13 Feb 2008, 10:16pm
Federal forest policy
by admin

Flaws in the GAO Fire Report

The United States Government Accountability Office issued a report on wildland fire management, GAO-08-433T [here], and presented it in testimony before the Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, Committee on Appropriations, House of Representatives yesterday.

There are numerous flaws in GAO-08-433T.

1. The report considers only the budget funding for firefighting, not the financial losses from forest fires.

The “cost” of a forest fire is much, much more than the dollars spent on suppression. Any competent accounting MUST include the losses associated with the fire.

The GAO are accountants, right? It’s in their name. They seem clueless about basic accounting, however. If one of the GAO accountant’s home burned down, you can bet your bottom dollar they’d hound their insurance company for the funds to restore and replace their home. They would not request merely that the fire department get suppression funding.

This is so basic that their complete blindness to fire losses defies explanation.

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Bipartisan House Coalition Introduces Legislation to Fix Biomass Definition in Renewable Fuels Standard

We previously discussed the language in the new Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, in particular those clauses that eliminate federal forests as a source of biofuels material [here, here]. The protests in that regard by numerous involved citizens has borne fruit.

Last week a bipartisan coalition of representatives introduced H.R. 5236 to correct the language in the Energy Act. The following is taken in its entirety from Greg Walden’s website [here].

Herseth Sandlin - Walden Bill Would Promote Development and Use of Cellulosic Ethanol Derived from Wood Waste on Federal Lands

February 7, 2008 - WASHINGTON, D.C.

Last night, Rep. Herseth Sandlin (D-SD) and Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) introduced the Renewable Biofuels Facilitation Act (H.R. 5236), legislation that would promote the development and use of cellulosic ethanol derived from woody biomass on federal lands. The bill would significantly broaden the definition of cellulosic ethanol within the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) to include more biomass gathered from federal lands.

The Herseth Sandlin – Walden bill addresses a flaw included in The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which included an historic 36 billion gallon renewable fuels standard (RFS). Unfortunately, the legislation’s definition of renewable biomass prevents almost all federal land biomass, such as trees, wood, brush, thinnings, chips, and slash, from counting toward the mandate if it is used to manufacture biofuels. This provision not only discourages the use of such biomass, but in doing so could result in a decrease in responsible forest management by denying land managers an important outlet for the excessive biomass loads that often accumulate on public lands. The Herseth Sandlin – Walden bill would promote the use of energy from waste products gathered on federal lands, including those that are byproducts of preventive treatments and are removed to reduce hazardous fuels, to reduce or contain disease or insect infestation, or to restore ecosystem health.

The Renewable Biofuels Facilitation Act was co-sponsored by a geographically diverse and bipartisan group including Representatives Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Bart Stupak (D-MI), Mike Ross (D-AR), Chip Pickering (R-MS), Emerson (R-VA), Emerson (R-MO), Goodlatte (R-VA), Bonner (R-AL), J. Peterson (R-PA).

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.):

“The energy bill recently signed into law does a great deal to advance America toward a smarter energy future,” Walden said. “Unfortunately, it woefully underappreciated the role biomass must play in our energy portfolio by excluding biomass produced in federal forest health projects from the country’s new 36 billion gallon renewable fuels standard. Additionally, the energy bill placed onerous restrictions on the use of biomass from private lands.”

Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD):

“Currently, the energy bill provides great incentives for innovative entrepreneurs, often working in conjunction with government and academia, to create new ways to make clean, homegrown renewable biofuels in this country,” Herseth Sandlin said. “Unfortunately, current law prevents biofuels made from biomass that originates on public lands or any biomass from private land that is not ‘planted’ and ‘actively managed’ from being counted toward the RFS. This is unfortunate, unnecessary, and unjustified.”

The Renewable Biomass Facilitation Act would change the definition to clarify that federally sourced biomass is eligible for consideration under the renewable fuels standard and is identical to the language included in the Senate’s version of the Farm Bill which passed 79-14 on December 14, 2007. Additionally, the bill would allow RFS credit for broad categories of biomass from non-federal and tribal lands including agricultural commodities, plants and trees, algae, crop residue, waste material (including wood waste and wood residues), animal waste and byproducts (including fats, oils, greases, and manure), construction waste, and food and yard waste.

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Critical habitat, climate change, “endangered species,” polar bears, shiners, suckers, manatees, and how to deal with it all

By Julie Kay Smithson, Property Rights Research [here]

Most of us are laymen, not experts in the fields of “endangered species,” “critical habitat,” etc. We do, however, have the ability to read and ponder. We can understand when something is not what it seems. If a species is touted as “endangered,” “throughout all or part of its historic range,” we must wonder how the experts know what that species’ historic range was. Sometimes, though not always, “science,” as employed by federal agencies and their partners, can be boiled down to something that more closely resembles justifying one’s paycheck.

For example, how can anyone decide what is — or is not — “possible habitat”? Speaking for myself, because I might want to live somewhere at some time does not justify setting aside that place (reserving it, so to speak) for the time when I might want to live there. How can U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service use such a phrase to remove people from their homes, businesses, custom and culture — thereby stealing their property rights — under such a guise? It was tried here in Ohio ’s Darby area, where the Big and Little Darby creeks flow. So what if we have “possible habitat” for the Indiana bat, a specie that USFWS says is “endangered”? The bat’s name implies that it is an Indiana species.

The Canada goose is a Canadian species. We are overrun with this species and must avoid it on golf courses, farms, restaurant parking lots, airports, etc. Few people that live where these geese have wandered, set up housekeeping and proliferated would buy into any argument that the Canada goose might be “endangered,” so USFWS has carefully steered a path around this species.

However, the polar bear — originally a few wandering brown bears that kept going north from their original territory to satisfy their apparent wanderlust — does not have the benefit of lots of people keeping an eye on its population. Most of us only know about the polar bear from what is fed to us, courtesy of National Geographic specials and newspaper ramblings that seek to convince us of the imminent danger of extinction.

Hogwash and balderdash, folks. A few excellent connections in places like Nunavit (part of northern Canada ) and Alaska — connections that have experience in polar bears and their habitat — say that the polar bear is in no such danger. The only danger, they say with candor, is from the U.S. Congress and its “green” influenced lobbyists that seek more and more money in order to “manage” something that needs no management, to “recover” something that does not need recovery. Expeditions of taxpayer-funded “scientists” are planned to invade the polar bear’s frozen neighborhoods, trek about and invent “threats” where none exist, and funnel megabucks into these “studies.” While it makes for nice “documentaries,” how much is fact and how much is fiction remains for the viewer to discern. The polar icepack is not “melting at an alarming rate.”

Puny timeframes we have for the measuring of temperatures only cover the past century or so. Global weather cyclic patterns take far longer and people’s presence is not making a “terrible threat” to polar bears or virtually every other species. Rain forests, being in the equatorial region of the world, are in the most favorable growing and regrowth area. Anyone visiting Florida for any length of time knows how quickly green things grow. Multiply that by two or more and you get a reasonable picture of vegetation growth in equatorial regions where rainfall is plentiful. “The destruction of the rain forest” is not leaving a path of “devastation.”

Our own “critical habitat” is being invaded by illegals from all parts of the world, coming here, not to become naturalized citizens, but to attach to the host until the host no longer has the ability to feed the parasite. What do “our” elected officials do about this very real and present threat to the “critical habitat” of Americans? Ask them! It’s an election year! … [more]

10 Feb 2008, 9:18pm
Climate and Weather
by admin
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Another 1996 Flood May Be On the Way

by George Taylor, Certified Consulting Meteorologist and head of the Oregon Climate Service at OSU.

Re-posted from Weather Matters [here]

Twelve years ago this month we had a memorable flood. Heavy rains from warm, subtropical air fell on a deep snowpack, causing a big “rain on snow” flood, in which runoff from the rains was augmented by melting snow. The result: big-time flooding, the biggest since 1964.

Following that flood, I gave a lot of presentations in which I discussed the flooding. One popular topic was what I called “recipe for a flood.” Like a food recipe, my flood recipe had certain ingredients. Think of a cake: start with flour, add leavening, a little shortening and then liquid, and the cake rises! And maybe tastes good as well…

In the case of the flood, the ingredients are:

1. A wet winter (to saturate the soils and fill the streams)

2. A moderate-to-deep snowpack

3. A period of cold weather (to freeze the soil surface) — not a necessity, just think of this as “spice“

4. Several days of very wet, mild weather

The first ingredient has happened. Between Oct. 1 and Feb. 8, our local area received 29.28 inches, which is almost 4 inches above the average for that period, 25.45 inches.

Ingredient two: deep snowpack. Check! In fact, this is one of the deepest ever in western Oregon. See Idanha story below.

Ingredient three: Maybe. January and February have been considerably colder than average.

Ingredient four, the wet, mild weather: not yet, and nothing is imminent, but we’re watching closely. Usually the weather prediction models will start warning us 4 to 5 days in advance.

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8 Feb 2008, 3:29pm
Forestry education
by admin

Snowpack Buries Geese

Today’s (Feb. 8th) Snow-Precipitation Update for Oregon from the Natural Resources Conservation Service [here] indicates that this year’s snowpack and precipitation are far above average. Basins from Owyhee to the Coast Range report snow pack is currently 115 to 490 percent above average, and precipitation statewide is about 120 percent above average, to date for the winter season beginning last October 1st.

Mt. Hood Meadows ski area reports a snow base over 15 feet deep, and Hoodoo reports a base over 10 feet deep. Over 40 feet of snow have fallen at Timberline on Mt. Hood this winter.

Regionally the NRCS reports [here]:

The snowpack across the West is near to well above average in almost all areas. Cold weather and continued stormy weather have created an extensive snowpack in many regions. Heavy snow and dangerous avalanche conditions are delaying many monthly snow surveys for the NRCS and our cooperating agencies. Flood concerns are rising with the continued building of low elevation snowpack. This transient snowpack is vulnerable to rain-on-snow events and have the potential of adding water to any flooding that may occur.

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7 Feb 2008, 9:22pm
Federal forest policy
by admin

Bureaucratic Anorexia

Part of the problem is the shrinking of the personnel numbers in the US Forest Service. There simply is not the manpower to get much done. District offices have closed and national forests have “consolidated” themselves into skeleton crews. Received from John:

Many are rightly concerned about the low visibility of Forest Service personnel in their communities.

In FY2002, the agency had 16,348 FTE’s in the National Forest System.
In FY2008, the agency had 11,156 FTE’s in the National Forest System, a 32% reduction.
For FY2009, the President proposes reducing the FTE’s in the National Forest System by another 11% to 9,973.

An example of the sad state of on the ground staffing: a consolidation in one region created a district some 2 million acres in size staffed by 10 FTE position. From a management standpoint, in my view, that is virtual abandonment of the land.

7 Feb 2008, 3:45pm
Saving Forests
by admin
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Never Give an Inch

by Bear Bait

Perchance, Mike, some in the Piss Fir Willies outfit have read and understood the Franklin/Johnson turnabout, and now have no underpinnings on which to stand. If you think the poor Mama Polar Bear and her cubs in that tiny ice floe weren’t looking for a 4 stroke Honda and a fast way outta there, you have to know the vestigial USFS True Believers are. There is no topo map or compass that might guide them out of their hell hole of agency fouling now. If the USFS is looking for a sponsor like a slow NASCAR driver, I would suggest Old Tanglefoot, the finest name in flypaper. The Old Hooktender would have described Ms Kimble as “She don’t knowed if she’s been punched or bored.” The rats would have abandoned the ship, but nobody has the correct forms , and besides, they haven’t held hands enough this month to be able to make a conflict free decision.

You may never know your impact, Mike, but you can be sure you have exposed some sensitive nerves. The USFS has lost its institutional memory, which would be criminal except we can’t forget it is a bureaucracy. They honest to God no longer know how to get there from here. Lost in a wilderness of their own making. Lots and lots of earnest, dedicated, wanting to do the right thing people, all without the Big Picture leadership that was built into the agency until that Rat Bastard Bill Clinton canned Dale Robertson and replaced him with JW Thomas, an experienced biologist running, at that time, a meaningful experimental forest. But not a candidate for Pimp of the President’s Forests. But that is what he became, and he knew and bailed when he could. So then they got Babbitt’s toady, Dombeck. Big whoop. And it has been political appointees since then. The agency is not providing its leadership on merit and vision and experience. It is grooming political appointees to carry out the wishes of whatever flavor of political whim is this month’s fad. They have walked the NGO streets and don’t have any tricks left to turn except let it all burn. What a sad, sad state of affairs. I have little faith any change in political leadership will change the now highly green charged zombies of the USFS. Unbuilt and not fit to rebuild.

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7 Feb 2008, 12:43am
Federal forest policy
by admin
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Damn the Torpedoes

I must make a confession. The last two posts were little bit tongue-in-cheek. The actual facts are:

1. I am not to blame

2. I do not have any power

The real Powers That Be vis a vis the USFS are the folks who write the budgets and allocate the funds. Money is power, and the people who control the purse strings control the bureaucratic elephant.

The Congress, the President, and the top-level bureaucrats steer the boat. Those folks and no one else. The BINGO’s, the environmental sue-happy obstructionists, and to very much diminished degree SOS Forests, are only bumps in the road (icebergs would be a better allusion and keep the metaphor intact). We (including me) can only obstruct and negate. We can get in the way and sometimes stop this or that. We cannot create, cannot initiate, cannot make the USFS do anything they don’t want to do.

We have the power to tear down, not to build up.

When the Powers That Be are engaging in tearing down, as they have been during the last 15 years or so, then no one is creating or initiating. The boat is sinking as a result.

Deep in the backwaters of the USFS, however, there are little pockets here and there of people who are doing their darnedest to keep the boat afloat. At the field level (not everywhere, but some places) a handful of folks are doing the right thing, or trying to.

I am not to blame, nor do I have the power, but I do know the difference between good stewardship and howling at the moon. I know enough to judge the work, and in a few places some very good work is being done. The scale is far too small and the occurrences too rare, but good work is out there.

One purpose behind the new, improved SOS Forests is to highlight and praise the good stewardship when and if I can find any. That’s a tricky thing, though, because the good work flies under the radar. Shining a light on the obscure but laudable project runs the risk of attracting the Tear Down Crowd, and they can be trusted to crush and destroy but little else.

Be that as it may, we will be examining some good projects, despite the risks. Damn the torpedoes and full steam ahead.

6 Feb 2008, 5:53pm
Federal forest policy
by admin

I Accept Your Obeisance

Not only am I to blame, but it follows that I also hold the power.

Simply by mentioning a USFS project/program on this blog, I shut it down. The other day I posted an extract from the Federal Register about the proposed Thom-Sieder project on the Happy Camp/Oak Knoll Ranger District of the Klamath National Forest [here]. Within hours complaints came in from the USFS blaming me for sabotaging the entire project, and now it’s defunct, and it’s all my fault.

A year ago I complained about the Wildland Fire Leadership Council violating the Federal Advisory Committee Act. The Federal Government’s response was to shut down the WFLC site and engage a raft of Justice Dept. attorneys in a six-month effort to remake the WFLC into something other than an Advisory Council. All meeting notices and minutes have been squelched ever since. The WFLC held another secret meeting yesterday, and my guess is that SOS Forests and Mike Dubrasich were all they talked about. Their whoofoo program is choking and dying, their budget has been slashed, they are contemplating another 2,500 layoffs, they have alienated the entire country, and it’s all my fault.

Get mentioned on this blog and your career as a public employee is over, just like that. I hold the power to crush and destroy.

It seems unlikely, even outlandish and absurd. But in case after case my blog has wreaked havoc in the agency from Arizona to Boise to Washington D.C.

Many insiders have told me to cool it, allegedly because I am disintegrating the US Forest Service. Frankly, I didn’t believe them. I mean, how pathetic is the USFS if one blog can monkey wrench their trip? Me and my homemade, backwoods, rust-caked computer with a dysfunctional Internet connection are apparently the most powerful influences today on the USFS nationally. Hard to believe but the evidence mounts up.

Never having held this much power before, I’m not sure how to handle it. What if it goes to my head and I become corrupted by my own magnificence? I never had to face a problem like that before. I’ve faced plenty of other problems, but not the burden of commanding and controlling an entire Federal bureaucracy with the stroke of my keyboard.

But fate (or folly) forces me to assume the mantle of power. I accept the obeisance of the USFS, with grace and dignity.

Dear USFS,

Please call me to receive your instructions. I’m in the book. If you do not clear it with me (whatever it is) chances are I will crush and destroy it, sometimes without even trying to. Such is the burden of power; I step on bugs wherever I turn, and sometimes with complete unawareness of the squishing going on beneath my heavy boot heel.

It must be true; you blame me.

Therefore, before you do anything else stupid, please contact me ahead of time. Trying to hide from me is no use to you. I will suss you out, and then slap the kibosh on whatever it is you didn’t want me to know about.

It’s my game now, and you can’t win.

Give me a call. Let’s cut to the chase and move ahead. If you don’t call me today, I can’t save you any grief.

Mike the Powerful

3 Feb 2008, 12:52pm
Forestry education
by admin

Another Great Petersen Speech

James D. Petersen, Executive Director, The Evergreen Foundation [here] and 2007 President, Pacific Logging Congress, gave a great speech at the 65th Annual Truck Loggers Association Convention in Vancouver, B.C. last month.

The speech was entitled Imagine and the text has been posted in full in the W.I.S.E. Rural Culture Colloquia [here].

Please enjoy.

2 Feb 2008, 9:00pm
Saving Forests
by admin

I Am to Blame

I have been accused (J’Accuse!) of expressing harsh sentiments towards public bureaucrats, namely Gail Kimbell, Chief USDA Forest Service.

I apologize, Gail. I was over the top. It’s not your doing that bugs me. You are just a figurehead. You are a puppet on a string. The USFS is controlled by Congress and the President. They pull the strings. You just dance to the tune you are told to.

It’s someone else’s fault. I know that. The fault belongs to Congress, the President, the Judiciary, the BINGO’s, the “special interest groups.” Why lay blame on anyone in particular? And blame for what, exactly?

Let me explain. I seek to place the blame, or more properly the responsibility, for the collapse of the USFS and the concomitant destruction of our public and private lands by catastrophic fire, on whomever was actually or is actually responsible.

By collapse I mean that over the last 15 years the agency has shrunk by two-thirds, lost direction, expertise, and capabilities, and has replaced stewardship with a No Touch, Let It Burn, Watch It Rot management philosophy. That philosophy has resulted in megafires that have frequently escaped federal boundaries and burned private rural and urban lands across the West.

Over the last 15 years nearly 90 million acres have burned in wildfires. In 1993 2.3 million acres burned. That number has climbed to over 9 million ac/yr in last two years. Vast tracts of public forest have been incinerated, as well as tens of thousands of private ranches, farms, homes, and businesses. Historic record megafires have struck in every western state in this century. Federal fires have burned into cities including Los Alamos, Sedona, San Diego, South Lake Tahoe, Bend, and many others.
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1 Feb 2008, 10:22pm
Federal forest policy
by admin
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Three Graphs

The last 50 fire seasons in graphical form:

The entire set of three graphs, plus the data, may be downloaded [here] (103KB)

1 Feb 2008, 3:37pm
Federal forest policy
by admin
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The Thom-Seider Project

The Klamath National Forest is proposing the Thom-Seider Vegetation Management and Fuel Reduction Project. Notification was made today in the Federal Register of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement [here].

SUMMARY: Land managers propose the Thom-Seider Vegetation Management and Fuel Reduction Project to reduce fuel hazard and restore forest health on Klamath National Forest System lands. The project area is situated on both sides of the Klamath River between Hamburg and Happy Camp, California. Thinning and understory burning (underburning) is proposed for approximately 30,000 acres of strategic areas selected for their location, topography, stand structure, density, age and condition. The project is intended to reduce the potential for high-severity wildland fires to harm people, private and public land, and older forest habitats.

DATES: Comments postmarked or received by March 7, 2008 are assured of being considered in the environmental analysis. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement is expected to be published Summer 2008 and the Final Environmental Impact Statement is scheduled for Winter 2009.

ADDRESSES: Address Comments to: Happy Camp and Oak Knoll Districts Ranger, Attn: Thom-Seider Project, Klamath National Forest, 63822 Highway 96, PO Box 377, Happy Camp, California 96039. You may also send electronic comments to the project e-mail box: comments-pacificsouthwest-klamath-happy-camp@fs.fed.us.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Please contact District Ranger Donald M Hall or Interdisciplinary Team Leader Rochelle Desser if you have questions, concerns or suggestions relating to this proposal. You may contact Don at Happy Camp Ranger District Office at 530-493-1723 or at donaldhall@fs.fed.us. Rochelle is available by phone at 531-596-2453 or at rdesser@fs.fed.us.

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1 Feb 2008, 2:33am
Federal forest policy
by admin
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Threatening Legal Action Over Timber Funds

This interesting and well-written essay regarding O&C lands and the latest legal twist in that convoluted issue is by the Rogue Pundit [here]:

Back in late 2005, I blogged about local efforts to raise the money necessary to sue the federal government for the return of the O&C lands. The thought was that since the feds have stopped living up to the terms of the O&C Act of 1937, they should give us back the O&C lands. The idea isn’t without logic.

To make a long story short, in 1866 the federal government granted a large swath of land to what eventually became the Oregon & California Railroad Company. The railroad was to build a line from Portland to California, selling land on either side of the route to fund the construction. O&C finally completed the project, but tried to keep a bunch of the remaining land. The feds revested that land (current O&C acreage by county here) and promised to compensate the local governments for the loss of property taxes. Here’s how the law clearly puts it.

Section 1181(a) of the 1937 O&C act reads that O&C lands “Shall be managed… for permanent forest production, and the timber thereon shall be sold, cut, and removed in conformity with the principal of sustained yield for the purpose of providing a permanent source of timber supply, protecting watersheds, regulating streamflow, and contributing to the economic stability of the local Communities and industries, and providing recreational facilities.”

But as we know, little harvesting of the O&C lands-sustainable or otherwise-has occurred for years. Most of the land has essentially become a nature preserve (with an increasing fire risk). Thus, the federal government started compensating the O&C counties directly. That funding was lumped in with the money derived from the logging of national forests. It looks like the resulting timber payments from the creatively-titled Secure Rural Schools Act have now come to an end. The feds have reneged on their end of the bargain… [more]

Pelosi Responsible For Excluding USFS Biomass in Energy Bill

Inside sources have revealed to SOS Forests that it was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) who inserted language into the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 which disqualifies material gathered from National Forests as a source of renewable biofuels material [here].

Pelosi’s spokesperson revealed that she included the language in the energy bill during an informal conference without debate.

Sen. John Thune (R-SD) has introduced a bill, S. 2558, which would amend the Act’s definition of renewable biomass to include, “Materials, pre-commercial thinnings, or removed exotic species that . . . are harvested from National Forest System land or public lands” in accordance with existing Healthy Forests Restoration Act requirements on logging [here].

“To exclude slash piles and other wastes from within our national forests to be counted towards the Renewable Fuels Standard simply makes no sense,” said Thune in a press release. “My legislation will allow national forests like South Dakota’s Black Hills National Forest to be used in a more sustainable manner that will help improve our economy, our environment and our national energy needs.”

John Thune came to the Senate by defeating Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle in 2004.

Thune introduced the bill Jan. 25, which was referred to the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee. It is likely that Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) will NOT hold any hearings or markups on it.

Pelosi opposed the 2003 Healthy Forests Restoration Act. No record exists of any debate on excluding U.S. National Forests from the energy bill, but all sources, including her own spokesperson, point directly to backroom legislative hijacking by Pelosi.

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