IN The News

Idaho Plans 2 Large Timber Salvage Sales Due to Moth-Killed Trees

The Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) has planned two large timber salvage sales in the Smiths Ferry-Banks-Crouch area, covering nearly 2,000 acres. The salvage sales are due to Douglas fir-tussock moth infestation that killed most of the trees in the area. Tussock moth outbreaks occur about every ten years, and typically the trees are able to recover. In this case, with the drought conditions in 2018, and several years of damage from western spruce budworm, the trees did not come back.

“The dead and dying trees pose a fire hazard, and the falling trees also pose a risk to the recreating public. The trees need to be harvested as soon as possible while they still have economic value.

Once the infected trees are removed, the IDL intends to replant Ponderosa Pine, lodgepole pine, Engelman spruce, and western larch.

California Utilities Support Senators Ask Perdue to Use New Authorities to Reduce Fires

U.S. Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) have called on Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to explain how the USFS is using new statutory authorities provided by Congress to reduce wildfire risk and to expedite wildfire prevention.

In 2018, Congress provided the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management with substantial new statutory authorities to reduce wildfire risk and expedite wildfire prevention actions. Both the Fiscal Year 2018 Omnibus spending bill (Public Law 115-141) and the 2018 Farm Bill (Public Law 115-334) included provisions that give federal land managers new tools to address forest management challenges.

“Given the threat facing California of yet another catastrophic wildfire season, we write to ask how the Forest Service is making use of new forest management authorities provided by Congress to reduce the risk of wildfires and protect our communities,” the senators wrote. “We also ask that you provide details regarding hazardous fuels projects that have already cleared all environmental reviews but still lack funding.”

State’s Wildfire Insurance Fund

The Daily Energy Insider reported that California’s investor-owned utilities (IOUs) are working through issues on their financial journey through the current wildfire crisis, say executives, whose companies agreed to contribute to the state’s new wildfire insurance fund.

The major credit ratings agencies have yet to pass any formal judgment, but the state’s three IOUs are banking on newly enacted legislation to preserve their bonds that will help them pay the pricey tab for upgrading their fire-safety programs and pay for damages caused by previous devastating, and sometimes deadly, wildfires.

While no new ratings have been issued since the passage of California Assembly Bill (AB) 1054 earlier this month, the idea that the IOUs have averted downgrades seems to be holding up. AB 1054 strengthens the IOUs obligations to prevent wildfires while at the same time stabilizing the liability landscape with a $21 billion wildfire insurance fund to be funded by both the utilities and ratepayers.

U.S. Forest Service Announces Massive RFP to Clear out Arizona Forests

Chamber Business News reported that the United States Forest Service has taken the first step to issue one of the largest request for proposals (RFP) in the history of the agency to attract industry to Arizona. Arizona forests require clearing out to reduce damage when wildfires erupt.

“In the contract is a call for much-needed biomass industries to remove and burn the massive amount of debris here,” said Jeremy Kruger, chief executive of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI) for the Forest Service.

“We have a biomass bottleneck,” Kruger said. “Viable biomass utilization is currently the  biggest obstacle to accelerating the pace of mechanical forest restoration treatments.”

The Forest Service plans to spend $550 million over the next 20 years on reforestation. Business and industry will play a key role in this effort by harvesting, processing, and selling wood products.

The RFP calls for awarding contracts to companies to mechanically thin 605,000 to 818,000 acres of forests in Northern Arizona. The RFP will be available to both small and large businesses and seeks proposals that are “sustainable, innovative, feasible, and cost-effective to increase the pace of the scale of forest restoration.”

Currently, there is only one biomass facility in the state, NovoBio in Snowflake, and attracting industry has been the biggest challenge

TimberWest November/December 2013
July/August 2019

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