From the Associated Press:
MADISON — Prosecutors announced Thursday they won’t file charges against loggers whose equipment apparently started a massive wildfire in northwestern Wisconsin, concluding there was no criminal intent or negligence.
The fire began Tuesday afternoon in the woods near Simms Lake in Douglas County, about 40 miles southeast of Duluth, Minn. It consumed 8,131 acres, destroyed 17 homes and forced dozens of people to evacuate before firefighters contained it late Wednesday evening. No injuries have been reported.
The state Department of Natural Resources released a statement Thursday saying logging equipment started the fire.
A logger was operating a large machine similar to an end loader with a circular saw that cuts groups of trees, DNR Fire Law Enforcement Specialist Gary Bibow said. The operator noticed smoke coming from under the cutting head, jumped out of the cab and saw the grass under the machine was burning.
The operator nearly had extinguished the fire when it leaped 40 yards into the trees and raced out of control, Bibow said.
“He thought he had it out, and it took off,” Bibow said. “It climbed into the top of the trees.”
Another member of the logger’s crew immediately called 911, according to the DNR’s statement.
It’s still unclear whether the machine caught fire or created sparks as it was cutting, DNR spokeswoman Catherine Koele said. Neither she nor Bibow knew the name of the loggers’ company.
The DNR said in its statement that Douglas County prosecutors had decided there was no criminal intent or negligence and they had declined to issue any charges.
Douglas County Assistant District Attorney Ruth Kressel said in an email to The Associated Press nothing suggests the fire was started intentionally.
“We realize how tragic this fire has been and the devastation to homes, buildings and to our north woods, but … the origin and cause of the fire lack the requisite intent for criminal charges,” she said.
The fire was one of the worst to strike northern Wisconsin in three decades.
According to my friends at the Buffalo Field Campaign:
May 13, 14 and 15 a tax payer funded helicopter harassed the Yellowstone ecosystem, both within Yellowstone National Park and portions of the Gallatin National Forest just outside the Park. Flying at times 20 feet above the earth and Madison River the management actions disrupted all in the area. Pregnant buffalo Moms and new born calves where ran up to 12 miles in the hazing operation.
You can watch some “highlights” of this taxpayer-funded torture of America’s last wild bison on public lands in Yellowstone National Park and the Gallatin National Forest, but be warned that some of the images are likely to turn your stomach and make you mad.
UPDATE: I just got an email from a family that lives in the Horse Butte area just outside of Yellowstone National Park. This family stated that US Department of Homeland Security agents came onto their private land and removed their “no trespassing” signs, told the family never to put up the “no trespassing” signs again, claiming it was a threat to federal agents. Yep, that’s right people, the US Department of Homeland Security is spending your tax dollars hazing wild bison with helicopters!
The following is a press release from the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. A copy of the lawsuit is here. – mk
“Grizzly numbers in the Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem continue to decline every year,” said Mike Garrity, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “In spite of these falling grizzly bear numbers the Forest Service plans to commercially log thousands of acres and then use low-level helicopter flights to light prescribed fires in occupied grizzly habitat. Its well-known science that low-level overflights by helicopters ‘harm and harass’ grizzly bears in violation of the Endangered Species Act. But even though we cited the legal cases, the rulings of federal judges, and even the agency’s own policies that ban such activities, the Forest Service refused to listen. So now we’re going to court to stop them.”
The proposed logging and burning will occur in the remote and biologically rich Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem, Garrity explained. The area contains designated critical habitat for Canada lynx and grizzly bear.
“The grizzly bear population in the Cabinet-Yaak is the only population of grizzly bears in the United States that is known to be in decline,” Garrity continued. “Data indicate that the grizzly bear population in the Cabintet-Yakk is declining primarily due to unsustainable levels of of human-caused mortality.”
The rate of population decline for the grizzly bear population for the CYE has been calculated to be between 2.7-4.1 percent of the population annually. Between 1982 and 2009, 37 grizzly bears in the Cabinet-Yaak area died from human causes, with poaching being the leading individual source of mortality. “Add to that the decreasing population trend, genetic and demographic isolation, inadequate habitat protections, increased fragmentation both within the recovery zone due to mines and private land development and it’s clear why this population is considered endangered,” said Garrity.
“The dwindling population of the Cabinet-Yaak grizzly bears are almost certainly going extinct according the US Fish & Wildlife Service. Yet, the agency is ignoring its own science,” added Garrity. “The small population of only 45 bears is less than half of the minimum of 100 bears needed ensure a genetically-stable population. That fails to meet the federal government’s own recovery goal and these projects would only have accelerated the loss of this population of grizzlies.”
Matt Bishop, the attorney for the Western Environmental Law Center representing the Alliance in the lawsuit, explained the specifics of the project – and the consequences to both grizzly bears and endangered Canada lynx which inhabit the area. “In spite of the known impacts to the dwindling grizzly population, this project authorizes commercial logging of approximately 8 million board feet of timber from 28 units totaling approximately 2,168 acres and 1,042 acres may be logged prior to burning,” Bishop said. “This includes numerous large clearcuts, which will connect to previous clearcuts to create six large openings. These six openings will be 540, 279, 269, 220, 163, and 99 acres in size.”
“In the past 15 years, a stunning 63 percent of the Young Dodge planning area has been logged,” Bishop continued. “A variety of different forms of logging resembling clearcuts has been used: clearcuts with reserves, seed tree cuts, shelterwood cuts, and sanitation salvage cuts. Seed tree and shelterwood cuts are basically clearcuts, except a small number of trees are left per acre. Seed tree cuts remove 85-90% of the forest canopy and leave 8-20 trees per acre. Shelterwood cuts remove 60-75% of the forest canopy and leave 10-40 trees per acre.”
“The Forest Service’s own research shows that lynx avoid logged areas and especially clearcuts. Lynx need forest with a lot of downed trees. When the dead trees fall, they provide cover and habitat for snowshoe hares and squirrels, which in turn are eaten by pine marten, lynx, goshawks and great gray owls. The downed trees also provide important cover for big game, lynx, and grizzly bears.”
“This is a relatively small area and losing that much habitat to clearcuts would definitely displace the bears and lynx from thousands of acres,” Bishop concluded. “The federal government’s own data show the grizzlies need more secure habitat, not less, or this population of bears and the lynx in the lower 48 states are going to vanish. We would just as soon see the federal government follow the law and its own science, but since the Forest Service chose not to, we were left with little option but to challenge this logging.”
“The Forest Service’s own research shows that lynx population in Montana is currently declining and habitat loss will do nothing but exacerbate this decline,” Garrity added. “Montana has less than 300 lynx — yet this is more than any other state in the Lower 48. It makes no sense for federal government to borrow more money from China to subsidize clearcutting so we can ship more lumber to China at a cost of more dead lynx and more federal debt.
“This is the yet another example of the Forest Service trying to push money-losing, illegal logging in endangered species habitat,” said Garrity. “It’s hard to believe that, as Congress struggles with deficit reduction, the Forest Service is trying to move forward with a timber sale that will lose $4 million in taxpayers’ dollars when the federal government is cutting vital programs due to the sequester,” Garrity concluded.
It seems like I’ve written this same sentence numerous times over the past few years, so I might as well just paste it here again:
“The Colt Summit timber sale – and subsequent appeal and lawsuit – on the Lolo National Forest in Montana has been the source of much previous debate on this site, even though this was the first timber sale lawsuit on the Lolo National Forest in over 6 years.”
In 2009 the Colt Summit timber sale was included as a Forest Service-generated project in the grant proposal the Southwestern Crown of the Continent Collaborative (SWCC) in Montana submitted to the Forest Service for funding under the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration (CFLR) Program.
As I’ve pointed out previously, back in 2009 to 2010 the Lolo National Forest Supervisor was the co-chair of the Southwestern Crown of the Continent Collaborative, meaning that essentially the Lolo National Forest Supervisor was writing a grant proposal to the Forest Service as a Forest Service employee to fund the Forest Service. And yet this is called “collaboration?”
Even today, 33% of the voting members of the SWCC are current, paid Forest Service employees. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why the Southwestern Crown of the Continent Collaborative group requires new members to sign a “Duty of Loyalty Oath” prior to full participation, which reads: “Each member of the collaborative has a duty of loyalty to the collaborative.”
(There might be a few awkward transitions in this post, and here comes the first one.)
The reason I’m bringing up all this background information about the Southwestern Crown of the Continent Collaborative and the Colt Summit timber sale is because of the extraordinary lengths some members of that group – mainly the Montanan Wilderness Association and the Bozeman office of The Wilderness Society – went to when Friends of the Wild Swan and the Alliance for the Wild Rockies filed an appeal, and subsequent lawsuit, against the logging portions of the Colt Summit timber sale because they believed the Forest Service’s cumulative effects analysis for Canada lynx was inadequate.
Readers may recall that the Montana Wilderness Association was essentially lying to the public telling them that the lawsuit was threatening important watershed restoration work that was part of the project. Turns out, the plaintiffs never challenged any of that work and the Forest Service admitted that the restoration work was already under contract and moving forward. When we attempted to point out this fact on the social media sites of the Montana Wilderness Association, those fact-based, professional comments were simply censored and removed by Montana Wilderness Association employees and we were banned from ever commenting on the site again. Great example of open, inclusive, transparent “collaboration,” eh?
My belief is that much of the PR work from Montana Wilderness Association and a few of the other collaborators about the Colt Summit timber sale and the SWCC was essentially an extension of the million dollar plus PR campaign we’ve seen in Montana for the past 6 years to support Senator Tester’s mandated logging bill, the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act.
The expensive TV ads, full page newspaper ads, the radio spots, the dog-n-pony, one-sided “public” meetings, the canned talking-points inspired letters to the editor (which I suspect are generated by MWA employees who then call their members or simply get an unsuspecting 19 year old college students to sign and submit the LTE) and so forth. Make no mistake, and I’ve said this before, some of what we are witnessing in Montana under the guise of “collaboration” is nothing more than a political take-over of some of our national forests that has the potential to forever change America’s public lands legacy for the worse.
Which brings me back to the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program. We’ve debated the merits of this program before on the blog and some of us have questioned the “accomplishments” that those supporting the CFLRP program seem to tout every year.
For example, when the CFLRP participants released the supposed list of program accomplishments just prior to Christmas last year, Sharon wrote, “A little birdie told me that some of the figures in the report below are not accurate” in regards to the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program report.
I made a comment that, “Obviously some people put a lot of effort into this fancy-looking report to pat themselves on the back for the supposed achievements of the CFLRP, but I’m calling BS on many of the achievement claims made by these CFLRP collaborators in this report. There is simply no way possible that all of the work listed in the report was achieved with a little CFLRP funding. Many of these CFLRP collaboratives are dramatically over-inflating accomplishments directly attributed to the CFLRP and are taking credit for work that the Forest Service would have done anyway, regardless of if CFLRP passed or if $10 million was allocated to these 10 projects around the country.”
In other words, I firmly believe that some members of some CFLRP’s around the country are double- and triple-counting to make their program seem more successful than it actually is. It’s almost as if they give the public the impression that the Forest Service has zero budget outside of what the CFLR program provides.
For example, if CFLRP funding accounts for 25% of the funding needed to complete X amount of logging on a certain forest should the CFLRP collaborators claim credit for the entire X amount of logging? Or would it be more honest for the CFLRP collaborators to claim credit for 25% of the logging? I certainly believe that the later is entirely more accurate, while the former is a complete exaggeration bordering on outright lying.
(Another awkward transition….)
So, this morning I was sent a copy of the latest meeting notes for the Southwestern Crown of the Continent Collaborative group from Friends of the Wild Swan, a group that’s keeping close tabs on some of the goings-on with the SWCC in their backyard.
What really caught my eye was this statement of fact in the notes:
“Nationally over the 20 CFLR projects there have been 49 decisions. Of those, 47% have been appealed or objected to and one litigated. Several of the appellants were part of local collaborative group.”
What’s that? You mean that while some of these CFLR collaborators are using some questionable accounting procedures to make it seem like their program is much more successful than it really is, these same CFLR collaborators aren’t letting the public know in their glossy, end-of-the-year accomplish report that 47% of all CFLR project decisions have been appealed? Including appeals by some of the same people/groups/interests that are part of these collaborative groups?
Since this figure was presented by the Forest Service and placed into official notes of the SWCC, one has to assume that somewhere, somebody has an actual spreadsheet or report about the fact that 47% of all CFLR project decisions have been appealed/objected to. For certain, I’ll be in contact with the SWCC to see if they will provide more information about this, and I’d encourage other people around the country to write their CFLR collaborative and see what additional information can be uncovered.
The public deserves nothing but full openness and transparency when it comes to the management of America’s public lands, so hopefully some members of these CFLR collaboratives will cease the shell-game PR campaign and be more honest about the CFLR program.
UPDATE: Sandy Mack, the Forest Service’s Liaison Officer for the Southwestern Crown of the Continent CFLRP just sent me the following spreadsheet based on my information request. I haven’t had time to look it over, but wanted to make sure it was up here so anyone interested could take a look at it.
As an aside, does anyone else know of another CFLRP collaborative in the country that has it’s own Forest Service-appointed (and paid) Liaison Officer? Is that a common practice? Or could it just be further proof that what’s happening in Montana with the SWCC is way outside the norms of Forest Service “collaboration?”
The following introduction was written by Greg Petrich with the Alaska Chapter, North American Bear Foundation. After the intro is a guest column written by Don Cornelius and Jack Gustafson. Mr. Cornelius and Mr. Gustafson are former Area Biologists with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Habitat Division; with a combined experience of over 32 years reviewing Tongass National Forest, and private Native corporation logging issues. – mk
Senate bill S.340 (currently pending in Senate Natural Resources Committee) would transfer premium cherry picked Tongass National Forest lands to the private for-profit Sealaska Native corporation – violating a previous settled contract with the US government to select final land claims inside non-controversial agreed upon boundaries. A product of political influence it has become one of the most controversial issues ever to hit Southeast Alaska.
Two of the regions most respected and well known habitat professionals: Don Cornelius, and Jack Gustafson examine this bill’s potential impact on a globally rare and threatened resource – the tiny fraction of the land that holds the massive “giant trees” of the Tongass. – Greg Petrich, Alaska Chapter, North American Bear Foundation.
Congress Considers S.340. An Alaska Big-Tree Old Growth Transfer to Private Corporation
By Don Cornelius and Jack Gustafson
Legislation sponsored by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) would transfer approximately 70,000 acres of public land in scattered locations across Alaska’s Tongass National Forest to the Sealaska Corporation, primarily for extensive industrial scale clearcut logging other commercial development.
The bottom line on S.340 is:
A) It is completely unnecessary; and
B) It is a very poor environmental trade off of lands and resources, and not in the public interest.
C) It sets a precedent, and an inequity, in the transfer of lands outside the public review process, potentially opening new claims by Native corporations across the state.
The proposed legislation (S. 340) would enable the Sealaska Corporation, to reopen and rewrite basic terms of Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (1971) in order to make alternative land selections in the Tongass, including some of the region’s most valuable large-tree old growth. Under current law, the Sealaska Corporation has already made its final land selections but is now seeking legislation to renege on their original ‘requested’ deal to obtain more commercially valuable Tongass public lands.
Sealaska’s controversial proposal has attracted opposition from small towns scattered throughout the southeast Alaska panhandle region as well as a diverse assortment of sportsmen and conservation groups concerned about habitat impacts. Several of the publicly owned areas now being sought for logging by the Sealaska Corporation have exceptional ecological value identified as conservation priorities through a comprehensive Tongass-wide habitat assessment process by The Nature Conservancy and Audubon Alaska.
A letter jointly submitted about the bill from The Wildlife Society, The Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Wildlife Forever, Safari Club International and more than a dozen other sports groups describes the legislation as “fundamentally flawed” and asks that the bill not advance further. Trout Unlimited also opposes the legislation for not adequately protecting high-value salmon producing watersheds that would be transferred out of the national forest to be logged by Sealaska.
The Tongass National Forest contains a significant portion of the earth’s last remaining significantly-sized tracts of this forest type. Large-tree old growth stands have always been scarce as well as long-targeted by loggers since the first days of commercial logging. Today, they constitute a very small fraction of the overall landscape. Size class 6 and 7 combined represent 3.4% of the land area. Size class 7 alone, which include stands with up to 200,000 board feet per acre (think of trees 10-12+ feet in girth and worth a quarter million dollars per acre) today occur on just half a percent of the land base.
Past Tongass operations have been exceedingly hard on these unique and rare large-tree stands. These very special stands are far more than just visually impressive, evolved over a millennium, they constitute the richest and most valuable wildlife habitat on the Tongass.
The public lands that would be transferred to Sealaska under S. 340 include some of the region’s most biologically productive areas. The bill would enable the corporation to “high-grade” ― i.e., disproportionately target and clearcut extremely rare, big-tree old growth. Recent analysis of S. 340 shows that Sealaska is selecting large-tree old growth stands (combined volume class 6/7) at 10 times the rate they occur naturally in the Tongass (30% vs 3.4%).  Even the young-growth (previously logged) forest that Sealaska is also selecting targets the most productive lands.
The Sealaska legislation would high-grade increasingly rare, large-tree old growth and amplify this long-recognized problem. Congress explicitly identified the high-grading concern in 1990 as part of the Tongass Timber Reform Act (TTRA) and enacted an explicit ban on the practice.  An independent scientific peer review of Tongass forest management practices in 1997 further highlighted the interconnected problems of high-grading, forest fragmentation, and loss of habitat connectivity.  In its most recent testimony to Congress on S. 340 the Department of the Interior testified that if the Sealaska legislation is enacted as proposed the United States Fish and Wildlife Service may have to review its previous findings not to list the Queen Charlotte goshawk and the Alexander Archipelago wolf under the Endangered Species Act.
Because Sealaska has already made its final Settlement Act land selections under existing law and has officially filed those selections with the federal Bureau of Land Management, no further action is required by Congress for the corporation to receive its full entitlement.
S. 340 is currently pending in the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, chaired by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR). We would encourage you to contact the Full Committee and ask for no further action on this bill.
Mr. Cornelius and Mr. Gustafson are former Area Biologists with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Habitat Division; with a combined experience of over 32 years reviewing Tongass National Forest, and private Native corporation logging issues.
 Kirchoff, S. 340 Tongass National Forest Comparison, February 2013 (Click Here ) http://www.fileden.com/files/2012/4/8/3289499/S340_TNF_Comparison_Feb2013.xlsx
 H.R. 987: Tongass Timber Reform Act, Section 301(c)(2)
 Powell, et al., “Joint Statement of Members of the Peer Review Committee Concerning the Inadequacy of Conservation Measures for Vertebrate Species in the Tongass National Forest Land Management Plan of Record,” (September 1997).
According to today’s Missoulian newspaper, the logging slated to begin on the Bass Creek project of the Bitterroot National Forest in Montana has been delayed because Pyramid Mountain Lumber Company’s log yard is too full and they have too much inventory.
An unusually dry spring will keep an extremely popular recreation site open to the public a couple of weeks longer than planned this spring.
Pyramid Mountain Lumber Co. has pushed back the start of its logging operation at the Bass Creek Recreation Area to about June 1 because its log yard is fuller than expected this time of year.
“We didn’t anticipate this very dry spring weather,” said Gordy Sanders, Pyramid Lumber’s resource manager. “Our decision to delay the start of the logging operation has to do with the overall management of our log inventory.”
The drier-than-normal spring allowed Pyramid’s loggers and contractors to bring in more timber than their mill could accommodate.
So the mill’s log yard is full.
Here’s a link to a short article (and video) about the new study, “Hot fire, cool soil,” with a brief excerpt below. The American Geophysical Union demanded that we remove a copy of the actual study, which they provided me earlier in the day, from our website….so I’ve done that. Sorry folks.
When scientists torched an entire 22-acre watershed in Portugal in a recent experiment, their research yielded a counterintuitive result: Large, hot fires do not necessarily beget hot, scorched soil.
It’s well known that wildfires can leave surface soil burned and barren, which increases the risk of erosion and hinders a landscape’s ability to recover. But the scientists’ fiery test found that the hotter the fire—and the denser the vegetation feeding the flames—the less the underlying soil heated up, an inverse effect which runs contrary to previous studies and conventional wisdom.
Rather, the soil temperature was most affected by the fire’s speed, the direction of heat travel and the landscape’s initial moisture content.
And here’s the abstract:
Wildfires greatly increase a landscape’s vulnerability to flooding and erosion events by removing vegetation and changing soils. Fire damage to soil increases with increasing soil temperature and, for fires where smoldering combustion is absent, the current understanding is that soil temperatures increase as fuel load and fire intensity increase. Here, however, we show that this understanding that is based on experiments under homogeneous conditions does not necessarily apply at the more relevant larger scale where soils, vegetation and fire characteristics are heterogeneous. In a catchment-scale fire experiment, soils were surprisingly cool where fuel load was high and fire was hot and, conversely, soils were hot where expected to be cooler. This indicates that the greatest fire damage to soil can occur where fuel load and fire intensity are low rather than high, and has important implications for management of fire-prone areas prior to, during and after fire events.
This paper is designed as a briefing paper. Future revisions and additions will periodically occur. It will be available on the Greater Southeast Alaska Conservation Community website. It is the sole product of J.R. Mehrkens and is based primarily on Tongass information collected since 1977 and organized into a series of Excel Spreadsheets.
Introduction: It is well known that the Tongass timber program is a real money loser. The GAO (federal Government Accountability Office) found in the late 1990s that the Tongass timber program lost 80-94 cents on every dollar spent. The loss is far worse today – especially with the new wrinkle where the Forest Service uses old-growth timber sale revenues to finance even greater money losing activities, e.g., stewardship/restoration contracts. In essence, this means more old-growth is logged to ostensibly repair past old-growth logging and to create more potential restoration projects.
While forest restoration is a good goal, there are far superior ways to pay for it. However, first it’s important to revisit some of the basic underlying issues of Tongass timber economics such as taxpayer losses, the steep decline in timber demand and the high costs for logging roads (the greatest contributor to taxpayer losses).
In economic analysis there are two primary tasks: (1) identifying the stream of costs and benefits over time to determine if benefits exceed costs, and (2) identifying who benefits from and who pays for the project. To date all of the Tongass restoration projects (proposed or in-progress) have done neither.
NOTE: Joseph R. Mehrkens is a retired resource economist residing in Juneau, Alaska. He has B.S. in Forestry from the University of Minnesota and a M.S. in Forest Economics from Michigan State University. Since 1979 he has worked as an economist for the U.S. Forest Service, The Wilderness Society, the Alaska Department of Commerce and Economic Development and as a private consultant. Past work assignments include assessments of the timber trade between Alaska and the Pacific Rim countries, Congressional reports on the annual supply and demand for Southeast Alaska timber, lobbying for the passage of the Tongass Timber Reform Act of 1990, testifying before Congress on taxpayer subsidies for Tongass NF timber, and recommending changes to the President’s Budget for the Tongass NF for consideration by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees.
The following piece was written by Joe Mehrkens, a retired Forest Service economist and a former alternate member of the Tongass Futures Roundtable. We’ve discussed the Sealaska bill on this blog previously. – mk
Back in the heydays taxpayers paid a subsidy of $12,000-$36,000 per Tongass timber job. Based on more recent Forest Service accounting information, this subsidy has grown during the last decade to a staggering $224,000-$510,000/job, a nearly 1,400% increase. How can this be? Simply, the Forest Service kept spending like the industry was in its heyday while the industry was in a persistent long-term decline.
To the Forest Service’s credit the Tongass timber program expenditures have decreased in recent years, but the fact remains that the Forest Service is still chasing after fewer and fewer timber jobs. The result is that the subsidy/job remains extraordinarily high. However, the current subsidies will be pale in comparison to those to support a 2nd-growth industry. The 2nd-growth subsidies will be from cradle to grave: for mill construction, raw material procurement, manufacturing, transportation, and perhaps even marketing & sales.
Ironically, the need for these vertically integrated subsidies is very well documented in a letter from Senator Murkowski to USDA Secretary Vilsack, dated March 13, 2013. In her letter Senator Murkowski asks the federal taxpayers to build two biomass plants, three lumber mills, and even help start a guitar factory. But Senator Murkowski also relays a very big ask made by the Viking mill owners: Most recently Kirk Dahlstrom has made a new proposal saying that he could remodel a current small log processing line for a grant of just $1.5 million to cover some equipment costs, if the Forest Service would enter into a true partnership with his mill to prove the economics of young growth. He is now proposing that the Forest Service cover the costs of logging and transporting young growth to his mill . He [Mr Dahlstorm] is asking the Forest Service to cover his actual costs of processing, sawing and kiln drying of the timber and provide him a 20 percent profit on just those operations the Forest Service then keeping any profits from shipping and marketing the timber. That is about as cradle to grave as you can get. But in all honesty, reading between the lines indicates little confidence in transition to 2nd-growth any time soon.
There are, and will be, small and sporadic opportunities for 2nd-growth, but not supporting a new region-wide integrated timber industry. Like old-growth the limiting factor will be the inability to sustainably compete against the many other global suppliers. This means the Alaska Transition simply has no clothes.
Nonetheless, the Forest Service is even going one step further by proposing policy changes to accelerate the Transition . Not surprisingly, there are no predicted dates except perhaps when the old-growth will be cut-out in about 30 years. If the Transition has no clothes than an accelerated Transition is wishing makes it so . Yet, the Transition is very much alive and well.
In fact, provisions for an accelerated Transition are now part of the political horse trading surrounding Sealaska Corporation’s expanded settlement under ANCSA (S.340). Sealaska’s S.340 is now conveniently bundled with a wider set of lower 48 lands/wilderness bills known as the Omnibus bill.
S.340 is viewed as the last legislative train leaving the station for environmentalists who want to salvage what little lands protection S.340 has offered them to date. To boost their meager take, especially in light of giving up gems they once described as most worthy of protection, some environmental groups are now supporting the legislative provisions for an accelerated transition — not for Alaska — but for the timber industry in the PNW. In the PNW, immature 2nd-growth is already economic.
Nonetheless, the provisions for an accelerated transition are far reaching in terms of changing long-standing National Forest management polices sets a major precedent.
So the grand deal may works like this. The lower 48 Senators who want their Omnibus bill will have to capitulate to Senator Murkowski s quid pro quo of including S.340. In Alaska, opposition to Sealaska’s lands legislation has been prolonged and widespread. So the bundling of S.340 in the Omnibus bill gives Senator Murkowski much needed cover.
Moving on, environmentalists are hoping to get more Tongass wilderness beyond the meager amount provided in S.340 — and its five previous versions. But, environmentalists have relatively little leverage, except perhaps for supporting the provisions for an accelerated transition. Not for Alaska industry, but really for PNW s timber industry. Note, that Oregon is the home state of the Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources.
In my opinion, it is age-old backroom politics — cover-for-cover, deal-for-deal. Unfortunately, the subsidies and other economic losses due to taking federal timber before it’s time (an accelerated transition) could certainly mean that the taxpayer will be the biggest loser.
Earlier in the week the owners of the Rough and Ready Lumber mill south of Cave Junction, Oregon announced they were closing their doors for good. There was one reason cited by the owners: A lack of logging on Forest Service and BLM lands in southwestern Oregon. Jennifer Phillippi even went so far as to describe the situation this way, “It’s like sitting in a grocery store not being able to eat while the produce rots around you.”
Well, if you wander away from the timber mill’s talking points even a little bit and talk with actual neighbors in southwestern Oregon who have witnessed Rough and Ready’s handywork over the years, you get a much different story – a story of over-cutting, mis-management, toxic contamination and political manipulation.
Jennifer Elliott with the NBC station in Medford has the other side of the story (click here to watch the news segment):
Today, as the last saw mill in Josephine and Jackson county announces it’s plans to close, some residents are sharing the other side of the story: one they say includes political manipulation, mis-management, and contamination. For some, the news that Rough and Ready Lumber in Cave Junction is going out of business threw up a red flag. Residents fear the threat to close is a ploy to gain access to more timber.
Residents say they’ve seen this happen before. “It’s been some years back the Rough and Ready mill was up for sale,” says South Cave Junction Neighborhood Watch member, Guenter Ambron.
“It’s just wrong,” says a neighbor of Rough and Ready, too scared to identify herself on camera for fear of retaliation. She tells us there’s more than meets in the eye in the company’s announcement to close. “I think it’s being used as a tool to push our representatives and governor into giving them O&C lands,” continues the neighbor.
She says at one point, Rough and Ready was considered a self sufficient company with private logging lands, but she says it’s their own fault they’re out of wood.”If they actually maintained their resource lands and had not clear cut and sprayed with poisons they would actually have a constant supply of timbers to harvest.”
“Now they go in and take this land and bio massed it, all of money they’ve done combined could not pay for the damages it’s done for us, ” says Orville Camp, who lives below a 60 acre area he says was clear cut and sprayed by a group he claims has ties to Rough and Ready Lumber.
“You can see it’s all dead down here,” he remarks.
He tell us that’s part of the reason the wood can’t grow back for this company as well as other timber groups with the same plight.
“They say the land is no longer sustainable for growing trees, which is kind of true.”
Plus, he says it’s destroyed his personal watershed, created a fire hazard, and contaminated his ponds.
We contacted Rough and Ready owner Jennifer Krauss Phillippi for her thoughts on these accusations. She was unavailable for comment.
“For the Phillippi’s to think they’re entitled to our public lands is wrong,” says the anonymous neighbor.
We do know Oregon’s governor is in contact with Rough and Ready owners, but we do not have any information as to the details of that communication.