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Policy Update Week of

March 6, 2012


SAF Policy Team and Committee on Forest Policy Release Position Statement on the Council on Environmental Quality's Draft NEPA Guidelines

The Council on Environmental Quality's (CEQ) recently released draft National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) guidelines aim to improve the NEPA process and increase efficiency of environmental reviews written under NEPA. SAF's Policy Team in conjunction with SAF's Committee on Forest Policy have released their comments on CEQ's guidelines, which commends CEQ for their efforts to clarify more confusing aspects of the NEPA process, but also recommends additional aspects of NEPA that would benefit from CEQ clarification. To read SAF's full comments link to:

CEQ's Draft Guidelines can be found here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ceq/nepa_improving_efficiency_draft_guidance.pdf

The SAF Task Force Report "Managing Forests because Carbon Matters: Integrating Energy, Products, and Land Management Policy" is available to read online.

To read the Task Force Report link to: http://www.safnet.org/documents/JOFSupplement.pdf

In the Administration

  1. US Forest Service Chief testifies before Senate committee on 2013 agency budget
      USDA Forest Service News Release, March 6th

    In testimony before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources today, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said the proposed FY 2013 Forest Service budget responds to the public's desire for the conservation and stewardship of the nation's forests and grasslands with efficient, cost-effective spending. The $4.86 billion proposed agency budget, an increase of less than one-half of one percent over the 2012 appropriated level, prioritizes the budget on three themes: restoration, communities and fire. To read more of this article link to: http://www.fs.fed.us/news/2012/releases/03/budget.shtml

  2. USDA and Interior Announce Wildlife Conservation Efforts to Support Local Economies and Preserve Farm and Ranch Traditions
      BLM Press Release, March 8th

    Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced a new $33 million partnership with farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to use innovative approaches to restore and protect the habitats for wildlife, including seven at-risk species and other vulnerable game species. The announcement of the Working Lands for Wildlife partnership follows last week's White House Conference on Conservation that spotlighted community-driven conservation efforts as part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors Initiative. To read more of this article link to: http://www.doi.gov/news/pressreleases/USDA-and-Interior-Announce-Wildlife-Conservation-Efforts-to-Support-Local-Economies-and-Preserve-Farm-and-Ranch-Traditions.cfm

  3. Proposed Rule: Revised Critical Habitat for the Northern Spotted Owl
      The Federal Register, Published by the Fish and Wildlife Service, March 8th

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) proposes to revise the designated critical habitat for the northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). Consistent with the best scientific data available, the standards of the Act, our regulations, and agency practice, we have initially identified, for public comment, approximately 13,962,449 acres (ac) (5,649,660 hectares (ha)) in 11 units and 63 subunits in California, Oregon, and Washington that meet the definition of critical habitat. To read more of this article link to:

  4. Notice: Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Experimental Removal of Barred Owls to Benefit Threatened Northern Spotted Owls
      The Federal Register, Published by the Fish and Wildlife Service, March 8th

    We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, announce the availability of a draft environmental impact statement for experimental removal of barred owls to benefit threatened northern spotted owls. The barred owl, a species recently established in western North America, is displacing the northern spotted owl and threatening its viability. The draft environmental impact statement analyzes a no-action alternative and seven action alternatives to experimentally determine if removing barred owls will benefit northern spotted owl populations and to inform decisions on whether to move forward with future management of barred owls. The action alternatives vary by the number and location of study areas, the type of experimental design, duration of study, and method of barred owl removal. We also announce plans for public meetings and the opening of a public comment period on the draft environmental impact statement. All interested parties are invited to provide information, data, comments or suggestions. To read more of this article link to:

  5. New national forest rule to focus on restoration of damaged ecosystems
      The Denver Post, Published by Bruce Finley, March 9th

    Obama administration officials are emphasizing restoration of degraded ecosystems as they roll out a final new rule for managing the nation's 193 million acres of forests and grasslands. Thirty years in the making, the rule to be officially issued this month will direct regional foresters to use science and more monitoring to improve conditions, Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said in an interview Thursday. "If we don't restore our forests and grasslands, we're going to continue to see more loss of the benefits," Tidwell said. "More loss of the clean water that is produced on healthy forests. More loss of wildlife habitat. More soil erosion." The congressionally required rule sets a framework for regional plans that govern all activities on national forests - from tree-cutting to oil-and-gas drilling to hiking on trails. To read more of this article link to:

  6. Plan to tweak Endangered Species Act draws fire
      The Summit County Citizens Voice, Published by Bob Berwyn, March 11th

    A move by the Obama administration to water down the Endangered Species Act is eliciting criticism from conservation groups and scientists, who say the change could limit protection for imperiled plants and wildlife. At issue is a key phrase in the act that determines when plants and animals qualify for protection. Currently, endangered species are defined as being "in danger of extinction in all or a significant of portion of its range." According to conservation groups, the phrase "significant portion of range" is important because it means that a species need not be at risk of extinction everywhere it lives to receive protection. To read more of this article link to: http://summitcountyvoice.com/2012/03/11/plan-to-tweak-endangered-species-act-draws-fire/#more-39030

This Week in Congress

  1. March 6th - Full Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources: FY13 Forest Service Budget Request. To read more about this hearing link to: http://energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2012/3/full-committee-hearing

  2. March 6th - House Committee on Appropriations: Budget Hearing - Bureau of Land Management - Director. To read more about this hearing link to: http://appropriations.house.gov/Calendar/EventSingle.aspx?EventID=277069

  3. March 7th - House Committee on Appropriations: Budget Hearing - Department of Agriculture - Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment To read more about this hearing link to: http://appropriations.house.gov/Calendar/EventSingle.aspx?EventID=282152

  4. March 8th - House Committee on Appropriations: Budget Hearing - National Park Service - Director. To read more about this hearing link to: http://appropriations.house.gov/Calendar/EventSingle.aspx?EventID=277076

  5. March 8th - House Natural Resources Committee: Subcommittee on National Parks, Forest and Public Lands Legislative Hearing on H.R. 752, H.R. 1415, H.R. 3377 and H.R. 3436. To read more about this hearing link to: http://naturalresources.house.gov/Calendar/EventSingle.aspx?EventID=282748

Upcoming in Congress

  1. March 12th - House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands Oversight Field Hearing on "Explosion of Federal Regulations Threatening Jobs and Economic Survival in the West". To read more about this hearing link to: http://naturalresources.house.gov/Calendar/EventSingle.aspx?EventID=282979

  2. March 20th - House Committee on Appropriations: Budget Hearing - National Park Service - Director. To read more about this hearing link to: http://appropriations.house.gov/Calendar/EventSingle.aspx?EventID=277076

  3. March 22nd - Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests: Misc. Public Lands Bills. To read more about this hearing link to: http://www.energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/hearings-and-business-meetings?ID=edec1618-2b93-42ea-88c4-7124f5b323dd

National News

  1. Murkowski Decries Forest Service's 'Restoration to Poverty' Policy
      Published by Stories in the News, March 6th

    U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today pressed U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell on the lack of timber sales in the Tongass National Forest, which are crucial to the economy of Southeast Alaska. Murkowski called the agency's preference for stewardship contracts over timber sales insufficient to meet the economic needs of Southeast communities. Murkowski was also critical of the Forest Service's new policy, as described by Tidwell, of not pursuing any program that might result in legal challenges from environmental or other activist groups. Such a surrender of the agency's responsibilities to manage Forest Service lands for the benefit of all leaves Southeast residents at the mercy of Outside groups, Murkowski said. Murkowski made her comments Tuesday at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Hearing on the Forest Service's budget request for fiscal year 2013. To read more of this article link to: http://www.sitnews.us/0312News/030612/030612_tongass.html

  2. Lawmakers pick fight with feds over public lands
      The Associated Press, Published by Michelle L. Price and Josh Loftin, March 7th

    Some Western lawmakers are pushing for a showdown with Washington over federally-controlled land, picking a fight on an issue that they say puts an economic stranglehold on their states. Republican legislators in Utah and Arizona are leading a charge to try to force the federal government to hand over control of public territory that makes up much of the West, insisting local leaders could manage it better. "We're putting them on notice for them to cede it to us. And if they don't, we'll start taxing it,'' said Arizona state Sen. Al Melvin, who sponsored the legislation in that state. To read more of this article link to:

  3. Seeking common ground
      Lone Peak Lookout, Published by Jolene Keller, March 8th

    As the name might imply, the Hyalite Porcupine Buffalo Horn Wilderness Study Area (WSA) is expansive. Known to some as the Gallatin Crest, the area's nearly 150,000 acres run from the northern part of Yellowstone National Park, along the Gallatin Range and north of Hyalite Canyon. While it geologically divides, it also ideologically divides the population that uses it -- motorized vehicle users want more access, while pro-wilderness advocates call for less. Since the WSA's inception in 1977, divided opinions on usage have resulted in continued restricted access, hundreds of lawsuits and no clear solution as to how to manage the area in a way that satisfies the community. To read more of this article link to: http://www.lonepeaklookout.com/news/article_61746b62-68a2-11e1-9a79-001871e3ce6c.html

  4. Appeals Court Rules In Favor Of National Forest
      The Ashland Current, March 8th

    A case involving the Habitat Education Center, Inc. (HEC), the Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC), and the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest was recently decided in the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. HEC, a citizens' organization, two of its officers, and the Environmental Law and Policy Center had sued the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest out of concern for the red-shouldered hawk, the goshawk, and the American pine marten, according to federal court documents. In particular, the groups questioned whether the forest service had complied with the National Environmental Policy Act. A U.S. District Court heard the case and decided that the forest service had taken appropriate corrective action in complying with NEPA.To read more of this article link to: http://www.ashlandcurrent.com/article/12/03/08/appeals-court-rules-favor-national-forest

  5. Senate approves timber payments
      The Spokesman-Review, Published by Wire Reports, March 9th

    The Senate has agreed to keep compensating rural counties for a decline in federal timber payments because of environmental protections for the spotted owl, salmon and other species. The Secure Rural Schools program has become a lifeline for rural communities, particularly in the West, that have suffered from a decline in timber harvests on federal lands. An amendment sponsored by Democratic Sen. Max Baucus of Montana would distribute $346 million nationwide over the next year. The amendment cleared the Senate on Thursday on an 82-16 vote. It's part of a larger transportation bill that is up for a vote next week and still needs approval from the House, too.To read more of this article link to: http://www.ashlandcurrent.com/article/12/03/08/appeals-court-rules-favor-national-forest

In the States: Oregon, Montana, and Vermont

  1. Big contributor: Study shows Forest Service's economic impact on Bitterroot, Missoula economies
      The Ravalli Republic, Published by Whitney Bermes, March 7th

    The Bitterroot National Forest's impact on the local economy is no drop in the bucket, according to a recent study. In fact, the Bitterroot Forest contributes $23.5 million and 651 full- and part-time jobs to Ravalli and Missoula counties' economies annually, according to a study by Krista Gebert, regional economist for the U.S. Forest Service's Northern Region. The study looked at data from 2009 to determine the forest's impacts on both Ravalli and Missoula counties. "The two communities are tied so closely," Gebert said. Forest Service expenditures make up the bulk of those 651 jobs. The expenditures created 264 jobs either directly, indirectly or induced, the study says. Local recreation was the next highest creator with 141, followed by non-local recreation at 99 jobs, timber management at 59, payments to state and counties with 38, and non-local fish and wildlife at 17. To read more of this article link to:

  2. Last-day legislation allows hard-hit Oregon timber counties to use road funds for sheriff's patrols
      The Oregonian, Published by Eric Mortenson, March 6th

    Some of Oregon's hardest-hit timber counties say a last-day bill passed by the Legislature gives them temporary reprieve from budget problems that threatened to shut down services. House Bill 4175, approved Monday, allows counties to tap road fund money to pay for sheriff's patrols. Passage was crucial to counties that have lost millions with the end of federal forest payments and are struggling to provide basic services. At the same time, many of those counties have large road fund reserves that came from the same source -- a share of federal timber harvest revenue -- that by law couldn't be used for anything but roads. To read more of this article link to: http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2012/03/last-day_legislation_allows_ha.html

  3. DeFazio touts logging plan to help finance Oregon timber counties
      The Oregonian, Published by Eric Mortenson, March 11th

    U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio said his bipartisan proposal to designate some federal land for logging and a preliminary Senate vote to extend forest payments may provide breathing room for Oregon timber counties on the edge of insolvency. DeFazio, a Democrat who represents the 4th District in southwest Oregon, has joined fellow Oregon Reps. Kurt Schrader, a Democrat, and Greg Walden, a Republican, to increase logging on what's called the Oregon & California Railroad land. To read more of this article link to:

  4. Vermont model leads the way in management of national forests
      The Burlington Free Press, Published by Matt Sutkoski, March 11th

    Vermont's Green Mountain National Forest at its most basic level is just a bunch of trees, hills, rocks and brooks. To manage the forest, you'd think National Forest Service employees would just let the trees grow and pretty much leave the rocks and hills alone. That is until you start to consider the health and wide variety of trees in the forest. And the animals, birds and smaller plants. Then think about all the hikers, photographers, bird-watchers, snowmobiliers, loggers, hunters, nature-lovers, skiers, snowshoe enthusiasts and nearby residents who all have their own ideas about what forest managers should do with the trees. To read more of this article link to:

Last Week in Congress

  1. February 28th - House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands Oversight Hearing on "FY 2013 budget requests from the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management." To read more about this bill link to: http://naturalresources.house.gov/Calendar/EventSingle.aspx?EventID=281076

  2. February 28th - Full Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources: FY13 Department of the Interior Budget Request. To read more about this hearing link to: http://energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2012/2/full-committee-hearing

Wildfire Update

  1. There were no relevant wildfire updates last week.

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