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Policy Update Week of

February 13th and 20th, 2012

SAF ACTIONS

SAF Policy Team and Committee on Forest Policy Release Position Statement on the Council on Environmental Quality's Draft NEPA Guidelines

The Council on Environmental Quality's (CEQ) recently released draft National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) guidelines aim to improve the NEPA process and increase efficiency of environmental reviews written under NEPA. SAF's Policy Team in conjunction with SAF's Committee on Forest Policy have released their comments on CEQ's guidelines, which commends CEQ for their efforts to clarify more confusing aspects of the NEPA process, but also recommends additional aspects of NEPA that would benefit from CEQ clarification. To read SAF's full comments link to: http://www.safnet.org/fp/documents/Comments_on_CEQ_Draft_NEPA_Guidelines.pdf

CEQ's Draft Guidelines can be found here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ceq/nepa_improving_efficiency_draft_guidance.pdf

New Forest Planning Rule Seeks to Restore the Nation's Forests through Science and Collaboration
USDA Forest Service News Release, January 26th

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today signaled the U.S. Department of Agriculture's intent to issue a new planning rule for America's 193-million acre National Forest System that seeks to deliver stronger protections for forests, water, and wildlife while supporting the economic vitality of our rural communities, by releasing online a Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for the National Forest System Land Management Planning Rule. Today's action honors the commitment made by Secretary Vilsack in his 2009 speech on forest management, and by the President in the America's Great Outdoors Report. USDA and the Forest Service carefully considered nearly 300,000 comments received on the proposed rule and draft environmental impact statement issued last February, to develop the agency's preferred course of action for finalizing the planning rule. This is included in the PEIS released today as USDA's preferred alternative. A notice of availability for the PEIS will be published in the Federal Register on February 3, 2012, and the Secretary will issue a record of decision selecting a final planning rule no less than 30 days afterwards. To read more of this article link to: http://www.fs.fed.us/news/2012/releases/01/planning-rule.shtml

Washington Post quotes SAF's Michael Goergen on the new Planning Rule: January 26th
http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/administration-issues-major-rewrite-of-forest-rules/2012/01/26/gIQAnquvTQ_story.html

SAF Comments on the Draft Planning Rule: May 13th, 2011 http://www.eforester.org/documents/comment_forestserviceplanningdeis_May13.pdf

The SAF Task Force Report "Managing Forests because Carbon Matters: Integrating Energy, Products, and Land Management Policy" is available to read online.

To read the Task Force Report link to: http://www.safnet.org/documents/JOFSupplement.pdf

In the Administration

  1. Statement from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on the Proposed FY 2013 Budget
      USDA News Release, February 13th

    Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today made the following statement on the Proposed FY 2013 budget: "The President and I believe that this is a make or break moment for the middle class. What's at stake is the basic American promise that if you work hard, you can do well enough to raise a family, own a home, and put a little away for retirement. To keep that promise alive, we need an economy that makes, creates and innovates - an economy that's built to last. "Over the past three years, USDA has worked with the Obama Administration to respond to the economic crises of 2008, put Americans back to work, and to rebuild economic security for the middle class. To read more of this article link to:
    http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentid=2012/02/0050.xml&navid=NEWS_RELEASE&navtype=RT&parentnav=LATEST_RELEASES&

  2. President Proposes $1.1 Billion for BLM in Fiscal Year 2013 to Protect Resources and Manage Uses of Public Lands
      Bureau of Land Management News Release, February 13th

    With a focus on outdoor recreation, renewable energy, environmentally-sound oil and gas development, sage-grouse conservation, and other key priorities, President Obama today requested $1.1 billion in appropriations for the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management in Fiscal Year 2013. This request is essentially level with the FY 2012 enacted level for the BLM, which employs 10,365 full-time equivalent staff. To read more of this article link to: http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/info/newsroom/2012/february/nr_02_13_2012.html

  3. President's 2013 Budget for Interior Focuses on Fiscal Discipline, Core Missions, Strategic Investments
      Department of the Interior News Release, February 13th

    President Obama's fiscal year 2013 budget request of $11.5 billion for the Department of the Interior reflects fiscal discipline, identifying offsetting program reductions to maintain funding for core missions and strategic investments in America's Great Outdoors; energy development and reforms; innovation to help sustain economic recovery and generate jobs; and promotion of economic development for American Indians and Alaska Natives. To read more of this article link to: http://www.doi.gov/news/pressreleases/Presidents-2013-Budget-for-Interior-Focuses-on-Fiscal-Discipline-Core-Missions-Strategic-Investments.cfm

  4. Fish and Wildlife Service Notice: Receipt of Applications for Endangered Species Permits
      The Federal Register, February 13th

    We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, invite the public to comment on the following applications to conduct certain activities with endangered species. With some exceptions, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) prohibits activities with listed species unless a Federal permit is issued that allows such activities. The ESA requires that we invite public. The public is invited to submit nominations for membership. To read more of this article link to: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-02-13/pdf/2012-3236.pdf

  5. Forest Service Notice: Black Hills National Forest Advisory Board
      The Federal Register, February 14th

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service intends to re-establish the Black Hills National Forest Advisory Board (Board). The purpose is to obtain advice and recommendations on a broad range of forest issues such as forest plan revisions or amendments, forest health including fire management and mountain pine beetle infestations, travel management, forest monitoring and evaluation, recreation fees, and site-specific projects having forest wide implications. The Forest Service is also seeking nominations for individuals to be considered as committee members. The public is invited to submit nominations for membership. To read more of this article link to: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2012/02/14/2012-3342/black-hills-national-forest-advisory-board
    Meeting Dates: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-02-21/pdf/2012-3851.pdf

  6. Forest Service Notice: Request for Applications: The Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program
      The Federal Register, February 15th

    The Department of Agriculture (USDA), Forest Service, State and Private Forestry, Cooperative Forestry staff, requests applications for the Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program (Community Forest Program or CFP). This is a competitive grant program whereby local governments, qualified nonprofit organizations, and Indian tribes are eligible to apply for grants to establish community forests through fee simple acquisition of private forest land. The purpose of the program is to establish community forests by protecting forest land from conversion to non-forest uses and provide community benefits such as sustainable forest management, environmental benefits including clean air, water, and wildlife habitat; benefits from forest-based educational programs; benefits from serving as models of effective forest stewardship; and recreational benefits secured with public access. Eligible lands for grants funded under this program are private forest that is at least five acres in size, suitable to sustain natural vegetation, and at least 75 percent forested. The lands must also be threatened by conversion to nonforest uses, must not be held in trust by the United States on behalf of any Indian tribe or allotment lands, and if acquired by an eligible entity, must provide defined community benefits under CFP and allow public access. The public is invited to submit nominations for membership. To read more of this article link to: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-02-15/pdf/2012-3528.pdf

  7. BLM Issues Forestry Pilot Project Report
      Bureau of Land Management News Release, February 15th

    The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced today that it is making available a report titled "Southwest Oregon Secretarial Pilot Projects on BLM Lands: Our Experience So Far and Broader Considerations for Long-term Plans," prepared by Norm Johnson, Oregon State University, and Jerry Franklin, University of Washington, two of the principle authors of the northwest forest plan. The report finds that the three pilot projects demonstrate the character and feasibility of ecological forestry principles in BLM's western Oregon forests, and that BLM staff likewise have demonstrated their ability to implement these principles. To read more of this article link to: http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/info/newsroom/2012/february/NR_2_15_2012.html

  8. US Forest Service Chief presents proposed FY2013 agency budget
      Forest Service News Release, February 17th

    In testimony before the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies today, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell prioritized the proposed FY 2013 Forest Service budget request in three themes: restoration, communities, and fire. "To make the strategic investments to grow the economy and tackle the deficit, this budget makes difficult cuts to programs -- but our priorities are designed to respond to the needs of the American public," Tidwell said. "The budget request will engage communities and help Americans reconnect to the outdoors, expand on recreation benefits and create a wide range of opportunities for economic expansion to retain and create jobs. It also fosters partnering with communities and cooperating agencies to reduce the threat of wildland fires to people, property and watersheds." The FY 2013 President's Budget requests $4.86 billion for the Forest Service, an increase of less than one-half of one percent over the 2012 appropriated level. To read more of this article link to: http://www.fs.fed.us/news/2012/releases/02/budget.shtml

  9. Forest Service Distributes Secure Rural Schools Payments
      Forest Service News Release, February 17th

    Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that more than $307 million is being distributed to 41 states and Puerto Rico for public schools and roads and specific county programs. "The annual revenue sharing payments are part of the Department of Agriculture's long-standing commitment to rural communities, schools and American youth," said Vilsack. "Our century-long support of America's public schools and roads is one of many ways in which the Forest Service, as a good neighbor and partner, contributes to rural communities becoming self-sustaining and prosperous." Since 1908, 25 percent of Forest Service revenues from timber sales, mineral leases, recreation, grazing and other sources have been shared with states and counties in which national forest lands are located. To read more of this article link to: http://www.fs.fed.us/news/2012/releases/02/budget.shtml

  10. USDA Announces New Funding For Conservation Partners
      USDA News Release, February 17th

    USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Dave White today announced a partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to improve water quality, wildlife habitat and soil productivity. The partnership brings together $10 million of NRCS funding with an additional $10 million or more in private funds through NFWF to increase technical assistance in priority areas. "We are excited about this partnership," White said. "This effort is an innovative approach for stretching the public dollar further, engaging the private sector to tackle shared priorities, and employing local conservation professionals to help wildlife and sustain agriculture." To read more of this article link to:
    http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentid=2012/02/0060.xml&navid=NEWS_RELEASE&navtype=RT&parentnav=LATEST_RELEASES&edeployment_action=retrievecontent

  11. Forest Service recreation fees take another legal hit
      Summit County Citizens Voice, Published by Bob Berwyn, February 21st

    The U.S. Forest Service can't charge recreation fees for simple access to public lands, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously last week, rejecting the agency's bid to include undeveloped areas in the fee program. The San Francisco-based Appeals Court found the U.S. Forest Service at fault for charging parking fees to people who go for a hike without using amenities such as picnic tables, trashcans and bathrooms located nearby, or who camp in dispersed, undeveloped parts of a National Forest. If the ruling stands, it will be binding in nine western states and sets a nationwide legal precedent. The ruling doesn't cover Colorado, but the fee program at Mt. Evans is currently being challenged in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals - which does cover Colorado, and the recent ruling out of San Francisco could be a factor in that case. To read more of this article link to: http://summitcountyvoice.com/2012/02/21/forest-service-recreation-fees-take-another-legal-hit/

  12. We Can't Wait: Obama Administration Announces Steps to Boost the Rural Economy, Promote Job Creation
      USDA News Release, February 21st

    As part of the Obama Administration's "We Can't Wait" efforts to strengthen the economy, create jobs and support business growth, Administration officials announced three significant actions to expand the government's purchase of biobased products, promote regional rural job creation efforts, and develop a rural healthcare workforce, all of which build on the historic investments the Administration has made in rural America over the past three years. Today's announcements are the latest in a series of executive actions the Obama Administration is taking to strengthen the economy and move the country forward because we can't wait for Congress to act. To read more of this article link to: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentid=2012/02/0063.xml&navid=NEWS_RELEASE&navtype=RT&parentnav=LATEST_RELEASES&edeployment_action=retrievecontent

  13. Secretary Salazar Proposes Expansion of Ecological Forestry in Western Oregon to Provide Sustainable Timber, Healthier Habitat
      Bureau of Land Management News Release, February 21st

    During a visit today to one of three ecological forestry pilot projects in Oregon, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced that the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will apply ecological forestry principles on a broader landscape to restore forest health and to provide sustainable timber harvests for local mills and the communities who rely on the timber industry for jobs and economic strength. To read more of this article link to: http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/info/newsroom/2012/february/NR_02_21_2012.html

  14. Secretary Salazar Proposes Expansion of Ecological Forestry in Western Oregon to Provide Sustainable Timber, Healthier Habitat
      Bureau of Land Management News Release, February 21st

    During a visit today to one of three ecological forestry pilot projects in Oregon, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced that the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will apply ecological forestry principles on a broader landscape to restore forest health and to provide sustainable timber harvests for local mills and the communities who rely on the timber industry for jobs and economic strength. To read more of this article link to: http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/info/newsroom/2012/february/NR_02_21_2012.html

This Week in Congress

  1. February 13th - Rep. Tim Scott [R-SC1] Introduced H.R. 4015: Responsible Farming Act of 2012 "To repeal the conservation stewardship program of the Department of Agriculture." To read more about this bill link to: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h112-4015

  2. February 15th - Senate Committee on Agriculture Nutrition and Forestry Hearing: Energy and Economic Growth for Rural America. To read more about this hearing link to: http://www.ag.senate.gov/hearings/energy-and-economic-growth-for-rural-america

  3. February 15th - House Committee on the Budget Hearing: The President's Fiscal Year 2013 Budget. To read more about this hearing link to: http://budget.house.gov/HearingSchedule/hearing2152012.htm

  4. February 15th - Full Committee Oversight Hearing: Department of the Interior Spending and the President's Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Proposal. To read more about this hearing link to: http://naturalresources.house.gov/Calendar/EventSingle.aspx?EventID=277782

  5. February 16th - Full Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Hearing: To Receive Testimony on the U.S. Department of Energy's Budget for Fiscal Year 2013. To read more about this hearing link to: http://energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Hearings.Hearing&Hearing_ID=1aab7fd3-a404-c511-3661-85d446391975

  6. February 16th - Full House Committee on Natural Resources Markup on H.R. 1837 and H.R. 4019 ("Federal Forest County Revenue, Schools, and Jobs Act of 2012"): To read more about this hearing link to: http://naturalresources.house.gov/Calendar/EventSingle.aspx?EventID=280436

  7. February 17th - House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Budget Hearing - US Forest Service - Chief. To read more about this hearing link to: http://appropriations.house.gov/Calendar/EventSingle.aspx?EventID=277059

Upcoming in Congress

  1. February 28th - House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands Oversight Hearing on "FY 2013 budget requests from the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management." To read more about this bill link to: http://naturalresources.house.gov/Calendar/EventSingle.aspx?EventID=281076

  2. February 28th - Full Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources: FY13 Department of the Interior Budget Request. To read more about this hearing link to: http://energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2012/2/full-committee-hearing

  3. March 6th - Full Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources: FY13 Forest Service Budget Request. To read more about this hearing link to: http://energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2012/3/full-committee-hearing

National News

  1. Payments to cash-strapped rural counties included in White House budget proposal
      The Oregonian, Published by Charles Pope, February 13th

    In a boost to financially strapped rural counties in Oregon and across the West, the Obama administration on Monday included $294 million to extend the county payments program in the next fiscal year. The line item in the 2013 budget is more important in political terms than pure economics since the White House budget is unlikely to be adopted. However, the addition of money for county payments offers a black-and-white, on paper confirmation of the administration's priorities for the coming year. That will help Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., in his battle to secure funding when Congress writes its own budget and makes the hard decisions for how money will be spent.To read more of this article link to: http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2012/02/county_payments_included_in_wh.html

  2. Forest Service sues state, Otero Co.
      Las Cruces Sun-News, Published by Elva K. Ă–sterreich, February 14th

    In 2001 New Mexico passed Senate Bill 1 to allow counties to manage national forest lands under certain circumstances that U.S. Forest Service personnel couldn't handle. Now that Otero County passed a resolution in 2011 to do just that, the Forest Service has filed a lawsuit to stop the action. Peg Crim, of the Lincoln National Forest, has confirmed the action by the Department of Justice. But, she said, she is not at liberty to talk about the suit. "It's not going to change anything we have now," she said. "We are going to continue working with the county and state." According to a statement from U.S. Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales, on Feb. 7, the Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division and the U.S. Attorney's office for the District of New Mexico, on behalf of the USDA Forest Service, filed a complaint asking for a declaration from the court on whether Senate Bill 1 and an Otero County resolution are pre-empted by federal law and, therefore, unconstitutional. To read more of this article link to: http://www.lcsun-news.com/las_cruces-news/ci_19958600

  3. House panel seeks more tree cutting on public land
      The Associated Press, by Kevin Freking and Jeff Barnard, February 16th

    A House panel approved legislation Thursday that would lead to greater harvesting of trees on federal lands as part of a Republican-led plan to replace a recently expired program that has sent billions of dollars to rural counties over the past decade to help them operate their schools and provide other essential services. Republicans used their majority to pass the bill in the Natural Resources Committee by a vote of 26-17. Still, prospects for passage in the long run are slim. A mandate leading to increased logging, grazing and other activities is unlikely to go far in the Senate. Nevertheless, the debate signals the renewal of a longtime political battle that will be waged over the coming months as lawmakers attempt to renew a program that has been a lifeline for many rural communities in the West. To read more of this article link to: http://www.mercurynews.com/news/ci_19982329

  4. Shawnee Forest again before U.S. judge
      The Southern, Published by Becky Malkovich, February 17th

    More than 15 years after an injunction was granted that, in effect, banned logging and oil and gas drilling in the Shawnee National Forest, the issue is back in federal court. Oral arguments were heard before U.S. District Judge J. Phil Gilbert Thursday on a motion filed to dissolve the injunction which was to be in effect "until such time as the Forest Service issues new or revised planning documents in a manner consistent with this court's rulings." John P. Tustin, attorney for the defendants, which include the U.S. Forest Service, argued that circumstances have changed in the years since Gilbert granted the injunction. To read more of this article link to: http://thesouthern.com/news/local/shawnee-forest-again-before-u-s-judge/article_f2e9e434-591e-11e1-ba40-001871e3ce6c.html

  5. Merkley to Forest Service: This Time, Hire Americans
      KTVZ.COM News Sources, February 17th

    Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., sent a letter Friday to Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, urging him to take steps to ensure Americans will be hired for the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program projects announced Feb. 2 -- and not repeat the 2009 "debacle" of foreign hiring for those jobs. Merkley expressed dismay that unemployed Oregonians were passed over for forest thinning work in favor of foreign workers on H-2B visas. "It will be an unacceptable outrage if American citizens are not hired under these contracts," Merkley wrote. "It is your responsibility, in partnership with the Department of Labor, to do everything possible-before contracts are issued-to ensure this outcome." To read more of this article link to: http://www.ktvz.com/oregon-northwest/30485039/detail.html

  6. U.S. Forest Service's plan to replace aging air tanker fleet draws criticism
      Redding Record-Searchlight, Published by Jim Schultz, February 20th

    The U.S. Forest Service has announced plans to try to replace its aging fleet of privately contracted air tankers used to battle wildfires. Although the use of air tankers has drawn criticism by some who say the aircraft drive up costs to fight fires and are primarily a public relations exercise, the Forest Service is hoping to replace the existing airplanes - which are on average at least 50 years old - with newer, faster and more cost-effective ones. But the Forest Service does not specify in a 12-page modernization strategy when that change may occur. The announcement also comes in the wake of a decision eliminating four firefighting helicopters in California and Oregon. To read more of this article link to: http://www.chicoer.com/fromthenewspaper/ci_20003354

  7. Collaboration builds workable lands policy, Idaho Sen. Crapo, U.S. Forest Service chief say
      Idaho Statesman, Published by Rocky Barker, February 21st

    U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell offered an alternative to selling off public land or transferring management to states as three Republican presidential candidates proposed in Boise last week. Tidwell, a Capital High School graduate who calls Idaho home, came to Boise on Monday at the invitation of Republican Sen. Mike Crapo to talk about how the process of collaboration is changing the management of national forests. They spoke to the Idaho Environmental Forum at the Hoff Building and met with the press at the Capitol. The Forest Service, which manages 20 million acres in Idaho, has just proposed new planning rules that Tidwell said will save time, save money and make it easier for people to work together. To read more of this article link to: http://www.idahostatesman.com/2012/02/21/2002982/collaboration-builds-workable.html

  8. Lawmakers unveil forest plan
      The Register-Guard, Published by Saul Hubbard

    After months of behind-the-scenes negotiations, three members of Oregon's congressional delegation on Thursday publicly unveiled the intricacies of their plan to give county governments in the state's forested regions a stable funding base. The bipartisan concept - championed by U.S. Reps. Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader, both Democrats, and U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, a Republican - revolves around a new management strategy for 2.7 million acres of federal forestland, known as the O&C lands, currently overseen by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. O&C lands, named after the long-defunct Oregon and California Railroad Co., are found only in Oregon. Under the plan, logging would increase on almost 1.5 million acres of "young growth" forest, which the act describes as "generally previously managed stands of timber younger than 80 years and not older than 125 years." A portion of logging proceeds would go to 18 Oregon counties, including Lane County, to help fund law enforcement and other services. To read more of this article link to: http://www.registerguard.com/web/updates/27625524-55/logging-defazio-oregon-federal-lands.html.csp

  9. Federal court upholds mandate for endangered species consultations on national fire plan logging projects
      The Summit County Voice, Published by Bob Berwyn, February 22nd

    Slowly but surely, a slew of environmentally harmful Forest Service regulatory changes adopted under the Bush administration area being rolled back. Most recently, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia struck down Bush administration regulations dating back to 2003 that would have allowed National Fire Plan projects to move forward without consulting the government's own wildlife experts. The regulatory changes were billed as cutting red tape for forest health projects, but were really intended to give extractive industries free reign on public lands. Conservation groups challenged the regulations in 2006, arguing that the short cuts violated long-standing Endangered Species Act procedures that help protect the environment and imperiled wildlife. To read more of this article link to: http://summitcountyvoice.com/2012/02/22/federal-court-upholds-mandate-for-endangered-species-consultations-on-national-fire-plan-logging-projects/#more-37878

  10. Newt Gingrich knocks forest service, energy policy during visit with Washington state lawmakers
      The Oregonian, Published by John Runquist, February 24th

    Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich impressed local Republican lawmakers at the Capitol Friday with his goal to create a new energy plan for the U.S. "We need an American energy program that makes us independent from Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran," Gingrich told a crowd of reporters after speaking privately with lawmakers. The Republican presidential candidate stopped by the Capitol on his way to campaign rallies in Federal Way and Everett. Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, said he connected with Gingrich over frustration about the increasing cost of gas.To read more of this article link to: http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2012/02/washington_legislature_gingric.html

  11. Wyoming to petition U.S. Supreme Court on roadless rule
      The Associated Press, Published by Bob Moen, February 24th

    The state of Wyoming will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review its challenge to a 2001 federal rule barring development on nearly 50 million acres of roadless areas in national forests. "The roadless rule has seriously impacted Wyoming, our people, our industries and the health of our forests," Gov. Matt Mead said Friday in announcing his decision. "Given the consequences, it is important to ask the Supreme Court to hear this case." The rule enacted under former President Bill Clinton has been upheld by both the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit in separate cases. Wyoming had argued that the definition of "roadless lands" is synonymous with "wilderness lands," and that the 1964 Wilderness Act states that only Congress can designate wilderness lands. To read more of this article link to: http://trib.com/news/state-and-regional/wyoming-to-petition-u-s-supreme-court-on-roadless-rule/article_9aaef0ab-bbb3-59e6-982a-87b3c629435d.html

In the States: Nevada, Washington, Colorado, Idaho and Arizona

  1. Auditors: Nevada Fire Safe Council should pay back $2.7M
      The Record-Courier, February 14th

    A federal auditor is recommending that $2.7 million in recovery act grant funds received by the Nevada Fire Safe Council be paid back, and the council not receive any more grants until new policies are in place. Auditors received a hotline complaint in July 2011 that the council responsible for funding various fuels reductions projects in Nevada and the Lake Tahoe area was not conducting fair bids when hiring contractors to do work related to the recovery act, according to a report. "Our review of the complaint concluded that the council had awarded contracts associated with the recovery act grant in a noncompetitive manner," auditors said. To read more of this article link to: http://www.tahoebonanza.com/article/20120214/NEWS/120219978/1001&parentprofile=1807

  2. Counties gain revenue compensation for encumbered state forest lands
      The Covington and Maple Valley Reporter, February 19th

    Some local governments in Southwest Washington have dealt with sporadic timber revenues and therefore uncertain budgets due to a lack of access to portions of state forest lands encumbered by endangered animal species. Now these governments are on the path toward fiscal sustainability. House Bill 2329, which was unanimously voted out of the Senate Energy, Natural Resources and Marine Waters Committee on Friday (Feb. 17) after it passed through the House Feb. 9 without dissent, is the second step in a process that began three years ago. It's an attempt to create more dependable revenue streams for counties dependent on timber harvests from state forest land now protected under state and federal endangered species laws. "This is just one step to move in the right direction to compensate the small timber-counties to keep us viable," said Daniel Cothren, chairman of the Wahkiakum County Board of Commissioners. "But it's a crucial step." To read more of this article link to: http://www.maplevalleyreporter.com/news/139643333.html

  3. Court Halts Timber Sale Near Rio Grande Headwaters
      Environment News Service, February 20th

    After three years of legal battles, conservation groups have won a lawsuit challenging a logging project near the headwaters of the Rio Grande on the Rio Grande National Forest in southern Colorado. While the Forest Service claimed that logging on Handkerchief Mesa would reduce current or potential impacts from insects and disease, Rocky Mountain Wild and WildEarth Guardians argued that logging and roads would further degrade forest health and watersheds. To read more of this article link to: http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/feb2012/2012-02-20-093.html

  4. Colorado officials push for forest-road rule
      The Denver Post, Published by Bruce Finley, February 21st

    Colorado officials are making an intense final push to establish their own rule for managing the last roadless national forests in the state. It would allow some roads for industrial development - including the expansion of coal mining and ski resorts - and for removal of beetle-killed trees near communities. Conservationists say this is intolerable kowtowing to special interests. According to a Federal Register notice, the Obama administration will decide next month between the state rule and a legally buttressed national rule. The state rule would restrict road-building and tree-cutting on about 4.2 million acres. The national rule bans roads on 4.4 million acres of the 14.5 million acres of national forest in Colorado. To read more of this article link to: http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_20007375

  5. Judge rejects Forest Service trails plan in Idaho
      The Summit County Citizens Voice, Published by Bob Berwyn, February 23rd

    The U.S. Forest Service must go back to the drawing board for a travel plan in Idaho's Sawtooth National Forest after a U.S. District Court judge ruled that the agency violated federal environmental laws when it designated 1,196-miles of roads and trails on the Minidoka Ranger District for motorized use. The 44-page ruling by District Court Judge Edward J. Lodge declares that the Forest Service failed to take the required hard look at the site-specific environmental impacts of 94-miles of user created, non-system routes that the Forest Service designated for motorized recreation use. To read more of this article link to: http://summitcountyvoice.com/2012/02/23/judge-rejects-forest-service-trails-plan-in-idaho/

  6. Conservation groups challenge USFS logging plan that could take down old-growth trees on Arizona's Kaibab Plateau
      The Summit County Citizens Voice, Published by Bob Berwyn, February 24th

    For all the talk of restoration and ecoystem protection, the U.S. Forest Service sometimes still seems intent on logging old-growth timber. Sparking the latest showdown, the agency in January approved a 25,000-acre timber sale in the Kaibab National Forest, near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Conservation groups challenging the project say it could harm rare, threatened species like northern goshawks. A source population of goshawks lives on the Kaibab Plateau. According to a Forest Service report, goshawks are "vulnerable to extirpation or extinction in Arizona." The Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club have appealed the timber sale for the third time in a decade. The Forest Service has tried five different variations of the timber sale. Two were blocked by appeals and litigation, while the Forest Service withdrew the other two previous proposals.To read more of this article link to:
    http://summitcountyvoice.com/2012/02/24/conservation-groups-challenge-usfs-logging-plan-that-could-take-down-old-growth-trees-on-arizonas-kaibab-plateau/

Last Week in Congress

  1. February 9th - Rep. Mark Amodei [R-NV2] introduced H.R.3996: "To direct the Secretary of the Interior to convey to the Nevada System of Higher Education Federal land located in Clark and Nye Counties, Nevada, and for other purposes." To read more about these hearings link to: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h112-3996

Wildfire Update

  1. There were no relevant wildfire updates last week.

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