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IN THE NEWS
Walden wants more fire contractors and timber harvesting
Wildfire Today reported that Greg Walden, the congressional representative from Oregon’s second district, sent a letter to the Regional Forester for the USFS’ northwest region and the BLM State Director for Oregon encouraging the use of private contractors for suppression of wildfires. He also came out in favor of increased grazing and timber harvesting on federal lands. Here is an excerpt from his letter:
With the current national focus regarding the federal budget deficit, there is an important need to reduce federal spending, and private wildland firefighting businesses are providing important best-value resources for wildfire suppression activities. As I understand, private businesses are able to engage in suppression activities at a lower percentage of the cost as compared to other government resources when the total cost of those government resources are taken into account. In addition, private businesses have increased their coverage areas, cut response times, and arrive as self-contained emergency responders. As we work to be as efficient as possible with taxpayer dollars, I hope that you are taking greater advantage of these private businesses’ services both for initial and extended attack operations.
Rough & Ready Mill Closing Its Doors
The closure of the Rough & Ready mill in Cave Junction, Ore., is the end of an era. The 90-year-old sawmill is the last mill operating in southwest Josephine County.
“For 23 years now, we’ve been pleading with members of Congress and the federal agencies to do something about these log supplies,” said Jennifer Phillippi, the family-owned mill’s CEO and co-owner.
“We were prepared to stick it out, but in the last few weeks it became clear to us that, at least in the near term, nothing is going to happen.”
USFS Wants Refund
Congress is up in arms at the USFS, which has demanded the return of $17.9 million in federal subsidies. “It’s all come down to a bureaucratic squabble over whether the money is subject to so-called sequestration because of the year it was paid (2013) as the Obama administration contends, or exempt from the cuts because of the year it was generated (2012) as the states insist,” reported The Intelligencer.
“The frustration level is off the charts on this,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., whose timber-rich state is the top recipient of the Forest Service payments and stands to lose nearly $3.6 million.
Drones Fighting Fires?
Could unmanned planes (drones) be used to fight Northwest forest fires in the future? Lakeland University’s Professor Dr. Abdelhamid Tayabi received a $225,000 grant to find ways to fly drones into dangerous situations.
Currently drones require human supervision, but Tayebi and his students are working to program drones so they can fly unsupervised.
“We have the technology, we have the drones, we know how to program them, so we need probably some time to test some of those things,” he said.
Montana Mill Reopens
After a four-year shutdown, Plum Creek Timber’s mill in Evergreen, Mont., reopened in March. It employs 30 (half what it employed prior) but no one is complaining.
The mill opening is directly related to the housing market, as it makes studs used for framing. Government data shows that logging employment rose 3.5 percent last year, the first increase in 12 years, according to government data.
USFS Adds Bigger and Faster Planes
The USFS has been gearing up for the 2013 fire season. It has added to its fleet “seven planes that fly faster and will drop a bigger payload of fire retardant than in the past.”
The contracts for the planes totaled $158 million and included several models of aircraft, including a converted DC10 that’s bigger than anything the USFS has used on a regular basis.
This is a welcome addition as the U.S. Forest Service’s eight large tankers are showing their age — most are Korean War-era submarine chasers.
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