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

Note:  From http://www.oregonlive.com.

forest-scene

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.

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Nick Smith’s article in THE HILL

Note:  Published January 27, 2017 — Congrats Nick!

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(PHOTO CREDIT:  The Hill)

President Donald Trump has consistently pledged to create more American jobs by promoting domestic manufacturing and reforming federal regulations.  Forest products represent a major portion of the nation’s manufacturing base.  By putting more Americans back to work on our federally-owned forests, the president can restore economic opportunity while protecting public lands for the future.
The president is off to a good start by appointing Ryan Zinke and Sonny Perdue to lead the departments of Interior and Agriculture, respectively.  Both recognize the needs of our rural forested communities and their deep connection to federal forest lands.  Both recognize we can responsibly utilize our natural resources while upholding important conservation values.
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As Aid Dries Up, Some Oregon Counties Glad To Be Off ‘The Federal Dole’

Note:  This article, published Dec. 21st, comes from OPB, Oregon Public Broadcasting.  If the press offers a feather in the wind showing which way the wind is blowing, then it would seem that SRS may have breathed its final breath.

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A contractor sorts logs on Oregon Board of Forestry land (Image source:  Oregon Board of Forestry)

For 15 years, Congress wrote more than $3 billion in subsidy checks to Oregon counties that had experienced big drops in federal timber harvests.

That program stopped earlier this year.

But many county officials are actually not so sad the federal help expired.

Timber once drove the Oregon economy. In the 70s, the industry employed as many as 80,000 workers. In many western Oregon timber communities, local government operated largely on their share of the revenue from logging federal lands.

Then came one shock after another that slashed at jobs. A deep recession in the early 80s. More efficient mills. And in 1990, federal authorities listed the northern spotted owl as a threatened species. That led to dramatic reductions of timber harvests on public lands.

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New Stanford program tracks federal economic relationship to western states, counties

Says the subtitle to this article:  A team at Stanford created an interactive website to shed light on the money the federal government has paid to counties and states in the American West over time in turn for controlling parts of their lands.

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To this day the U.S. government owns almost half of the land in the American West.

That level of control has been debated ever since the government began acquiring the areas in the 19th century, with some Westerners resenting the vastness of the federal authority, which amounts to 47 percent of land in 11 states. Some states, like Nevada, where the government owns 84.5 percent of the land, see more control than others.

But few know about the existence and history of revenue-sharing programs, with some dating to 1906, through which the federal government has been compensating states and counties for lost tax revenue on the lands it controls.

Now, thanks to historian Joseph “Jay” Taylor’s research and a team at Stanford’s Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis (CESTA), the history and geography of those programs are presented in Follow the Money: A Spatial History of In-Lieu Programs for Western Federal Lands, an interactive website that maps federal payments made to counties and states in the American West over the past 100 years.

“This project exposes material that’s never been published, let alone mapped before,” said Erik Steiner, co-director of Stanford’s Spatial History Project at CESTA.

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Forest management better than doing nothing

Editor’s note:  From today’s EAST OREGONIAN.  By Nick Smith and Lindsay Warness.

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In response to George Wuerthner’s Oct. 7 column, there are good reasons why there is broad support for active and collaborative management of our forests. It all comes down to a choice, and Mr. Wuerthner made his choice clear.

We can choose to manage our forests to protect and enhance the economic, social and environmental benefits they provide. We can choose to proactively help our forests adapt to drought, insect infestations and changing climate conditions, and use forest management tools such as timber harvest, thinning and prescribed fires to mitigate the impacts of catastrophic wildfire. Or, we can choose to do nothing and suffer the consequences of inaction.

Fortunately, more Americans are choosing active, science-based forest management over passive, “hands-off” management. Alarmed by conditions on the ground, more diverse stakeholders are coming together through local collaboratives to find consensus and develop solutions for forests in need of restoration.

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As forests decline, observers cite mismanagement

Editor’s note:  Nick Smith’s service circulated this article, from AgAlert, yesterday.

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(PHOTO CREDIT:  Jose Antonio Galloso, via flickr)

From state highways, foothill campgrounds and aerial surveys, it’s easy to see the catastrophic tree die-off in California forests. What isn’t as easily grasped is the scale of rapidly expanding tree mortality in the state’s 40 million acres of forestland—and what to do about it.

The U.S. Forest Service said in June that its survey showed more than 66 million trees, mostly pine species, have died in the southern Sierra Nevada alone, and more are dying. Forestry experts say the scale of the die-off is beyond anything ever observed. They attribute the tree mortality to four years of drought, bark beetle infestations, climate change and mismanagement.

“I’m afraid people are going to think the catastrophe we’re seeing in our forests today is just a natural cycle of drought and insect infestations, but there’s a lot more to this story,” Tuolumne County rancher Shaun Crook said. “What we have now is the culmination of 40 years of forest mismanagement that has led to these devastating conditions.”

Crook said if Sierra forests had been harvested in recent decades using sustainable-yield practices, they would not be as overgrown and would not be as vulnerable to drought, infestation and disease, which occur naturally.

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The Wildfire Conundrum

Editor’s note:  Below, one of the items circulated in Nick Smith’s news service this morning.  From Jefferson Public Radio, JPR.  Thanks Nick!

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Last year was the most expensive wildfire season ever. Federal agencies alone spent more than $2 billion on suppressing fires in 2015 and an estimated 2,500 homes were lost. This trend has been on the rise since the mid-1990s and continues to pick up steam.

Is there any end in sight?

The wildfire conundrum is made up of a complex set of interrelated factors. But it boils down to three main parts: forests out of ecological balance from decades of fire suppression; sprawling development in the woods that requires expanded firefighting efforts; and the mounting impacts of climate change.

Getting a handle on those problems will require creative and focused attention on all three.

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