Can Idaho manage public lands better than the feds? Idaho Statesman and Some Whiffs of Domestic Imperialism
Now I am not for land transfer as a solution. I think that there is a middle way, or a variety of middle ways, to be tested that could help us deal with the concerns of local people and officials. But first we have to be willing to listen, and not enemize or partisanize them, or simply tell them that their concerns are not valid. Basically the US owns the land and it can do what it wants, buffeted by alternating sets of national interests.
Here is the link.
But here is an interesting paragraph:
WHAT ABOUT RECREATION?
Haunold, whose business sells skis, bikes and other outdoor equipment, said nothing in the discussion addresses his industry, whose $6.3 billion in consumer spending generates 77,000 jobs annually, according to a new report by the national Outdoor Industry Association.
According to a 2011 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the parent agency of the U.S. Forest Service, more than 7 million people visit Idaho’s 20 million acres of national forests annually, spending more than $400 million.
A 2011 Interior Department report concluded that recreation accounts for six times more jobs than grazing or timber, and three times more than energy and minerals on the 12 million acres in Idaho managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
Even though much of the visitation hits rural communities, much of the spending is done in Idaho’s urban areas, so the rural lawmakers backing the bill don’t necessarily see the economic benefits of recreation in their districts. What they do see are reduced timber harvests and restrictions on grazing.
That’s why Haunold is skeptical when lawmakers say they won’t sell off the land if they can win a lawsuit upholding their plan and force Congress to turn it over – which Haunold thinks is a distinct long shot.
“As soon as they get their hands on it, they are going to sell off what they think is not valuable,” he said. “They’re going to fail, but along the way they will waste my taxpayer dollars.”
I italicized the part that interested me. First, I ‘d like to see the breakdown of where the jobs are if articulated in the studies he refers to.
But I hadn’t heard before that the “rural communities don’t necessarily see the economic benefits”. I wonder if that’s true? If it is, perhaps OIA would support a “Payments to Counties-like” transfer based on a percentage of say, metro sales going to support governments in rural areas? It only makes sense if those uses are up-and-coming, require county services, and don’t pay taxes in the counties.
I am beginning to understand the point of view of some rural legislators. We can’t use the land for what would give local people jobs, but we can to give urban people jobs… because those uses are .. better..
There is a bit of an air of domestic imperialism here. I didn’t focus on that in this piece but here’s also a quote from Swearingen’s piece on collaboration that we discussed here:
The idea of collaborative process has had its skeptics ever since it got a foothold in the 1990s, as people looked for ways through the polarization of the timber wars. The basic idea was to get traditional foes like loggers and wilderness advocates into the same room to hammer out proposals that might spare the Forest Service some costly litigation. But critics complain that these local, collaborative groups shift power from urban conservation interests to a rural minority.
Maybe that’s what all the unrest is really all about. Maybe we should discuss the power issues directly. What would it take to give local communities their rightful place in determining land uses? What is the local communities rightful place? Are some communities simply colonies of national interests and groups, because they happen to have a large federal land component, and they should simply resign themselves to the fact that outsiders know more than they about what is best?
Here’s the link and here’s an excerpt.
In the days when the Forest Service did try to emphasize making money from logging, it lost support across the West because it was clear-cutting.
No matter how many times the timber industry tried to put a good face on that accepted forest practice, the public just didn’t like looking at clear-cuts. Much of the federal forest timber program was shut down by litigation and lack of money for roads, along with water-quality problems and endangered species issues.
Otter noted that timber harvests on federal lands in Idaho are the lowest they have been since 1952. They are actually beginning to rise, however, in part due to the collaborative efforts of timber executives, environmentalists and others to identify timber that can be sold.
Private forests and state forests are, by definition, high-value forests. If they weren’t, the owners would have disposed of or traded them in years ago.
But the Forest Service doesn’t manage forests for a profit. You don’t hear the conservation groups that are supporting new mills and increased timber harvests and jobs complaining about timber sales that lose money.
That’s because they know the restoration value for wildlife and fish habitat that comes with timber sales are a part of the cost of managing forests for multiple uses.
Private and state forests are managed for maximum timber harvest. The recreation, habitat and other values that come from those lands are secondary. That’s why you can go to some state forests in Idaho and clearly see the difference between them and the federal forests next door.
It’s the state forests that are still being clear-cut.
Sharon’s take: It’s still not clear to me (so to speak) why clearcutting still comes up as an issue when the FS hasn’t done it in a while. Anyone who can help with this, especially from Idaho, please comment.
Here’s a link to the report. Thanks to Derek!
Also here is a piece from E&E news daily. Below is an excerpt.
Legislative proposals from last Congress
In concept, yesterday’s proposals are similar to legislation introduced last Congress by committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) to require the Forest Service to establish “trusts” under which logging and other projects must meet historic revenue targets. Such projects would be exempt from major environmental laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act, and would set firm deadlines for approvals.
That proposal was vigorously opposed by environmentalists, who argued that it would subject forests to vast clearcutting and create the perverse incentive to cut more logs even if the price of timber was low. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, last Congress said the proposal would reignite the timber wars of the late 20th century.
A separate proposal by Oregon lawmakers last Congress would have transferred roughly half of the 2.4-million-acre O&C lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management to a state-appointed timber trust, under which NEPA and some provisions of ESA would not apply.
But Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), who authored the bill, said their proposal was different because BLM’s O&C lands are statutorily distinct from Forest Service lands. While Forest Service lands fall under laws mandating clean water, multiple use and species protections, among others, O&C lands were designated primarily for timber production.
Trust proposals on Forest Service lands may fly in the Republican-led House but would never pass Congress, he said.
“National forestlands are managed under a whole different set of laws; there is no relationship,” he said. “They may be trying to mimic what we proposed, but there’s no legal authority.”
Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the ranking member on the subcommittee, asked how such trust lands would be chosen, how conservation and recreation interests would be represented, and which environmental laws would still apply.
“State trust lands are set up for a singular purpose, to produce revenue,” he said. “Federal forests on the other hand have a broader mandate and a wider set of management goals, with multi-use options.”
He urged Republicans to avoid “radical ideas” that won’t move in the Senate and to focus on policies that would make forests healthier and safer for constituents.
“Delegating the management of American resources to the states is still in and of itself a radical idea,” he said. “To imagine that the long-standing struggle over the use of our national forests will somehow disappear if they are turned over to the state is just pure fantasy.”
Bishop said yesterday’s hearing was the first of several this Congress to focus on “shifting this paradigm” of federal forest management.
It comes several months after the expiration of the Secure Rural Schools program, which for more than a decade subsidized Western counties where federal timber revenues plummeted in the 1990s. Lawmakers this Congress will be examining ways to extend the law, reform it or return to a commodity-based system favored by many Republicans.
So the problem with having the different houses of Congress controlled by different parties is that they can just agree among themselves, and blame the other house (Party) for not getting together.
So how can we help? We could set up a separate forum of people of all persuasions to discuss A Sensibe Solution. Congress could establish a bipartisan group. Or we could let D governors work it out since it appears to me that some environmental groups don’t think there is a problem, and if D governors are responsible for a state and feel that there is a problem, they may be in the best political space to broker a solution. Maybe that’s why some folks like nationalizing issues; it gets to our currently ineffective Congress and the status quo remains indefinitely.
What do you think? Do we need an extra-Congressional bipartisan policy seeking group? Is there any history of success of such a group we could point to?
From E&E News..
Here is a link and below is an excerpt.
For example, Washington state’s Department of Natural Resources over the past decade harvested an average of 566 million board feet per year on roughly 2.2 million acres of state forests, generating about $168.6 million annually, or more than $300 for every thousand board feet, according to Tom Partin, president of the American Forest Resource Council.
But on the 9.3 million acres of federal forests in Washington, 129.2 million board feet was harvested in 2010, earning $651,000, or $5 per thousand board-feet, Partin said.
The discrepancy is due in part to the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act, which lengthen project reviews on federal lands and subject many of them to lawsuits, Partin said. In addition, higher slash disposal and road maintenance costs on Forest Service lands bring less money back to government, he said.
“There are opportunities to do a better job of managing our national forests,” he said.
Some have proposed increasing harvests by lifting NEPA, the 1969 law that requires full disclosure by agencies of the environmental impacts of federally authorized or funded projects.
For example, Oregon lawmakers last year proposed placing roughly 1.5 million acres of the state’s federal forests in a timber trust where NEPA would be replaced by state law. Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) last Congress proposed phasing out Secure Rural Schools by requiring the Forest Service to meet revenue targets through timber harvests that would be exempt from NEPA.
But while Bishop’s subcommittee has pledged to shine a spotlight on NEPA this Congress, environmentalists have argued the law is critical to ensuring that the public has a say in how its lands are managed (E&E Daily, Jan. 16).
Most environmental groups support thinning projects that avoid old growth, reduce the severity of wildfires and gird forests against pests. But few groups have endorsed clearcuts, which are common on state forests and help account for the greater harvest levels.
There is a hearing tomorrow at 10.
Here’s the link. Can’t tell if it’s televised..
So here’s my take. When the Forest Service had the Gridlock Reduction effort, I worked in NEPA in DC. My boss, Fred Norbury, used to say “how can we say it takes too long and costs too much, when we don’t know how long it takes or how much it costs?”. The FS has been tracking how long it takes, since, I believe, but not how much it costs, neither NEPA work nor appeals. And for some reason, despite the Administration’s desire for transparency in government, we seem unable to find out how much litigation is costing. I’m just pointing out that we could have a more meaningful conversation about costs, if the Forest Service, OGC and DOJ would keep track of them and tell the citizens and their elected officials. In my opinion.
Note: you can click on the below photo to get closer to the ground.
Here is the stored webcast. I found the idea that our neighbor to the North has some interesting ideas and experiences that we could learn from was quite interesting. The discussion afterwards was also very stimulating.. and the ideas thrown around about possible application to our US federal lands.
Thanks much to the folks at Oregon State University for thinking to webcast and store the webcast for all of us out here around the country who are interested!
Here is the website of the British Columbia Community Forestry Association.
I’m hoping that viewing the video will start some discussion.
Here is what struck me.
The simplicity of thinking it’s a good thing to have local jobs. There wasn’t a thought that if trees are going to be removed from the woods, that people from other countries or areas of Canada could be imported to do the task more cheaply and that cheapness to do the action is the most important criterion. Taking each community as it exists, its own proclivities and needs, and working with that to make use of local resources for the benefit of the community who lives there. It seems so simple and fundamental. And it’s still federal land.
I was only mildly surprised when they mentioned that many more women were involved in the community forestry movement than the rest of the forestry enterprise. Thanks to the difficulty getting free scholarly papers, I was unable to do a complete read of some papers, but it appears that in the literature, women are sometimes shown to prefer a more collaborative style of problem solving. I think that there is an excellent opportunity for further study by some graduate student (s) at UBC or elsewhere.
I also thought it was interesting that District Ranger at Sweet Home, Cindy Glick, talked knowledgeably about the poverty in her community, and also seemed to look on the life of the community, and its relation with the forest, as a whole. She seemed like the kind of Ranger I would want to have around.
But that’s just my take. Please watch the video yourself and tell us what you think.
Given the discussion at OSU yesterday about what Canada is doing with community forests ( i missed the end of the discussion on stewardship contracting due to other commitments) I thought this was interesting..maybe we could learn some things from the experience of our norther neighbor, and break the Secure Rural Schools “logjam” (so to speak)?
Here’s the link and below is an excerpt. Thanks to an alert reader for catching this!
Baucus and Wyden Pledge to Extend Secure Rural Schools Program
Friday, February 15, 2013
Washington, D.C.— Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) pledged on Friday to extend the Secure Rural Schools program for at least another year, buying time to craft a long-term solution for rural communities.
Baucus, who chairs the powerful Senate Finance Committee, has strongly supported the program in the past, and said he will again work to ensure the lifeline for resource-dependent communities does not disappear.
“These investments are the lifeline that keeps teachers in the classroom, lights on at the road department and emergency crews on the job in Montana counties,” Baucus said. “And they are rightfully due to rural counties that are home to large areas of federal lands. Now is not the time to pull the rug out from under them.”
Wyden, who chairs the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has worked for years to provide stability to rural Oregon communities, and authored the original Secure Rural Schools and County Self-Determination Act in 2000.
“Maintaining the federal government’s historic obligation to rural Oregon and to rural America has always been my top legislative priority,” Wyden said. “As the chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, I plan to throw my weight behind an extension of this program, to make sure rural counties are not left in the lurch.”
UPDATE: I reposted this as the webcast is today at 12 Pacific 1 MT.
Thanks to Oregon State University for putting this on and especially the webcast for us in the Disjunct Forest Policy Wonk Collective. February 18th. Here’s the link.