The following articles encourage the Department of Natural Resouces to obtain "full market value" for the school trust timber land when logging is done for reabilitation as a result of a fire.
WHAT IS THE HIGHEST AND BEST USE OF OUR TIMBERLAND?
In order to gain perspective on the timber management issues, I have gone on timber tours on both public and private land during the last 4 years. My observations in the forest parallel my experience with my garden. When Nature takes care of my garden without any help from me, weeds, bugs and deer take over. It takes my sweat and toil in order to reap quality fruit, vegetables and flowers. Our free enterprise system is based on our renewable and nonrenewable resources, which come from the earth plus the value we can add to them. We cannot raise our standard of living by cutting each others hair.
In late July, I took a tour of the Whitetail potential timber sale in the Swan. There were only 8 of us who went on the tour and we had three Dept. of Natural Resource staff and the project director to answer our questions. They showed us the school trust land that was proposed to be logged, but also took the time to drive us to see forest areas of old growth, fifteen year growth and 100 year growth.
By far the most beautiful area was the fifteen-year growth, which had eight different kinds of merchantable trees (western white Pine, western larch, spruce, grand fir, lodge pole pine, alpine fir, cottonwood and birch) along with willows, huckleberries, green grass and flowers. The trees ranged from 8 to 12 feet high and the 20- acre parcel was healthy, lush and full of life. It was hard to believe that the area had been harvested (clear cut) and burned 15 years ago! The forest was beautiful and looked natural. Only the western white pine was manually planted.
The 100-year old growth was a natural burn that took place 100 years ago with no management. The area was dominated by a very thick growth of lodge pole pine. The trees were so thick that they were stunted. It was difficult walking through the area and the commercial value is marginal. Natural in this case was neither beautiful nor profitable.
In the old growth area, most of the trees were dead and lying on the forest floor. The large white pines that were still standing had the tops broken out. They were dangerous to be around because they were hollow inside. The forest floor had no grass or flowers because of the dead trees and dense yew brush. The area had little or no commercial timber value. Paul Klug, project director, an independent forester, explained that as the forest grows, there is a peak in commercial value and then the forest declines until there is little commercial value. Also, there is little or no food for wildlife. The forest is loaded up and ready for a fire (nature) or management (man). With management you can see grass, flowers and young trees in your life time, but with fire, depending on how hot it is, you will not see the beauty of the forest in your life time, nor will your kids.
The good news is that we can get both economic benefit and beautiful, healthy, natural looking forests with proper management. The Whitetail tour showed me that our Dept. of Natural Resources staff has the training and expertise to accomplish this goal if they are permitted to manage the forests for wood production, water protection and beauty.
Tours and field trips provide valuable input which enables people to understand the complicated forest issues. We must make sure that we get the highest and best use of our natural resources for both our county and individual citizens, especially the resources on our school trust land.
Rep. Verdell Jackson, Kalispell represents House District 79
MOOSE FIRE SALVAGE AND REFORESTATION PROJECT
Whereas the Moose fire burned 71,000 acres and 6,700 of those acres are on school trust land , and
Whereas phase I of the Moose fire salvage and reforestation project would harvest 8 to 10 million board foot of merchantable timber this winter on approximately 1000 acres of school trust land (selected because of high degree of burn severity in close proximity to roads), and
Whereas the fire damaged trees could lose 50% of their value in a year, and
Whereas fire stressed trees attract pine beetles, and
Whereas value is marginal in some of the burns and the equipment will be on site,
We request that that the Department of Natural Resources maximize income to the school trust by conducting this timber sale as soon as possible and aggressively logging these severely burned areas. After 6-8 trees per acre are identified for seeding, if available, all fire stressed trees and other trees not needed should be logged in these areas. Snags for birds should not be a consideration because of the vast amount of contiguous forest which burned and will not be logged. Intensive management should start immediately, especially erosion control, to enhance the long term profit potential of the land for the benefit of schools. Reforestation should include noxious weed control and reseeding to maintain diversity and high value trees such as western larch, white pine and ponderosa pine.
Verdell Jackson, HD 79 Stanley Fisher, HD 75
Dee Brown, HD 83 Aubyn Curtiss, HD 81
Mike Taylor , SD 37 Bob DePratu, SD 40
Jerry ONeil, SD 42 Bob Keenan, SD 38
Rod Bitney, HD 77 Arnie Mohl, SD 39
John Brueggeman, HD 74
Darrel Adams, HD 84
Harvesting the Moose Fire School Trust Land
Most of the revenue for education from the school trust land (Coal Creek State Forest) went up in smoke during the Moose fire. However, if burned timber is harvested in a timely manner much of the value is retained. Any timber that is not harvested within two years has lost most, if not all of its value.
Much to the credit of the State Land Board and the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) logging has already begun on Phase I of the Moose Fire Salvage and Reforestation Project.
DNRC as manager of the school trust land has a fiduciary responsibility to schools. When the land was transferred to Montana via the Federal Enabling Act of 1889, Montana was required through the Montana State Constitution to provide that the lands be administered to return "full market value" to the Public School Fund.
To push "Fair market value" for the timber resource that was remaining after the fire and to build future value, I submitted a resolution signed by 12 local legislators to DNRC: ... "After 6-8 trees per acre are identified for seeding, if available, all fire stressed trees and other trees not needed for seed should be logged in these burned areas. Snags for birds should not be a consideration because of the vast amount of contiguous forest which burned and will not be logged. Intensive management should start immediately, especially erosion control, to enhance the long term profit potential of the land for the benefit of schools. Reforestation should include noxious weed control and reseeding to maintain diversity and high value trees such as western larch, white pine and ponderosa pine."
During a DNRC timber tour prior to the sale, I was told that the approach stated above could meet the environmental requirements, but the decision had been made that no live trees would be cut in order to facilitate the sale. There are people who do not want any timber cut, dead or alive.
Unfortunately for schools, DNRC stuck with the decision to leave clumps of trees for woodpeckers, minor burned trees and all unburned trees in these severely burned areas. This means that high value trees that would add more education dollars will stay in the forest. DNRC will not fully meet their fiduciary responsibility to schools.
Phase II of the Moose Fire Salvage and Reforestation Project has already begun and will involve many more higher value trees. The public needs to be involved in this process, especially school personnel, to advocate "full market value" for schools. Without a stronger lobby, school proceeds and the local economy will lose out to grizzly bears, black back woodpeckers, bull trout, potential soil erosion, etc. Call Brian Manning for details and a copy of the Moose Fire Phase II Scoping Newsletter, 881-2372.
Some school districts are considering suing the legislature for more tax proceeds to fund schools. It would be wiser for them to push for "full market value" of their timber resources in the Coal Creek State Forest and across the state rather than to hit up unemployed loggers for more taxes.
Rep. Verdell Jackson, House District 79, Kalispell,