The above photo is from an article sent in by Bob Berwyn here.
Note: I reposted this from Sunday, as it seems like the question “”what does it take to have reached the “restoration economy” and have we reached it?” is fundamental. Because if it happened that there was agreement on a vision of sustainable levels of harvesting to local mills (as in the Jake Kreilick piece below), there may be some places that have “too many/too large (??)” (still not clear on Montana) but we would have other areas (the Southwest, Colorado) that don’t have “enough” capacity to be at that level.
Here is an op-ed from the Missoulian. So not being a Montanan, it would be helpful if Montanans could explain why these two views sound so similar in philosophy, yet there appears to be discord.
From where I sit: People agree that:
There are too many roads
There is a need to restore riparian
But where they diverge is the below concept:
Given that Congress gives Montana $x for federal forest restoration that provide y units of restoration.
You could have y + z restoration done, and have local jobs and the associated economic benefits if some trees went to mills.
If trees don’t go to mills people will still buy and use wood, but the economic benefits will accrue to our neighbors in Canada (for the most part).
Restoration economy has USFS at crossroads
guest column by JULIA ALTEMUS |
At the same time the timber industry was collapsing in the 1990s, natural resource managers, policy makers and communities were starting to realize the social, ecological and economic sustainability of the West was increasingly threatened by declining forest health and closure of the local sawmill.
Stand-replacing wildfires of the 1990s, 2000, and 2002 were the wake-up call, promulgating a series of policy initiatives focused on the restoration of forests and the reduction of hazardous fuels. Prior to 1998, hazardous fuels reduction was not even a line item in the federal budget. Funds had never been requested. From 1998 through 2000, Congress appropriated $93 million a year for hazardous fuels reduction, which escalated to $1 billion in 2001 and $3 billion by 2005. With a 100-million-acre crisis at hand and support from Congress, timber no longer needed to pay its way out of the forest. Federal agencies changed their management focus from merchantable, large-diameter sawlog removals, to small-diameter, sub-merchantable materials.
As a response, place-based initiatives emerged uniting conservationists, labor management, local stakeholder interests and policy makers. All centered on a restoration framework and an emerging local “green” restoration economy, operating within a “zone of agreement” around social, ecological and certain economic values.
By-products of community protection and forest restoration are primarily small diameter trees and woody biomass. Existing and new cottage industries were encouraged to develop and provide for utilization of these sub-merchantable materials. The West was particularly ripe for this conversion due to a growing commitment to restore federal forests.
However, one of the greatest challenges to building a forest restoration economy was finding ways to fund restoration activities when traditional sawlog values were no longer primarily relied upon to offset costs. As a response, congress passed the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Act of 2009, authorizing up to $40 million per year to be spent out of the existing Forest Service’s budget to subsidize restoration work across the country.
The October/November 2011 Journal of Forestry published an article by U.S. Forest Service Chief, Tom Tidwell, who is quoted as saying, “The time is right for a restoration economy. The Forest Service is tailoring its programs and projects to a new management environment.” This was news to many in the forest products community. Up until then, restoration activities were a tool in the federal forest management toolbox. It appeared that restoration was no longer simply a tool, but was being used to create a “new management environment.” For those that rely upon sawlog volume to keep mills running, this is a problem.
The proposed “new” forest restoration economy focuses less on ecosystem components and outputs and more on ecosystem functions, ecological processes and outcomes. When economics plays a less important role – in any economy – political and economic regimes emerge within smaller social groups and social networks. Because these political economic regimes influence and are influenced by the organization of both social and political economic capital, it lacks a standard economic value.
With the current national deficit, pumping millions of dollars into federally subsidized forest restoration activities is unlikely unless there is political will to do so. A simple solution is to broaden the scope of projects, allowing the value of the sawlogs to pay for the restoration activities. Harvesting sawlogs within the context of restoration has been controversial and unpopular with most conservation groups.
With a recent move to reduce the federal budget, as much as one third of the Forest Service’s workforce could retire, not in five years or even within the next year, but in the next two months! With the loss of so many seasoned professionals, the Forest Service will likely rely upon social groups and social networks to accomplish their mission. The Forest Service is at a crossroads; whether the new forest restoration economy is the next evolutionary step in a 100-year-old agency or forces the devolution of management to social groups, states and/or counties is uncertain.
Management of our federal forests resources, in a combination that contributes to the three interrelated and interdependent elements of sustainability – social, ecological and economic – is important and keeps us from repeating mistakes of the past. However, economics in the larger context must be equal with other social values.
Julia Altemus is executive vice-president of the Montana Wood Products Association.
And Matthew Koehler’s comment:
The following piece was written in 2005, and helps to illustrate just how forward-thinking some in the forest activist community have been regarding restoration of our public lands.
Forest Service should embrace century of restoration
By Jake Kreilick
National Forest Protection Alliance
Even since I started planting trees on the Kootenai National Forest, I’ve had a keen interest in forest restoration. From 1988-92, I planted thousands of trees across dozens of clearcuts. The days were long and the work was exhausting but I valued the experience gained, not to mention the money earned. In the end, these experiences would shape my career path and influence my view of restoration.
When I started planting trees, I believed I was aiding forest recovery. However, within a few seasons I felt like an unwilling accomplice to the wholesale liquidation of massive, ancient forests and colossal roadbuilding projects that were so en vogue under the forest policies of the Reagan and first Bush administrations.
Essentially, we were replacing the rich biological diversity of this mixed conifer, cool temperate forest with an even-aged tree farm composed of the most commercially valuable species. What’s worse, we were making the forest more vulnerable to natural disturbances like insect infestations and fires.
This revelation forced me to conclude that tree planting on national forests was not being done for restoration purposes nor to improve forest health, but rather to perpetuate an ecologically destructive, money-losing federal logging program. Granted, this program allowed mills like Owens & Hurst in Eureka, who recently announced they are closing, to flourish for nearly 25 years before a combination of market forces, corporate greed and environmental concerns changed the timber industry landscape in our region.
My tree planting years fostered a deeper understanding about the many impacts logging has had on our national forests. Despite the fact that the overall cut on national forests has declined from a high of 12.6 billion board feet in 1989 to around 2 billion board feet, the logging legacy lives on in many forms.
Consider the following:
- There are 445,000 miles of roads on national forests – enough to circle the Earth 18 times – and the Forest Service faces a $10 billion road maintenance backlog.
- An estimated 50 percent of riparian areas on national forests require restoration due to impacts from logging, roadbuilding, grazing, mining and off-road vehicles.
- Less than 5 percent of America’s ancient, old-growth forests remain.
- 421 wildlife species that call national forests home are in need of protective measures provided by the Endangered Species Act.
Clearly, America’s national forests, rivers and wildlife deserve better and would benefit greatly from an ecologically-based restoration program, to say nothing of the tremendous social and economic benefits restoration activities would bring to our local workforce.
Since 2005 marks the Forest Service’s centennial, we believe there is a golden opportunity to make the focus of the next 100 years of Forest Service management the “Restoration Century.”
To this end, the National Forest Protection Alliance and our member groups have been involved with a three-year bridge-building effort between community forestry advocates and restoration workers. The goal has focused on developing agreement on an ecologically based framework for restoring our nation’s forests that’s not only good for the land, but also good for communities and workers. While it has not always been an easy process, it has resulted in us finding a surprising amount of common ground.
One of the results of this process has been the development of a set of Restoration Principles (www.asje.org/resprinc.pdf) as a national policy statement to guide sound ecological restoration. The Principles are an essential tool for stakeholders and decision-makers at all levels to develop, evaluate, critique, improve, support or reject proposed restoration projects.
Here in western Montana, NFPA, Native Forest Network, Wildlands CPR and other environmental groups have used the Restoration Principles to work in a more collaborative fashion with the Lolo National Forest. Following a series of field trips and meetings, we believe the Lolo staff is gaining a better understanding of our restoration approach and they are exploring some of our restoration ideas and proposals.
For example, we have taken numerous trips with the Forest Service, restoration workers and a Pyramid Mountain Lumber representative to the proposed Monture Creek Fuels Reduction project north of Ovando. While we remain concerned that this project removes too many trees and that mechanical harvesters will damage sensitive soils, the district ranger has agreed to let us put the Restoration Principles to work on a portion of this project.
This spring, together with Wildland Conservation Services – a local restoration company that has received a service contract from the Forest Service – we will demonstrate the viability of forest restoration approaches that will enhance ecological integrity, protect soils and reduce fuels while putting money in the pockets of some local workers.
Another exciting restoration opportunity looming on the horizon is a water quality restoration plan for Upper Lolo Creek. While the Forest Service’s assessment for Upper Lolo Creek is nearly complete they lack funding to complete the needed road and watershed restoration work to improve water quality and fish habitat. We feel this is a perfect opportunity to collaborate locally with the recently formed Lolo Watershed Group, community leaders and restoration workers to ask Montana’s congressional delegation to find money for this project.
We know that moving forward with a comprehensive restoration program for America’s national forests is going to take time and it isn’t always going to be easy. However, the National Forest Protection Alliance and our 130 member groups across the country are committed to making the “Restoration Century” a reality.