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Policy Update Week of

August 6, 2012

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Forest Health Initiative Spends a Day on the Hill with the SAF Policy Team - August 8th
The Society of American Foresters partnered with the Forest Health Initiative (FHI) to host a day of briefings and meetings on Capitol Hill on August 8th. The FHI group came to Washington in advance of their annual meeting to educate and update Congress and Congressional staff members on the progress of the Forest Health Initiative programs in the last three years, discuss their accomplishments in the last year, and outline plans for the future of the American chestnut project and the FHI implementation roadmap they developed. John Heissenbuttel, Susan McCord, Adam Costanza, and Dr. John Carlson presented this power point presentation, link: http://vimeo.com/33030953, in two separate briefings held in the House of Representatives and the Senate Agriculture Committee Hearing Rooms. The briefings were followed by meetings with staff members from the office of briefing cosponsor Representative Kurt Schrader (D-OR), the office of Representative David Price (D-NC), and members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committee professional staff. SAF would like to thank the House and Senate Agriculture Committees for facilitating the use of hearing rooms for the briefings and would also like to thank Representatives Thompson(R-PA) and Schrader (D-OR) for cosponsoring the briefing in the House.

Letter submitted to the House Committee on Agriculture Regarding the Farm Bill - July 9th
The Society of American Foresters submitted a letter to the House Committee on Agriculture outlining several priority forest management programs that are to be addressed in the 2012 Farm Bill. SAF asked for continued funding and/or reauthorization of these programs while outlining their benefits and indicating ways in which they could be approved. SAF will continue to track the progress of the 2012 Farm Bill as it advances through the House of Representatives while advocating for these priority forest management programs. A full version of the letter can be found here. Committee Markup for the 2012 Farm Bill is scheduled for July 11, 2012. For more information, please visit this link.

Letter submitted to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies related to Activities with No Environmental Impact - June 26th
The Society of American Foresters led the effort in submitting a sign on letter to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies earlier this week. The letter was in response to a Federal Court decision whichmandated that the Forest Service have notice, comment, and appeals on noncontroversial, minor activities with no effect on the environment. SAF detailed how this procedure would negatively affect forests and forest stakeholders by adding up to 135 day delays on projects that would normally take 5 to 10 days to complete. The letter also highlights numerous activities that are currently delayed. Ultimately, the letter asks for a Congressional action that would exempt such projects from requirements of public notice, comment and appeal in order to allow for more efficient and effective forest management. A full version of the categorical exclusions letter can be found here.

In the Administration

  1. US Forest Service Proposes to Streamline Land Management Plan Review Process
      U.S. Forest Service, August 8th, 2012

    The U.S. Forest Service today published in the Federal Register a proposed regulation that will improve the administrative review process for proposed projects and activities implementing land management plans. The proposed rule for an objections process will be applied to all projects and activities that implement land management plans requiring an environmental analysis or environmental impact statement. The publication of the proposed rule will provide a 30-day public comment opportunity. All comments received will be considered before a final rule is published. "This proposal will result in better, more informed project decisions, better documentation of environmental effects of agency proposals, and reduced regulation for administrative reviews," said US Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell.To read more of this article, please visit this link. Also, refer to this link to view the Federal Register Notice requesting for comments on this issue.

National News

  1. USFS Challenged on Latest Forest Planning Rule
      Feedstuffs, August 14th, 2012

    The Public Lands Council (PLC), National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) and the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), challenging its latest forest planning rule. PLC, NCBA and ASI join multiple industry organizations, such as the Federal Forest Resource Coalition, Minnesota Timber Producers Assn. and the California Forestry Assn. in filing suit, claiming that the new planning rule, finalized in March 2012, violates the National Forest Management Act (NFMA), the Multiple-Use, Sustained-Yield Act (MUSYA) of 1960 and the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). To read more of this article, please visit this link.

  2. Gibson Guitar Settles with U.S. Over Wood
      San Francisco Chronicle, Published by Susan Berfield, August 8th, 2012

    Gibson manufactures the guitars in Nashville and Memphis. The company is more than 100 old and has annual sales of about $500 million. It would seem like an all-American business success story. The company has also been in a peculiar, controversial and well-publicized fight with the U.S. Department of Justice over accusations that it illegally imported wood from Madagascar and India for its guitars. The two sides resolved the investigation Monday. The government won't pursue criminal charges that Gibson violated the Lacey Act, a 100-year-old conservation law that was amended in 2008 to ensure that wood and plant products aren't exported in violation of the laws of another country. Gibson will pay a penalty of $300,000, give an additional $50,000 to the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation for conservation of protected trees, and forfeit claims to wood worth about $260,000 and seized in raids on its factories in 2011. To read more of this article, please visit this link.

In the States: California, Colorado and Washington

  1. Lower North Fork Fire Victims Could Have Long Wait for Compensation
      The Denver Post, Published by Tim Hoover, August 14th, 2012

    Victims of the Lower North Fork wildfire, which killed three people and burned thousands of acres when high winds spread embers from a state controlled burn, could have a long wait before they get any special compensation from the state. "It's not forthcoming anytime soon," Deputy Attorney General David Blake told members of the Lower North Fork Wildfire Commission on Monday. The five-member commission was created to examine the circumstances around the March fire, which destroyed 23 homes and caused $11 million in damage. Because the blaze sparked from a prescribed burn, lawmakers passed legislation allowing victims of fires caused by prescribed burns to exceed the normal governmental liability cap of $600,000 per instance. To read more of this article, please visit this link.

  2. California Fire Fee Ignites Anger as Bills Go Out
      The Sacramento Bee, Published by Don Thompson, August 12th, 2012

    More than 800,000 Californians who own property in wildfire country will begin receiving bills this week for a new annual fire-protection fee, rekindling outrage among rural residents and leading to a likely lawsuit seeking to overturn the surcharge. The fee, passed by Democrats in the Legislature and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year, is intended to raise an estimated $84 million in its first year for fire-prevention efforts. The annual charge can run as high as $150 for property owners with a single occupied dwelling, although there is a $35 discount for those who already pay a local tax for fire protection. To read more of this article, please visit this link.

  3. Groups Sue to Block Logging of Marbled Murrelet Habitat in Washington
      King 5 News, Published by Gary Chittem, August 10th, 2012

    The Sierra Club filed suit last month to block the logging of 12,000 acres of forest land in southwest Washington state that it says is critical habitat for the marbled murrelet, a seabird that nests in the Pacific Northwest's old-growth forests.The suit, filed July 27, charges that the Interior Department violated the Endangered Species Act when it approved the logging plan submitted by the Washington Department of Natural Resources "without notifying the public, without inviting public comment, and without conducting environmental review" as required by federal law. To read more of this article, please visit this link.

This Week in Congress

  1. August 1st - House Committee on Natural Resources full committee markup on "H.R. 6089." More Information can be found here.

  2. August 1st - House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure full committee markup on "The Silviculture Regulatory Consistency Act." More information can be found here.

Upcoming in Congress

  1. August 15th - Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources full committee hearing on "Colorado Wildfires." More information can be found here.

Last Week in Congress

  1. July 24th - House Committee on Natural Resources Oversight Hearing entitled "The Impact of Catastrophic Forest Fires and Litigation on People and Endangered Species: Time for Rational Management of our Nation's Forests." More information can be found here.

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