Weyerhauser – the nation’s largest timber company – has announced that it will convert itself into a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT). The company’s stock rose about 7% when the conversion was announced in December.
The Weyerhauser announcement came as no surprise to those familiar with western forest management; it has been under discussion for several years. Many forest products companies with large forest holdings have already converted to REITs or created REITs to complement other operations.
Large corporate owners control a good amount of the West’s prime development property. Once remote, these holdings are now on the fringes of cities like Seattle and Portland. Where I live along the Redwood Coast, timber giant Green Diamond Resources (formerly Simpson) owns forest lands – now mostly clearcuts and tree plantations - on hills and ridges surrounding the Humboldt Bay Metropolitan Area (where the cities of Eureka and Arcata are located).Read More ...
Ray Ring’s response to Andy Stahl’s letter (12-21 & 1-4 edition) taking exception to a point in Ray’s article on the Clinton Administration’s roadless area rulemaking ( 11-9 edition) was not adequate. While there are partisans within the Forest Service on each “side” of the roadless debate, anyone who works closely with the agency knows that its management levels overwhelmingly retain and support the Forest Service’s long-standing bias against any action which closes land to commercial exploitation - including the Clinton Roadless Rule. Therefore it is implausible to imply that pro-roadless protection and anti-roadless protection intimidation of underlings was equally practiced.
If you want to understand the Forest Service, follow the money. You will find that information on how budgets are developed is the most difficult information to extract from Forest Service managers. The anti-land protection bias within Forest Service organizational culture is tied to that budget process which continues to be dominated by the timber sale program. In order to build their organizations and retain staff positions, district rangers and forest supervisors must compete for funds with other management units; competition to get out the cut - and thereby to secure a larger budget - is the primary form this competition takes. Until these budget incentives change, anti-land protection bias will continue as a prime feature of Forest Service organizational culture.Read More ...
In 2007, the Oxford American Dictionary named "locavore" the word of the year. As most High Country News readers know, locavores are people who choose to consume food that is locally grown, harvested, or produced, usually within 100 miles of the purchase point. The locavore movement came into being after a small group of people realized that the food they ate wasn't just sustenance, but a political, social and ecological choice and statement. They realized that eating food grown and produced close to home builds local economies, fosters accountability from producers, reduces fossil fuel dependence and carbon output and usually results in healthier and more environmentally sound food. As with many good ideas, the idea of eating locally grew, slowly at first, and then rapidly, until just four years after the movement started, "locavore" received official imprimatur as part of the popular lexicon.
I think it's time to start a locavore movement for energy generation and distribution. Call it the "logen" (local + generation) or "lenergy" (local + energy) movement. Whatever you call it, it would follow the same principles of the locavore movement. People would use energy sources available to them locally. Local energy generation and distribution would result in cleaner, greener energy consumption. Since most places in the U.S. aren't located near fossil fuel or uranium deposits, the majority of energy sources would be renewable. Even if there are locally available fossil fuel or uranium sources, the capital costs of extracting, processing and generating electricity from these sources are usually prohibitive except for huge multinational corporations. As more communities generate and consume their own energy, less carbon will be emitted into the atmosphere and fewer communities will suffer the ecological destruction that is inherent in energy resource extraction.Read More ...
Recently, the U.S. Forest Service announced another attempt to revise its planning regulations.
While the agency takes aim at making its decision-making more
collaborative, at the same time it's running into conflict from other
planning processes at the state level.
Many readers are probably familiar with the Forest Service's saga of revision, as the agency has made several attempts to rework these regulations in the recent past. Somewhat predictably, the focus and approach of the various regulations has varied with the presidential administration in power at the time the rewrite was initiated. Readers interested in a short but eye-crossing synopsis of all that might read "Reinstating the 2000 Rule" on page 67059 of the December 18, 2009 Federal Register [PDF]. That summary offers a window into some of the difficulties facing the Forest Service.
This time around, the agency has said that it wants to focus on a number of principles that it hopes will guide the planning rule development process, including an emphasis on "restoration, conservation, and the improved resilience of ecosystems; watershed health; climate change response; species diversity and wildlife habitat; sustainable National Forest System lands; proactive collaboration; and working across landscapes." The agency has emphasized that this will be an "open, collaborative process."Read More ...
If you have yet to read Jonathan Thompson’s feature Wind Resistance in the December 09-January 10 edition you have a treat in store. By describing in vivid detail the politics surrounding wind power development in Wyoming, Jonathan elucidates what may be the largest cultural change which the West has experienced in this century so far – the mainstreaming of preservation.
As western urbanization, industrialization and flight to rural areas has accelerated, more and more westerners discover that they have become preservationist. No matter that your background is in one of the West’s traditional extractive industries; no matter that you are a Republican; no matter that you are a friend and colleague of Dick Chaney….you find yourself none-the-less highly motivated to protect western landscapes that you have come to love. If you go down this path you are likely to find yourself in coalition with local environmentalists whom you have attacked and disparaged for years.
Is this just standard NIMBY behavior or does it indicate a basic shift which will change western politics fundamentally? It is probably too early to tell. But the Wyoming wind story is not the only indication that change has occurred. Consider, for example, the following resolution passed recently by the National Grange and California State Grange:
By David Frey, NewWest.net guest blogger, 12-29-09
The last 10 years in the West was a wild roller coaster ride, a decade of explosions and implosions: nine years of mostly up, up, up and one year of solid down.
Here are five top trends that shaped the region in the first decade of a new millennium.
Real estate boom – and bust. At the dawn of the Ohs (or was it the Oh Nos?), real estate was already booming here, but it would soon go off the charts. Minus a post-9/11 sputter, real estate prices soared throughout much of the West as baby boomers and urban refugees sought their own little piece of big sky. The real estate bubble expanding across the country hit a funhouse mirror in the West – bigger, fatter and a little twisted.
Little towns like St. George, Utah saw growth go off the charts. Big cities like Phoenix and Las Vegas metastasized into megalopolises. Resort towns saw their prices hit insane levels ($135 million for Prince Bandar’s Aspen spread, anyone?), and worker bee hamlets followed suit.
Fast forward to 2008. The economy tanked. The real estate market collapsed. The construction industry vaporized. The only things going up were foreclosures and bankruptcies. The Yellowstone Club’s bankruptcy was one of the most vivid examples: a playground for the wealthy, now hard up for cash.
Energy boom – and bust. Booms and busts are par for the course when it comes to the energy industry in the West. The Ohs were no exception. A broad swath of the West, from New Mexico to Montana, saw a boom of oil and gas development, with rigs popping up in backyards where residents never dreamed of seeing them.
It wasn’t just oil and gas. Oil shale and uranium saw renewed interest. Coal was going gangbusters. Solar and wind were getting attention from more than just environmentalists.
The boom brought battles. Residents complained about impacts on their homes and ranches. Environmentalists fought over cherished landscapes. The Valle Vidal. The Roan Plateau. The Wyoming Range. Wells were planned in view of spots like Utah’s Arches National Park.
Part of the rush was pure economics. Soaring fuel prices made drilling in remote Western lands more economical than ever before. Part was pure politics. The Bush administration opened up public lands to drilling and stripped roadless protections that would have kept some lands drill-free.
States scrambled to catch up to the boom. The Obama administration was less industry-friendly. But what really did in the energy industry was falling prices. Rigs are lying down now, just waiting for the prices to rebound.
Purple tide. The West has long been Republican territory, but Democrats made enormous strides here in the Ohs. Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico all found themselves with Democratic governors. Democrats gained ground in Western congressional delegations and statehouses.
Compare that to 2000, when the West had no Democratic governors, three Democratic Senators, just a handful of Democratic congressmen and most state legislatures were in Republican hands.
The party took notice, and in 2008, it gave a nod to the power of the region by holding the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Obama and his supporters made campaign appearances in parts of the West long abandoned by Democrats. Obama carried Colorado, New Mexico, Montana and Nevada.
Time will tell how long the Democrats hold onto these victories, but it seems their win was more than just good luck or dissatisfaction with the GOP. The West’s politics are shifting. The Western Democratic politician doesn’t have to don a cowboy hat and boots to get elected anymore.
Dry spell. Much of the first decade of the century was marked by drought. If global warming projections are right, it looks like much of the rest of the century will be, too.
Devastating wildfires raged across the region. Part of that is thanks to a century of firefighting that left the forests filled with big, old trees ready to burn. Much of it, though, was thanks to year after year of drought. Summers didn’t bring rain. Winters didn’t bring much snow. The forests dried, and fire, a part of life in the West, raged into conflagrations.
What the fires left behind, the beetles took. A scourge of pine beetles raged across the West, leaving in their wake thousands of miles of dead timber from the Canadian border to Mexico.
It used to be environmentalists who threatened to drain Lake Powell in Utah. In the Ohs, Mother Nature did it herself, revealing canyons long hidden by the Glen Canyon Dam. Rivers shrank, often leaving fish to die in waters that were too warm for them.
Western communities worried about dwindling water supplies as reservoirs emptied and snowpacks thinned. Say goodbye to the glaciers of Glacier National Park. Even ski industry executives worried, and responded with a campaign to fight global warming. It wasn’t just a rallying cry of environmentalists, anymore.
Nuevo West. As the West boomed, immigrants came in search of jobs. When resort towns were booming and construction was thriving, there were plenty of jobs to go around. The ranks of construction workers and housekeepers filled with immigrant workers, just as the West’s agricultural industry had relied on them for years. Most were Mexicans, escaping a lack of jobs at home in search of work across the border. Others came from across Latin America and around the world and fueled the New West boom.
These immigrants changed the face of the West. Latino-owned restaurants and businesses thrived. Norteño music pounded from passing pickups and Spanish became a common sound on even small-town Western street corners. A Pew Hispanic Center study found illegal immigrants made up one in 10 workers in Arizona and Nevada, nearly one in 20 workers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah and over 3 percent of workers in Idaho.
When the economy tumbled, their fortunes did, too. Some headed home. Others held on, hoping, like all Westerners, that the next decade would bring better times.
Terri Hansen, a correspondent for Indian Country Today, attended the Copenhagen climate talks. She followed the story of how of indigenous rights, including those of American Indian tribes, were left out of the COP-15 talks, and filed this report for the HCN Grange blog.
Indigenous peoples face big climate problems but had little say at the Copenhagen climate talks, something that Patricia Cochran, chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council said, "epitomizes climate injustice."
Early on during the conference, Indigenous Peoples' Day on Dec. 12, organized by Tebtebba: Indigenous Peoples' International Centre for Policy Research and Education drew many wearing the colorful costumes of their homeland to the Denmark National Museum in downtown Copenhagen, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
The museum highlighted indigenous voices with short films from Life Mosaic Films, REDD: A New Animal in the Forest, and Conversations with the Earth that showed dramatic footage of disruptions to indigenous lands from climate change. The COP15 ‘Indigenous Voices on Climate Change' film festival depicted climate change in communities from Ethiopia to the Arctic.
Tebtebba's Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, an Igorot from the Philippines and chair of the UN Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues announced that indigenous peoples had achieved a small victory by getting this reference to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into page two of the Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation draft agreement:
"Respect for the knowledge and rights of indigenous peoples and members of the local communities, noting General Assembly has adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of indigenous peoples and taking into account relevant international obligations, national circumstances and legislation."Read More ...
Joshua Tree National Park's Eagle Mountains conjure up images of remote desert peaks, a boundless blue sky and the namesake bird of prey that soars above pristine canyons. But for many of us, Eagle Mountain brings to mind the ongoing battle over the proposed Eagle Mountain Landfill, to be located on lands belonging to Kaiser Eagle Mountain, Inc. and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which also happens to be surrounded on three sides by Joshua Tree National Park wilderness.
The dump would be the nation’s largest; bringing in up to 20,000 tons of trash daily, 6 days a week, 16 hours a day for more than a century. Refuse would be shipped from various communities in Southern California via rail and to a lesser extent by trucks. The project has been promoted by Kaiser Eagle Mountain, Inc. and the Los Angeles County Department of Sanitation as a solution for the Los Angeles area's burgeoning trash problem.Read More ...
As the world focuses on the Stockholm Climate Change Conference, how California is addressing climate change is generating conflict. In late November the California Air Resources Board (CARB) issued a draft of what are likely to be the first government regulations in the nation for carbon trading.
Two environmental justice organizations - Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) and California Communities Against Toxics - filed a lawsuit earlier this year to block the cap-and-trade option California's CARB has proposed. The groups alleges that California’s cap and trade plan will allow the most entrenched polluters, including oil refineries, to continue emitting toxic and smog-forming pollutants, which are associated with carbon emissions. Here's a link to how an anti-environmental web-site views that lawsuit.
The environmental community is split over whether or not to support California’s cap and trade climate plan. The Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council support carbon trading which seeks to use market forces to achieve reductions in carbon emissions. Many other environmental organizations think carbon trading lets polluting industries off the hook and instead advocate for a tax on carbon emissions with the proceeds used to develop green energy.
One of the most contentious issues in the California, national and international climate debate is the “off-set" issue.
My mother has a tough decision to make. Her recent city newsletter informed her that the deer must die, and it’s up to her to decide how they croak.
Bountiful, Utah has a mule deer problem—they’ve invaded. When I visited home this summer, I’d probably see at least one deer every week. They’d dart across the road as I drove home at night, snacking on good, god-fearing people’s rose bushes. I even think I saw one on my own back patio, sprawled out on a lounge chair, sipping what appeared to be a daiquiri. Personally, I always appreciate seeing a deer or two—even the ones who kept begging to borrow my blender and my copy of Jimmy Buffett’s Greatest Hits weren't all bad. But not everyone in our small town shares my opinion.
The city of Bountiful recently decided that it’s received too many complaints about mule deer and something must be done. The newsletter states its case:Read More ...