Republican Revolution Proposed for County Payments

House Natural Resource Committee Republicans have floated a “discussion draft” of a county payments bill. It would phase out the current system of payments from the Treasury to be replaced by mandatory payments from national forest gross receipts. This scheme will surely cost the Treasury much more than the current payments.

The reason is simple. In most national forests, it costs the Forest Service substantially more than a dollar to produce a dollar of revenue. The bill tries to reduce these costs by eliminating most environmental laws. But the laws aren’t the source of the problem — the high-value trees have mostly been logged. The national forests, especially in the West, are not productive places to grow timber.

The bill would also create a new legal mechanism that allows counties to sue the Secretary of Agriculture to force him to spend whatever it takes to produce the necessary receipts.

The bill would mean the end of stewardship contracting in most places. No longer would the Forest Service afford to use timber value to purchase work in the woods. The counties’ mandatory revenue payments would soak up all the timber value.

Environmental groups will also blister the bill because it repeals NFMA, NEPA and the ESA. I don’t know why (as the courts have said it “breathes discretion at every pore”), but the bill even repeals the Multiple-Use Sustained Yield Act. And the bill exempts national forest logging and other revenue-generating projects from any and all review in the courts.

As a “discussion draft,” it is sure to engender a lot of discussion. But it is not a serious piece of legislation that will see the President’s desk in this Congress.

7 thoughts on “Republican Revolution Proposed for County Payments”

  1. ‘TRUST PURPOSE.—The purpose of the (‘‘County, Schools, and Revenue Trust’’…) is to provide a dependable source of revenue for each beneficiary county.’

    Which is to say public education, perhaps the most important investment we can make in our children’s future, and their economic security has no dependable source of funding from the Congress of the world’s most powerful government?

    And such funding for education will then be made “dependable” by this legislation by ransoming their future with resource extraction from public lands which could ONLY occur by eliminating environmental laws designed to maintain sustainability?

    This begs the question, “How can such funding be ‘dependable’ given the realities of market failure, dwindling, finite resources and the race to the bottom vagaries of globalized free trade markets?”

    Bald-faced elimination of the regulatory structural apparatus of public resources in the name of funding public education represents blackmail not responsible governance.

  2. Strange how every “state forest” in the West makes $2.00 in revenue for every $1.00 in cost(perhaps not so much in the current Obama economy). I guess they must have got all the “good” trees on the most productive sites with the most rainfall.

    I’ve been following “the tale of two timber sales” in Montana. Both within three miles of each other south of Bozeman Montana. The USFS “Bozeman watershed” project started scoping in 2006 with a decision in 2010 and still is awaiting a new decision on the absolutely,positively last supplementry analysis to appease an appeal. From what I here the mills don’t even want to buy it. Meanwhile, the state DNRC started scoping on the “Bear Canyon” timber sale one year ago and it will be going to bid in five days. NEPA is a joke.

  3. I’ll state the obvious here…There’s much, much more to the story than “666logger” wants to present. I know, just shockin’, aint it?

  4. Thanks for the heads up Andy. I facilitate a mid-level Leadership Development Program for the Forest Service through the University of Montana. Many of the “students” that come through our program are District Rangers, or aspiring DRs, so I am always curious about such legislation. In MT, as anyone on this list knows, stewardship contracting has allowed the FS to accomplish many goals they would not have otherwise been able to accomplish, and it has generated some positive relationships with local communities in the process.

    • Unfortunately, the revolution in the title, “Republican Revolution…” is neither confined to partisans (there are plenty of dems on board) nor anything BUT a revolution of plutocracy, imposing the same neoliberal economic policies as have been advanced by the World Bank and IMF on resource-rich “third world countries.”

      The Forest Service, public education, and most other civil services normally expected of civil government in first world countries currently suffer the same neoliberal economic fates. This begins by the defunding of (“Big”) government, which is followed by corporate outsourcing, privatization of public resources, and devolution of democratic process.

      This descent into neoliberal dystopia should have precipitated a collective wake-up call by now. Instead, we’ve been insulated from ever hearing the term neoliberal and conditioned to accept these fates as inevitable.

      That the Forest Service and public education alike, have been steadily defunded to the extent they cannot fulfill mission statements and obligations to the best interests of present and future generations of Americans, you’d think some problem solving would have occurred by now.

      Instead, the politically manipulated causes of problems from defunding agencies are forced into the politically manipulated “solutions” to a defunded government — routinely marketed as collaborative “partnerships” (in reality, little more than euphemisms for a process of corporate outsourcing of governmental functions through a devolved public process in which “stakeholders” function as a proxy for the rest of the wider public).

      Playing the neoliberal game as many citizens in many countries are already aware, or just now becoming aware, makes us all feckless losers at these roundtables of power.

      Creating “positive relationships” out of this predicament only serves to facilitate, if not accelerate our collective descent.

  5. Mike, I would also say that in Montana (and elsewhere) “stewardship contracting” has been over-sold to the public and the media. The fact remains that more often than not “stewardship contracting” results in completed logging while the actual restoration work lags far, far behind because you simply can’t fund the restoration of national forests through more logging. It just doesn’t pencil out. I’m not saying that SC doesn’t have some application in some instances, only that the whole and full truth about it isn’t ever explained or explored. Thanks.

  6. Despite what Andy writes, the laws ARE the source of the problem — beginning with Wilderness legislation in the late 1960s. The historical record, including legal filings and court proceedings, are clear.

    Most of the “high-value trees” have NOT been logged, and that includes the millions of acres of dead trees killed by bugs and fire and not allowed to be salvaged because of legal arguments. I just completed a study on 230,000 acres of mostly Umpqua National Forest lands last year; most of it (including old-growth) has NOT been logged and, in addition, tree numbers and biomass have increased 500% to 1000% AND MORE since 1800 — and that is just considering the trees 8-inches and greater in diameter.

    To say that the Siuslaw, Gifford-Pinchot, Umpqua, Deschutes, and Willamette (and other western) national forests “are not productive places to grow timber” is just plain silly or blatantly dishonest. Ignorance or deception or a typo; but not factual.


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