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IN THE NEWS
Helping Mills through Reform
U.S. Forest Service Deputy Chief Jim Hubbard stated during a recent House Natural Resources Committee hearing that litigation “has virtually shut things down on the National Forest.”
In Montana, which not too long ago had 30 lumber mills, now has only seven, crippling communities that depended on those funds.
To help these communities and the Montana forest industry, Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont., has helped introduce the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act. The goal is to revitalize the timber industry throughout Montana and create thousands of good, long-term jobs. It also tackles beetle kill, protecting our environment for future generations and reducing the threat of catastrophic wildfires in Montana.
It is designed to eliminate red tape that has held up responsible forest management and timber production. It also restores the federal government’s commitment to provide 25 percent of timber sales receipts to timber counties. And it extends the Secure Rural Schools program pending the full operation of the new timber program.
Beetle Kill Keeps Some Mills Open
Sawmills in both Colorado and Wyoming that have been hard hit during the recession are up and running again due to beetle-killed wood.
In an NPR report, Josh Van Vlack, with the Wyoming State Forestry Division, said the area’s new saw mill, Saratoga Forest Management, makes it possible to clear out hundreds of acres of beetle-killed wood. The company sells two-by-fours and wood chips, and the Forestry Division gets help clearing out dense forest prone to wildfire. Van Vlack also pointed out that half of the nearby forest is already dead.
“The mountain pine beetle has attacked the lodgepole pine and the Ponderosa pine at a pretty much landscape scale,” says Van Vlack.
China Importing More Wood
China’s importation of lumber and logs hit new highs in the 2Q/13, with imports up 30 percent year-over-year, reports the Wood Resource Quarter.
Increased investments in China’s housing sector resulted in record imports of logs and lumber in the 2Q/13, reports the Wood Resource Quarterly. Lumber importation has grown faster than that of logs, with Russia and Canada being the major lumber suppliers in recent years. New Zealand took over as major supplier of logs, overtaking Russia.
U.S. House Panel Backs Oregon Timber Legislation
The Seattle PI reported in early August that the U.S. House committee advanced legislation aimed at increasing timber harvests on former Oregon & California Railroad (O&C) lands in Western Oregon.
The legislation was drafted by Democratic Reps. Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader, as well as Republican Rep. Greg Walden, all three of whom represent Oregon districts. “It would put 1.6 million of the 2.8 million acres of O&C land into a trust managed by the state for timber production. With this legislation, timber production would have fewer constraints under the federal environmental laws.”
In June, Senate Energy and Natural Resource Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), along with Senators Mark Udall (D-CO) and Jim Risch (R-ID) sent a letter to the White House Office of Management and Budget and the Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior asking for an “action plan” to improve budgeting for fire suppression and prevention on federal lands.
The Senators stated, “Federal fire program budgets, wildfire frequency and intensity, and associated losses have been a concern for many years. Because the administration’s annual budget requests to Congress propose to fund the increasing 10-year rolling average for wildland fire suppression costs, significant decreases in funding for the non-fire program, including those that keep wildfire suppression costs down — such as hazardous fuels reduction, cost-share program for the acquisition of apparatus with local partner agencies, and assistance for community wildfire planning — have occurred.”
To help make their point, the letter stated that twenty years ago, fighting fires accounted for 13 percent of the Forest Service budget; last year it was over 40 percent (per American Forest Resource Council).
Wildfire Season Getting Longer
If you think wildfire season is getting longer, you’re correct. “On average, the West’s fire season is now two months longer than it was in the early 1970s,” said Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell during testimony before a U.S. Senate committee last month. A 2006 study by University of California-Merced geographer Anthony Westerling computed the increase to be 78 days.
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