What Should Congress Do? II Trusts

Pages from JayOLaughlin_US-Senate-testimony_03-19-13

This post involves information from Mac McConnell, Jay O’Laughlin and about the Valles Caldera experiment.

Solving these many and diverse local problems require local solutions based on local know-how. The current topdown,
one-size-fits-all land management by the feds has proven itself incapable of problem-solving at the forest
level. Removal of selected lands from federal oversight and transferal to local autonomous authority, similar to
state trust lands, would seem to be the most direct and efficient way – perhaps the only way – to secure reliable,
adequate funding and cut through the tangle of shifting, restrictive, and often conflicting laws, regulations,
executive orders, litigation, and judicial mandates that make federal management a hopeless cause.

Here is an in-depth look at this option, from Mac.

Jay O’Laughlin has also published some papers on trusts as a solution to some federal lands problems. Here is avery thorough one with charts and tables, and here is his testimony from a hearing in March. rough and one and here is his testimony at a Congressional hearing in March.

I’m interested in 1) what you think of the trust idea in general, and 2) whether you think a pilot might be feasible as a test case (or adaptive management). Perhaps O&C lands? Or somewhere else? Why would that area be good for a pilot?
3) What have we learned about trusts through the Valles Caldera trust experiment?
I was just reading about how:
from the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club, Caldera Action, National Parks Conservation Association, New Mexico Wildlife Federation, Coalition of NPS Retirees, Audubon and others have been pushing to replace the current experimental trust management with the National Park Service since around 2007.

Many people feel Valles Caldera is a National Park-quality place and it could be well protected and a tremendous economic asset to Northern New Mexico when the National Park Service assumes management of the land as a preserve.

Maybe any place placed into trust would be a “non-National Park quality” place? But I wonder if to the NPCA,to the retirees, and to the Sierra Club everyplace is “National Park quality” either now, or once current users are removed.

The grazing language now reads that the National Park Service “shall” permit livestock grazing but the NPS will have full discretion about where cows can be, when, and how many.

So to a pilot, we would have to find a place that most folks would say is not “National Park Quality”. Perhaps lots of timbered country, no pretty canyons, lots of existing roads. In a state with existing land trusts. Perhaps Northern Washington or Idaho?

7 thoughts on “What Should Congress Do? II Trusts”

  1. Remember, though, that the Obama Administration had trees cut in National Parks, and yes, those logs went to the mill! I guess I should have taken a picture of that log truck going through Yosemite National Park. Does anyone know of other Parks, where trees were cut and put on a truck?

  2. Redwood, Whiskey Town, and Acadia NPs all have cut a lot of trees to restore parts of the parks to a “previous condition” but they didn’t do it by commercial timber sale. I know trees have been sawed on a portable mill and used in Acadia for park projects, but they didn’t leave the park. Not sure about Whiskey Town and Redwoods.

    Was the Yosemite project a stewardship sale type of arrangement vs an actual “timber sale?”

    • Well, I think it was the 30’s when trees were last cut for “view enhancement”. I don’t know the details of the Yosemite project. I would think that since the trees are relatively big, and that felling trees (without damage to residual trees) is very technical, that the logs were sold. I’m sure that clean-up work was required, maybe in the form of burnable piles. Actually, I am very surprised that the logs were removed, and not cut into planks, for park “infrastructure”.

  3. UPDATE: I received this note from Jay O’Laughlin when I asked him for his latest material on this topic.

    On our homepage you will find direct access to an improved version of the testimony I presented to Congress this past March: http://www.uidaho.edu/cnr/pag

    The cover page of this 20-page document has a photo of me testifying, with Chief Tidwell sitting directly behind me. The paper provides not only my written statement that you have already posted, but also my 5-minute oral statement plus responses to questions provided to me after the hearing.

    As I emphasize in the oral statement and written responses to questions, one alternative to the current situation is for Congress to provide adequate resources for the USFS to harvest the current ASQ of approximately 6 BBF. If it were high quality timber and the administrative costs were reasonable, this could provide enough 25% funds to match SRS payments.

    The Idaho Legislature’s Federal Lands Interim Committee will hold its first hearing on August 9. I have been invited to open the proceedings. Agenda accessible at http://www.legislature.idaho.gov/sessioninfo/2013/interim/lands.htm

    On September 11, the Montana Environmental Quality Council will hold a hearing on federal land management in response to SJ0015 (http://leg.mt.gov/bills/2013/billpdf/SJ0015.pdf), including testimony by Martin Nie and yours truly, among others. Agenda is still a work in progress and will be posted at http://www.leg.mt.gov/css/Committees/Interim/2013-2014/EQC/default.asp

  4. Asking “what do you think of trusts?” is like asking “what do you think of managing forests?” Trusts come in an infinite variety of flavors. Like timber sales, they can be used for good or bad, depending on the terms of the trust.

    All recent trust proposals have been terrible in terms of the public interest because the trusts are conceived as ways of bypassing environmental laws, excluding public involvement, and increasing timber output for the sake of money (not restoration).

    Note: One can think of the existing federal land system as a trust, with goals established by NFMA, MUSYA, CWA, CAA, ESA, and procedural requirements established by NEPA, and the APA. The trustees are the BLM and FS. The beneficiaries are the general public. The courts are available to enforce the terms of the trust. It’s not perfect, but its better than alternatives that have recently been proposed by Congress.

  5. Trusts are a good idea…it’s obvious the states are very capable of managing their lands in a cost effective manner with revenue/cost ratios of 2 to 1. British Columbia owns 98% of government owned forests within the province border and had a “pre-recession” revenue/cost ratio of around 2 to 1 also. But getting it through congress would be difficult…even 10% of USFS as Gov. Schweitzer in Montana once proposed. (How bout trust lands for the WUI zones?) As long as the West is an enviro colony of east and west coast feel good Dems, I doubt congress would vote thumbs up on it. Instead of getting 300 legislators to agree to it, a fire rider would only need a handful of Repub committee and conference committee chairman’s to sign on. I don’t know…just maybe…Obama’s numbers are dropping LOL.


Leave a Comment