This will be the first of many postings to share my photography associated with our National Forests. I have worked on 23 National Forests across the country, in 11 states. The photos I took while working for the Feds will be available for free limited usage, if someone thinks it might help their cause. Others can be available matted and/or framed *smirks*
(Edit: Sharon wanted bigger!)
Several of these peaks in the Lost River Range of Idaho are over 12,000 feet. I met this other detailer, who was doing wildlife surveys, and was shocked to learn that he was climbing part of the way up these mountains, looking for rare species. Yes, he was over 50 years old! I was doing aspen surveys, mapping, photographing and analysis, in support of a new grazing plan. It was in my power to recommend protective measures for the impacted aspen stands. Of course, everything that eats grass, eats aspen. I felt it was meaningful work.
Purpose of ARRA (from Wikipedia):
To respond to the late-2000s recession, the primary objective for ARRA was to save and create jobs almost immediately. Secondary objectives were to provide temporary relief programs for those most impacted by the recession and invest in infrastructure, education, health, and ‘green’ energy.
Merkley to Forest Service: This Time, Hire Americans
Repeat of 2009 Foreign Hiring Would Be ‘Unacceptable Outrage’
From KTVZ.COM News Sources here.
WASHINGTON — Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., sent a letter Friday to Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, urging him to take steps to ensure Americans will be hired for the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program projects announced Feb. 2 — and not repeat the 2009 “debacle” of foreign hiring for those jobs.
Merkley expressed dismay that unemployed Oregonians were passed over for forest thinning work in favor of foreign workers on H-2B visas.
“It will be an unacceptable outrage if American citizens are not hired under these contracts,” Merkley wrote. “It is your responsibility, in partnership with the Department of Labor, to do everything possible—before contracts are issued—to ensure this outcome.”
Last year, a report from the Department of Labor’s Inspector General revealed that millions of dollars in stimulus funds were used by contractors employing foreign workers to perform forest thinning work. On December 1, 2011 Merkley sent a letter to Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and then Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew proposing changes to the H-2B foreign worker visa program that would help prevent similar incidents in the future.
Last Friday, the Department of Labor released a final rule that will make some improvements to how the H-2B program is managed, including changes that should make it easier for U.S. workers to apply for job openings that otherwise would go to foreign workers.
However, Merkley said, the changes will not go far enough. Merkley has proposed that the Director of the State workforce agency certifies that every employer seeking to use H-2B foreign labor has complied with all recruitment requirements and that there are no American citizens qualified or available to complete the work.
Friday’s letter asks that the USFS take additional steps in its contracting process to ensure that the work funded by the new grants is performed by Americans.
The text of the letter is below.
February 17, 2012
Mr. Tom Tidwell
Chief, U.S. Forest Service
1400 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, DC 20250-0003
Dear Chief Tidwell:
I write to you regarding the U.S. Forest Service’s (USFS) February 2, 2012 announcement of funding for the Fiscal Year 2012 Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (the Program) projects. In particular, I want to ensure that local labor is hired to perform the work funded by these grants and we do not have a repeat of the debacle in 2009 when unemployed Oregonians were passed over for forest thinning work in favor of foreign nationals on H-2B visas.
As you know, I strongly support the Program which funds priority forest restoration initiatives that reduce wildfire costs, improve forest health, and create jobs. These long-term and large-scale investments are critical for the future of our nation’s forests and I am pleased the USFS is moving quickly to fund this year’s initiatives.
As the USFS has long recognized, improving the health of our national forests is critical to improving the economic health of the surrounding communities. The forestry work funded through the Program will occur in areas that have very high unemployment rates, a deep history of work in the timber economy, and a labor force highly qualified for this type of work. Beyond the broader economic benefits, such as supporting recreational opportunities in the woods and protecting sources of clean drinking water for rural communities, these projects are expected to create or maintain 1,500 jobs.
When the national unemployment rate is above eight percent, and the unemployment rate in Oregon’s timber counties is much higher, it is simply unconscionable that those jobs in our forests might be outsourced. I continue to be outraged that past forest thinning and wildfire prevention work has been awarded by the USFS to contractors using foreign nationals employed through the H-2B Temporary non-Agricultural Work program. As documented in the Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General report from October 17, 2011 (Number 17-12-001-03-321), millions of dollars in recent Recovery Act funding spent in Oregon was used to pay contractors to complete similar projects who did not hire any American citizens.
The current requirements designed to ensure American citizens have priority are obviously not working. The Inspector General’s report from October describes some the flaws with the Recovery Act projects:
1. The use of illegal job requirements when communicating with U.S. citizens interested in the work. For example, unemployed Oregonians were asked how old they were and whether they could speak another language;
2. The posting of job orders by contractors only in the state where the work crews were initially located. Large contractors who had multiple jobs with the USFS and started their crews in Washington or California made no effort to recruit workers in Oregon;
3. A complete lack of guidance on the part of the Department of Labor to state workforce agencies to ensure that they were communicating job openings to the affected communities;
4. Little to no validation on the part of the Department of Labor that the information provided by employers seeking to be certified to use H-2B labor was accurate. In fact, the Department of Labor certified two contractors without ever verifying they were real businesses or verifying that the paperwork they were submitting contained all the required information.
The result of these abuses was that \$7,140,782 taxpayer dollars were spent for forestry work in Oregon and not one Oregonian was hired.
I want to know what changes in the process you are going to take, along with the Department of Labor, to make sure this does not happen again.
The USFS should carefully consider the hiring practices and community involvement of contractors bidding for these projects so the desired economic impact is fully realized. Moreover, the Program’s projects in Oregon are ideally suited for the awarding of stewardship contracts that provide greater flexibility to the regional USFS offices to use “best value” criteria in choosing businesses to complete this work. The best value criteria can, and should, include preferential treatment for businesses that hire locally and sell the recovered wood into local markets. This approach would align one of the Program’s primary objectives, maximizing the economic impact for affected communities, with the contracting process that is most likely to achieve that goal.
I’d also like to be helpful in ensuring these funds support the local communities. I am including an enclosure to this letter that has contact information for the local WorkSource Oregon offices, and I would encourage your staff from the USFS’s Pacific Northwest Region 6 office to communicate directly with these offices once the funds have been awarded.
I commend the USFS for its commitment to protecting and restoring our national forests. The Program continues to provide a unique opportunity for states, communities, tribes and other organizations to partner together to improve these treasured resources and our rural communities.
In closing, let me emphasize that it will be an unacceptable outrage if American citizens are not hired under these contracts. It is your responsibility, in partnership with the Department of Labor, to do everything possible—before contracts are issued—to ensure this outcome.
I and my team are available at any time to meet and discuss this very important issue. I look forward to your prompt response.
Foto asked about volunteers and firewood, and I found this one from the Rio Grande National Forest. I bet this happens all over the west. Please comment and link to other articles if you know of them. Many people on this blog disagree on many things, hopefully this is something people can all get behind, a “Thing we Agree is Good”?.
By MATT HILDNER | email@example.com | 0 comments
BIG MEADOWS — In a region where the size of a home’s wood pile is no laughing matter, the U.S. Forest Service and a local nonprofit are teaming up to make sure those in need stay warm this winter.
Employees from the Rio Grande National Forest and volunteers with La Puente, a San Luis Valley charity, spent a day last week cutting and hauling wood from this campground near Wolf Creek Pass.
The wood, in the neighborhood of four cords, will be handed out through the charity’s utility assistance program to families whose homes are heated primarily with wood.
“It really helps us to keep people warm,” said volunteer Craig DenUyl after unloading an armful of wood.
A portion of that wood also will go to La Puente’s homeless shelter in Alamosa.
Keeping warm in the San Luis Valley is no small task.
Alamosa, which annually does battle with places such as Fraser and Gunnison for the coldest spot in the state, had three days earlier this month where it was the coldest spot in the lower 48 states, according to USA Today.
Many homes are heated with natural gas, but firewood remains a common source of fuel in the Valley.
Last year the Rio Grande sold permits for cutting of roughly 6,000 cords of wood.
The project also served a useful end for the Forest Service, which has undertaken thinning the insect-laden trees crammed into the campground.
“These are dead and dying trees that we knew were going to fall over eventually,” said Mike Blakeman, a public affairs officer for the Rio Grande National Forest.
The trees, which are in a stretch of forest that has been hit hard by spruce bark beetles and the western spruce budworm, represented a threat at Big Meadows, which is the busiest campground in the 1.9 million-acre national forest.
The agency’s volunteer coordinator Rob Santoro said the thinning work at the campground, which had included the cutting of the wood into small sections, made contributing it to charity an obvious choice.
“When I came out and saw it was all bucked up, it was a no-brainer,” he said.
There’s probably more to this situation than meets the eye…wish we had a way to hear the other side of the story. From the Payson Roundup here.
Forest Service rules just a waste of wood
February 17, 2012
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Now, we don’t mean to sound ungrateful. Lord knows, we don’t want to fall into the category of a fella whose wife buys him a nice new Jeep and then complains that it does not have leather seats.
Still, as we paused this week to choke on the smoke from burning piles of debris off Houston Mesa Road, we couldn’t help but lament the waste of all that perfectly good firewood.
Mind you, we’re awfully grateful for the millions of dollars the Tonto National Forest has spent thinning fire break buffer zones around almost all of the endangered communities in Rim Country. The Payson Ranger District has done a marvelous job of getting those projects ready then jumping on every possible source of funding to hire thinning crews. Those buffer zones may well save the community from destruction should the next Wallow Fire come roaring at us out of the dangerously overgrown forests of Rim Country.
Still, we also agree with the indignant complaint of residents this week who were dismayed to see all of that oak and juniper set to the torch.
The slash piles left by the thinning crews have been sitting out there for months. The Forest Service does allow people who purchase a permit to trudge out to the piles and haul armloads of wood back to the road. But rangers have also threatened to arrest people who try to get wood without a permit.
That’s a waste — a waste of wood and a waste of good will.
Instead, we think the Forest Service should make every possible effort to let locals gather up as much firewood from those slash piles as possible. The Forest Service should advertise the locations of the piles and then host a firewood day so residents can take their quads, pickups and Jeeps out to the piles to haul off everything they can before the contractors set fire to what remains.
Residents struggling to pay their extortionist propane bills would get a welcome break. The Forest Service would earn the local love it so sorely needs.
And all of us would have to choke down less smoke when it comes time to burn the wood that’s left behind.
Don’t get us wrong: We appreciate the shiny new fire break. But that doesn’t mean we can’t also dream of leather seats.
So while I was searching for a photo, I found this from the Dolores Ranger District here.
Dolores Public Lands Office Plans to Burn Slash Piles
Release Date: Nov 10, 2011
The Dolores Public Lands Office plans to begin burning slash piles in several locations on Haycamp Mesa as early as next week, beginning Monday, November 14th. The slash piles are a result of fuel reduction projects completed earlier this season. The public was allowed into the project areas after the work was completed to collect firewood from the pre-cut and stacked decks of ponderosa pine. The left over slash in these project areas will be piled and burned.
Pile burning operations will take place:
• In the Chicken Creek area along the Millwood Road (FS Rd. 559), north of Joe Moore Reservoir, on 104 acres treated for fuels reduction.
• In the Rock Spring area along the Grouse Point Road (FS Rd. 390), on 61 acres treated for fuels reduction.
• In the Little Carver area, south of the Indian Ridge Road (FS Rd. 557) on 11 acres treated for fuels reduction.
All three burn pile locations are located in ponderosa pine forests and will be monitored by a local staff of qualified firefighters. The projects are contingent on weather conditions that will help to assure predictable fire behavior and maximum smoke dispersion.
Can’t tell if driving off road to the piles is the issue, or needing a permit or ??