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Policy Update Week of

April 23, 2012


Comments on Stewardship Contracting submitted to the Senate Agriculture Committee - April 23rd
The Society of American Foresters was one of over ninety organizations to sign a letter delivered to the Senate Agriculture Committee asking for permanent reauthorization of Stewardship Contracting through the 2012 Farm Bill. The Senate side draft 2012 Farm Bill language from Chairwoman Stabenow released this week calls for permanent Stewardship Contracting reauthorization as is and is supported by SAF. For more information on the status of the 2012 Farm Bill, visit this link: http://www.ag.senate.gov/issues/farm-bill
To see the Stewardship Contracting letter to Senate Ag, click here: http://www.safnet.org/fp/Stewardship_Contracting_Letter_4-23-12.pdf

SAF and The Nature Conservancy Host Congressional Briefing: "Reducing Wildfire Dangers and Restoring Healthy Forests" - April 20th
The Society of American Foresters and The Nature Conservancy hosted a briefing Friday, April 20th for both the House and Senate. The three speakers included Dr. Wally Covington, Director of the Ecological Restoration Institute at Northern Arizona University, McCree Anderson, Interior Highlands Fire Restoration Project Manager for The Nature Conservancy, and Steven Brink, Vice President of Public Resources at the California Forestry Association. Topics discussed included the impacts of wildfires, the need for and benefits of forest restoration, and the positive effects of active forest management on forestry sector jobs and rural communities.

SAF Member Dr. Jim Bowyer Speaks on behalf of SAF at a Congressional Briefing: "What You Need to Know About Forest Carbon Dynamics and Carbon Accounting" - April 12th & 13th
The Society of American Foresters, in collaboration with the National Alliance of Forest Owners, Resources for the Future, and the Congressional Biomass Caucus held an educational briefing for House and Senate staff members to provide current expert research on forest carbon dynamics and carbon accounting. Dr. Jim Bowyer, Director of Responsible Materials Program at Dovetail Partners, Inc. and SAF member, spoke on behalf of SAF, presenting results of the recent SAF task force report "Managing Forests because Carbon Matters." Also presenting at the briefings were SAF members Dr. Roger Sedjo on behalf of Resources for the Future and Robert Perschel representing the Forest Guild.

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. USDA Announces Assistance for 13 Wetlands Partnership Projects in 12 States
      USDA News Release, April 24th

    Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced funding for 13 partnership agreements for high-priority wetland restoration and conservation work in 12 states. The USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and a network of partners have nearly $15 million in financial and technical assistance available for these projects in 2012 and will enter into long-term agreements to deliver additional assistance over the next four years. "These projects were selected because of their significant contribution towards wetlands restoration, enhancement or protection," Vilsack said. "This partnership effort combines Federal resources with the funding and expertise of others needed to improve water quality, prevent flooding, and enhance wildlife habitat on more than 16,500 acres of wetlands." To read more of this article link to: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentid=2012/04/0131.xml&navid=NEWS_RELEASE&navtype=RT&parentnav=LATEST_RELEASES&edeployment_action=retrievecontent

  2. Secretaries Vilsack and Salazar Announce Readiness For Wildfire Season
      BLM News Release, April 26th

    Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar today outlined the federal government's readiness for the wildland fire season to ensure protection for communities and restoration of forests and public lands across the country. The Secretaries were joined by FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell and National Predictive Services Program Manager of the National Interagency Fire Center Ed Delgado. The Secretaries described federal capability to respond to wildfires that are becoming more complex, particularly in areas where urban populations are situated near forested and rangeland areas. Firefighting capabilities are available to handle the fire season, they declared, with more than 15,000 firefighters available in 2012, including permanent and seasonal federal and state employees, crews from tribal and local governments, contract crews, and temporary hires. "We are ready to meet the challenge," said Secretary Vilsack. To read more of this article link to: http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/info/newsroom/2012/april/nr_04_26_2012.html

This Week in Congress

  1. April 25th - House Agriculture Committee Subcommittee on Rural Development, Research, Biotechnology, and Foreign Agriculture: "Formulation of the 2012 Farm Bill: Rural Development Programs." To read more about this hearing link to: http://agriculture.house.gov/singlepages.aspx?NewsID=1266&LSBID=23&RBSUSDA=T

  2. April 25th - House Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Commercial and Administrative Law: Hearing on H.R. 4377, the "Responsibly And Professionally Invigorating Development Act of 2012." To read more about this hearing link to: http://judiciary.house.gov/hearings/Hearings%202012/hear_04252012_2.html

  3. April 26th - Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee Business Meeting: Markup of the 2012 Farm Bill. To read more about this hearing link to: http://www.ag.senate.gov/hearings/business-meeting-farm-bill-markup

  4. April 26th - House Agriculture Committee Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, and Forestry: "Formulation of the 2012 Farm Bill: Conservation Programs." To read more about this hearing link to: http://agriculture.house.gov/singlepages.aspx?NewsID=1266&LSBID=23&RBSUSDA=T

Upcoming in Congress

  1. May 3rd - House Natural Resources Committee Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources Oversight Field Hearing: "Federal Geospatial Spending, Duplication and Land Inventory Management" and Legislative Field Hearing on H.R. 4233 and H.R.1620." To read more about this hearing link to: http://naturalresources.house.gov/Calendar/EventSingle.aspx?EventID=290854

National News

  1. Senate Farm Panel Approves Spending Cuts 60 Years in Making
      Bloomberg, Published by Alan Bjerga, April 26th

    The Senate Agriculture Committee approved a farm bill that would save $24.7 billion over 10 years and which represents one of the biggest policy changes in generations. The plan, based on income protection ideas six decades in the making, would replace a direct-payment program for major crops with a revenue guarantee, while reducing conservation and food-assistance spending. The bill, approved in a 12-4 vote, includes the first broad subsidy cuts in 16 years. "The era of direct payments is over," Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow said, referring to a subsidy that is paid to farmers regardless of crop prices. "We have put together a bipartisan farm bill that's focused on farmers," the Michigan Democrat said at a committee meeting before the vote. Record U.S. farm profits, along with the highest-ever expenditures on food stamps, are making the five-year reauthorization of Department of Agriculture programs a target for budget cutters. House Republicans voted for a $33 billion cut in farm programs over 10 years last month, and President Barack Obama proposed a $32 billion reduction in his fiscal year 2013 budget. To read more of this article link to: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-26/senate-farm-panel-approves-u-s-spending-cuts-60-years-in-making.html

  2. Woody biomass a dead-end prospect?
      Western Farm Press, Published by Oregon State University, April 27th

    A large, global move to produce more energy from forest biomass may be possible and already is beginning in some places, but scientists say in a new analysis that such large-scale bioenergy production from forest biomass is unsustainable and will increase greenhouse gas emissions. Early suggestions that such a forest biofuel industry would be greenhouse "neutral" or even reduce greenhouse emissions "are based on erroneous assumptions," a group of international researchers said in an invited analysis in Global Change Biology/Bioenergy, a professional journal. A major increase in this industry, they concluded, would also result in shorter tree rotations, younger forests, depleted soil nutrients, increased risk of erosion, loss of forest biodiversity and function, higher costs for bioenergy than are now being anticipated, and increased use of fertilizers - also a source of greenhouse emissions. To read more of this article link to: http://westernfarmpress.com/management/woody-biomass-dead-end-prospect

  3. Sage grouse is becoming Utah's spotted owl
      The Salt Lake Tribune, Published by Brandon Loomis, April 28th

    A sage grouse was the first target that ranch boy Albert Sommers chased when he picked up a shotgun at age 12, back when no one worried much about big, wild chickens. Why? Because they were here, there, everywhere. At least 15 hens raised broods at his family's place on the lush banks of the upper Green River in the early 1970s, breeding brown bombers that were the unavoidable quarry of a young hunter on the sage plains below Wyoming's wild Wind River Mountains. "There were so many sage grouse in the willows in the summer poking around," the weathered cowboy recalled this spring, "you wouldn't believe it." Now Sommers wishes it were still so - the cackling ground birds flushing from wherever he or his cattle marched; the Winds still wild, less ringed by human footprints. Because now, in a good year, there are only two broods on his ranch. Like so many Westerners, he fears what that will mean to his way of life. It could mean the Endangered Species Act comes to town in 2015 - here, in Utah and across an 11-state sea of sagebrush harboring the greater sage grouse (the most widespread of two struggling species). It could shut down everything from seasonal grazing on public lands to big-dollar energy drilling and mining - and the jobs that come with them. To read more of this article link to: http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/politics/53969425-90/grouse-sage-wyoming-utah.html.csp

  4. Western governors discuss public lands, energy
      The Daily Herald, Published by Josh Loftin, April 28th

    Seeking a unified front on common concerns, the governors of four Western states held discussions Friday on issues ranging from federal land control to immigration. "The Western states need to bind together and unite their voices," said Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, who hosted the talks in his state's capital city. "We have a uniqueness that other people don't understand." The participating governors, all Republicans, included Idaho's Butch Otter, Wyoming's Matt Mead and Nevada's Brian Sandoval, who joined the conference by phone. The all-day gathering, which Herbert dubbed the Rocky Mountain Roundtable, focused heavily on the management of public lands by the federal government. All of the states represented have large swaths under federal control, whether it's national forest, national parks or acreage owned by Bureau of Land Management. To read more of this article link to:

In the States: Oregon, Arizona, and Massachusetts

  1. Senators to USFS: Address Travel Plan Concerns
      Published by KTVZ, April 23rd

    Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., on Monday urged the Forest Service to fully re-engage the public and address concerns after the Forest Service decided to "stop the clock" and withdraw the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest Travel Management Plan. In a letter to Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, Merkley and Wyden relayed concerns they have heard directly from constituents on the travel management plan, such as barriers on access to private land, harvest of firewood and berries, tourism effects, lack of appropriate signage, and lack of local input into the plan. "In this area, as in many areas of our state, Forest Service lands make up a significant portion of land, and those lands are intricately connected to our culture and economy," the senators said. "These decisions are not just matters of forest policy, but raise questions that go to the heart of these communities and their economies." To read more of this article link to: http://www.ktvz.com/oregon-northwest/30941920/detail.html

  2. Future open-ended for travel management on forest
      The Observer, Published by Bill Rautenstrauch, April 24th

    Officials say they received a promise from Wallowa-Whitman National Forest Supervisor Monica Schwalbach last week that key forest access issues will be addressed before a new travel management plan is developed. Schwalbach agreed to make firewood access a priority, especially for senior citizens, according to a statement from U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden's office. She also promised that the Forest Service will provide up-to-date and readable maps of any proposed road closures, and also pledged more robust dialogue on issues like multiple use and protection of traditional forest activities. To read more of this article link to: http://www.lagrandeobserver.com/News/Local-News/Future-open-ended-for-travel-management-on-forest

  3. Arizona Senate passes bill demanding return of federal lands
      Reuters, Published by David Schwartz, April 25th

    Arizona is poised to join next-door neighbor Utah in demanding the U.S. government transfer title to millions of acres of federal property to the state, fanning a renewed "sagebrush revolt" over control of public lands in the West. The Arizona state Senate, on a 19-9 vote, gave final legislative approval on Wednesday to a measure calling for federal agencies to relinquish roughly 48,000 square miles (124,000 sq km) of acreage they own in the Grand Canyon state by 2015. The Republican-backed bill was approved by the state House of Representatives on Monday. It now goes to Republican Governor Jan Brewer, who has five days once the bill reaches her desk to sign or veto it. Otherwise, it becomes law automatically. Arizona would be the second U.S. state to enact such a law after Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed a bill last month seeking to reclaim some 30 million acres (12 million hectares) of federally owned land in his state, shrugging off warnings from state attorneys that the measure was likely unconstitutional and would lead to a protracted yet futile legal battle. To read more of this article link to: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/25/us-usa-arizona-lands-idUSBRE83O1KP20120425?feedType=RSS&feedName=domesticNews

  4. Massachusetts proposes regulations for wood burning plants
      Boston.com, Published by The Associated Press, April 28th

    Massachusetts regulators are seeking public comment on proposed new rules governing the state's biomass energy industry. The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources said the new regulations followed more than two years of evaluation, public input, and careful consideration. Regulators said they were looking for the best rules to govern the use biomass resources for energy -- including trees -- in a manner that is consistent with the state's commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect forests. Environmental activists, many of whom had protested earlier versions of the regulations, said they support the new rules for wood-burning power plants in Massachusetts. A 30-day public comment period will be held from May 19 to June 18. mThe state expects to have final regulations in place this summer. To read more of this article link to: http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2012/04/28/mass_proposes_regulations_for_wood_burning_plants/ To read the proposed regulation, link to: http://www.mass.gov/eea/energy-utilities-clean-tech/renewable-energy/biomass/renewable-portfolio-standard-biomass-policy.html

Last Week in Congress

  1. April 17th - House Natural Resources Committee Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands: "Legislative Hearing on H.R. 3388, H.R. 3874, H.R. 4039, H.R. 4073, H.R. 4193 and H.R. 4222." To read more about this hearing link to: http://naturalresources.house.gov/Calendar/EventSingle.aspx?EventID=289304

  2. April 20th - House Committee on Agriculture Hearing: "Farm Bill Field Hearing - Kansas". To read more about this hearing link to: http://agriculture.house.gov/hearings/hearingDetails.aspx?NewsID=1542

Wildfire Update

  1. There were no relevant wildfire updates last week.

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