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Forestry Allies Await Supreme Court Ruling
By Candace Schnoor, Director,
Professional loggers have encountered plenty of struggles in the U.S., ranging from public criticism, to rising fuel costs and labor shortages. With nationwide regulations not far behind, industry leaders should do their part to educate others and support the trade that harvests to provide for a growing world.
John Deere is dedicated to developing advanced equipment that helps loggers thrive, while logging efficiently and responsibly. U.S. loggers provide benefits and modern conveniences to society that we often take for granted. In addition to creating jobs and economic wealth, loggers supply the public with timber used in countless household and business goods every day. Healthy forests are a logger’s livelihood, so it is in their best interest--and our nation’s--for loggers to properly manage these vital natural resources.
The United States is the world’s fourth-most forested country, with over 304 million hectares of forestland to manage, employing more than one million people and adding over $108 Billion a year to the nation’s economy, according to a 2011 United Nations report. Logging has evolved over time, with new technologies and practices being adopted that have helped loggers sustainably harvest timber. As a result of successful forest management and environmental practices, the industry has added 383,000 hectares of forests in the U.S. since 2000. Even with these successes, the professional logging workforce has declined by 40 percent since 2000. Many factors have made logging a challenging industry to be in, and a recent court decision threatens to further strain this important sector of our economy.
In August 2010, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned 35 years of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules governing storm water runoff from logging roads. The Court chose to redefine logging as an industrial activity, subject to Clean Water Act (CWA) regulations requiring landowners to obtain National Pollution Discharge Elimination (NPDES) permits for some or all of the forest roads on their land. These permits have historically been reserved for confined industrial facilities like a factory or an industrial parking lot. For decades, logging roads have been considered “nonpoint sources” of pollution under the CWA, and their development has been thoroughly and efficiently managed by state-adopted Best Management Practices. New requirements under an NPDES permitting regime would include additional monitoring and surveillance, planning, recordkeeping, reporting, and other tasks that will be costly and time-consuming.
Thanks to support from organizations like the National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAFO), American Loggers Council (ALC), and Forest Resources Association (FRA), Congress delayed the Ninth Circuit Court ruling in December 2011, and in June 2012, the Supreme Court announced it would review the decision. In the meantime, a broad coalition is working with members of Congress to extend or make permanent legislation that will preserve the existing EPA regulations and provide long-term legal certainty to federal, state, tribal, and private forest owners. The Silviculture Regulatory Consistency Act, which the U.S. House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee voted unanimously to pass in August, is intended to preserve the EPA’s longstanding treatment of forest roads as nonpoint sources under the Clean Water Act. John Deere, along with ALC, NAFO, and FRA, has fully supported the Act since its introduction in 2011.
The additional requirements handed down by the Ninth Circuit Court would leave an already struggling industry with the burden of spending limited time, money, and manpower to comply with new rules and regulations. This does not include the resources that will be necessary to defend against lawsuits from groups opposed to timber harvesting, which could use a new permitting process to disrupt or halt individual timber harvests.
As a global leader in timber harvesting equipment, John Deere wants to help spread the word that changing the way the EPA has regulated forestry operations for over 30 years is unwarranted. There are a number of water protection policies already in place and supported by the EPA. Best Management Practices are instilled in loggers around the country and have significantly limited the impact of logging operations on waterways.
Those who support professional loggers and what they provide to us must come together to help protect their way of life. Loggers, advocates, and influencers need to spread the word about the harmful effects this ruling could have on the industry itself, as well as anyone who uses wood or paper products. As the U.S. works to rebound from the Great Recession, let’s make sure U.S. loggers can compete on a global scale and harvest the resources to aid in an economic recovery.
John Deere encourages you to stay involved in this issue. Go to JohnDeere.com/Silviculture to learn more.
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