Shoshone County finds itself in ranger danger

Note:  NWAF! charter member, Robin Stanley’s,”My Turn” opinion piece in today’s (3/12/17) Coeur d’Alene Press.

USFS-logo

North Idaho’s counties have a considerable stake in the management of the national forest areas they host. Counties depend on the U.S. Forest Service for multiple important services: Reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire, fighting wildfires effectively when they inevitably occur, maintaining and enhancing forest health, fostering and developing forest-related economic activity, and insuring forest recreational uses and access. The greater the area covered by national forests in a county, moreover, the more that county will feel these needs.

The Forest Service’s organizational structure bears considerable relevance to the performance of these critical services for the counties that host national forests. Nowadays, there are three national forests stretched across the five northern-most counties of Idaho, one very big and two much smaller. The big one is called the Idaho Panhandle National Forests (2.4M acres), it being an organizational consolidation of what used to be used to be the Coeur d’Alene, St. Joe, and Kaniksu national forests. One smaller forest is a segment of the Kootenai National Forest, which occupies eastern portions of Bonner and Boundary counties. Kootenai NF is administered out of the Forest Supervisor’s office in Libby, Mont. The second smaller national forest is a segment of the Clearwater National Forest, in the southern most portion of Shoshone County.

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Reducing fuel loads among a host of preservation tools

Note: This opinion piece, by Gordon Cruickshank, was published in the Idaho Statesman on April 8th.

check your science

Readers should beware of ideological or political statements based on “overwhelming science” when the writer doesn’t provide responsible sources. A good example is Brett Haverstick’s March 24 guest opinion that claims science doesn’t support the management and restoration of forests in the face of catastrophic wildfire, insects and disease. There is plenty of peer-reviewed research that strongly supports the role of active management in improving and maintaining the health and resiliency of our forests.

The National Insect and Disease Map, developed through rigorous scientific standards, indicates 60 to 80 million acres of forests are at risk of insects and disease and are in need of treatment. In 2012, the Science-Based Risk Analysis Report, available at forestsandrangelands.gov, determined that “experience with fuels treatment projects has demonstrated the value of fuels reduction to reduce wildfire suppression costs and protect land and resources.” The 2013 Nature Conservancy field guide for dry forest restoration cites more than 150 scientific sources outlining the need for active forest management on this forest type.

Fire is natural to forested landscapes in the West. Most people understand the difference between natural low-intensity fires and catastrophic, stand-replacing crown fires. In a natural situation, wildfire can promote natural regeneration and fuels reduction. But in their current overcrowded, unhealthy condition, catastrophic wildfires can devastate forests, sterilize soils, reduce water quality, destroy wildfire habitat, and threaten human lives and property. Observational studies, experimental studies and computer modeling studies (Fulé et al. 2001a and 2001b; Pollet and Omi 2002; Finney et al. 2003; Schoennagel et al. 2004) suggest that the risk of crown fire can be lowered if fuel loads are reduced, small-diameter trees are removed and ladder fuels are minimized.

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From today’s NYT: Rural brain-drain contributes to polarization in our nation

Note:  This opinion piece, by J.D. Vance, appeared at the New York Times under the title, “Why I’m Moving Home.”

town-country

COLUMBUS, Ohio — In recent months, I’ve frequently found myself in places hit hard by manufacturing job losses, speaking to people affected in various ways. Sometimes, the conversation turns to the conflict people feel between the love of their home and the desire to leave in search of better work.

It’s a conflict I know well: I left my home state, Ohio, for the Marine Corps when I was 19. And while I’ve returned home for months or even years at a time, job opportunities often pull me away.

Experts have warned for years now that our rates of geographic mobility have fallen to troubling lows. Given that some areas have unemployment rates around 2 percent and others many times that, this lack of movement may mean joblessness for those who could otherwise work.

But from the community’s perspective, mobility can be a problem. The economist Matthew Kahn has shown that in Appalachia, for instance, the highly skilled are much likelier to leave not just their hometowns but also the region as a whole. This is the classic “brain drain” problem: Those who are able to leave very often do.

The brain drain also encourages a uniquely modern form of cultural detachment. Eventually, the young people who’ve moved out marry — typically to partners with similar economic prospects. They raise children in increasingly segregated neighborhoods, giving rise to something the conservative scholar Charles Murray calls “super ZIPs.” These super ZIPs are veritable bastions of opportunity and optimism, places where divorce and joblessness are rare.

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From The Hill: Bishop seeks $50M to transfer some federal lands

Rob-Bishop-with-file-folder

The chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee is asking budget writers to set aside $50 million to account for the costs to transfer federal land to state or local governments.

Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) put the request on a wish list sent Friday to the House Budget Committee.

In his request, Bishop argued that “poorly managed federal lands create a burden for surrounding states and communities.”

He reasoned that divesting the federal government of its land would be good for the federal budget. It would reduce the costs of maintaining that land, he said, as well as the payments the federal government makes to local and state governments for tax dollars they can’t collect.

“To allow for these conveyances to start immediately, we ask that you build in $50 million into the budget to cover possible impacts on offsetting receipts,” Bishop wrote. “The vitality of these lands, after being conveyed from the federal government, will reduce the need for other taxpayer-funded federal support, either through Payments in Lieu of Taxes or other programs such as Secure Rural Schools.”

The budget request does not mention any specific land transfers Bishop or others might propose.

But conservation groups quickly slammed Bishop’s request to use taxpayer money to help get rid of federal land.

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What Montana Deserves — Borrowed, once again, from Nick Smith’s reporting

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Opinion: Montana’s Public Lands Deserve Robust Public Discourse (I-R)
With a federal government that is approaching $20 trillion in national debt, it is clear, presently, that they don’t have the resources or management capabilities in place to be successful. The problem isn’t the people working for the Forest Service or the BLM, the problem is the federal myriad of over-lapping regulations and laws. A system set up to waste money with a vulnerability to never ending lawsuits from radical special interest groups.

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Two news reports of note, from Nick Smith’s news daily

Note:  These items come directly from Nick Smith’s invaluable daily news service.  Thanks Nick!

who-me-now-way

Greenpeace Admits its Attacks on Forest Products Giant Were ‘Non-Verifiable Statements of Subjective Opinion’ (Financial Post)
Greenpeace, after repeated attacks against Canada’s biggest forest products company for “destroying,” Canada’s boreal forests, now says that it was merely stating an opinion about the logging activity, not a fact. After years of weathering attacks on its forestry practices, Montreal-based Resolute Forest Products Inc. last year sued Greenpeace in United States District Court in Georgia under racketeering statutes, alleging that Greenpeace’s repeated attacks on Resolute, to raise money for Greenpeace, amount to criminal activity.

Russ Vaagen: Keep Public Lands Public (Theforestblog)
Public lands can and should remain public, with a caveat. These federal lands need to be managed appropriately. Currently, they are not. There is a reason that so many people living in rural America are shouting for a change in ownership or management of public lands. Much of that angst is directed toward the Forest Service, but other federal land management agencies get heat as well. Is it warranted? In my opinion, absolutely. If the federal government cannot figure out how to manage the lands for the benefits of all citizens, or as the Forest Service says “the greatest good for the greatest number of people,” then another solution will be created.

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Rural counties need a longterm solution as federal program expires (Opinion)

Note:  This opinion piece could have been written, almost word for word, by our own county commissioners and our NWAF! group.

strangulation-signs

By Tim Freeman, Simon Hare and Craig Pope

The Secure Rural Schools program, which provided funding to timber dependent communities hit hard by declining harvests, is often described as a “lifeline” to rural Oregon counties with forest lands under federal ownership.  Yet the program expired in October 2015, resulting in a 90 percent revenue reduction to counties struggling to balance budgets and still provide minimum service.

The program’s expiration follows years of declining and uncertain payments. And overall, the subsidies have failed to address the underlying economic and social problems facing our counties. For our federal representatives, the only solution is to create good-paying jobs and generate revenue through science-based forest management.

Sixty percent of Oregon’s forests and timber lands are owned by the federal government.  Many of our rural counties are dominated by lands that can’t be taxed, transferred, nor developed for private industry.  Though recreation and tourism jobs have been created since the 1990’s, those jobs have not replaced the income that was earned in the woods and in the mills and generate little or no revenue to support county services. In fact, those jobs cost the government more than they bring in. Tourism and recreation significantly increase demand for law enforcement, road maintenance, search, rescue and emergency services on or near the federal lands. Because the federal lands are not contributing dollars to rural counties to provide these services, the burden is placed on the backs of county taxpayers.

Rural Oregon counties are at a fiscal cliff and are now being forced to make budget cuts unlike any that our citizens have seen before. Many rural Oregon counties don’t have funding to provide round-the-clock law enforcement. Public and mental health services have been severely cut back or returned to the state. Roads and infrastructure are deteriorating and libraries have closed.  Because many of these public services are mandated under law, the state government may ultimately become responsible for providing those services.  Salem can ill afford this responsibility.

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