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Enviro-Mich message from anne.woiwode@sfsierra.sierraclub.org


Enviro-Mich folks:

The DNR Budget, HB 5281, with language seeking to mandate timber sales on 
the State Forests at a level above what DNR thinks it can physically 
produce next year will be on the Senate floor as early as 10 a.m. Tuesday, 
May 23.

This is the LAST CHANCE to remove this idiotic and dangerous provision from 
Michigan's DNR Budget.  Urge your State Senator to SUPPORT an amendment to 
REMOVE ENTIRELY the timber mandate language from the DNR budget bill.

The STATUS of the Timber Mandate

Senate Strategy - Blame the House:

Oddly enough, the arguments against changing the language of the mandate 
now seem to be based on a strategy of BLAMING THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES. 
On one hand, as shown below, the blame/credit for the language in the bill 
is being given entirely to the House (raising a question about what 
function the Senate is supposed to play); and on the other hand, the 
rationale for not changing the language, even among those acknowledging 
that it is flawed, is that the Senate wants to avoid a conference committee 
on this issue.  Avoiding a conference committee is a rather surprising 
concern -- the budget will go into effect in October, so that there is no 
rush to put the final imprimature on the bill at this moment.  And it is 
conceivable that the House conferrees, when faced for objective and 
compelling factual information, could decide to acquiesce to a Senate 
version that was more thoughtful.  

Just say NO to the Timber Mandate Habit:

There is also some scuttlebutt that the legislators know full well that the 
DNR cannot possibly meet this mandate, but that this is considered 
irrelevant and there are winks and nods in the background as legislators 
bend to the will of the timber industry.  

>From my vantage point, this issue is increasingly like dealing with the 
addict who demands more and more each time, while everyone around him 
claims that this is the last time we are going to give in.  The timber 
industry in Michigan is getting a fix from its own power to get the 
Legislature to do whatever it wants on this issue, and we know full well 
they'll be back next year demanding a bigger fix.  

In year one the public was assured the mandate had only to do with early 
retirements from DNR and would disappear in the following year. In years 
two and three, despite the fact that the DNR met the actual language of the 
mandate they were viciously attacked by the timber industry for supposedly 
failing to meet it.  This year, the industry is claiming that the state 
"owes" them more timber production off state lands because they LOBBIED the 
legislature in 1994 for an additional $1 million of the STATE's money to be 
spent to increase timber production.  Even the rationales for meeting this 
habit have fallen out of line with common sense.  It is time for "cold 
turkey" for the timber lobby.

Analysis of Response Letters from Senator McManus:

Several people who had contacted Senator McManus about the timber mandate 
when it was in the Senate Subcommittee have shared with me a response 
letter Senator McManus sent on this issue, and asked for my comments.  I 
share this here because I expect others might also be interested.

The 2 page letter with 2 attachments says, in bold face, that the language 
used was put together by the House of Representatives, drawn from a March 1 
DNR document.  While providing great detail about the March 1 document, the 
letter makes no mention that the DNR has said unequivocally in many forums, 
both in the press, in committee and to members of the public, that they 
cannot meet the 69,000 acre mandate for timber sales in FY2001.  In 
addition, the language in the March 1 report has been badly misinterpreted 
(see below) in the ultimate case of BAD SCIENCE and BAD MATH.  

The McManus letter goes to great length to talk about how well the DNR is 
supposedly managing the forests.  The Senator cites less clearcutting 
(which is largely the result of the types of trees be managed now -- 
clearcutting is expected to increase in the future); says that timber 
cutting funds lots of other activities (but fails to mention the $2.5 
million fund shift from General Funds to the Forest Development Fund in 
this same budget bill necessitated by the "revenue shortfall" from timber 
sales over the last few years); and claims that "the management of our 
public forest lands strikes a delicate balance between all special 
interests, from the Sierra Club to the Timberman Associateion to the 
general public."  

Despite these conciliatory words, this mandate effectively says that only 
the timber industry knows what is best for Michigan's State Forests, 
especially when you consider that the DNR, retired DNR staff, Society of 
American Foresters, hunting interests, environmental interests, and 
virtually everyone else who has commented on this issue other than the 
timber lobby has said they oppose this timber mandate.  This "delicate 
balance" seems to have been achieved by some gorilla putting its finger on 
one side of the scale.  

What the DNR March 1 document actually said:

Senator McManus's letter references the March 1 DNR document and includes 
two pages from that document.  It cites this document as the source used by 
the House to insert the 69,000 acre figure into the budget language. Here 
are some comments on what the DNR's information actually said: 

1) the DNR's silvicultural assessment put together last fall and used for 
the basis of the March 1 document looked at only 1/5 of the State Forest 
system. This 20% was randomly selected, apparently on the basis of the 
staff in the area, NOT on the basis of the physical characteristics.  While 
the DNR is working to complete the assessment, the numbers cited are 
extrapolations based on a non-representative sample of the full State 
Forest system.

2) Based on the extrapolation, the assessment estimated that the maximum 
number of acres that could be cut on State Forest lands over the next 
decade was 690,000 acres.  The McManus letter explains the House took that 
number (690,000 acres) and divided it by ten, which is where the 69,000 
acres came from. However, the DNR from the beginning was clear that this 
was an average of their 10 year extrapolation, so should not be annualized. 
Nonetheless, that is exactly what happened -- the 69,000 acres is an 
annualized average of a decade long extrapolation from a random selection 
of just 20% of the forest. Doesn't strike me as good science, or even good 

3) Even if the 69,000 acres was correct and supportable, the language in 
the bill says that the DNR may not allow the cut to DECREASE below this 
amount (meaning that the minimum level mandated is actually the maximum 
level the DNR considers sustainable), and it sets a somewhat arbitrary 
cordage production per acre for those acres cut.  The numbers of cords 
mandated per acre actually adds up to MORE cords than were mandated in past 
years (862,500 to 897,000 cords, vs. 855,000 from previous years) and which 
the DNR has not been able to meet the last two years.  Also, while previous 
mandates said the 855,000 cords needed to be marked, the new language say 
the amount mandated must be offered for sale, escalating the cost and staff 
time needed to meet the mandate in FY 2001.

4) Lastly, the DNR still does not do a sufficient job of assuring that 
sensitive lands are being managed appropriately.  Surveys for listed 
species are not routinely conducted, and despite the passage of the old 
growth policy by the NRC in 1994, no public review of old growth areas nor 
permanent protection has occurred of old growth.  Much of what should be 
considered potential old growth is still in the timber base ready to be 
cut. So I question the silvicultural assessment regardless, and doubt that 
the DNR can actually produce an accurate picture today of what is 
"available" for timber production.

Please take a few minutes to contact your State Senator and encourage 

Anne Woiwode
Sierra Club

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