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E-M:/ Re: Stupak Seeks to Block Forest Service Policies
Enviro-Mich message from Murphwild1@aol.com
I found the following post/article by Andy Stahl of Forest Service Employes
for Environmental Ethics, pertinent to the issue of county payments which
Congressman Stupak is exploiting to raise fears in Michigan. Does Mr. Stupak
support or cosponsored HR2389?
Northwoods Wilderness Recovery
>Attached is an editorial on the legislation changing the county payment
>scheme. This dangerous bill has passed the House and is under
>discussion in the Senate. Senator Wyden (to our shame and his) is a
>co-sponsor of this travesty along with Senator Craig of Idaho.
>Posting permission has been granted by FSEEE, but please include the
>citation at the beginning and end.
>>From Forest Magazine, January/February 2000. Pages 30-31.
>A Pyramid Scheme Inside a Trojan Horse
>A colleague calls it "the most revolutionary public land law since the
>creation of the U.S. Forest Service in 1905." The National Education
>Association calls it "a critical step in guaranteeing adequate education
>funding for rural forest communities." The Sierra Club calls it
>"Clear-cuts for Kids." Undersecretary of Agriculture Jim Lyons has
>threatened a presidential veto.
>It is the artfully named Secure Rural Schools and Community
>Self-Determination Act of 1999, which passed the House of
>Representatives late in 1999. HR2389 now goes to the Senate where it
>promises to be the top public lands item on the Senate's new millennium
>HR2389, like its Senate counterpart, S1608, is a good example of how bad
>law is made. The problem it purports to address is simple enough. Since
>1908, counties that contain national forests have received compensation
>from the federal government because they cannot tax those public
>forestlands. That compensation has come in the form of direct payments
>of 25 percent of receipts gained from timber sales in those counties. In
>the early years, those dollars didn't amount to much. But beginning in
>the 1960s, and accelerating during the rip-roaring logging days of the
>1980s, a couple of dozen western counties raked in huge sums of money.
>Like the forests, the timber payments proved unsustainable. As national
>forest logging levels dropped in the West, the revenues to counties
>dropped, too. Some counties did a good job of anticipating the decline,
>economizing where they could and finding alternative sources of revenue.
>Other counties did not, or could not. The solution seems simple. Like
>other property owners, the federal government benefits from county
>services, such as police protection and search and rescue efforts, on
>national forests. The federal government should fairly compensate local
>governments for their foregone property tax revenues.
>In Oregon, private forest owners pay property taxes to help cover these
>local government expenses. Oregon's private forest tax rate is $5.40 per
>productive forest acre. The state has about 10 million productive
>national forest acres, which if taxed at the private forest rate, would
>return to Oregon $54 million. That seems like the fair payment Oregon
>ought to receive from the federal government. But Oregon has been
>getting much more from the feds. In 1998, the state received $85
>million, and in the 1980s, the federal timber payments to Oregon were
>twice as much-more than $160 million a year. Oregon has profited
>handsomely from its national forest tenant.
>HR2389 would guarantee Oregon $130 million annually (the average of its
>three highest years' payments)-two-and-a-half times what Oregon would
>receive if its national forests were subject to property taxes. Where's
>that money to come from? You. Taxpayers in other states will pick up the
>tab and subsidize the property tax rates of private landowners in
>Oregon. (Speaking as an Oregonian, "thanks" for your generosity!)
>HR2389's sponsors don't just want to take money out of your pocket. They
>also want to water down your say in how national forests in Oregon and
>elsewhere are managed. A provision in the bill would create about 100
>committees in counties containing national forests, each comprised of
>fifteen people representing local special interests. The committees
>would receive an annual grant from the federal government totaling $110
>million, divided among the various committees. The committees would use
>this money to finance projects on national forests, from bicycle trails
>(often cited by the bill's proponents) to less talked about, but more
>likely projects: logging, mining and livestock grazing.
>All money earned from these projects would be siphoned into regional
>special accounts controlled by the local committees. Regional special
>account dollars could be spent only on Forest Service activities
>approved by the local committees. If committees invested strategically,
>the bill would allow the committees to gain control of about $1 billion
>a year in Forest Service receipts-about half of the entire budget of the
>national forest system.
>HR2389 is a pyramid scheme inside a Trojan horse. The pyramid scheme
>allows special-interest committees to use a small amount of federal seed
>money to gain control over a huge portion of the Forest Service's
>budget. The Trojan horse is the children on whose behalf this bill is
>being promoted. HR2389 is not about school kids and is only peripherally
>about compensating counties for lost property taxes. What's truly at
>issue is our 100-year experiment called "national forests." If HR2389
>becomes law, you can rename these lands "county forests," because that
>is who will be in the driver's seat.
> -Andy Stahl
>Forest Magazine, January/February 2000. Pages 30-31.
>Forest Service Employes for Environmental Ethics
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