Public agencies and other groups often seek input and advice from stakeholders as they evaluate forest resource issues and develop related policies and management plans. Forestry professionals sometimes are among these participants through their affiliation with commonly recognized stakeholder groups (e.g., industry, landowners).
Northwest Issues and Actions
With the Oregon Board of Forestry’s 4-3 vote last year to increase management restrictions in riparian areas on private forest lands in western Oregon, the Oregon Dept. of Forestry (ODF) has drafted the specific rule language and related guidelines. ODF scheduled a public comment period, including a number of local hearings in November and December, on the proposed rules. Because of persistent concerns about the proposed rules and related research and science concepts, OSAF leaders and technical specialists recently compiled some talking points and supporting references for members to use if they are interested in providing oral or written comments to ODF.
With the coming expiration of OSAF’s position statements on “Commercial Timber Harvest on Public Lands in Oregon” (Feb. 2017) and “Using Pesticides on Forest Lands” (Dec. 2017), these statements will be reviewed for potential changes and updates to the discussion and supporting references. The commercial harvest issue remains very timely given widespread management needs and costs on federal forest lands, as well as the statutory and long-held economic obligations to communities with large areas of nearby state or federal forests.
In July, a team of state and local forestry professionals led an all-day field tour in Douglas County for state legislators and other public leaders. The Oregon Forest Resources Institute was the lead sponsor and organizer of the tour. OSAF was a co-sponsor and, throughout the day, SAF members played a prominent role in presenting current information and science-based concepts for managing both public and private forest lands in the region. Notably, the tour and discussion topics focused on timely and often controversial forestry issues, including clearcutting, pesticide use, and Variable Retention Regeneration Harvest on BLM O&C lands in Oregon. OSAF leaders helped address the controversial topics by highlighting and discussing key points from several OSAF position statements, including “Commercial Timber Harvest on Public Lands in Oregon,” “Clearcutting,” and “Using Pesticides on Forest Lands” (available at http://www.forestry.org/oregon/policy/position/).
In June, OSAF sent a comment letter to the BLM about its final EIS and proposed Resource Management Plan (RMP) for the western Oregon O&C Lands. The letter does not represent a formal protest in the RMP update process but it notes that many concerns raised by OSAF in its original comments about the draft EIS (submitted August 2015) persist in the proposed RMP. Thus, the OSAF letter continues to stress the need for, and value of, active and flexible management to achieve diverse resource objectives, versus fixed land allocations where management is greatly and indefinitely restricted. Similarly, OSAF remains concerned about the overly prescriptive nature of the proposed RMP, whereby forestry professionals are unduly restricted in applying their local expertise and experience to manage unique and diverse landscapes and site conditions. A more specific, related issue is the major restriction on post-disturbance (wildfire, etc.) salvage harvesting in reserve areas, despite the loss of original environmental features and functions and the questionable restoration of such benefits where management continues to be highly limited. Contact: Paul Adams, OSAF Policy chair, email@example.com
A Pocatello-based company wants to operate a wood pellet plant in northern Idaho that has been closed since 1981. The Moscow-Pullman Daily News reports that Centennial Renewable Energy Solutions LLC has been working with the city of Potlatch for more than a year in hopes of taking over the former Potlatch Mill. The facility would create pellets from residual wood scraps and sawdust from area mills. CEO Rick Fawcett says the company would hire 35 people to work at the facility and though they have not signed a purchase agreement to take over the mill, they have identified the site of the potential business. Centennial Renewable Energy submitted a request for a permit to construct to the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality last week.
OSAF has a newly updated position on “Managing Mature and Old-growth Forests” (see www.forestry.org/oregon/policy/position/). Old-growth forests remain an important issue for state and federal forestlands where interest in diameter-, age- and location-based harvest restrictions persists.
OSAF has drafted a comment letter that was sent to the BLM on its final EIS and proposed Resource Management Plan (RMP) for the western Oregon O&C Lands. The letter is not a formal protest in the RMP update process but it emphasizes that many concerns raised by OSAF in its initial comments on the draft EIS (submitted August 2015) persist in the proposed RMP.
Under SAF policy guidelines, unit position statements have a 5-year lifespan and OSAF’s “Managing Mature and Old-growth Forests” recently was the focus of a review and revision to remain current. In December the OSAF Executive Committee approved the updated position, which is now available at www.forestry.org/oregon/policy/position/.
National Issues and Actions
On July 5, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published its Notice of Decision not to regulate forest roads discharges under the Clean Water Act (CWA). With this decision, EPA once again affirms that state-level Best Management Practices (BMPs) and related federal and private sector programs are the most effective means to address stormwater runoff from forest roads. This long-awaited decision responds to the remand in Environmental Defense Center, Inc. v. U.S. EPA, 344 F.2d 832 (9th Cir. 2003) that required EPA to consider whether the CWA requires additional regulations for stormwater discharges from forest roads.
The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that private landowners may challenge a federal agency's conclusion that a given piece of land is subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act, providing landowners with a greater ability to determine whether their property is subject to federal regulation and to challenge potentially overbroad assertions of jurisdiction.
Sens. Murkowski, Cantwell, Wyden, Crapo, Risch Work to Improve Forest Management and Wildfire Budgeting
U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.; Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; Mike Crapo, R-Idaho; and Jim Risch, R-Idaho released draft legislation aimed at improving forest management and wildfire budgeting. The bipartisan discussion draft reflects the work of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to examine and find solutions for these issues over the past two congresses. The bill uses a cap adjustment to end the practice of fire borrowing similar to the bipartisan Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, which Wyden and Crapo first introduced in 2013.
The House Appropriations Committee recently released is FY 2017 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill, which includes funding for the US Forest Service (USFS) and Department of the Interior (DOI). Overall numbers: USFS: $5.3 billion, with over half of the funds going to wildland fire prevention and suppression; Bureau of Land Management (BLM): $2.1 billion, a decrease of $10 million below the FY 2016 enacted level