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 http://users.sisqtel.net/armstrng/opinion051206.htm
Supervisor's Forest Workshop
by Marcia Armstrong, Siskiyou County District 5,  5/12/06

On April 25, the Board of Supervisors hosted its first all-day workshop on the National Forest and Local Economies. This was a day set aside to take stock of where we were, where we need to be and some possibilities about how to get there.

If not reauthorized by Congress, PL 106-393  - The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act is scheduled to sunset this year. The workshop opened with presentations on the impact that that this will have on local schools and our County Road Department. Representatives from local schools detailed the $4 million in revenue that will be lost to local schools. Larry Alexander, Chairman of the Siskiyou County Resource Advisory Committee (RAC) spoke about all the projects that had been funded in local Forests and surrounding communities with PL 106-393 monies. Loss of this funding source will impact local Fires Safe Councils and other organizations.

County Public Works Director Brian McDermott talked about the impact that loss of the funds would have on our County roads. There are 1,364 miles of roadways and 175 bridges in the County Road System. Of these, 556 miles of roads are unpaved. Currently, 65% of the Road Department budget goes to salaries (82 employees,) 25% to overhead and/or fixed operational costs, and 10% to materials - asphalt, oil, gravel, etc. for maintenance of roads. (Materials expenditures are currently less than $1 million per annum or $750 a mile.) The cost of materials continues to escalate. 

Sources for the $8,885,000 in annual revenue currently received by the County for roads are: $4 million from the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Self Determination Act; $735,000 from TEA 21 Federal and State funds; $750,000 from Proposition 42; and $3.4 million from gas taxes.
 
If the Act is not reauthorized, revenues would revert to the 25% timber receipt formula established for federal lands. This formula was established early in the last century. Because Forest communities are restricted in the growth necessary to provide sufficient tax revenue, a portion of net revenue from forest use and harvest is allocated to affected county roads and schools. Restrictions on harvest from the Northwest Forest Plan for spotted owls and other species has dropped timber receipts from several millions of dollars to a current level of about $250,000 per year.

With a default to timber receipts, future total annual revenues would be $6,250,000. This would come from: the $250,000 timber receipts; an increase in TEA 21 funds to $1,100,000; a possible increase of Prop. 42 funds to $1,500,000; and gas taxes, staying at the same level of $3.4 million. This means an annual revenue deficit of $2,635,000 from current levels. It is obvious that this will severely impact our ability to maintain roads.

The workshop also examined the close relationship that local communities have to use of the National Forest. A study was done in 2004 to look at the social and economic  impacts on the communities of Butte Valley, Scott Valley and the mid-Klamath River corridor in the decade following the Northwest Forest Plan. The study looked at changes is population numbers, age groups, median household income, unemployment and other factors. Each community had a different response, but indications were that they were all impacted in some way. It is no surprise that the mid-Klamath was severely impacted.

Forester Steve Hensen from Roseburg Forest Products indicated that today Trinity County has one sawmill, Lassen and Modoc Counties have none. There are 70-90 million acres of forest that are in Class 3 condition at high risk form wildland fire.

The Klamath National Forest (KNF) grows 654 million board feet (mbf) of timber in a year. We are currently harvesting only 15 mbf of saw logs a year. That means that we are harvesting only 3% of the growth and leaving 97% to accumulate each year. The KNF hopes to increase harvest to 44 mbf per year  by 2007. At the cost of preparing a sale, they would need 120 mbf harvested each year to get $2-4 million in timber receipts.

Forester Bill Turner from Timber Products presented a graph showing KNF harvest levels over the years. Many times the graph dropped due to lawsuits by environmentalists. Turner said that it is becoming increasingly more difficult to find timber to supply the mills. In the region stretching from Corning, CA to Roseburg, OR, it is anticipated that we will lose another mill in the near future.

Last year, Timber Products got only 12% of its logs from the National Forest. In the four years prior to that they got 80% of their logs from the National Forest. Currently, more timber logs are imported from British Columbia than are produced in the entire National Forest.

A future column will discuss some of the opportunities for participation in processes for managing federal lands and various strategies presented at the Forest workshop.

 

 

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