified by the allowance of money to fuel the Forest Service’s removal of waste wood from federal properties.

27 Sep 2008, 7:06pm
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Why Henry Paulson must be “contained”

By Michelle Malkin, September 22, 2008 [here]

Both parties in Washington are about to screw us over on an unprecedented scale. They are threatening us with fiscal apocalypse if we don’t fork over $700 billion to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and allow him to dole it out to whomever he chooses in whatever amount he chooses — without public input or recourse. They are rushing like mad to cram this Mother of All Bailouts down our throats in the next 72-96 hours. And right there in the text of the proposal is this naked power grab: “Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.”

Stop.

My question for fellow conservatives: Do you trust this man?

I don’t.

Do you trust Hank Paulson’s judgment?

I don’t.
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27 Sep 2008, 6:53pm
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Treasury Nominee Hank Paulson Needs to Answer Some Questions

by Steven Milloy, 06/13/2006 [here]

There are many unanswered questions that the Senate Finance Committee ought to pose to Treasury Secretary nominee Henry Paulson during his confirmation hearing.

Key inquiries should involve an unusual land deal Paulson oversaw while simultaneously serving as chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs and as vice chairman and, later, chairman of The Nature Conservancy (TNC), which is an environmental group that acquires private lands to place them permanently off-limits to commercial and residential uses.

Goldman’s board of directors expressly denied at its 2006 annual shareholder meeting that TNC was involved in the investment bank’s dealings pertaining to the 680,000 forested acres on the Chilean side of Tierra del Fuego. But tax records show Goldman paid TNC $144,000 to consult on the deal.

In January 2004, one month after Goldman’s public announcement that the land — a $35-million asset rightly belonging to Goldman shareholders — would be donated to establish a nature preserve, TNC elevated Paulson to the post of chairman. Additionally, Goldman announced in September 2004 that the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) had been selected as the recipient of the land gift. WCS’s 2004 annual report lists Paulson’s son, Merritt Paulson, under its “advisors and trustees.” WCS also appears on TNC’s website as an “organizational partner.”

The Chilean land originally belonged to Washington State-based Trillium Corp., which acquired it in 1993. Trillium’s original permits would have allowed for traditional harvesting of lumber. Instead, Trillium voluntarily undertook to design a “sustainable” forestry plan, regarded by conservation experts as innovative, highly pro-environment, and unprecedented in terms of scale and promise. Despite having clamored for sustainable development projects for decades, environmental groups mounted a nine-year-long opposition campaign, eventually forcing Trillium into financial difficulty that left the land vulnerable to takeover.

In January 2002, Goldman placed the winning bid on a portfolio of distressed debt that included a $30-million note of Trillium secured by the land. In November 2002, Goldman sued Trillium to collect on the defaulted note. One month later, Goldman took title to the land in settlement of the debt.

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24 Sep 2008, 12:48pm
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Guest View: Fire plays a critical role in Lake Tahoe’s past, present and future

by Terri Marceron, Forest Supervisor for the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit of the U.S. Forest Service, in the Tahoe Daily Tribune, September 23, 2008

By choosing to live in the Lake Tahoe Basin, we have chosen to be a neighbor to fire. Long before we arrived, lightning strikes ignited wildfires that cleared brush and dead trees from the forest floor and kept the remaining trees widely spaced. These fires were frequent and small in size, typically with low flame heights.

Over the past century, as more people have settled around Lake Tahoe, we have aggressively suppressed fires. Forests once described as open and parklike now are dense with fuels. A thick understory of smaller trees, brush and dead vegetation carries fire to the treetops. Once there, the fire can begin a rapid and intense spread through the narrowly spaced crowns. The unintended result of decades of fire suppression has been a higher risk of catastrophic wildfire.

Clearly, we can’t turn back the clock and allow wildfire to fully resume its natural role. We must suppress wildfires that threaten our communities. But using fire on our terms, called prescribed fire, is an important tool for reducing the fuel load in our forests and restoring them to a healthier condition.

Currently, the most common prescribed fire in the Lake Tahoe Basin is pile burning. The piles represent a final step in the first phase of treatments to thin forests, limit the fuel available to a wildfire and reduce the opportunity for fire to spread to the tree crowns.

Many local residents support pile burning. Even when they’re bothered by the smoke, they understand that the inconvenience is temporary, particularly compared with the intensity and duration of smoke from a catastrophic wildfire. Nonetheless, every year, questions arise about why the Forest Service and other agencies pile and burn. … [more] (Be sure to read the comments after Marceron’s essay. They are very good.)

 
  
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