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National Forest Counties & Schools Coalition News Bulletin


Posted Date: 
July 2, 2012
Contact: 
Bob Douglas, Executive Director, National Forest Counties & Schools Coalition

One Year Extension of SRSCA Included in Transportation Bill Passed by Congress on June 29th.

June 29th, a one year extension of the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Act was included in the Transportation Bill passed by both branches of Congress.  Press releases and comments from both the House and the Senate indicated that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner were personally involved in the final stages of negotiating an agreement among conferees.  The bill now moves to the President for signature hopefully next week.  The bill includes $346 Million for a one year extension of SRSCA Titles I,II, and III.  This is 95% of the 2011 funding level. 

Our thanks to Senators Barbara Boxer and Max Baucus for their leadership and commitment to ensuring that this extension of SRSCA was retained in the Transportation Bill.  Needless to say, we also greatly appreciate the work of PFRA Campaign Manager Marc Kelley and his exceptional team of professional advocates, as well as the consistent and dedicated work of the NFCSC Officers and Board Members, and the many NFCSC Members for their grassroots involvement over the last year.  Finally we want to thank the Members of Congress and their staff members who listened to and heard our pleas for assistance and ensured that SRSCA was included in the Transportation Bill.

HR 4019 to Move to Floor Vote Prior To August Recess

HR 4019 (Federal Forests County Revenue, Schools and Jobs Act of 2012) has been on hold due to an incredible score by CBO (Congressional Budget Office) who scored the bill as adding 2.5 billion in spending over the next 10 years. The chairman is working with CBO to clarify this obvious mistake and the bill will move before the August recess. We will be calling on all resources when the bill does move. This is a first step in finally having a real conversation about our Rural Counties and Schools long term health through Forest Management.  But as noted in the USFW NSO Habitat story below there will be no available forest for management of any kind if the new habitat is implemented.

Forest Counties Challenge U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services – Expansion of Northern Spotted Owl Critical Habitat

In March 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) released its draft of a significantly expanded Critical Habitat (CH) area for the Northern Spotted Owl from 5.34 million acres to 13.96 million acres, an area 2.61 times the size of the previous 2008 CH designation.  The proposed area is comprised of 68% USFS land, 11% BLM land, 7% National Parks, 5% state lands, and 9% private lands.  To prepare for the onslaught of protests coming from affected forest counties, the USFWS commissioned an economic impact study by Industrial Economics, Inc. from Baltimore, Maryland.  This study was slated for completion by March 2012.  The study was released at the end of May 2012, just 30 days before the close of the public comment period on the proposal.  When the study and the CH proposals were reviewed by the NFCSC Officers (Executive Committee) several concerns were apparent.

a)    The baseline for the study was the current year.  The economic impacts of the Northern Spotted Owl Designations from 1992 to the present were eliminated from the analysis, which precludes any serious consideration of cumulative impacts of the CH designations.
b)    No forest county leaders were involved in providing economic impact data to the study team.
c)    False claims regarding forest county leader input were being made by USFWS.
d)    An Environmental Assessment (EA) and not an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) was being conducted which is in our view a violation of NEPA.
e)    The release of both the CH Designation Draft and the Economic Impact Studies were late, but the deadlines for public comment and study were not extended by a comparable time.  The USFWS seems very committed to finalizing the rule by November 15th irrespective of the need for adequate time for public input, study, and final drafting.

The NFCSC Executive Committee approved three actions.

a)    Request a 90-day extension of the public comment period.
b)    Have one forest county in each of the affected states (CA, OR, and WA) to petition the USFWS for Cooperating Agency Status on this proposal.
c)    Commission a PHD Forest Economist/Sociologist to conduct an economic impact study of the cumulative effects of the Northern Spotted Owl Critical Habitat

Designations from 1992 to the present.

Three forest counties (Siskiyou County-CA, Douglas County-OR, and Skamania County-WA), in cooperation with NFCSC requested the 90-day extension of the public comment period.  The USFWS responded by stating that they previously had extended the public comment period by 30 days, and that the Federal Judge has stated that no move extensions will be considered.  In addition, the entire House and Senate delegation from Oregon made a similar request and were also denied.  Senator Feinstein (CA-D) made a similar request, but has not yet been denied.   There seems to be a laser-like focus on completing this process by November 15th, perhaps before the term of the current Secretary of the Interior expires.

All three counties also applied to the USFWS for Cooperating Agency Status (CAS).  All three counties were denied CAS, with the USFWS stating that  CAS is not required when an Environmental Assessment (EA) is conducted.  It appears that they are committed to minimizing consultation with affected county governments so as to expedite the process.

Finally, the Sierra Institute for Community and Environment has been contracted by NFCSC to conduct an independent analysis of the socioeconomic conditions of the 61 counties and their communities associated with the Critical Habitat Designation of the Northern Spotted Owl by the Department of the Interior.  This study is scheduled for completion by August 1, 2012.  This study will serve as an essential counterpoint to the study commissioned by USFWS that is seriously flawed.  Counties and schools in California, Oregon, and Washington are underwriting the cost for this study.

As with previous Northern Spotted Owl Critical Habitat Designations, This one seems destined for significant analysis and final settlement in the U.S. District Courts.  Hopefully, this work by Douglas, Skamania, and Siskiyou Counties will provide a solid foundation for any necessary legal challenges.

Long Time NFCSC Leader Retires

Jim French, current President, and one of the founding members of the National Forest Counties and Schools Coalition retired as the Trinity County Superintendent of Schools in California on June 30, 2012.  He will also step down as NFCSC President on that date and be succeeded by NFCSC Vice-President Paul Pearce, County Commissioner from Skamania County, Washington.

Jim French is concluding a 36 year career in public education, all of which was served in Trinity County, California – one of the largest historic timber producing counties in America.  Jim served as a classroom teacher, principal, county director of special education, assistant county superintendent and served 20 years as the elected county superintendent of schools.  He began walking the halls of Congress representing rural schools in 1995 following enactment of the Northwest Forest Plan.  Quick to recognize the national inequities in the Clinton Administration plan for America’s forests, Jim joined with other school, county, and industry leaders to form the NFCSC in 1998.  He spent over 200 days in Washington over the last 17 years advocating for sustainable forest management and economic sustainability for rural counties and schools.  Jim French has served as the chairperson of the Trinity County Resource Advisory Committee (RAC) since its inception.  This RAC has perhaps been the most successful group in the country with respect to aggressive fuels management and thinning on public lands.  They have literally invested millions of dollars on such projects under Jim French’s pro-active leadership.  Jim led the NFCSC with dignity and professionalism these last four years, some of the most challenging ever faced by the Coalition.  We wish him well in his well-earned retirement.

NFCSC Vice-President – Tim Creal Retires

Dr. Tim Creal, South Dakota School Superintendent has retired from his role as a public school superintendent and will be stepping down from his post as NFCSC Vice-President for Education on June 30, 2012.  A long-time South Dakota Public School Superintendent, Dr. Creal came to the forest counties and schools movement when he was appointed as an education representative to the U.S. Congress’ Forest County Payments Committee.  He admirably served in that capacity from 2000-2007.  Following this service, he succeeded Don Emch as a member of the NFCSC Board of Directors representing South Dakota.  He was appointed to serve as a Vice-President of the NFCSC in 2008.  In addition to his service on the NFCSC Board he simultaneously served as a member of the Board of Directors of the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) for four years.  The Coalition extends their heart-felt gratitude to Dr. Tim Creal for his years of exemplary service and we wish him well in his well-deserved retirement.

Paul Pearce – New NFCSC President

There is a new sheriff in town, and he really used to be one!  Skamania County, Washington Commissioner Paul Pearce on July 1, 2012 assumes office as the President of the National Forest Counties and Schools Coalition.  A member of the NFCSC Board since 2006 representing Washington, Paul is no stranger to the inter-workings of the NFCSC and Congress.  He was actively involved in the 2007 extension of SRSCA and the 2008 reauthorization of SRSCA.  He is an articulate and passionate advocate for rural counties and school issues.  He currently serves as chairman of the NACo Public Lands Committee and as President of the Washington Association of Counties.  Outgoing President Jim French stated, “That the NFCSC is in good hands with Paul Pearce at the helm.  He will be an eloquent spokesman for this Coalition and a force to be reckoned with in the halls of Congress!”

NFCSC National Meeting Planned for December 2012

The NFCSC Executive Committee has directed staff to begin the planning process for a gathering of Forest County leaders from education, local government, labor, business, and industry in early December 2012 in Reno, Nevada.  The process envisioned is similar to the one we used to build the consensus of ideas that led to the development of the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Act in 1998 and 1999.  The focus will be on the reconstruction of healthy forests, jobs, and sustainability in the Forest Counties of America.    Keep your eyes peeled for a pre-meeting save-the-date flyer by August.

NFCSC Staff
(Part-time Office Hours)

NFCSC Officers

Bob Douglas, Executive Director
530-527-0666 office
530-529-2356 home office
bdjd@dishmail.net

Jackie Douglas, Administrative Assistant
530-200-1804 – cell
forestco@forestco.net

Marvin Locke, Chief Financial Officer
530-527-0666 – office
530-527-5290 – home office
mlocke@tehamaschools.org

Marc Kelley, Campaign Manager
Partnership For Rural America
707-331-0300 – cell
707-843-4750 - office
policy@marckelley.com

Paul Pearce, President
509-427-3700, office
360-607-7388, cell
pearce@co.skamania.wa.us

Doug Robertson, Senior Vice-President
541-440-4201, office
deb@co.douglas.or.us

Joe Silva, Vice-President
209-536-2065, office
209-743-0478, cell
jsilva@toulcoe.k12.ca.us

Kermith Walters, Vice-President
530-842-8403, office
530-598-1530, cell
kwalters@siskiyoucoe.net

Jeff Sikes, Vice-President
501-372-7550
jsikes@arcounties.org

Marianne Roose, Secretary
406-297-3139, office
406-293-1775, cell
mroose@libby.org

Marvin Locke, Treasurer
(see staff notes)

 

Bob Douglas | 530-527-0666 | bdjd@dishmail.net