Long piece from Greenwire today, below….
Two points on Wyden’s bill.
“(H) to harvest wood and use the value of merchantable sawlogs and biomass to help
offset the cost of improving forest health and watershed health;”
Great, but that ought to be standard operating procedure, nationwide.
“(1) OLDER TREES- Except as provided in paragraph (2), the Secretary shall prohibit the
cutting or removal of any live tree located in the covered area that is 150 years of age or
older measured at breast height.”
Any age- or diameter-based cutting restriction is problematic. There ought to be some flexibility. At least, more that in the aforementioned paragraph (2):
(2) ADMINISTRATIVE EXCEPTIONS-
“(A) IN GENERAL- The prohibition described in paragraph (1) shall not apply if the
Secretary determines that there is no reasonable alternative to the cutting or
removal of the tree to provide for a safe administrative, public, or special use.”
If you want to restore an stand of 300-year-old ponderosa by reducing basal area in the stand, and you need to cut 150-year-old grand fir or Doug-fir, that would be illegal. For example.
Onthe other hand, this is an improvement over earlier versions of the bill, which would have prohibited cutting trees over 21 inches in diameter.
Republicans, enviros air concerns over ENR panel markup of forestry bills
In the end, the 10 bills dealing with logging, wilderness and recreation on public lands in states including Oregon, Montana and Nevada are expected to pass — but not without some controversy (E&E Daily, Dec. 16)
Two bills by committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) to prescribe logging and restoration on national forests in their states are expected to stir debate.
Republicans support more logging activity on national forests, but they have concerns over legislating place-based projects, favoring a national logging bill instead, said Robert Dillon, a spokesman for ranking member Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).
Meanwhile, a bloc of environmentalists that had generally supported Wyden’s S. 1301, which seeks to restore forests on Oregon’s east side, has withdrawn its support, saying an amended version cuts important safeguards for old-growth trees and assurances for the decommissioning of roads.
Other environmentalists and former federal lands officials are opposing S. 404, a bill by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) to exempt a historic lookout cabin in Washington state from the Wilderness Act. Other conservation groups support the bill.
The controversy is not unexpected.
Both Wyden and Murkowski earlier this year said they would dispense with the least controversial bills first, saving the thorny policy battles for later. They’ve managed to negotiate tough compromises on bills to promote motorized recreation on a North Carolina seashore and to streamline grazing on public lands, among other measures.
A big question is whether the committee will pass today’s bills by voice vote, as they have in the past.
Dillon said some senators from forested states are worried that time will run out this Congress to push a national forestry bill.
“We have a lot of Western states that have issues with the Forest Service not cutting,” he said. “We have some individual state solutions, but not really a national solution.”
Much scrutiny will fall on Tester’s S. 37, a bill backed by loggers, sportsmen and conservationists in the Treasure State that has been stalled in Congress since 2009. Today is its first-ever vote.
A substitute amendment with slight tweaks will be offered.
A handful of environmental groups yesterday said they oppose a substitute amendment to Wyden’s east-side Oregon forestry bill, after largely supporting the original bill the committee reviewed in July.
“This legislation will cause unacceptable and irreparable damage to forests in eastern Oregon, will degrade water quality, harm endangered species, and undermine our environmental laws,” said a letter to Wyden from Oregon Wild, Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Geos Institute and the Larch Co. “Furthermore this bill will set a dangerous precedent for our other federal forests. We oppose it.”
While the revised bill dropped some language on National Environmental Policy Act reviews that environmental groups had opposed, it also weakened protections for old-growth trees and lost specificity on other resource protections, the groups claimed.
“It went from legislating old-growth protection to mandating old-growth logging,” said Andy Kerr, of the Larch Co., who is a lobbyist for environmental groups.
But timber interests don’t appear thrilled with the revised east-side bill, either.
Tom Partin, president of the American Forest Resource Council in Portland, said at first blush, the bill still appears too cumbersome to implement and seems to put ecological restoration ahead of social and economic needs.
While the revised bill drops language that AFRC warned would favor certain national forests over others, it would still encumber projects already underway in eastern Oregon. Moreover, a place-based bill is unfair for other regions of the West, Partin said, echoing Republicans on the committee.
“The House has passed a comprehensive bill, and the Senate has made lots of noise about a national bill but hasn’t taken any action,” he said.
Opposition to the bill comes as Wyden is shopping a larger forestry bill on Oregon’s western forests, known as the O&C lands.
Environmental groups are split on that bill, as are prominent logging officials and county commissioners.
A separate group of environmentalists and former federal lands officials also registered opposition to Murray’s bill, warning it would set a bad precedent for wilderness protections nationwide.
The bill, which is endorsed by historical preservationists, local town councils and some conservation groups, including the Wilderness Society, would exempt the 1933 Green Mountain Lookout in a wilderness area in Washington’s North Cascades from a federal judge’s order that it be removed.
“Enactment of this legislation would have significant ramifications for the present and future integrity of Wilderness,” said a letter to Wyden signed by the leaders of Wilderness Watch, Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics and the Western Lands Project, in addition to former heads of the Wilderness Society and Sierra Club.
“Enactment of the legislation would encourage federal land managers to flout the laws Congress has enacted to guide management of public lands,” they wrote.
The lookout — according to a federal judge — was repaired illegally in a designated wilderness, where permanent structures and motorized equipment are prohibited.
Bill proponents say the lookout is important to the history of the Pacific Northwest and is a popular destination for hikers, particularly since it is only a few miles from the wilderness boundary.
The bill enjoys strong bipartisan support.
Its House companion, H.R. 908, passed the Natural Resources Committee in July by unanimous consent.