By Web Master, 4-04-12
Back in November of 2008, a little known report entitled, “The Transition to Green” quietly emerged on to the public policy domain. The 391-page report was the work product of 28 national environmental organizations. The manifesto highlighted priority environmental recommendations and described how “the administration could resume Federal leadership on critical energy and environmental challenges affecting our economy, health and well-being.”
Just prior to the 2008 election, the environmental coalition had completed an internal process to develop a set of recommendations for the new administration. Sub-committees, including representatives from throughout the environmental community, had considered the full breadth of environmental issues they expected would be considered by the administration, and developed detailed recommendations.
Each set of agency recommendations highlighted three major issues, followed by key administrative, legislative and budgetary policy actions. Some would likely gain bipartisan support, most would not, and several would have severely affected the forest products industry. Just a few recommendations of concern were to:
1. Restore long-standing wildlife conservation requirements in forest planning by conducting a rulemaking that suspends the 2008 National Forest Planning regulations and applies the 1982 planning regulations,
2. Reduce the forest products program to fiscal year 2000 funding, and cut K-V funds. The report stated, projects funded through the forest products and K-V fund consistently lead to great environmental, ecological, and economic damage. The agency’s constrained budget cannot afford to subsidize timber companies at the expense of forest health, and
3. Cut all funding for the construction, planning and design of logging roads for new timber sale contracts.
Equally troubling was a recommendation that the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD), “Review and evaluate litigation positions in cases to ensure consistency with priorities and positions of the new administration, including seeking stays or other schedule adjustments where necessary.” Also to, “Identify and commence priority environmental protection and enforcement initiatives in order to reestablish the Division as the premier advocate for the environment.” Certainly a debatable role for the U.S. Department of Justice!
Now, fast forward to 2012 and the recent release of a 260-page “2013 Green Budget” report authored by many of “The Transition to Green” national environmental organizations. Even though the tone of the “2013 Green Budget” report is tempered from the 2008 recommendations, and an accord could be struck in support of important programs such as the Community Wood Energy Program, the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and varying degrees of support for the IRR Pilot, and the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Programs; there are no funding recommendations for the Hazardous Fuels Reduction, K-V, and Forest Products budget line items. Apparently, a continuation of the sentiment expressed in the 2008 “The Transition to Green” report.
With so much effort invested in the “Transition to Green” and the “2013 Green Budget” recommendations, one would wonder how much of an influence these proposals really have over the administration. In a side-by-side comparison of the president’s “2013 Budget Justification” and the “2013 Green Budget” proposal, in some areas, there are considerable similarities.
The president’s budget suggests a desire to continue to shift the emphasis for the production of forest products toward being an outcome of meeting vegetation management, habitat management and ecosystem restoration objectives. The administration proposes incrementally increasing the national timber target to 3bbf by 2014, with non-sawlog or biomass a likely 30 to 40 percent of the removals. Commercial and non-merchantable sawlog volume (at least in Regions 1, 3 and 4) will come from the IRR Pilot and watershed restoration programs.
In Regions 3 and 4, where the forest products industry was forced to shut down years ago, subsidizing restoration work through appropriated dollars and reporting watershed restoration outcomes, over the next three years of the IRR Pilot program, should show watershed improvements and biomass removals at the taxpayer’s expense.
In Region 1, the forest products industry has always advocated targeting resource management at the right place for the right reason, but outputs must be accounted for. After all, the Multiple-Use Sustained Yield Act of 1960 is still the law of the land. Without timber targets, accountability and reporting, survival of Montana’s remaining forest products industry becomes just another check-off or by-product of “outcome” resource management.
Julia Altemus is the executive vice president of the Montana Wood Products Association.
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