4FRI: “$127 per acre in environmental study and contract costs”

Article from the Arizona Journal yesterday. I thought this line was interesting:

“The problem boils down to a projected gap in the number of forest acres available to timber industries that are currently thinning forests in Northern Arizona between the end of the White Mountain Stewardship contract and the beginning of the 4FRI project. In order for the Forest Service to make land available to industry for thinning, it must spend an estimated average of $127 per acre in environmental study and contract costs.” [emphasis mine]

 

Senators Flake And McCain Back Effort To Keep 4Fri Alive

By Tammy Gray
Red tape that has the ability to undermine the Four Forests Restoration Initiative (4FRI) has captured the attention of U.S. Senators Jeff Flake and John McCain, both R-Ariz.
In a letter dated March 24, the senators implore the U.S. Forest Service to make the success of the initiative, along with the White Mountain Stewardship contract, “a national priority.”
The problem boils down to a projected gap in the number of forest acres available to timber industries that are currently thinning forests in Northern Arizona between the end of the White Mountain Stewardship contract and the beginning of the 4FRI project. In order for the Forest Service to make land available to industry for thinning, it must spend an estimated average of $127 per acre in environmental study and contract costs. The funding for completing such work will dwindle over the next few years, and Navajo County Government Relations Administrator Hunter Moore noted that action is needed immediately to prevent future acreage shortages due to the amount of time it takes to complete the environmental study process.
“The major point is that we need to put more capacity into the system now, so that we do not run short in the years to come. If we don’t infuse new resources immediately, the ANSF (Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests) will not be able to catch up due to the demands and time of the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) process,” Moore noted. “For all intents and purposes, the industry that exists now will likely have a major role in the second phase of 4FRI. If that industry is allowed to starve and die after we have taken 10 years to grow it, we will regret not having it around when 4FRI needs to be completed.”
Flake and McCain note in their letter to the Forest Service that the White Mountain Stewardship contract, which has its roots in the aftermath of the Rodeo-Chedeski fire, is a model for the nation and it’s follow-up, the 4FRI, must be given every opportunity to be successful.
“As private industry continues to make a comeback, our fire-prone communities will become safer at a faster pace and lower cost than the federal government could accomplish on its own,” the senators wrote in their letter to U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “…However, the pending exhaustion of acres pre-approved for thinning under the National Environmental Policy Act poses a significant threat to thinning activity across Arizona’s eastern forests. Without addressing this projected gap in available acres, the industry that has developed in that part of the state could face significant obstacles. Such a setback would not only have an outsized impact on local economies, it could call into question the long-term viability of the stewardship contracting model on a national level.”
Moore noted that some of the private industry partners are willing to cover the costs involved in releasing the acreage for treatment, but that is not a legally available option at this time. He notes that approximately $4 million per year is needed from the federal government to make enough acreage available for industry to stay afloat.
“Estimates indicate that for a $4 million investment annually, the federal government gets private investment activity that is several times beyond that,” he noted.
Flake and McCain asked Tidwell to “make use of all available tools to expedite, streamline and increase the pace and scale of forest restoration.” They also noted, “In this fiscal climate, prioritizing these programs will ensure that communities throughout the West are less vulnerable to fire, while reducing the skyrocketing cost to taxpayers associated with fire suppression and post-fire recovery. We are sure that you agree that we cannot afford to let federal inaction hinder the prospect for continued forest restoration driven by private investment.”

5 Comments

  1. Here’s something depressing. The net present value of timber ground as timber in Montana is probably in the range of 300 bucks an acre. Slow and cold, basically. I suspect that in the dry regions of the SW, the same can be said for forested lands, the are nowhere near the productivity of the wet warm South or the cool wet Northwest.
    So — we have something where analysis ALONE costs 127/300 or 40 percent of the total tangible worth of the forest (yes, there are “other” values but I’m talking CASH here), not counting the cost of the harvest versus value of the wood (meaning operating profit). Okay, now we have to pay for administration and rehab and monitoring until the NEXT harvest — but we already ate up all that money in analysis.
    Anyone see the problem here?

    • Dave

      Kind of ludicrous isn’t it. But then I’m sure it puts a smile on the face of the ‘let the bugs and fires have it – keep forestry out – no below cost forest sales subsidizing the evil forestry and wood products industry’ group. Or it will until a couple of communities get wiped out or everyone in some huge city sues the gov’t for causing a sudden increase in lung cancer a couple of years after a huge fire or all of the NSO owls get burned out right after they’ve shot the last barred owl or they find out that the RIM fire decimated some other endangered species while making the BBW happy for no more than 6 years.

      • The actual truth is that, in many parts of the Rim Fire (on Forest Service land) won’t support BBW’s for even that long. Most of those acres are rock and brush. A huge chunk of the forested USFS areas within the burn are 40 year old plantations, from the last round of fires. Smaller trees don’t last as food sources for the full six years, because they dry out and are no longer used by the insects that the BBW’s eat.

        What is certain is that goshawks and owls won’t be returning to the Rim Fire area for a VERY…… LONG …….TIME. It is very clear that the “whatever happens” strategy has produced moderately-burned old growth brushfields. We have also seen that in the National Park, fires produce the same results, using the very same “whatever happens” strategy, as well.

        How often do we have to do this exercise, when we know the outcome? When can people admit that these repeated “experiments” end up with the same results? The Rim Fire is a unique opportunity to compare results of different management within the same catastrophic wildfire. In fact, the entire Groveland Ranger District should be studied, as a whole, to find out how to restore old growth in a human-enhanced, fire-dominated landscape.

  2. I find it interesting that the letter came from McCain and Flake to Tidwell. I thought funding for the USDA Forest Service (FS) was appropriated by congress for managing federal lands. Seems odd to me when you think about it. Maybe our elected officials should be crafting legislation that will allow the FS to streamline the grueling, time consuming, and yes expensive NEPA process. (And, I bet that cost doesn’t even include paying legal fees for litigants.)

    • Keep in mind that Tidwell was elevated by Obama and Obama in turn was elevated by the environmental establishment. So anything that helps the forestry game is not going to get serious support from Tom. He’s just going to play along until he can retire as chief. And then, bet he “consults” or joins the board of some green group.

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