March 17, 2021 HFHC News Round Up
Wildfire: A triangular analysis (Evergreen)
The purpose of this article is to convince people of a scientific bent that global warming is not the primary cause of the increase in catastrophic wildfire in the West. It is a factor, but the biggest cause- and the easiest to fix- is the huge buildup of fuel in the forests and brush fields of the West. We intend to show this by the use of scientific analysis and the introduction of evidence. This may be quixotic on our part, as many people who think they are scientifically-minded are not. A great many of them are actually true believers in what they are told in the news media by carefully-selected scientists and commentators. However, we hold out hope that some people’s minds are open enough to be swayed by the evidence. The primary tool we will use in this analysis is the fire triangle, pictured above. This is a graphical tool used to represent the three contributory elements of fire; oxygen, heat and fuel.
Oregon lawmakers consider new rules for wildfire prevention (OPB)
Oregon lawmakers are considering two bills that aim to prevent the kind of catastrophic wildfires that tore through the state last year. Senate Bill 287 and Senate Bill 248 would require mapping wildfire risk across the state and working to reduce it with more funding for wildfire response and a variety of policy changes. The bills require new building codes for construction in fire-prone areas and a statewide standard for clearing “defensible space” around homes so they’re less likely to catch fire. They call for the Oregon Department of Forestry to develop a prioritized plan for selective logging and controlled burning to reduce wildfire fuel loads, and they direct other state agencies to reduce health risks from wildfire smoke by monitoring air quality, creating “clean air shelters” and offering grants for smoke filtration systems in buildings...Kyle Williams with the Oregon Forest & Industries Council told lawmakers that more trees will need to be removed from federal lands that are “overstocked and underutilized,” and that the logging would create jobs and boost local economies. “Let me be clear,” he said. “We’re not advocating for full scale logging of the wilderness. We’re advocating for investment into targeted fuel treatments that move us toward a resilient landscape.”
State lawmakers have long called for dedicated wildfire funding (Union-Bulletin)
After a historically deadly and destructive 2020 wildfire season, lawmakers are looking at ways to invest in forest health and wildfire prevention. A bill that passed the state House of Representatives unanimously last week might do just that. House Bill 1168, co-sponsored by Rep. Larry Springer, D-Kirkland, and Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, would set up a dedicated funding account, investing about $125 million every two years for wildfire response, forest health and community resilience – something Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, legislators and advocates have been pushing for years.
Agency starts whittling away maintenance backlog (E&E)
The Forest Service is chipping away at a more than $5 billion backlog in maintenance of roads, trails and other facilities, using money Congress set aside last year in the Great American Outdoors Act. The service has posted a list of more than 500 initial projects in national forests to be completed with $285 million in funding in the first year of the four-year law — a small fraction of what officials say is ultimately needed. In a news release, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack noted the forest system's role in capturing carbon as well as boosting rural economies and providing job opportunities. Forest Service economists say project funding through the Great American Outdoors Act will support about 4,400 jobs. (Subscription Required)
Saving Timber (The New Era)
In a line of trucks waiting to unload logs at the Santiam Lumber Mill between Lebanon and Sweet Home on a morning earlier this month, most carried timber with clear signs of fire damage on the bark. That's because the Weyerhaeuser mill is busily producing lumber from logs salvaged from the wildfires last summer – the Holiday Farm Fire that burned along the McKenzie River and into the Mohawk and upper Calapooia areas, and the Santiam Canyon fires, which damaged timber in the Snow Peak area. "For our mill alone, we're harvesting about 95 percent fire salvage right now," said George Virtue, of Sweet Home, operations manager for the mill between Highway 20 and Fairview Road, formerly known as the Bauman Mill.
Online meeting on Lincoln Prosperity Proposal is Thursday (Independent Record)
The public is invited to a virtual open house at 5:30 p.m. Thursday to learn about the Lincoln Prosperity Proposal, a vision for 200,000 acres of forested public lands surrounding Lincoln in Montana’s Upper Blackfoot River Valley, which aims to improve public land management and bolster outdoor recreation. Organizers said the proposal is as much about economic development as it is public land. It creates new trails for mountain and dirt bikes, provides access to a popular snowmobile spot, establishes new wilderness areas and reduces wildfire risk. Ultimately, the group will ask Montana’s congressional delegation to carry the proposal forward in the form of federal legislation.
Clallam County to argue against trust lands lawsuit (PDN)
State trust lands should continue to be managed for designated beneficiaries like public schools despite a court challenge, Clallam County commissioners will argue in a legal brief. Commissioners voted 3-0 Tuesday to prepare an amicus brief supporting the state’s position in a pending lawsuit that challenges the trust mandate that provides timber revenue to Clallam County and junior taxing districts. Conservation Northwest is seeking a decision from the state Supreme Court that would require federally-granted trust lands to be managed for the public as a whole than rather designated beneficiaries like rural school, fire and hospital districts.
Idaho seeks to expend shared-stewardship program (Capital Press)
The Idaho Department of Lands wants to expand its shared-stewardship program, which pursues thinning and other management treatments to improve forest health across jurisdictional and ownership boundaries. The department now gets $500,000 for the work from the general fund, most of which comes from state income and sales taxes. The department is asking for an additional $450,000 for the next fiscal year. Of that, $250,000 would go toward projects on federal land while $200,000 would go toward shared-stewardship restoration project planning and implementation on private land.
CAL Fire announces availability of funds for fire prevention projects (The Sentinel)
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) announced the availability of up to $317 million for Forest Health, Fire Prevention, Forest Legacy and Forest Health Research grant projects. CAL FIRE is soliciting applications for projects that prevent catastrophic wildfires, protect communities, and restore forests to healthy, functioning ecosystems while also sequestering carbon and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Fighting CZU Lightning Complex fire cost $68 million (LA Times)
August’s CZU Lightning Complex fire — the largest blaze in Santa Cruz County history, according to CZU San Mateo-Santa Cruz Cal Fire Unit employees — cost more than $68 million to fight. “This was a historic event and I hope we never have to have another fire any bigger than what we already had,” said CZU Unit Chief Ian Larkin. “We exhausted every available resource that we had available to us.” On Monday evening, CZU Unit staff hosted an online webinar, reflecting on the wildfire and lessons learned. The resounding message from Cal Fire was that firefighter staffing numbers were not sufficient to fight the CZU Complex fire.
Boice named to wildfire mitigation project (Curry Coastal Pilot)
Curry County Commissioner Court Boice was recently named to the National Association of Counties wildfire mitigation project. This project is designed to engage county leaders throughout the U.S. in wildfire hazard geographies, peer-learning and expert-peer exchange to discuss and develop new strategies and approaches for Nationwide Solutions. “The 2021 fire season is less than four months away,” Boice said. “ It’s an honor to be asked to join this very important committee and workgroup.” Wildfire awareness, prevention and suppression are critical. Getting those first three in proper order then leaves the best focus for recovery from past wild land and forest fires. “I’m confident I can contribute and help establish improved wildfire policies locally, for Oregon and the Northwest,” Boice said.
Democrats, Republicans recommend more input, detail on Biden conservation goals (The Hill)
Two separate groups of congressional lawmakers sent letters to President Biden this week regarding the administration’s conservation plan, with Democrats calling for local stakeholder input and Republicans expressing concerns it would disproportionately impact western states. A group of predominantly western Democratic members wrote in a letter Tuesday in support of Biden’s executive order creating the 30 by 30 plan, which calls for conservation of 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030.
Congress pushes Biden to intervene on rising lumber prices (Woodworking)
Congress has joined the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) in urging President Biden for a legislative solution to soaring lumber prices. Representatives Jim Costa (D-California) and Jodey Arrington (R-Texas) sent a letter to Biden this week. “Unfortunately, this unprecedented price increase on new homeowners, as well as home builders, will persist until new sawmills come online and current mills re-open and operate at full capacity,” the two representatives wrote.
Biden's 60 day suspension on oil and gas industry expected to end soon (KADN)
The Biden administration’s 60 day suspension on gas leasing and drilling permits on u.s lands and waters is expected to end soon. Oil workers still fear the worst. “Without oil and gas what are we going to do to live every day. From the time you wake up in the morning , the first thing you grab a brush. It's made out of oil and gas, so we are not going to have toothbrushes anymore” Mike Monla said. The 60 day suspension from the Biden Administration has some workers waiting for the opportunity to sell leases again. “Something like this is just another devastating blow to our industry” Mike Monla said. Mike Moncla, Interim President at the Louisiana oil and gas association says governor John Bel Edwards wrote a letter to the administration explaining the importance of the oil and gas industry in Louisiana. “Workers don't want to lose their jobs, obviously. They also don't want to relocate to try to find other jobs. They love louisiana , they love where they live , they love the environment , they love the hunting , the fishing and the great food that we have here, and they don't want to leave.” Mike Monla said.
New EPA head commits to federal-state collaboration on environmental issues (The Hill)
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan emphasized his commitment to state-federal partnerships on environmental protection in one of his first public addresses in the role Tuesday. Regan, in his keynote address to the Environmental Council of the States’ (ECOS) virtual spring meeting, highlighted the extension of a memorandum of agreement between the EPA, ECOS and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. The memorandum extends the formal partnership between the three institutions for another five years, according to the EPA.
Group Says Biden Administration Is Firing a Whistleblower Using Revoked Trump Rules (Government Executive)
An employee advocacy group is accusing the Biden administration of failing to follow through on its promise to reverse a Trump-era initiative aimed at making it easier to fire federal workers, instead using the nullified policy to dismiss a whistleblower. Walter Loewen, a planning and environmental coordinator at the Bureau of Land Management, is facing a proposed removal after the agency said he performed inadequately. The dismissal, which is pending a final signoff from BLM management, follows Loewen raising concerns about a large and controversial oil and gas project on 1.5 million acres of federal land in Wyoming. Loewen and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the group representing him, said that timing is not a coincidence. Then-Interior Secretary David Bernhardt gave the project final approval just weeks before President Biden took office.
“Ghost Forests” Expanding Along Northeast U.S. Coast (Newswise)
Why are “ghost forests” filled with dead trees expanding along the mid-Atlantic and southern New England coast? Higher groundwater levels linked to sea-level rise and increased flooding from storm surges and very high tides are likely the most important factors, according to a Rutgers study on the impacts of climate change that suggests how to enhance land-use planning. “Strategic land conservation and restoration of coastal areas are critical to provide space for coastal forests and adjacent salt marshes to move inland as the sea level rises,” said co-author Richard G. Lathrop Jr., director of the Center for Remote Sensing & Spatial Analysis and a professor of environmental monitoring in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University–New Brunswick.
Biochar is a win-win for timber and ag (RFD)
Biochar could be a win-win for agriculture and timber regions across the Pacific Northwest. Biochar is woody materials and forest residues, which are converted into a product used to improve soil productivity. Researchers at Washington State University are looking at its potential for farming, and while the northwest is uniquely positioned to provide biochar, where is a question of demand. According to WSU ag economist Mike Brady, "Our region is interesting because you have a lot of forests and you have a lot of agricultural land close to each other, and so it really helps if the source is close to the supply, is close to the potential demand, and we just happen to have the confluence of events here." In addition to demand, there is the question of the environment. Some people say biochar can help with carbon sequestration, but more research is needed to definitively make the claim.
Your View by Lehigh County controller: How forestry can revitalize Pennsylvania’s rural communities (The Morning Call)
It is a common expression in politics: Elected officials promise they will “create jobs and grow the economy.” They come to small towns once dotted with steel mills and factories, now dominated by despair, and promise renewal. Every year these communities watch their main streets decay, their storefronts shutter and their families get stuck in the endless cycle of poverty and low wages. Fortunately, one of Pennsylvania’s greatest natural resources can pave the way for an economic recovery in rural Pennsylvania. Our forests and a newly emerging trend in the construction of buildings has the potential to bring about a new era of manufacturing and growth in Pennsylvania.
Forests of Maine Teachers’ Tour to return for in-person in 2021 (BDN)
The Maine Timber Research and Environmental Education Foundation (Maine TREE) is announcing that its nationally acclaimed Forests of Maine Teachers’ Tours will return in 2021 for in-person programming. After transitioning to a virtual format in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, two tours — in the Moosehead Lake and Katahdin regions — are being finalized and applications are now open.
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