Politics aside, a logging bill now halfway through Congress would transform Montana’s timber business from a trickle to a torrent.

The Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act envisions a six-fold increase in timber harvest from Montana’s nine national forests, from 62.5 million board feet cut in 2012 to a regular production of 380.5 million board feet. The impact would vary greatly from forest to forest.

For example, the Bitterroot National Forest would be expected to produce 21 million board feet a year, up from 2012’s 11 million board feet. Next door, the Lolo National Forest would see its quota rise from 7 million board feet to 89 million. The Kootenai National Forest in the northwest corner of the state would expand from 24 million to 145 million board feet a year.

The numbers come from U.S. Forest Service records compiled by Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont., who is a co-sponsor of the Restoring Healthy Forests bill. Also known as HR 1526, the bill passed the House of Representatives on a 244-173 vote on Sept. 20.

The legislation mandates annual harvests of one-half the Forest Service’s long-term sustainable yield for each national forest. That would match the harvest rates of 20 years ago, according to Montana Wood Products Association executive vice president Julia Altemus.

“The big question is can existing milling infrastructure handle it, and I think they absolutely can,” Altemus said. “They would ramp up manpower, and be able to run at full capacity. Then you have to ask, does the Forest Service have the manpower to get the work done? I would love to have the opportunity to work through that.”

***

The Helena-headquartered Alliance for the Wild Rockies has recently stopped four Forest Service timber projects in Montana for failing to follow environmental laws. Executive director Michael Garrity said the House bill would gut the National Forest Management Act, which was enacted to reverse years of excessive harvesting on national forests.

“The Forest Service had done extreme environmental damage,” Garrity said of the older harvest rates. “Go down around Sula and you can see the terraces they made in the hillsides, where they tried to turn the area into a giant tree farm. That’s the world we could return to if they gut the National Forest Management Act. There’d be a whole lot less wildlife, clean rivers and fish, and a whole lot more corporate welfare.”

Garrity agreed with Altemus that the Forest Service would be hard-pressed to produce the volume of timber sales needed to meet the bill’s mandate. That was also a concern for Tony Colter at Deer Lodge’s Sun Mountain timber mill.

“I think the mills could get back up to capacity faster than the Forest Service is going to be able to offer it,” Colter said. “It’s going to take them some ramping up to get that kind of volume offered for sale.”

HR 1526 envisions the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest moving from 400,000 board feet a year to 12 million board feet. That’s the volume it produced in six of the years between 1995 and 2005. Sun Mountain processes more than three times that amount.

“We saw 45 million feet of logs a year, and the Forest Service provides only a small fraction of what we need,” Colter said. “The Forest Service is less than 10 percent. Most of our stock is private, BLM and state. We’re going clear into Idaho and Wyoming to find timber, which is uneconomical.”

Sun Mountain would see about the same amount of timber out of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest under another bill offered by Sen. Jon Tester, the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act. But that bill only applies to three Montana national forests in a pilot program for Forest Service timber management. The bill Daines supports covers all timber-producing national forests in the country.

“Don’t make me guess which one has a better chance of passing,” Colter said. “I’ve never seen so many bills aimed at fixing the Forest Service. I like to think they’ll reach some kind of compromise legislation in Montana.”

***

The national bill also envisions a return to a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes subsidy, where the Forest Service would give 25 percent of its timber sale proceeds to the county governments and school districts where the timber was cut. That proposal would actually reduce the amount of money those jurisdictions now get from the program that replaced PILT – the Secure Rural Schools fund, according to Headwaters Economics researcher Mark Haggerty.

The Bozeman-based think tank examined two scenarios for how HR 1526’s harvest might be applied. One assumed all national forests would equally increase their cuts. The second assumed some forests would produce more than others, at the same disproportionate levels seen in the 1980s and 1990s.

Neither delivered as much revenue to local governments as the current Secure Rural Schools fund does, Haggerty said.

“According to Congressional Budget Office figures, it’s not enough timber to create receipts at the same level as SRS,” Haggerty said. “That means SRS was pretty generous, and its current funding levels are quite high. But it was supposed to be a transition payment, as counties dealt with the decline in timber harvests. They were supposed to diversify their economies, find other sources of revenue and get off the timber economy. It was never intended to be a permanent replacement of the 25 percent fund.”

In an interview last week Daines said the 25 percent payment was designed to keep those counties and schools whole.

“It starts producing revenues again for these counties surrounded by national forests that don’t have a tax base, so they can use timber harvest for funding schools,” he said. “We’ve reached out to county commissioners and they’re very much behind us.”

So too is the national and international market for lumber. Prices for construction materials have been rising slowly but steadily in the past year. For Colter at Sun Mountain, the increased log volume is a problem he’d be happy to have.

“We’ve never had a problem being able to sell it,” Colter said. “In the next five years, we’re seeing a huge raw material shortage and demand for lumber as this market improves.”

Reporter Rob Chaney can be reached at 523-5382 or at rchaney@missoulian.com.

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(26) comments

trad man
trad man

Sorry to see all the name calling etc., truth is Tester sat down with all parties and worked out a sound best practices in place, give and take that would get the mills and workers back in the woods and a lot less red tape in the process. Along comes Daines, a new comer with some drastic ideas to cut out all the laws and rules years of abritrating between all the groups USA wide came up with and he wants no laws , no recourse, no nothing and on top of that, open all national forests in the state reguardless of the present condition they are in, clear cuts, etc., wildlife that are on the brink of colapse, etc., just go out and a have legal free pass to do what ever you want in the whole state. I hope this is the last we see of this guy, voters line up and show him the door!

MTGem
MTGem

My family is supported by timber dollars so I have to give a big YES to this bill. For too long loggers have been given a bad rap when in fact they are the ones that have helped keep forests healthy. Also many times loggers are also participate in other outdoor activities such as hunting. So overall the loggers do more for forests than an environmentalist can claim.

MTminded
MTminded

"The legislation mandates annual harvests of one-half the Forest Service’s long-term sustainable yield for each national forest."

Does this make sense to anyone? If one-half of the sustainable yield is cut during the first year that would mean one-half of the remaining timber would be cut in each subsequent year. That would mean one-half of the timber industry work force would become unemployed each year. Great idea, Daines, let's ramp up production and employment so we can reduce it by 50% each year. Jobs sorta, careers not at all. Daines needs to be removed from his job for even attempting to think in this manner.

Roger
Roger

I don't believe you understand the concept of sustainable yield - it's the amount of timber that can be harvested each year without reducing the timber base. Thus, the sustainable yield of timber could be cut each year without reducing the stock. I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong.

MTminded
MTminded

Four years at U of M's School of Forestry taught me plenty about sustainable yield. My degree has come in handy but not as I had intended to apply it. Forestry management jobs were non-starters when I graduated because Champion had over cut, thereby forcing public lands to be over cut, and the whole timber industry went bust. History does repeat and Daines seems quite eager to prove that.

My career remains tied to the timber industry and my requirements of monitoring timber/lumber markets makes it obvious to me that more harvest does not equate to more demand. Public lands' timber harvesting, and the roads needed to access the timber, have always been heavily subsidized by tax dollars. Daines doesn't sound like a very fiscally responsible conservative if he needs to raise taxes to fund his pipe dream. Those tax dollars will go into the pockets of a few wealthy campaign donors, no doubt.

There is nothing "sustainable" about Daines' proposal. Cutting half of the sustainable timber each year is NOT sustainable, nor realistic. Daines proves he has no grasp of healthy, sustainable forest practices. Montana needs to send Daines packing before he causes real harm to our beloved state.

themiz13
themiz13

PSD to xHTML


The Kootenai National Forest in the northwest corner of the state would expand from 24 million to 145 million board feet a year..................thanx

libertarian
libertarian

Is there demand? This bill won't do us any good unless the wood product industries pick up.

gadflyohsofly
gadflyohsofly

Growing up in a family of loggers, I would love to see the timber industry grow.
I support the streamlining of lawsuits to keep the the so called environmentalists from halting public sales. I do not support government meddling on private commerce, however.
The republicans interfering to make business do something is not much better than the democrats always interfering to halt and hinder business.

Bighorn
Bighorn

Rep.Daines is building a reputation of being a learned, serious and determined leader to change, for the better, the Forest Service's pitiful track record in maintaining the vibrancy and health of our national forests.

The "Alliance for the Wild Rockies" is an intentional misnomer for the stealthy and vicious obstructionism to healthy forest maintenance by the Mother Earth type pagans who live mentally in 10,000 B.C. while enjoying the benefits of today's world.

I live in the BNF, and it is a disgrace to live in a place where super-fires, caused by deferred maintenance, is fostered by the AWR and other out-of-state pagan zealots who are intentionally destroying a once flourishing natural resource and the common sense maintenance of that resource.

I say, right-on, right -on Steve Daines, press forward.

AAO22
AAO22

GOOD! A 6 fold increase of the current minimal logging in Montana still is a drop in the bucket to what is seriously needed. Millions of acres of salvageable beetle killed timber are like standing matchsticks. Why not create jobs while decreasing fire fuel loads? Areas could even be replanted which could add additional jobs for conservation corps, summertime jobs for students and others who want to help rejuvenate the health of our forests.

Waltzing Matilda
Waltzing Matilda

“I think the mills could get back up to capacity faster than the Forest Service is going to be able to offer it,” Colter said. “It’s going to take them some ramping up to get that kind of volume offered for sale.” Seriously??? Why????

The Forest Circus has more employees now than ever yet the health of our National Forests continues to get worse and worse. The problem is the Forest Circus has been invaded by employees and administrators that are satisfied with mediocrity.

Did you know that many Forest Circus offices including the Northern Region office here in Missoula now have electric Chevy Volts in their fleets? I guess since they really do nothing to manage our National Forests, these electric cars are fitting.

frenchy
frenchy

I find a discrepancy in the story concerning payment in lieu of taxes payments. The department of Agriculture has been asking the counties to return part of the money so how could that be more than what they would receive by getting 25% of the sales. Someone is lying.

Publius10
Publius10

of Montana families to become reliant on jobs that won't be here in 10-15 years, that is, unless we just decide to cut down all of the forests. Daines does not have my support or my respect.

boo boo da bear
boo boo da bear

Wow ! another flunky

Publius10
Publius10

I was born and raised in Montana and love this state dearly. I also support the logging industry. While I agree that our forests have been mismanaged in certain areas, Daines's logging bill is an absolute travesty that flies in the face of Republican principles. Since when do "free market" Republicans support blanket legislative production mandates by the federal government? Further, creating a massively unsustainable bubble in Montana's logging industry will cause hundreds

Roger
Roger

Congress mandated logging - what could possibly go wrong? How can this even be legal?

Gadfly
Gadfly

Daines has shown his right wing nut extremist agenda recently with voting to defund Obama Care, sponsoring a logging bill that would bypass public scrutiny and checks and balances provided by EPA and ESA and legal process in cutting down half the nation's forest, and voting to cut food stamps by millions. Is this guy running for right wing office, oh forgot he is from Montana. People generally do not understand Obama Care yet support major portions of it and as they get to understand it will likely support it. Obama Care, like any legislation or major bill may need some tuning; but it is a major step in the right direction wherein maybe America will catch up with the rest of the advanced nations in providing universal health care coverage and access. Have newspapers really done a good job of explaining it. The right wing is just knee jerk opposing it and anything else Obama does without offering anything but back to the status quo.

Regarding Daines sponsored Logging Mandates Bill (Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act): What an awful piece of legislation hopefully defeated in the Senate or vetoed by the President if it gets that far. It would give cart blanche to the timber industry avoiding public input and control, subverting EPA and ESA, and set the stage for rape and pillage of the last of the wilderness. This scallywag, Daines, should not be in office. He is representing the few at the expense of the many and for temporary gains destroying an opportunity to leave our descendants a lasting legacy. This legislation threatens the last vestiges of wilderness and the wildlife therein. There is only about 5.1% left, 2.6 % in the lower 48 and 2.5% in Alaska. This often seems like a lot to provincial populations and those only concerned with the temporary revenue of extraction industries. These industries do not have a great record of anything but scaring and poisoning the landscape and diminishing wildlife. The deforestation for the temporary benefit of logging would devastate the wilderness, wildlife. Cutting food stamps is shameful.

Matthew Koehler
Matthew Koehler

The bottom line is that Rep Daines mandated logging bill – the so-called “Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act” – undermines America’s public lands legacy by mandating dramatic increases in industrial logging by exempting National Forest logging sales up to 15.6 square miles in size from public input, environmental analysis and gutting the Endangered Species Act. The bill also has the US Congress simply closing the US Federal Court House doors, forbidding any citizen lawsuits on certain types of industrial logging projects, which is inherently undemocratic.

Here are some specifics about Daines’ “Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act.”

• Creates a legally-binding public lands logging mandate with no environmental or fiscal feasibility limits, and reestablishing the discredited 25% logging revenue sharing system with counties that was eliminated over a decade ago.

• Public participation and Endangered Species Act protections would be severely limited in Rep Daines bill. The bill creates huge loopholes in NEPA and such biased ESA requirements that in practice these laws would almost never meaningfully apply. For example, any project less than 10,000 acres (that’s 15.6 square miles) would be categorically excluded from environmental analysis and public participation, and the Forest Service would be required to submit a finding that endangered species are not jeopardized by any project, regardless of its actual effect on the species.

• Rep Daines successfully attached an amendment to the bill that would forbid the US Federal Courts from ever issuing injunctions against Forest Service logging projects based on alleged violations of procedural requirements in selecting, planning, or analyzing the project.

• Another amendment added to the bill has the US Congress closing the US Federal Court House doors for any national forest timber sale resulting from the 2013 wildfires. Essentially this results in “Logging Without Laws,” as one entire branch of the US Government (the Judicial branch) is forbidden from examining this issue.

Many of these specifics just aren't being reported on in the few stories that the Montana media has actually written about his bill. I'd like to see the Montana media do a better job of letting the public know the specific ins-and-outs of the bill. These are public lands and the public has a right to be informed about what's happening and what's at stake.

If you’d like more “policy-wonky” information about Daines’ mandated logging bill check out this fact sheet put together by EarthJustice, Sierra Club and others.

http://forestpolicypub.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Conservation-Community-Fact-Sheet-Oppose-H.R.-1526-FINAL-9-17-13.pdf

Certainly it doesn’t help the political situation that Sen Tester, Sen Baucus and groups like the Montana Wilderness Association, National Wildlife Federation and Montana Trout Unlimited also support politicians mandating huge logging increases of our National Forests through Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act (FJRA). Make no mistake, both the Daines and Tester bill would be an extreme and radical departure from over 100 years of America’s public lands legacy.

Remember, Montanans have been bombarded since 2009 with a million dollar plus advertising and public relations campaign supporting Tester’s mandated logging bill paid for largely by the out-of-state Pew Foundation.

According to Guidestar, as far back as 2009 the Pew Foundation actually hired the Montana Wilderness Association as an “Independent Contractor” to the tune of $304,500.00 in just 2009 alone. We’ve also witnessed one-sided, down and pony show “public meetings” on Tester’s bill in which only hand-picked supporters of Tester’s bill were allowed to speak to the crowd. And who hasn’t noticed the dozens of canned, scripted Letters to the Editor (most of which from college students without a firm grasp on these issues) cheerleading for Congress to mandate more logging through Tester’s bill?

Let’s also not forget that all summer long we watched the Montana Wilderness Association spend some of their money on an Ad campaign making Rep Steve Daines (a “Tea Party” member of the House) out to be some great “bi-partisian” and encouraging Daines to work together with Senator Tester and Senator Baucus to support Tester’s mandated logging bill. Honestly, how good of a strategy is it to publicly encourage a “Tea Party” member of the US House to work together to support mandated logging of our public national forest lands? How naive must you be to actually think that getting Rep Daines involved with Tester’s mandated logging bill wouldn’t actually make Tester’s bill that much worse?

While the Montana Wilderness Association was busy all summer courting Rep Daines to be their new BFF not one single person from the Montana Wilderness Association (or any of the other environmental ‘collaborators’ supporting Senator Tester’s mandated logging bill) have managed to uttered one single peep of protest, concern or opposition about Rep Daines’ very own mandated logging bill, which cuts the public process, NEPA analysis and effectiveness of the ESA.

And what about the Montana Wilderness Association’s “timber mill partners” from their much lauded private “collaboration?” Do you think the Montana timber industry supports Rep Daines mandated logging bill? Of course they do! In this very article the head of the Montana Wood Products Association and a manager at Sun Mountain Lumber Company certainly indicate they are supportive (and not opposed) to Daines' mandated logging bill.
And one can assume the timber industry has no problem dropping Montana Wilderness Association like a bad habitat once the industry gets what they really wanted in the form of Rep Daines mandated logging bill.

In December 2009, as I sat in the US Senate’s Energy and Natural Resource’s Committee hearing room, I heard Montana Wilderness Association’s director Tim Baker (who is now Gov Bullock’s “Natural Resource Adviser”) tell the Committee that MWA wouldn’t support Tester’s bill is the logging mandates were removed. So too, Sun Mountain Lumber owner Sherm Anderson told the Committee the timber industry wouldn’t support Senator Tester’s mandated logging bill without the Wilderness acres. Well, looks to me like Montana’s timber industry has dumped MWA in front of Daines’ mandated logging bus. All is fair in love and war, I guess.

Once again, the bottom line is that Rep Daines and Sen Tester want to forever change the way America’s National Forests are managed by simply having politicians mandate dramatic increases in National Forest logging levels at a time when US lumber consumption is down nearly 50%.

Both Rep Daines and Sen Tester claim gridlock prevents National Forest logging, but between 2008 and 2012 the US Forest Service sold enough logging sales in Montana and North Idaho to fill over 239,000 logging trucks, which if lined up end-to-end, would stretch for 2,048 miles.

In theory the US Senate should be against mandating huge increases in National Forest logging through “Logging Without Laws.” gutting the Endangered Species Act, limiting public input and environmental analysis. However, the fact that Senator Tester and Senator Baucus have been pushing their very own mandated National Forest logging bill (the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act) all bets are off and anything can happen in the Senate.

Senator Wyden (D-OR) is also a huge wildcard on this issue. Daines mandated logging bill that passed the House included a separate provision that would effectively privatize 1.6 million acres of public forestland in western Oregon and transfer this public land into a “logging trust,” which would be logged (including clearcut) into perpetuity. Word is that Sen. Wyden is currently considering introducing his own bill that will likely increase logging on public lands in western Oregon, which would be in addition to the mandated logging in Daines’ bill, which would apply to all 155 National Forests in the U.S.

So, that’s what new in public lands forest policy news. Hate to say it Montana Wilderness Association ‘collaborators’….but we warned you and told you so. Thanks for not listening to all the public lands policy experts who warned you and for helping play a role in the unraveling of America’s public lands legacy. Collect your fat Pew paychecks on the way out, please. And good luck getting yourself unwrapped from the axle of Daines mandated logging bill. Turns out the Montana Wilderness Association has a much bigger and badder tiger by the tail and just…can’t…let…go.

Loggerman
Loggerman

Don't ya just hate it when you cant have everything your way? People like you have pushed your ignorant agenda too far, and now, normal thinking folks like Daines have decided to stand up and try to preserve what's left of the timber industry. Its very important to Montana's economy. I think your knickers are in a knot because if this goes through you wont be able to appeal everything so easily.......Or maybe its because you wont win activist of the year!! Whatever the case may be, keep on using "sustainably harvested" bluestain pine......think about it.

geoffy joe bob
geoffy joe bob

Thanks for your time writing this

troutcreek
troutcreek

Daines has obviously never visited the Kootenai, it is already logged over. Better send my dues in to the Wild Rockies to stop this idiot.

RPT
RPT

Anything would be better then the ‘Bugs and Burn’ policy that’s being forced on us now by the environmental elitists groups who's goal is to destroy rural America.

logger
logger

For the last 10 years...the USFS in Montana has been logging 1% (that's one!) of their "forested acreage" per decade. At the current rate of harvest....it would take the Beaverhead Deerlodge NF 50 years to log 1% (that's one!). Maybe the Missoulian should be telling it's readers these facts.

Bluehawk
Bluehawk

Great plan, Daines. Sell Montana one piece at a time. Good for you, not good for the rest of us.

BWO
BWO

Republican terrorism.

Run - A- Mook
Run - A- Mook

you forgot to add {On the Alliance for the wild Rockies.}

Which is a very good thing.

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