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Reminder: Next PFC Meeting January
by payetteforestcoalition on 

A reminder of the PFC meeting schedule - the next meeting will be January 17, 2019.


There is no meeting scheduled for December.

Hope you find time to get outside this holiday season and enjoy the Payette National Forest.

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Forest Management in the Conference Committee Farm Bill
by payetteforestcoalition on 

To:       Interested Persons     

From:  Mike Anderson, The Wilderness Society

Re:       Forest Management in the Conference Committee Farm Bill

Date:   December 11, 2018

 

Following is a quick summary and analysis of forest management-related provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill that was agreed to by Senate and House conferees and publicly released on December 10.  The final bill that emerged from the conference committee is based on different versions of the Farm Bill that passed the House and Senate in June 2018.  Notably, the conference bill does not contain any of the House bill’s provisions that would have weakened the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, or other bedrock environmental laws.  The conference committee’s bill must now be approved by both chambers of Congress and signed into law by the President.

 

A. Key Forestry Provisions in the Conference Committee Farm Bill

 

The Forestry Title (Title VIII) of the Conference Committee Farm Bill contains seven subtitles and dozens of sections covering a wide range of topics.  Following are brief description of several significant forest management-related provisions, in the order they appear in the conference bill.

 

  • State and Private Forest Landscape-Scale Restoration

Like both the Senate and House bills, Section 8102 establishes a non-federal counterpart to the Forest Service’s Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (see Sec. 8629, below).  The conference committee authorizes $20 million in annual funding – same as the Senate bill, versus the House bill’s $10 million.

 

  • Cross-Boundary Wildfire Mitigation

Like the Senate bill, Section 8401 establishes a federal grant program to promote cooperative efforts to reduce hazardous fuels across federal and non-federal lands. The bill provides $20 million in funding authority.

 

  • Water Source Protection

Like the Senate bill, Section 8404 creates a Water Source Protection Program, with $10 million in funding authority, to encourage watershed restoration partnerships between the Forest Service and downstream water users such as water utilities.[1]

 

  • Watershed Condition Framework

Similar to the Senate bill, Section 8405 provides statutory authority for the Forest Service’s Watershed Condition Framework, a science-based process in which the agency (1) identifies the condition of all watersheds in the National Forest System and (2) develops watershed restoration action plans to improve the condition of priority watersheds in each national forest and grassland.

 

  • Insect and Disease Treatment and Fuel Reduction

Comparable to the House bill, Section 8407(b) provides a five-year extension for the 2014 Farm Bill’s insect and disease treatment provisions, including the categorical exclusion (CE) for collaboratively-developed insect and disease projects up to 3,000 acres in size.  The conference committee did not agree to the House bill’s proposal to increase the size of the CE to 6,000 acres and to make the CE authority permanent.  The bill also broadens the purpose of the treatments to include fuel reduction as well as insect and disease reduction.

 

  • Sage Grouse and Mule Deer Habitat CE

Similar to the Senate bill, Section 8611 authorizes both the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to develop and use a new categorical exclusion (CE) for sage-grouse and mule deer habitat projects up to 4,500 acres in size.  The conference committee increased the maximum size of the CE from 3,000 acres in the Senate bill to 4,500 acres.

 

  • Good Neighbor Authority for Tribes and Counties

Similar to the Senate bill, Section 8624 gives tribes and counties the same ability as state governments to implement forest management projects on National Forest System or BLM lands by entering into Good Neighbor agreements with the Forest Service or BLM.  The conference committee added language to clarify that any receipts from timber sold by a state must be used by the state to pay for other Good Neighbor management activities on federal lands.

 

  • Tennessee Wilderness

Like the Senate bill, Section 8626 designates new wilderness areas and wilderness additions in the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee.  The conference committee decided not to include the Senate bill’s wilderness designations in Virginia.

 

  • Forest Service Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration

Section 8629 reauthorizes the Forest Service’s Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP) through 2023 and – like the Senate bill -- increases the funding authorization from $40 million to $80 million.  Unlike either the Senate or House bills, the conference committee bill allows the Forest Service to extend funding current CFLRP projects beyond the normal 10-year maximum on a case-by-case basis if the projects continue to meet eligibility guidelines.  Both the Senate and House bills reauthorized CFLRP for five years, but the House bill would have maintained the $40 million funding level.

 

  • Utility Infrastructure Rights-of-Way

Like the Senate bill, Section 8630 creates a pilot program to encourage utility companies to voluntarily clear flammable brush and cut trees adjacent to their rights-of-way on national forest lands.  The brush clearing and tree cutting activity can extend no farther than 150 feet from the power line and it cannot occur within inventoried roadless areas or other protected areas. 

 

  • Timber Products Innovation

Sections 8642 promotes research and development for innovative uses of wood products, such as for tall building construction.  Section 8643 establishes a matching grant program to promote innovative timber products, including by retrofitting existing lumber mills.  Similar provisions were in both the Senate and House bills.

 

  • Community Wood Energy and Innovation

Like the House bill, Section 8644 creates a competitive federal grant program to help cover the capital cost for installing a community wood energy system or building an innovative wood product facility.

 

  • Secure Rural Schools Resource Advisory Committees

Comparable to the House bill, Section 8702 reduces the size of Resource Advisory Committees (RAC) established under Title II of the Secure Rural Schools Act from 15 members to 9 members in counties where there are insufficient numbers of applicants.  This section also sets up a pilot program in Montana and Arizona whereby the regional foresters, rather than the Secretary of Agriculture, will appoint RAC members.

 

B. What Is Not in the Conference Committee’s Farm Bill Forestry Title

 

In welcome contrast to the House Farm Bill, which narrowly passed the House this summer despite unanimous Democratic opposition, the Forestry Title of the Conference Committee bill contains none of the controversial forest management provisions of the House bill.

 

  • National Environmental Policy Act Exemptions

The House Farm Bill contained numerous categorical exclusions (CEs) from the environmental review and public involvement requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  For example, the House bill would have legislatively established new CEs for salvage logging and clearcutting projects up to 6,000 acres.  The House bill would also have doubled the size of the insect and disease CE in the 2014 Farm Bill from 3,000 to 6,000 acres.  In addition, the House Bill would have eliminated current environmental safeguards in the Forest Service’s NEPA regulations for potential wilderness areas, imperiled wildlife and plant species, cumulative effects, and other “extraordinary circumstances.”

 

The Conference Committee bill contains none of these controversial legislative exemptions from NEPA requirements.  Instead, the bill requires the Forest Service to administratively create a CE for projects up to 4,500 acres to improve sage-grouse and mule deer habitat (Sec. 8611, discussed above).

 

  • Endangered Species Act Self-Consultation

The House Farm Bill would have significantly weakened the interagency consultation requirements of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by authorizing what amounts to a self-consultation process.  The House bill would have exempted the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management from consulting with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding forest management activities if the federal land managers determined that their actions were not likely to adversely affect an endangered or threatened species or its designated critical habitat

 

The Conference Committee bill omits any self-consultation authority or other weakening of existing legal safeguards for threatened or endangered species. 

 

  • Roadless Area Conservation Rule Exemptions

The House Farm Bill could have eliminated current regulatory protection of millions of acres of Inventoried Roadless Areas under the national Roadless Area Conservation Rule and the Idaho and Colorado roadless rules.  In addition, a House bill amendment sponsored by Rep. Don Young and adopted by the full House by a one-vote margin would have entirely exempted Alaska’s two national forests from the Roadless Rule.  The bill put many of the Tongass National Forest’s 9.3 million acres of roadless areas in Southeast Alaska at potential risk of taxpayer-subsidized logging and road construction.

 

The Conference Committee bill does not eliminate or weaken existing protection of National Forest Inventoried Roadless Areas.

 

  • Secure Rural School Funding Shift from Conservation to Logging

The House Farm Bill would have shifted Secure Rural Schools (SRS) Title II funding from environmental restoration to timber production.  The House bill would have repealed and replaced the existing requirement to dedicate at least 50 percent of the SRS Title II funding to stream and watershed restoration or road maintenance or removal.  Instead, the bill would have required that at least 50 percent of the SRS Title II funds in each county must be used for commercial logging projects.

 

The Conference Committee bill does not alter the purposes of the current SRS program to require more logging.

 

 

 

Scott Brennan

Montana State Director

The Wilderness Society

The Wilderness Society Action Fund

406.600.7846

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Conditions, Law Prevent More Harvest of Mesa Fire Timber
by payetteforestcoalition on 

To the Star-News Editor:


Last week Brenda Howard expressed discontent with the Payette Forest’s plan for salvaging timber on 250 acres burned in the Mesa Fire near Council (“Remove burned timber before it becomes fuel for another fire,” Letters to the Editor, The Star-News, Nov. 29, 2018).

She wants the forest to harvest more than 250 acres. To Ms. Howard and others who question the limited acres, I say the forest would attempt to harvest more if post-fire conditions warranted it, and if the planning required by law to harvest a larger area could be completed before the burnt timber loses its economic value to the timber industry.

Of the 34,720 acres burned in the Mesa fire, only 16,483 were on the national forest, and many of those acres burned with low to moderate intensity due in part to proactive forest management that had been completed in the area. Several other factors reduced the amount of acres where salvage logging is possible or, even needed.

The Mesa Fire burned into the 2007 Gray’s Creek Fire, and those acres were previously salvaged after that fire. The Mesa Fire burned into the Council Mountain Inventoried Roadless Area and into a Forest Plan management prescription category area, neither of which allow salvage logging.

For the remaining acres, we used satellite imagery and extensive field reconnaissance to assess the post-fire conditions and determined only 3 percent, or 494 acres, of the burned area warranted salvage (i.e. areas with high burn severity and wide spread tree mortality) and was available for salvage within the limits of the Forest Plan.

To offer an economically viable timber sale, we evaluated options for ground based and helicopter logging operations, as the use of a helicopter would expand the amount of acres we could access.

We had two options for the legally required environmental planning. A categorical exclusion (CE) that could be completed within a span of weeks, but is limited to 250 acres. Or an environmental assessment (EA) that could cover more acres but would take until late spring or early summer 2019 to prepare.

We asked timber industry representatives about the operational feasibility and economics of helicopter logging. Their consensus opinion is that even with the increased acreage potentially covered by an EA, helicopter logging was not economically viable due to the recent drop in timber prices, and that the burned wood will deteriorate by summer.

Even though it would result in a smaller volume timber sale, they recommended the Forest Service to use the CE option to offer a salvage sale in the winter months because the trees would still have economic value. Furthermore, logging over snow would minimize soil impacts, require fewer restrictions to protect the high severity burn areas, and keep contract loggers employed.

In addition to the 250 acres of salvage the Forest is pursuing in Cottonwood Creek, 175 more acres burned by the Mesa Fire are being salvaged under the Bear Claw timber sale that was planned as a part of the Middle Fork Weiser River Landscape Restoration project prior to the fire taking place.

We do not have authority to use the CE option and go beyond the 250 acre limit set by Congress. I agree with Commissioner Paradis, and the others that the CE option with the 250 acre limitation is not ideal, but of the two options, the CE will accomplish salvage logging this winter while the burned trees still have economic value to industry.


Keith Lannom, Supervisor, Payette National Forest, McCall

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Payette Supervisor's Notes: November 2018
by payetteforestcoalition on 


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Land Allocation Committee - November Agenda
by payetteforestcoalition on 

The Land Allocation Committee will meet on November 28th.


Please note that both the November agenda and the October meeting outcomes are posted in the Meeting Notes Library.   

The left column of the Library page offers hints to retrieve documents from the library.

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Granite Meadows Scoping Comments
by Paul_Litow on 

FYI, a couple of comments regarding Granite Meadows NOI were posted yesterday.  They may be seen at https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=54029.  Once there, you will see “Public Comment/Objection Reading Room” on the right side of the page under the “Get Connected” heading.  Click that to see all comments made.

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Public Meeting on Granite Meadows Project
by payetteforestcoalition on 

The Payette National Forest is seeking comments on the proposed Granite Meadows Project.  A public meeting is scheduled for November 27, 2018 from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. at the Forest Supervisors office (500 North Mission Street, McCall, Idaho 83638).  Forest Service personnel will be available to share the project proposal and answer questions.

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PFC November Meeting Agenda
by payetteforestcoalition on 

The Payette National Forest has asked whether the PFC would submit a letter of support for salvage activities in areas burned by the Mesa Fire.  Given the importance and complexity of the topic, we are going to hold off on discussing monitoring in RCAs this month to decide how to address this topic.


Here is the updated agenda for the November 15th PFC meeting.


Thanks,

Paul

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Payette Supervisor's Notes - October 2018
by payetteforestcoalition on 




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Granite Meadows NOI Published
by payetteforestcoalition on 

The Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Granite Meadows project was published in the Federal Register on October 31st.


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