Let’s look at the idea of timber contract extensions due to Coronavirus. First, let’s look at the Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition.
I first ran across these folks when Tyson Bertone-Riggs spoke on a WGA panel, and since then I’ve been impressed by their work. This is from their April Newsletter.
Another emerging issue is the risk that the slowdown of the timber market poses to our industry partners. Although the Department of Homeland Security considers the wood products industry “critical infrastructure” and is still allowed to operate, the reduced market for wood products is a threat to the financial stability of many logging companies and mills. While the Department of Agriculture has issued a Finding of Significant Overriding Interest to grant extensions to timber sale contracts, the same grace has not yet been granted to purchasers who hold stewardship contracting “integrated resource stewardship contracts” (IRSC). In a normal year one of the benefits of an IRSC is that it requires implementation on a faster timeline than a traditional timber sale contract, but such a requirement is not feasible under the current circumstances. RVCC has urged Department and agency leadership to extend the same contracting extensions to industry partners involved in stewardship contracts.
The second is an article by Bobby Magill of Bloomberg Press titled “More Logging in National Forests on Trump Anti-Virus Agenda.” Despite the headline, which sounds like it’s not really about the extension, it’s worth reading. One of the tags is “Environmentalists see move as a back-door approach to prop up industry.” I don’t know how “back-door” it is… Anyway, I think it might be an interesting media analysis experiment. I’d be interested in cases where environmental groups are interviewed about other Covid efforts to support industries. I haven’t seen it for the marijuana industry nor the recreation industry, and we don’t usually talk about “propping up” industries who are suffering right now. I thought we’d left the Darwinian capitalism model in the Covid dust.
Jim Furnish is quoted:
The contract extensions are “very unusual” but “innocuous,” said Jim Furnish, who served as Forest Service deputy chief in the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations.
Timber contracts have time limits when timber must be removed from national forests, or the contractor loses the right to cut trees, Furnish said. When circumstances occur beyond a timber company’s control, it’s the Forest Service’s responsibility to provide relief, he said.
“This is a concession to industry so as not to do further harm as related to their contractual obligations,” Furnish said.
But the administration is playing favorites, being generous to the timber industry while doing nothing yet to support other industries that rely on national forests, including recreation, said Josh Hicks, assistant director for policy and planning for the Wilderness Society.
“I would like to think that the administration would be trying to find ways to be supportive of all the different stakeholders and members of the public during the pandemic, not making sure that a single industry is being taken care of,” Hicks said.
I’m having trouble thinking what that would look like (the equivalent of timber sale extensions), since I don’t know the ins and outs of recreation permitting. Allowing more people per permit when outfitter-guiding opens back up? Concessionaires extending their permits or raising prices?