June, 2001

 

 

 

 

In The News 

Bosworth Replaces Dombeck 
Dale N. Bosworth, a career forestry official, has been named new chief of the Forest Service, replacing Michael P. Dombeck. Bosworth will oversee an organization of more than 30,000 employees and an annual budget of $4.6 billion. Bosworth's most recent assignment was Regional Forester for the Forest Service's Northern Region (which includes northern Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, and northwestern South Dakota). His selection has drawn tentative praise from those in the timber industry, who noted the Bush administration was preparing to announce policy decisions that could affect the nation's forests for decades. Bosworth will be called on almost immediately to make his own recommendation on the controversial roadless policy. Both environmentalists and those in the timber industry believe Bosworth's recommendation will predict the direction he will take the Forest Service. 

Roadless Lawsuits Filed 
On May 4, the Bush administration announced it would move forward with a Clinton-era plan to protect nearly onethird of U.S. forests from development, but would also allow local changes on a case-by-case basis. "Our proposed approach will maintain the protection of the current roadless rule while addressing the reasonable concerns about the rule," Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman told reporters. The U.S. Forest Service is part of the USDA. Veneman said the Forest Service would propose changes in June which would spell out how local residents, companies and forest managers could modify the road ban in their own area. The Bush administration faced a May 4 deadline to respond to a lawsuit filed in federal court in Idaho by Boise Cascade Corp, which wants to overturn the ban on roads. U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge in Boise, Idaho, said last month the process used by the Forest Service to develop the rule was "grossly inadequate" and failed to provide the public sufficient time to respond. On April 20 AF&PA, as well as AFRC, also filed a lawsuit in Federal Court challenging the Clinton roadless area rule. Other plaintiffs included: IFA, CFA, Alaska Forestry Association, National Cattlemen's Beef Assoc., National Hardwood Lumber Assoc., Lake States Resource Alliance, Lake States Lumber Assoc., Minnesota Timber Producers Assoc., Ouachita Timber Purchasers Group and Arkansas Forestry Assoc. The plaintiffs allege that the roadless area rule violates numerous acts and regulations. "We should be looking here at home for the answers to our energy crisis," said Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. "Unfortunately, at a time when our country needs more energy, federal policies and prohibitions are taking solutions from the table." 

Trade Dispute 
March 31, 2001 marked the end of a five-year-old softwood trade agreement between the U.S. and Canada. On April 1 the wood began to be taken across the border freely. On April 2 the coalition for fair Lumber Imports petitioned the Commerce Department to have duties attached to Canadian softwood imports. The coalition and others feel that the Canadian government subsidizes its industry, which negatively affects the U.S. market. The Canadian government conversely feels no need for special rules and seeks free trade in accordance with the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement. Both sides are holding firm, and no end to the disagreement is in sight.

A Wood Commission 
Chicken, beef and wine all have their own commissions, so why not timber? Washington state congressman Ken Jacobsen expects a proposal to pass that would give timber a commission. The forest products industry is behind the commission, and environmental groups that have opposed timber-supported measures before are not opposing it. "I do think we're getting into a situation where there are people against any cutting somehow. We need an education program that's going to make it clear that there is a place for the timber industry in the state of Washington," said congressman Jacobsen, sponsor of the Senate version. 

Sierra Pacific Scales Back 
Even though Sierra Pacific Industries has planned to scale back clear-cuts by 70 percent (800,000 acres to 240,000 acres) environmentalists argue that's still not enough, saying it's a PR stunt and does not leave enough big trees to ensure natural regeneration of the forest. Although scaling back will help wildlife, company executives state their reasons for the change have more to do with aesthetics and being good neighbors. "There's a lot of good thinking people who don't like the look of a clear-cut," said Red Emmerson, owner of the Redding-based timber company. "We just want to be good neighbors. That's the reason for making this concession." The selective logging policy will be applied more aggressively to public roads, scenic areas and some remote swaths of timber. 

Tongass Timber Operations Halted 
Silver Bay Logging of Juneau, Alaska and Viking Lumber of Klawock on Prince of Wales Island took a heavy hit this April when the Forest Service halted logging on four active timber sales in Southeast's Tongass National Forest. The decision came in response to federal district Judge James K. Singleton Jr.'s ruling that the agency had not proposed new wilderness areas in 1997 when it updated its Tongass management plan. What the decision means to loggers is that all logging and future timber sales on 9.4 million roadless acres must cease until the agency considers new wilderness areas in Tongass. The stop-work orders affect about 79 million board feet of timber, the agency said. Jack Phelps, head of the Alaska Forest Association, a nonprofit trade association representing the timber industry, said the action affects at least 500 jobs. Phelps states that if the decision were upheld on appeal, it would probably mean at least 400,000 acres of commercial timber could be taken away from loggers. Kirk Dahlstrom, general manager of Viking Lumber, said the suspension halts logging on about 50 million board feet of timber the company has under contract. "I have approximately two months of logs in the yards," Dahlstrom said. "If this isn't settled in two months I will be shutting down, laying everybody off, losing my customers and preparing a lawsuit." 

Fighting Fires 
Another big fire season is predicted. To avoid a repeat of last year's blazes, federal agencies are bolstering their fire- Reader Service Card 103fighting line-ups. Although Congress dedicated a $1.78 billion last fall to fire prevention and nearly 7,000 jobs will be added to firefighting efforts, experts are warning that it will take years before the risks truly being to drop off. Agencies are trying to make sure to have firefighters on staff at the beginning of this season. The Forest service aims to hire 2,750 new firefights for the summer, including seasonal smoke jumpers, engine crewmen and frontline support fighters, or hotshots. Before this year's hiring surge, entry-level firefighters had been on the decline for years, said Forest Service veterans like Rex Holloway, a spokesman for the Pacific Northwest region of the Forest Service in Portland, Ore. As a result, many firefighting crews lacked the young, skilled workers needed to sustain peak performance in the long term. Currently the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management are directing most of the firefighting efforts at land near populated areas. Workers have begun pulling out small tress and undergrowth near the boundaries between rural and urban areas and some forest managers have set prescribed burns. Even Smokey the Bear is getting into the act. Last April the Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters changed Smokey Bears' slogan from "Only you can prevent forest fires" to "Only you can prevent wildfires."

Review of Timber Quotas 
The Washington Board of Natural Resources is taking new a look at how much timber can be cut annually without harming the environment. They are researching the issue with the use of a new computer model, and will begin seeing numbers this Spring. Both those in the timber industry and environmentalists are waiting to see if the Board, which now includes Lands Commissioner Doug Suther-land, will want to see more timber harvested than the 560 million board feet per year ceiling set in 1998. To get an idea of how much wood this is - it takes 10,000 board feet to build an average home. Even if a higher limit is set, that may not mean more timber will be harvested. This year 460 million board feet were harvested, in part due to market conditions and the shortage of state forests to prepare timber sales. 

Evergreen Foundation Gets Boost 
May was an exceptional month for the Evergreen Foundation, the publishers of Evergreen Magazine. Early in the month, the Montana Ford Dealers Advertising Assoc. announced they would provide the Foundation with a 2001 pickup. "We admire their work and their even-handed approach to often contentious forestry issues," said Bart Depratu, President of Depratu Ford of Whitefish, Mont. Recent Ford Motor Company contributions to environmental organizations, totaling more than $15 million, have outraged the region's loggers and grass roots organizations, though both Mr. Depratu and the Foundation's executive director, Jim Peterson, downplayed the role these contributions had in the dealer's decision to donate the pickup. "We see Evergreen as an organization capable of helping us strengthen our partnership in rural timber communities. In the month to come we hope to develop some tools that will enable us to become more proactively involved in forestry-related issues that impact our business and our communities." Then on May 30, the foundation launched their the long awaited web site, www.evergreenmagazine.com. On the site you'll find basic information about Foundation and Ever-green, as well as a forestry news service, providing information, analysis and perspective concerning issues and events impacting forests, forestry, forest communities and forest industries. The Foundation invites anyone with news or story leads to contact them at evergreen@ centurytel.net 

Lumber Prices Rise 
Northwest Lumber manufactures saw a rise in lumber prices when they least expected it. Many in the industry thought that with the end of the trade agreement between Canada and the United States the lumber prices would fall even lower. But with homebuilders busy and construction gearing up, lumber prices have climber 47 percent since January. "I think the infamous wall of wood was threatened, but it never really appeared," said Butch Bernhardt Jr., spokesman for the Western Wood Products Assoc. "We're hopeful," Simpson Timber spokeswoman Patti Case said of the price rally. "But there are a lot of questions right now with the softwood lumber agreement." 

Forest Service Drafts a New Plan 
The Associated Press recently got a hold of a copy of USFC's internal draft report setting out possible changes in management of national forests. One of the biggest changes is that ecological considerations will be given less priority - .although the draft will no doubt face numerous revisions. The goal is to write a "plain English rule" that can be used to make decisions that reflect local and national viewpoints, said Sally Collins, said associate deputy chief. It's reported the draft eliminates not only the priority given to ecosystem health but also removes specific requirements for scientific review when making forest management decisions, instead offering broad guidelines for managers to follow. Collins said the agency wants to provide a forest planning process that can be efficiently implemented by managers. She said the agency remains committed to the ecological health of national forests and to protecting endangered species. She also said decisions on how to manage forests still will be based on science, although exactly how local officials seek that input might not be prescribed by the rules. The draft proposal is being circulated now and the Forest Service hopes to have the final proposal completed and be taking public comment in August.

 

This page was last updated on Monday, November 10, 2003