Job Killing Policy #6 - Blocking Multiple-Use in Our National Forests
This Administration pursues policies, without a vote by Congress, that restrict economic development activities on public lands.
One of the most worrisome developments to occur in public lands policy in recent years was the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Roadless Rule instituted by the Clinton Administration in 2001. The Clinton roadless rule attempted to permanently lock up 58.5 million acres of inventoried roadless areas throughout the U.S. About 97 percent of all roadless areas are found in 12 Western states. The Bush Administration released a revised roadless rule in 2005 that replaced the "one-size-fits-all" ban and replaced it with an "opt-in" approach, whereby the governors of individual states could petition USDA to take the lead within their borders on identifying national forest lands that should be designated as "roadless." Environmental groups immediately brought suit against the Bush policy and the last few years have seen a number of conflicting court rulings have placed roadless policy in limbo.
From day one, the Obama Administration has sought to restore the one-size-fits-all Clinton roadless rule, and in May of 2010, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Thursday issued a "time-out" on developing roadless areas in national forests, ordering a one-year ban on all road building, logging or oil and gas exploration. By essentially re-imposing the Clinton era roadless rule, the Obama Administration has locked up tens of millions of acres of Forest Service lands in the West without any consideration of economic and social impacts and with no real public input.
- “Western states and timber companies had challenged the roadless rule in six courts after Clinton put it in place before leaving office in January 2001. The regulation prohibited development in areas spanning more than 5,000 acres, accounting for nearly a third of the national forests. Twelve Western states are home to 97 percent of all roadless areas, some of which provide drinking water to local communities as well as wildlife habitat.” (Washington Post, 7/13/2004)
CLIMATE CHANGE RULES FOR OUR NATIONAL FORESTS
Congress has not passed, nor the President signed into law, a climate change bill. However, on July 19 of this year, Forest ServiceChief Tom Tidwell announced the release of the National Roadmap for Responding to Climate Changeand a new system for performance accountability in response to the USDA's 2010-2015 Strategic Plan that sets a goal of “ensuring that our national forests are made more resilient to climate change.” The roadmap states “Climate change impacts will vary. Some ecosystems might experience only minor changes, whereas others might cease to exist, supplanted by new ecosystems.” The roadmap also states “To address the risks and vulnerabilities associated with climate change, land managers will need science-based assessments of the relative vulnerability of all ecosystem components and their ability to adapt to increased stress. These assessments will help managers set priorities in maintaining healthy, resilient ecosystems and protecting communities and infrastructure. Basing their decisions on such assessments, land managers can avoid fragmented, piecemeal approaches and make cost-effective investments.”
There is one thing that climate change alarmists believe -- everything is impacted by climate change. As the quotes from the roadmap state, every ecosystem will be impacted in some way by climate change. Under this Administration’s directive, every piece of land in every national forest will now be scrutinized through the lens of climate change and the activities on those lands will re-evaluated through “vulnerability assessments.” Conversely, the climate alarmists also believe that everything that happens in a forest that is caused by man will adversely affect climate change. As a result, any economic activity on federal lands is subject to change through this new agency directive. The net result will be thousands of jobs lost, and more land locked away from economic development, to address an issue that may occur 100 years from now. One of the philosophical underpinnings of the climate alarmists in this Administration is that no action should be taken until all interrelationships can be proven to have no impact on the ecology of an area or on climate change. Thus, climate alarmists generally oppose adaptive management. As the majority of national forests are in the West, our region of the country will be hit hardest by these new directives.
Meanwhile these very same people in this Administration seem to be perfectly accepting of burning millions of acres of forests in catastrophic wildfires each summer. These fires release hundreds of millions of tons of carbon monoxide and dioxide and other pollutants into our sky.
- Example of existing activities already being considered to be halted because of the U.S. Forest Service “roadmap” - “The climate-change program will have significant impacts on many of the trails we hike and backpack, including Shasta-Trinity National Forest hiking trails, Klamath National Forest hiking trails, Lassen National Forest hiking trails, and many others throughout the state.” (Northern California Hiking Trails Blog, 7/20/10)
- Environmentalists want to use these rules to block any carbon emitting activity on federal land, which could include eliminating mining, logging, and oil/natural gas extraction jobs -- "Land-use decisions and policies regarding deforestation will either support or undermine efforts to curb harmful carbon pollution emissions," he said. "Today's initiatives help ensure that the Forest Service will support this effort, make consideration of climate change operational in the agency and help transform land management decisions by the government so that they reduce, not increase, greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere that threaten forests and communities alike." (Mike Anderson, Wilderness Society, NY Times, 7/21/10)
NORTHWEST FOREST PLAN – WESTERN OREGON PLAN REVISIONS
On July 16, 2009, the Obama Administration decided to scrap the Western Oregon Plan Revisions (WOPR) developed by the Bush Administration. These revisions would have created thousands of jobs in the timber industry by doubling the amount of logging that could be allowed on 2.5 million acres of BLM-managed land. These jobs would have benefited struggling local communities in the Pacific Northwest, and in Oregon in particular. The Obama Administration claimed they were concerned about the impacts of logging on endangered species and the process by which the Bush Administration developed the revisions.
The Administration stated that despite blocking the logging plan, they would deliver timber and jobs for the people of the Pacific Northwest. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar stated that his agency is “going to concentrate on those areas that we think can get through the process.” (OregonLive.Com, October 13th, 2009)Acting Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Ned Farquhar stated at the time that we can “support a strong and sustainable forest industry by focusing on thinning, forest restoration projects, and certain types of regeneration harvests. If implemented correctly, timber harvests can increase the structural complexity of stands, provide better habitat for spotted owls and other wildlife, reduce the risk of catastrophic fire, provide revenue for Western Oregon counties, and generate a reliable and robust supply of timber for local mills and biomass plants." He claimed that "we will keep offering timber for sale, we will do all we can to maintain western Oregon's timber infrastructure, and we will work with the timber industry to extend existing contracts." (Environment News Service, 7/16/2010)
Three months later, the Obama Administration proceeded to create a Western Oregon Task Force to make recommendations on how to proceed. Despite the continued economic downturn in these Pacific Northwest communities, the task force didn’t release its findings until July 22, 2010. The net result of the Obama Administration’s actions has been to essentially block the majority of timber job creation in the Pacific Northwest for an entire year, with no end in sight for high unemployment for struggling rural communities that rely on the timber harvesting industry.
This is in addition to the Clinton Administration’s Northwest forest plan that reduced timber harvests in the Pacific Northwest from five billion board feet per year down to significantly less they one billion board feet per year. As recently as 1996, the Forest Service reported selling 776 million board feet which generated 10,618 jobs, $305,073,000 in employment related income and $45,763,000 in federal income taxes. If timber harvest levels were to go back to 5 billion board foot per year, the Forest Service 1996 Timber Sale Program Information Reporting System (TSPIRS)data suggests a 5 billion board foot program would produce 68,414 jobs and generate $1,965,676,546 of employment related income and $294,864,691 of federal income tax revenue.
The Clinton and Obama Administration’s policies have driven a once thriving timber economy in Oregon and Washington, and throughout the West, to near zero.
- “It took the BLM five years to complete this plan using the most comprehensive forest planning effort ever undertaken. It took this Administration six months to trash it. Now, after waiting more than a year since the WOPR was withdrawn, it is clear the Administration lacks the will to act to meet the needs of local communities, forest health and resiliency. Communities throughout western Oregon are facing extreme economic dislocation due in part to a lack of timber coming from the BLM forests. Communities in southwest Oregon have been particularly hard hit and are left to wonder if they have become a sacrifice zone for this Administration.” (Tom Partin, President of the American Forest Resource Council, SalemNews.Com, 6/23/2010)
- “In logging towns, where unemployment is currently as high as 16 percent, that shortage of timber hurts.” (National Public Radio, 7/16/2010)
- “Unemployment in the counties most affected by the failure to manage these lands (Douglas, Lane, Curry, Coos, Jackson and Josephine) ranges from 12.4 to 16 percent. Counties long dependent on revenue sharing from timber sales also face an economic calamity as the County Payments program will end in 2011.” (SalemNews.Com, 6/23/2010)