Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Former Georgia Governor Nominated as Secretary of Agriculture

Credit Brenna Beech / WABE

See responses below from a number of national forestry organizations concerning President Trump's announcement that he will tap former Georgia Governor, Sonny Perdue, to head the Department of Agriculture. It appears most are pleased with this announcement. 

SAF CEO Matt Menashes stated:
"SAF welcomes the nomination of former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue to be the nation's next Secretary of Agriculture. As Georgia's governor, he recognized the critical importance of managing and sustaining forests as one of Georgia's precious natural resources, and consistently championed policies that promoted and supported stewardship and benefited rural communities. SAF's diverse membership of foresters and other natural resources professionals looks forward to working with Perdue and landowners to manage and protect these important private and public forests."

The American Forest Foundation
"As a landowner and avid sportsman, he knows the importance of America's forests, both public and privately owned, and understands the rural landowners and communities that work so hard to manage and protect these lands. As governor, he had an incredible track record of supporting policies at the state level, that helped landowners large and small to be responsible stewards of the land."

The National Association of State Foresters
"Trees and forests are America's fundamental infrastructure, offering real solutions to the nation's economic and environmental challenges. By focusing on national priorities outlined in every state's Forest Action Plan, together with Secretary Perdue we will continue to efficiently conserve, protect and enhance America's 'green infrastructure'".

Perdue was governor of Georgia from 2003 to 2011. He grew up on a farm in Perry, Georgia, served as a captain in the US Air Force, and later earned a doctorate in veterinary medicine from the University of Georgia. He's the first cousin of Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), a member of the Agriculture Committee, which is tasked with overseeing his confirmation.

Confirmation hearings have not been scheduled yet but will likely begin soon.  

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Is the Endangered Species Act a target for the Trump administration?

The below article appeared in the Morning Ag Clips today.  With Trump being sworn in as president I thought this was a timely article to post. Stay tuned, we will see where it leads. This may directly impact logging in Central Pennsylvania with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listing of the northern long-eared bat as threatened in 2015. 

"It has never been used for the rehabilitation of species. It's been used for control of the land," said House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop. "We've missed the entire purpose of the Endangered Species Act. It has been hijacked."

Republicans see an opportunity to advance broad changes to law.

BILLINGS, Mont. — In control of Congress and soon the White House, Republicans are readying plans to roll back the influence of the Endangered Species Act, one of the government’s most powerful conservation tools, after decades of complaints that it hinders drilling, logging and other activities.

Over the past eight years, GOP lawmakers sponsored dozens of measures aimed at curtailing the landmark law or putting species such as grey wolves and sage grouse out of its reach. Almost all were blocked by Democrats and the White House or lawsuits from environmentalists.

Now, with the ascension of President-elect Donald Trump, Republicans see an opportunity to advance broad changes to a law they contend has been exploited by wildlife advocates to block economic development.

“It has never been used for the rehabilitation of species. It’s been used for control of the land,” said House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop. “We’ve missed the entire purpose of the Endangered Species Act. It has been hijacked.”

Bishop said he “would love to invalidate” the law and would need other lawmakers’ co-operation.

The 1973 act was ushered though Congress nearly unanimously, in part to stave off extinction of the national symbol, the bald eagle. Eagle populations have since rebounded, and the birds were taken off the threatened and endangered list in 2007.

In the eagles’ place, another emblematic species — the wolf — has emerged as a prime example of what critics say is wrong with the current law: seemingly endless litigation that offers federal protection for species long after government biologists conclude that they have recovered.

Wolf attacks on livestock have provoked hostility against the law, which keeps the animals off-limits to hunting in most states. Other species have attracted similar ire — Canada lynx for halting logging projects, the lesser prairie chicken for impeding oil and gas development and salmon for blocking efforts to reallocate water in California.

Reforms proposed by Republicans include placing limits on lawsuits that have been used to maintain protections for some species and force decisions on others, as well as adopting a cap on how many species can be protected and giving states a greater say in the process.

Wildlife advocates are bracing for changes that could make it harder to add species to the protected list and to usher them through to recovery. Dozens are due for decisions this year, including the Pacific walrus and the North American wolverine, two victims of potential habitat loss due to climate change.

“Any species that gets in the way of a congressional initiative or some kind of development will be clearly at risk,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president of Defenders of Wildlife and a former Fish and Wildlife Service director under President Bill Clinton. “The political lineup is as unfavorable to the Endangered Species Act as I can remember.”

More than 1,600 plants and animals in the U.S. are now shielded by the law. Hundreds more are under consideration for protections. Republicans complain that fewer than 70 have recovered and had protections lifted.

“That tension just continues to expand,” said Jason Shogren, professor of natural resource conservation at the University of Wyoming. “Like a pressure cooker, every now and then, you’ve got to let out some steam or it’s really going to blow.”

Congress reconvened last week with two critics of the law holding key Senate leadership positions — Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso as the incoming chairman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski as chairwoman of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Spokesman Mike Danylak said Barrasso will seek to “strengthen and modernize” the management of endangered species but offered no specifics.

Barrasso’s predecessor, Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, suggested in an interview that one species should be removed from the list every time another is added. Another Republican, Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan, said he wants to limit applications for protections to one species at a time.

In the House, Rep. Tom McClintock of California, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Federal Lands, said he wants to ease logging restrictions in national forests to reduce tree density blamed for catastrophic wildfires.

Some Democrats, too, have been frustrated with the law: Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson and two other Democrats joined 11 Republicans last week on a bill to end protections for wolves in the Great Lakes and Wyoming.

Simply by striking a few key words from the law, it could be transformed from a tool to protect huge areas of habitat for imperiled species into little more than limits on hunting for protected animals, said J.B. Ruhl, a Vanderbilt University law professor considered a leading expert on the act.

Trump’s position is unclear. A strong advocate for energy development, he has lamented environmental policies he says hinder drilling. But his appointment of Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke as Interior secretary was seen by some conservationists as a signal that Trump will support protections for public lands to the benefit of fish and wildlife.

The Trump transition team did not respond to requests for comment. The incoming administration already has immigration, the health care law repeal and infrastructure improvements atop its agenda.

If the administration or Congress wants to gut the law, “they certainly can do it,” Vermont Law School professor Patrick Parenteau said. “The real question with the Endangered Species Act is where does it rank?”

Advocates and senior Obama administration officials argue the law’s success is best measured by extinctions avoided — for 99 per cent of protected species, including black-footed ferrets, whooping cranes, American crocodiles and hundreds of others.

“There’s a lot of evidence that some species are conservation-reliant,” Ruhl said. Political fights over certain species have dragged out for decades, he added, because recovering them from “the brink of extinction is a lot harder than we thought.”

Morning Ag Clips
Published on January 17th, 2017

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Pennsylvania Forestry Association and Pennsylvania Tree Farm Committee Join Forces

John and Maureen Burnham,  co-chairs of the
 Pennsylvania Tree Farm Committee.

The Pennsylvania Forestry Association (PFA) and the Pennsylvania Tree Farm Committee (PTFC) are excited to announce a renewed merger between their two organizations, focusing on exemplary forest stewardship in Penn’s Woods.  As they move ahead with an exciting implementation plan to consolidate the PFA and PTFC operations, PFA has become the new "administrative home" for the PTFC.

Each organization brings a long history of model forestry in the state to the table and each is part of the great conservation movement of working forests. 

The Pennsylvania Forestry Association is the oldest, statewide forestry organization in the nation.  Since 1887, it has advocated for careful stewardship of all wooded lands in the state, and it has been a driving force behind acquisition and wise management of our 2.2 million acres of state forests, the creation of our college level forestry schools, and the original Pennsylvania State Forestry Commission which has become today’s DCNR Bureau of Forestry. 

The national American Tree Farm System (ATFS) celebrated its 75th Anniversary in 2016; the first Pennsylvania Tree Farm was established in 1949.  The continued success of the Pennsylvania Tree Farm Program is in large part because of the work private individuals have done to help family-owned forests continue to provide a home for wildlife, clean water that flows to our faucets, wood for homes, furniture and other goods, and much more.

While both Pennsylvania organizations are volunteer based and have invested time, energy and hard work in our forests, the work is not done. Our forests face many challenges: the threat of wildfire, spreading disease and invasives, changing climate and more. The Pennsylvania Forestry Association and Pennsylvania Tree Farm Committee are excited about this new opportunity to move the state’s Tree Farm program ahead, especially in concert with the new national American Tree Farm System initiative to accelerate the certification of Pennsylvania Tree Farms.

ATFS certification is internationally-recognized and meets strict third-party verification and auditing standards. ATFS-certified tree farms meet eight standards of sustainability and are managed for multiple purposes: water, wildlife, wood and recreation. With its new commitment to third-party certification, Pennsylvania joins the strong network of woodland owners who share the same core values of hard work, community responsibility and commitment to protecting America’s forest legacy. Family woodland owners with ATFS certified forestland provide multiple public benefits from clean air and water, wildlife habitat, to green jobs and forest products.

The two organizations welcome inquiries about all aspects of forest stewardship. All contacts by mail, phone or email regarding the Pennsylvania Tree Farm Program should be directed to the Pennsylvania Forestry Association, 116 Pine Street, 5th Floor, Harrisburg, PA 17101, thepfa@paforestry.org, 1-800-835-8065 or 717-234-2500. Help our forests make a measurable difference to all Pennsylvanians.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Announcing Workshops on Caring for Backyard Woods

Do you have woods in your backyard? Penn State research for Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of Forestry estimates that nearly half a million Pennsylvanians own a small patch of woodlands -- something less than ten acres in size. In fact, the average small ownership is about two acres. In sum these small patches add up to about a million or so acres, or about 10 percent, of our state’s privately held woodlands.

Anyone interested in improving their land or acreage for the benefit of humans, flora and fauna will not want to miss the Woods in Your Backyard: Learning to Create and Enhance Natural Areas around Your Home series of workshops being offered across the state, see location details below.

The workshops are sponsored by The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay: Forests for the Bay Program, Penn State Extension, Pennsylvania Forestry Association, DCNR Bureau of Forestry, and ClearWater Conservancy.

The workshops are designed specifically (but not exclusively) for smaller landscapes. These small lots are a big deal. The vast majority of Pennsylvania’s landowners have less than 10 acres. This land, wooded or not, can provide benefits. By enhancing wooded areas or creating natural areas on your property, you can enjoy recreation, aesthetics, wildlife, improved water quality and reduced energy costs. Owners of even the smallest landscapes can make a positive difference in their environment through planning and implementing simple stewardship practices.

The workshops introduce the manual “The Woods in Your Backyard: Learning to Create and Enhance Natural Areas around Your Home.” All participants will receive the full-color, 108-page manual - a $23 value! This self-directed book will guide you through the process of developing and implementing projects to enhance your land’s natural resources.

The workshops will take place at three different locations across the state this spring. At the workshops, participants will remain together in the morning and then choose their afternoon sessions based on interest.
Topics include:
·         Providing wildlife habitat
·         Tree identification
·         Tree planting and native landscaping
·         Woods and water
·         Forest ecology and soils 
·         Woodlot management techniques
·         Invasive plant identification/control
·         Getting youth outdoors
·         Maple syrup, mushrooms, and medicinal plants
·         Creating wildflower meadows
·         Landowner resources
·         …….and more

Cost is $35 per individual to attend (each includes manual, lunch and light morning refreshments). For more information and to register go to: http://extension.psu.edu/backyard-woods or call the number listed for the individual session you are interested in attending.

Saturday, February 25. 9 a.m. – 4:45 p.m., Wood in Your Backyard Workshop, Penn State University, Forest Resources Building, Room 112, University Park, PA. Cost is $35 per person – includes lunch and a Woods in Your Backyard manual. To register visit: http://extension.psu.edu/backyard-woods  or contact 814-355-4897. Registration required by February 20.
Saturday, April 1. 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Wood in Your Backyard Workshop, Penn State Wilkes-Barre, Lehman, PA. Cost is $35 per person – includes lunch and a Woods in Your Backyard manual. To register visit: http://extension.psu.edu/backyard-woods. For more information, contact Vinnie Cotrone, vjc1@psu.edu, 570-825-1701.
Saturday, April 8. 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., Wood in Your Backyard Workshop, Penn State Beaver, SUB Lodge, Monaca, PA. Cost is $35 per person – includes lunch and a Woods in Your Backyard manual. To register visit: http://extension.psu.edu/backyard-woods. For more information, contact Brian Wolyniak, bjw229@psu.edu, 412-263-1000.