Idaho forests: Labrador identifies real problems, but seeks a blunt solution

Here's a preview of our Sunday editorial.

Rep. Raul Labrador is absolutely right about the plight of our nation’s forests, and the plight of rural communities in Western timber country.

A sustainable, well-managed timber harvest will reduce the risk of forest fire — and provide sustainable revenue for rural schools and local governments.

Labrador’s priorities are sound. His prescription — a divisive piece of legislation — is flawed.

Labrador’s Self-Sufficient Communities Lands Act would allow states to run pilot management plans on some U.S. Forest Service parcels. He knows his bill will go nowhere in a divided Congress. Its prospects hinge on Labrador’s fellow Republicans building on their control of the House by capturing the Senate and the White House.

And that speaks volumes about Labrador’s approach. When other Idaho Republicans have embraced collaboration — as current Sen. and former Gov. Jim Risch did on roadless lands policy, as Sen. Mike Crapo did on the Owyhees wilderness bill, as Rep. Mike Simpson is seeking to do with a Boulder-White Clouds wilderness bill — Labrador eschews it.

Labrador’s bill is as popular with Idaho county officials as it is unpopular with environmentalists. Can that be any surprise?

• County officials proposed this legislative concept, hoping the state pilot programs will generate much-needed revenue for local services.

Counties have a valid concern. When receipts from timber sales went into freefall, the budgetary axe fell in timber-rich communities with a scant property tax base. Since 2000, Congress has provided funding to replace timber receipts, but this has become a hand-to-mouth proposition. A far-reaching budget compromise included a one-year extension worth $27.4 million to Idaho counties; Labrador voted no.

We agree that these communities need new, sustainable revenue. Given the sense of urgency, they also need a bill that has a better chance of becoming law, not one tailored to score political points.

• Environmentalists are made the scapegoat.

Consider this quote, from a one-page fact sheet on the bill. “Over the last several decades, radical environmental groups have hindered the ability to develop timber from our public lands. Counties that were once dependent upon timber receipts to fund schools, roads and daily operations were left desolate and broke.”

And consider the language in Labrador’s bill, which leaves management of pilot projects to a local board of trustees. The only groups guaranteed a seat are local governments, the timber industry, grazing interests and recreational users. Collaboration is inherently inclusive; this bill is inherently exclusionary.

Good public policy hinges on balance. The same applies to good public lands management. When a public lands bill is written to favor some interests over others, the result cannot be good for the resource.

U.S. Forest Service chief Tom Tidwell recognizes the problems facing rural counties, but his concern with Labrador’s bill is persuasive. As he told the Statesman editorial board recently, he is uneasy about gearing lands management toward a single purpose such as logging — departing from the multiple-use approach that has been a Forest Service cornerstone since 1905.

In a separate editorial board meeting, Labrador said he understands Tidwell’s concerns, but Labrador believes states would uphold multiple-use principles. We’d hope so, but when only select interests have a say in management decisions, that doesn’t bode well.

Forest health and funding for rural communities are important issues, deserving a more delicate, collaborative bill.

"Environmentalists are made

"Environmentalists are made the scapegoat."

Hahahaha..... riiiiight! These dunderheads have created the no confidence displayed by anyone with an ounce of brains with all their RADICAL claims they have made over the years that anyone with a single floating brain cell in the brain pan would know is really stupid. Made the scapegoatsya say? Ah, yea sure, whatever.

Hahahaha riiight!

Apparently the saying better to look stupid than to open your mouth and prove it so, works well with you. The ONLY reason there are ANY forests left in our area is because of the environmentalists. Otherwise the logging industry would have put roads ANYWHERE and EVERYWHERE they wanted to. The erosion caused by these roads would have led to massive watershed problems for everything from climate change to water for the farmers each year. If they hadn't been FORCED to replant the areas there'd be wide areas of nothing but clearcut and again that nasty little erosion thing plays in. But you probably think that erosion is a myth like global warming. But there I go again. Expecting an Idaho Redneck to THINK instead of following in goose step with the party line.

Fact is,

the trees that need to be removed for management purposes cost more to remove than they are worth. Logging for forest management is a scam to continue poor forestry practices.

Sustainability

Our forests need to be managed in a sustainable way, just like any good farm. That means no clear cutting and it also means selective cutting to reduce fire risk. It is also possible that many areas will no longer be able to sustain the number of existing trees due to changes in annual snowpack and rainfall. Maintainance of sustainable forests can only happen by relying on solid scientific evidence as to what the best practices should be. Forest maintenance should not be decided by political pressure from the right or the left. I would like to see a bill in Congress that advances that agenda with bipartisan support.

Fact Is,

That it's time to log our forests. The environmentalist policies of the past forty years has failed. Bring back logging jobs, income to communities and stop the expense in lost lives and public funds fighting fires year after year. Take a drive up SH55 between Banks and Smiths Ferry, then tell me about damage to a forest.

Get your facts straight...

The environmental policies of the last 40 years have reversed many of the worst crises, such as cleaning up rivers and lakes, and preserving our nation’s wilderness so future generations can enjoy them. As for economics of logging, you will find that those communities with the best access to old growth forests are also the best locations for pulling money in from tourism and recreational users.