Future Careers in Logging As of June 1st, the Future Careers In Logging Act, H.R. 1215 and S. 694, had 17 sponsors in the House and 4 sponsors in the Senate. The ALC has put out a request that members contact their respective House and Senate representatives and ask that they cosponsor the Bill. John Deere has graciously allowed the use of their Bipac site to contact members of congress on this issue. The web address is: https://www.bipac.net/alert.asp?g=DEERE. Right to Haul Act – Highway Bill On May 23, the U.S. Senate passed a two month extension on the current highway bill that was sent to President Obama for his signature. As of June 1st, the Right to Haul Act has not been re-introduced in either the House or Senate. The ALC is attempting to contact members of Congress who stated they would be willing to re-introduce in mid-March during the fly-in. Wildfire Funding The two competing pieces of legislation (the Wildfire Funding Act and the Flame Act Amendment) for wild land firefighting funding appear to have stalled. While both sides of the aisle (and the Hill) seem to agree that reform is needed, there is a question of where the funds will be derived from and the accountability for the use the funds. While the Wildfire Funding Act allows the funds to be derived from a FEMA type account linked to natural disasters, the Flame Act Amendment requests that for every dollar spent fighting wildfires that at least 50 cents also be budgeted for forest management activities that would reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfires. The ALC supports the Flame Act Amendment. National Forest Management Improvement Act of 2015 On May 27, the House Natural Resources Committee released a draft bill, the National Forest Management Improvement Act of 2015. The legislation will be the subject of a hearing on Wednesday, June 3, in the Subcommittee on Federal Lands. The general approach of the bill is to provide authorities that the Forest Service can use immediately, without requiring additional forest-level or agency wide planning or assessments. Some of the issues addressed in the bill include: Providing further categorical exclusions for a variety of projects, and to reduce the required analysis of projects developed by collaborative groups; providing expedited authority for salvage, reforestation, and recovery projects on NFS lands impacted by wildfires; requiring the posting of a bond by groups filing suit against collaborative projects; adjusting the uses of Secure Rural Schools Title II funds to create self-sustaining local advisory committees by focusing 50% of that funding to timber management projects, and to use proceeds from RAC projects to fund additional forest management; addressing disposition of revenues from Stewardship contracts to provide 25% revenue sharing with counties, create additional opportunities for additional restoration work, and address fiscal management issues which have disrupted the use of Stewardship contracting in the past; creating a revolving fund which can be used to develop forest management projects, the cost of which can be billed to winning contractors to revert back to the fund for additional project work. Hearings On May 14, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands held an oversight hearing on the impact of litigation on forest management, the Forest Service’s response to the growing challenge of litigation, and related impacts upon forest health. Subcommittee Chairman Tom McClintock (R-CA) began the hearing by outlining the fact that “Between 1989 and 2008, 1,125 lawsuits were filed against the Forest Service. A quarter century of extremist litigation has placed our forests in extreme distress. Forest Service employees are demoralized and have little incentive to plan meaningful projects.” Further, the Committee found in a 1999 report by the National Academy of Public Administration that planning consumed an estimated 40% of the work load at the local level. Today, Forest Service personnel estimate that the amount has grown to 60% of field level employees’ time spent solely on planning, which includes environmental analysis and other procedural requirements. Timelines for analysis have also increased from several months to several years for a typical forest management project. Correspondingly, the expense of preparation has also increased dramatically. Line officers who were involved in forest management projects in the 1980’s recall 3-6 month timeframes to complete NEPA environmental analyses. Agency data indicates that over the past ten years, timeframes to complete environmental assessments for modest sized forest management projects have increased from 14.7 months to 20.1 months. Farm Bill Last year’s Farm Bill authorized the use of Designation by Prescription (DxP) as an acceptable method for the Forest Service to specify how forest stands may be treated in timber sales. Initial direction on the use of the Farm Bill authority severely limited the scope of how DxP could be used. On May 20, a new direction was issued that reflects Congress’ intent to only restrict its use in tree measurement sales. Northern Long-Eared Bat On April 2, 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced that it would be listing the northern long-eared bat as threatened, rather than endangered, as it had originally proposed in October of 2013. The listing gives the bat new protections but does not impose all of the requirements that would have been applicable had the bat been listed as endangered. A “threatened” species is likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future, whereas an “endangered” species is currently in danger of extinction. On the very same day, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief before the US District Court for the District of Columbia, Civ. No. 1:15-cv-00477 requesting that the court, (1) declare that the Service’s failure to engage in a public process and prepare either an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement analyzing the potential environmental impacts of, and alternatives to, the interim 4(d) rule, prior to adopting it, violated NEPA and is unlawful; (2) vacate the interim 4(d) rule and remand it to the Service; (3) award Plaintiff fees and costs; and (4) grant such other relief as the Court deems just and proper. Waters of the United States (WOTUS) On May 27, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released their final Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. According to a press release issued by the EPA, the ruling “Does not create any new permitting requirements and maintains all previous exemptions and exclusions.” House Speaker John Boehner release a statement stating, ““The administration’s decree to unilaterally expand federal authority is a raw and tyrannical power grab that will crush jobs. House Members of both parties have joined more than 30 governors and government leaders to reject EPA’s disastrous WOTUS rule. These leaders know firsthand that the rule is being shoved down the throats of hardworking people with no input, and places landowners, small businesses, farmers, and manufacturers on the road to a regulatory and economic hell.” Stay tuned!
- Maine loggers praise inclusion of $200 million for timber harvesters and haulers in approved COVID-19 Relief Package
- Maine loggers applaud inclusion of $200 million for timber harvesters and haulers in proposed COVID-19 Relief Package
- Professional Logging Contractors of Maine (PLC) deeply concerned by announcement that Pixelle Specialty Solutions LLC will not rebuild Jay mill’s pulp digester
- Maine loggers call decision by USDA to offer no pandemic relief to timber harvesters unacceptable
- Professional Logging Contractors of Maine raises record $59,439 at first-ever Online Log A Load for Maine Kids Auction Oct. 16