In today’s business climate, U.S. companies are not strangers to environmental regulation. ALC’s visit to Washington DC in March proved to be an eye opening visit, especially as it related to what was learned about the Environmental Protection Agency. The regulatory process in our country has steadily become the largest hurdle for growth and competitiveness for any business.
William Kovacs’ presentation on behalf of the U.S Chamber of Commerce deserves to be revisited. Findings from Mr. Kovacs’ presentation stated that in 2009, gross tax collections in the U.S. were 2.33 trillion dollars and the cost of regulation was at a staggering 1.75 trillion dollars. That translates to a cost of about $8,086 dollars per employee and $10,585 dollars per small business in the U.S. per year. With the expansion of environmental law the number of pages of federal regulation is now more than double the amount of pages in our nation’s tax code. In the early seventies the tax code had about 5,000 pages compared to 1,000 in environmental law. Today, the tax code has reached nearly 15,000 pages while environmental regulations have exploded to nearly 30,000 pages.
One of the largest targets from environmental groups is energy development, from nuclear to natural gas and even renewable energy projects. Last year, 351 projects were denied approval. The oil industry has been under attack for years with most of U.S. shores under drilling moratoriums or delayed drilling permits. The United States has the natural resources along with the technology of some of the best companies in the world to satrisfy much of our energy demand.
At a time when our economy can ill afford higher fuel prices, our federal government is giving Mexico and Brazil billions of dollars for oil exploration projects, and lately, it seems that when the U.S. economy is starting to improve, some type of unrest in the Middle East causes a relapse in our positive growth. We should not continue to adopt energy policies that weaken our economy and more importantly our national security. To do so seems just plain un-American!
The lack of science-based forest management on our federal timber lands is obviously an increasing concern to our industry. Currently, over 93 million acres, or about 60 percent of national forest lands are closed to timber harvesting. Between 1985 and 2005 there were 949 federal lawsuits filed against the U.S. Forest Service. The timber that we are able to perform harvests on is with increasing state and local regulations.
In my home state of Wisconsin, areas that have a large oak component for example, have a seasonal restriction on harvesting in the summer months until usually after September because of oak wilt. The spread of Gypsy moth and the emerald ash borer have caused transportation restrictions. Some aspen sales have a winter only harvest and other sales because of invasive species.
Logging contractors are required by some to pressure wash their equipment before moving to another job to prevent the spread of those invasive species. The only problem with that precautionary measure is that foresters traveling from timber sale to timber sale along with people riding through the forest on ATV’s are defeating the purpose of the logging contractor being required to wash their equipment and then pass an inspection. I always wonder why the logger has to adhere to certain requirements and other groups like the recreation folks do not.
Annosum root rot in conifer trees is the next big thing to hit Wisconsin’s logging community. Our state’s DNR is taking the lead on the issue and has begun to require stump treatment at the time the tree is cut. To my knowledge, Wisconsin is one of the only states implementing this procedure. Loggers are now required to become a certified pesticide applicator by taking an exam administered by the state. They must purchase a 250 page training manual, pay a yearly commercial applicator license fee and recertify every five years.
As it stands today, if the individual harvester operator does not pass this difficult exam, they are out of business until they do. I believe that most of us in the logging community want to do the right thing but this seems a bit excessive for the application of a chemical you could actually drink.
The current training manual of 250 pages contains one paragraph in the entire book that even remotely refers to stump treatment. The most prominent pesticide law is the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) which is overseen by the EPA. The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection (WDATCP) administers the primary regulations concerning pesticide use in our state. Currently a landowner can perform the stump treatment without any certification requirements because they are considered a “not for hire” applicator.
I believe there could be a quick legislative “fix” to this issue by the Wisconsin State legislature that would allow “exemptions” or “special permits” for the application of the non-toxic chemical used to treat root rot disease, and the problem would be fixed and treatments would be effective, but the problem needs to be brought to the attention of someone who understands the issue and is not just “good” at writing regulations and tests. I would be willing to bet if every forester, landowner, or administrator that is inspecting the stump treatment for approval had to take the exam, the law or provision would get changed promptly because they probably wouldn’t pass the exam the first time.
There has also been talk of a possible cost share for landowners to help pay for the chemical and the cost of the stump treatment. I assure you that this will become a new revenue stream for the landowner and possibly a marketing tool for foresters to just require stump treatment at the logger’s expense in their timber sale contracts and the landowner keep the cost share dollars. I don’t want to seem so negative on the subject, but you all know what happened with the BCAP program. I have yet to hear of a cost share for loggers to help pay for the spraying equipment that would have to be added on to their harvesters. The cost estimates for the spray applicators ranges from $7,000 to $14,000 depending on the make of the equipment. Many county, state and federal timber sales already have the stump treatment requirements, all at the responsibility of the logger. A suggestion for this specific mandate may be that data on the average cost of the spraying systems could be gathered from our forestry equipment manufacturers and the State of Wisconsin to allow the logging contractor a rebate after proof of purchase and installation.
Once again, I want to stress that most of us in the professional logging community want do the right thing when it comes to proper forest management. Shouldn’t the focus be on making sure all of our loggers are being trained and out in the field performing the application as soon as possible?
As you can see, regulations that come down from the EPA affect individuals and small businesses in many ways. It seems quite easy for our agencies to write regulations without considering their effectiveness or the cost to our economy.