Click here to download a pdf of this article

In The News

Change in Rail Line
Siskiyou Shippers Coalition filed a petition to allow another railroad to move freight from Oregon to Northern California. The petition came after Central Oregon and Pacific Railroad raised their rates, which the coalition says are unaffordable.
 The shippers want the West Texas & Lubbock Railway to move their product on existing track, between Weed and Roseburg. If the coalition wins, it could set a precedent for other rail operations in the U.S.

Bi-National Effort to Establish Accredited Standards for Forest Carbon Accounting Forestry stakeholders — from industry to environmental groups, in both the U.S. and Canada — have come together to help address climate change. The Forest Carbon Standards Committee is composed of approximately 40 individuals representing a broad range of forest landowners, environmental organizations, forest products industry, federal, state, and provincial government agencies, universities, carbon traders, and others. The committee is developing bi-national consensus standards to determine how carbon absorbed in North American forests will be measured and counted.

Being developed under procedures accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the forest carbon measurement and accounting standards will incorporate technical knowledge of the forestry, carbon trading, and environmental communities into approaches that are scientifically sound, economically feasible, and environmentally positive.

“Forestry across North America is a very important component of both Canadian and U.S. economies, and provides an important solution in helping to address climate change,” said Michael Goergen, executive vice-president and CEO of the Society of American Foresters (SAF), and Chair of the Forest Carbon Standards Committee that will develop the standards. “Organizations in both countries have similar goals for reducing greenhouse gases and this bi-national effort recognizes the contributions of forests in helping combat global warming.” For more information, visit www.forestcarbonstandards.org.

Fewer Acres Destroyed by Fires The number of acres destroyed by wildfires is down this year, says the National Interagency Fire Center, out of Boise, Idaho. In 2008, there were 64,616 fires, destroying approximately 4.6 million acres, down from over 7 million acres burned every year since 2004. The damaged acres may be fewer, but the loss of life was substantial (see www.usfa.dhs.gov/fireservice/fatalities).

Fighting the fires has been costly as well. Congress budgeted $1.2 billion for the Forest Service to combat fires in 2008. A recent estimate calculated the actual cost as high as $1.6 billion. The agency as a whole will have to cut costs to make up the difference.  

Plum Creek Sells Montana Land Plum Creek Timber Co. agreed to sell 320,000 acres in western Montana to the Nature Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land for $510 million.

The parcels, adjacent to national forests and other public lands in the Blackfoot River and Swan valleys, will be acquired in three phases through 2010. The land will be controlled by state and federal agencies, some of which will be managed for timber harvests.

“This project is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to protect these lands for our families and future generations,” Baucus said in a statement. “It will keep jobs in Montana, help maintain our communities and our working forests, and preserve public access for hunting and fishing.”

Plum Creek spokeswoman, Kathy Budinick, said part of the agreement requires that some of the lands continue supplying Plum Creek mills with wood fiber for up to 15 years — although a specific amount was not specified.

Union Pacific to Pay $102 Million It’s the largest settlement ever in a forest fire case. Union Pacific Railroad Co. will pay the U.S. $102 million to settle a civil lawsuit brought by the government to recover damages connected with the 2000 Storrie forest fire in the Plumas and Lassen national forests in Northern California.

The United States’ complaint alleged that the fire started as a result of a midday railroad track repair operation by UP employees who failed to take the necessary precautions to prevent the fire. The government contended that UP track maintenance workers failed to clear the area of flammable material, and they failed to use appropriate spark shields in connection with high-speed rail saws and grinders, allowing the escape of small, hot pieces of metal that ultimately started the fire.

The fire burned more than 52,000 acres. Fire crews successfully suppressed the fire, but at a cost of approximately $22 million.

The settlement is being paid in three installments — $35 million on July 2, 2008; $35 million on Aug. 15, 2008; and $32 million on Oct. 15, 2008.

“We are pleased with this settlement,” said Under Secretary Mark Rey. “The money will be quickly applied toward restoring the landscape and the ecological balance on National Forest lands damaged in the fire so that the public can once again enjoy these pristine forest regions.”

Truce Reached Over Idaho Forest Land The New York Times reported that legal and political battles over acres covered under the “roadless rule” are over. On August 30, Idaho announced a truce.

All parties, including hunters, fishers, environmentalists, the Bush Administration, and the state, agreed on regulatory safeguards for 9.3 million acres under the roadless designation. In short, approximately 3.3 million acres will remain roadless. About 5.6 million acres will have similar protections, though exceptions can be made for logging in areas where fires put communities at risk. The remaining 400,000 acres will be open to development.