Land Transfer in Idaho: No One Chomping at the Bit

Eric Anderson sent this and wondered why the timber industry didn’t support it. I don’t know that we know anyone from the timber industry in Idaho who is on this blog, but still someone might have an idea. If I had to venture a guess, I would say they know that dog won’t hunt and distracts from finding dogs that might hunt. But who knows?

Land takeover

The special interest group that would benefit most from a state of Idaho takeover of federal lands is the timber industry. Yet on Oct. 28, during a legislative interim committee hearing on this issue, the timber industry balked at the idea.

Only one on the four-member panel, timber industry lobbyist Jim Riley, even suggested it was a “fruitful avenue to pursue.” Beyond that, timber industry representatives offered familiar alternatives to expand logging on federal lands, such as hobbling environmental review.

The timber industry’s tepid rejection of federal land disposal came after three panels representing tribal, sportsmen and environmental interests strongly condemned the idea.

This marked the second of two public lands hearings where the facts and public opinion line up against advocates of a state takeover. At the Aug. 9 hearing, Deputy Attorney General Steve Strack definitively proved Idaho’s founders did not want responsibility of federal lands.

The irony is that the interim committee was created by state lawmakers who supported a state takeover. Seven months later, that committee has become a powerful soapbox for why land transfer is a bad idea.

DEREK FARR, Grangeville

Here’s the link.

10 Comments

  1. “Beyond that, timber industry representatives offered familiar alternatives to expand logging on federal lands, such as hobbling environmental review.”

    Maybe they consider this a more viable long-term strategy for their interests, especially if the University of Idaho “Policy Analysis Group” seems to be supporting this approach.

  2. It would appear that the timber industry does not want to “abandon all hope ye who enter…” on the disposition of Federal timberland or any change in the current static situation. The West is the most urbanized sector of the United States. The urban clusters are politically progressive liberal. So why would the timber industry want to put the public lands under the direct control of a tyrannical urban progressive left majority, state by state? Better it be left to the Nation, which is more conservative, and let the States and their representation in Washington D.C. direct the management and fate of public lands. Industry only has to lobby one government, one Congress, to protect their interests. Add to that a tax system that has driven timberland owners of magnitude to the REIT corporate structure, which allows government to more strictly direct their business model, but also makes individual stockholders responsible for the Federal income taxes. Making and keeping money from timberlands is difficult, at best. All you do from the minute the last log from a cutting leaves the landing until the next cutting cycle, on that piece of land, is a capital expense. No tax write off until you cut again, and report your capital gains and capital losses, or expenses against those gains. Any uncut merchantable timber is a non performing asset, which is essentially a bag of gold sitting there for corporate raiders. So merchantable inventory almost has to be zero, almost big enough to cut in a few years, and the logs must have a market or a mill to go to. Survival is the result of tight scheduling and long term planning. In government, management direction can change at the whims and will of every election. Add to that the fact that every log that might come from public land today competes with the scheduled logs on private land for markets. Why would private industry create or encourage competition to erode their potential profits? We have had almost three decades to sort out the cessation of a meaningful public timber supply. Absent private land catastrophic fire, the market and industry are pretty stable, in a state of stasis more or less. Milling capacity matches the available log supply. (On the West Coast, it is mills and export meeting the cutting schedule). The private industrial timberlands are on a schedule of cutting and marketing that is more reliable than at any time in the past. The last thing they would want is disruption for no apparent gain. They have directed their trust and foundation money towards that end for decades. The shut down of Federal forests did not happen in a vacuum. The large industrial timberland owners have flourished in the world without competition from mills running totally on public timber. Their world, right now, is about as perfect as it could be.

    • “We have had almost three decades to sort out the cessation of a meaningful public timber supply. Absent private land catastrophic fire, the market and industry are pretty stable, in a state of stasis more or less.”

      This seems to be the worry in the policy paper I just posted in comment to Guy. Under the NARA project UofI is getting big dollars to study the the transformation of woody biomass into jet fuel. The concern seems to be getting the woody biomass out of federal lands in conjunction with restoration efforts to decrease fuel build-ups.

  3. The big scare in some of the western states like Idaho that are dominated by Federal lands (around 70% in Idaho) is the loss of Payments In Lieu of Taxes (PILF’s) and the phasing out of the Secure Rural Schools fund. Without those monies the Counties take a significant hit. I’m starting to understand more and more why the State wants something to replace the traditional logging industry. They need machines in the woods to get their PILF funds. And I think they know, as Mr. Johnson Jr. said, they know it’s not viable coming from traditional harvesting concerns.

  4. I agree with Sharon’s statement, “If I had to venture a guess, I would say they know that dog won’t hunt and distracts from finding dogs that might hunt.”

    The same could obviously be said of the GOP’s mandated logging bill, the so-called Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act (HR 1526), which passed the US House in September.

    Or when the Montana Wilderness Association’s “Timber Partners” took out $30,000 worth of paid newspaper Ads in all of Montana’s major newspapers calling for scrapping the entire Forest Service public appeals process and exempting many timber sales in Montana from judicial review.

  5. Rallying cries?
    First, Derek Farr is active with Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, which is a group set up by the Greens after they failed to get sportsmen support for the roadless initiative. In fact, I think it was TU that was BHA’s fiscal sponsor and creator. So of course he’s going to claim that sportsmen groups (Holly Endersby of BHA) oppose the land transfer, because the state of Idaho is probably not going to designate much if any new wilderness, while the Feds might drop that bomb at any second.
    Second, the list of groups invited has ICL, IRU, TWS, TU, plus BHA, let’s not forget that Chris Wood, Mike Dombeck’s guy on the roadless fiasco, went to TU, and TWS is obviously going to oppose any option that takes federal designation off the table.
    It will be interesting to see the actual minutes or draft minutes when they materialize so we can check Mr. Farr’s report for veracity.

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