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E-M:/ Farm Bill contains bad national forest policy



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Enviro-Mich message from "Joshua Martin" <joshua@americanlands.org>
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Please Call Debbie Stabenow, member of the Senate Ag Committee, to oppose
these attempts at increasing the ability of the timber industry to exploit
public timber.

Sen. Stabenow: 1-202-224-4822
Please ask to speak to Kim Love, the key aide on this issue

Please contact Joshua Martin, American Lands Alliance with questions or
feedback
(812)333-5456
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To: Forest Activists
From: John Demos
American Lands Alliance
December 6, 2001

Urgent Calls Needed This Week on Farm Bill

Current bill contains harmful forestry provisions that could undermine the
Roadless Policy, or attempts to end the commercial logging program.

The Farm bill is being heatedly negotiated right now before a vote late in
the week or next week.

The bill contains two extremely controversial provisions, stewardship
contracting and forest biomass subsidies that will significantly impact
National Forest and BLM lands for many years to come. Time is running out to
weigh in on these issues before they become permanently authorized until
2006.

These include:
 Accelerated "thinning" and/or logging under the National Fire Plan with no
environmental safeguards (no limits on tree size, age or areas in which
thinning and/or logging could occur).

 Increased logging on National Forests and BLM lands regardless of how much
money is appropriated yearly for the timber sale program because "goods for
services" stewardship contracting allows the agencies to give trees away to
industry and to contractors in the name of 'restoration' and 'fuels
reduction.

 Subsidizing a forest biomass industry that encourages unsustainable
logging to feed the biomass plants on BLM and National Forest Lands.

These provisions mock the very principles of forest restoration by providing
major incentives to log the biggest and most valuable trees on public land
to pay for more fuels reduction and restoration projects, causing the need
for more restoration; thereby creating an endless cycle of logging for
"restoration" and "fuels reduction."

1. The biomass subsidy and stewardship contracting authorities must remain a
pilot program, where studies must be completed to determine the economic
feasibility and environmental impact of the programs, before making them
permanent.  All projects must be monitored/ studied to determine the
ecological impact of the program before any new projects are authorized.

2. Add environmental safeguards to the bill making it mandatory that all
projects must be done in the wildlands-urban interface.  Prohibit all
projects from roadless areas, wilderness areas, areas of high ecological
integrity, riparian areas, threatened and endangered species habitat, and
old growth ecosystems.  Prohibit projects from being able to construct or
reconstruct roads.  Prohibit commercial timber sales from mixing with fuels
reduction projects.

3. Eliminate the subsidy to biomass plants and the "goods for services,"
"receipt retention," and the "designation by description" contracting
authorities.

Background

Like the House Farm bill, the Senate bill would permanently authorize
stewardship contracting and $50 million in grants under the National Fire
Plan for the subsidization of a forest biomass industry fed from National
Forest and BLM trees until 2006.  The Senate bill is different than the
House bill in the sense that it links both the stewardship
contracting authorities and forest biomass subsidies to the National Fire
Plan.  According to language in the Senate bill, these programs are
justified because, "the accumulation of heavy forest fuels loads continues
to increase as a result of disease, insect infestations, and drought,
further increasing the risk of fire each year (Title VIII, Section 808, line
10-13)."  And because, "the hazardous fuels removed from forest land
represent an abundant renewable resource, as well as a significant supply of
biomass for biomass-to-energy facilities (Title VIII, Section 808, lines
22-25)."

Both stewardship contracting and the forest biomass subsidies are very
important to understand as a package.  Many of the stewardship contracting
authorities allow the agencies to give away trees for free, allow
contractors to craft their own 'restoration' and 'fuels reduction' projects
without agency oversight and allow the agencies to keep the
receipts for any money made on the projects. Although language in the Senate
bill places a "preference" for projects to be conducted in the
wildland-urban interface, the bill fails to define the term, and does not
make projects in the wildland-urban interface, to protect
communities, mandatory. Further there are no limits on the size or age of
trees to be provided as biomass fuel or in what areas the biomass fuel could
be collected.  Without meaningful restrictions on biofuel origin or tree
diameter, the forest biomass grant program could subsidize logging in
roadless, old growth, riparian, other sensitive areas and in threatened
and/or endangered species habitat.

Once all these projects have started under the stewardship contracting
authorities, any material coming off public lands will be given, as a
subsidy, to whoever receives a forest biomass grant.  The biomass plant will
receive free trees from the public lands, receive a subsidy to pay for the
transportation of the trees, and possibly receive subsidies to
continue the long-term existence of the plant, regardless if all fuels
reduction/restoration work is completed.  While, the Senate bill mostly
limits grants to biomass to energy facilities that have "an annual
production of 5 megawatts or less" very large plants (over 5 megawatts) will
still be eligible for  $1.5 million per year in grants.  The timber and
biomass industries are actively working to remove the $1.5 million cap and
make grants available to large energy producers as well as those under 5
megawatts.  The industries have also fought very hard against adding any
language in the bill that would make an economic feasibility study of this
new forest biomass industry or ecological monitoring of fuels reduction
activities, mandatory.

Stewardship Contracting


Authorities under stewardship contracting, such as goods for services is
very similar to the purchaser road credit program, where the Forest Service
gave trees to logging companies in exchange for building logging roads.  The
purchaser road credit program was eventually terminated because it led to
massive subsidies, rampant abuse, environmental degradation, and a loss of
Congressional and public ability to oversee
the Forest Service, not to mention the construction of over 300,000 miles of
new, ecologically damaging, roads across the National Forest system.
Stewardship contracting simply reinstates this program and expands it beyond
roads to include just about any forest management activity.

Currently, the Forest Service is allowed to enter into 84 total stewardship
contracts but only on a pilot basis, with a heavy emphasis on monitoring to
determine whether or not this program works.  However, only a little over 20
projects (out of the total 84) have begun, only 25% of the projects are
being monitored, and there has been no report to
Congress to determine how stewardship contracting has worked.  Yet, Members
of the Senate such as Senator Crapo (R-ID), Senator Burns (R-MT), Senator
Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), insist that the agencies need this permanent
authority, especially the "goods for services" stewardship contracting
authority, to help expedite fuels reduction work
on public lands.  That's why stewardship contracting authorities are tied to
developing this biomass industry.  As long as any area on public lands has a
"fire risk" then the agencies will be able to contract out the work using
these contracting authorities, with no accountability, to thin and log in
any area regardless of the size and age of trees, to
reduce that fire risk.


John Demos
Northeast Organizer
American Lands Alliance
59 Rodier Rd.
South Berwick, ME 03908
207-384-0175
demos@americanlands.org



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