Balanced forest policies encourage investment in forestland, protect fish, water & wildlife, and promote responsible forestry as a preferred land use.
Forest Policy Issues
- Biomass Finds Support in the Northwest
- Clean Water Act Assurances
- Forest Certification
- Silviculture Regulatory Consistency Act Introduced to Provide Certainty in Forest Roads Case
A recent public opinion survey found that 57% of Washington’s voters support the generation of power from biomass gathered from sustainably managed forests. Once voters are informed that two-thirds of all potentially available biomass renewable energy comes from forests, more than twice all agricultural and other sources of biomass combined, support goes to 70%.
Effective Jun. 30, 2009 the Dept. of Ecology has extended the Clean Water Act Assurances for Washington’s private forest landowners. The state’s Forests & Fish Law established an adaptive management program to continually monitor the impact of forest practices on fish habitat and water quality. Continuation of CWA assurances and the 50-year Endangered Species Act take-relief provided for under the Forest Practices Habitat Conservation Plan, provide the cornerstone stability in our forest practices system.
Washington forest landowners practice sustainable forestry, and follow the most stringent laws in the nation. Third-party, voluntary forest certification systems, such as Sustainable Forestry Initiative, American Tree Farm Program, and Forest Stewardship Council, each have a process of verification that landowenrs meet sustainable forestry standards. Currently one of the green building programs called LEED only recognizes one forest certification standard. As demonstrated in this letter signed by 79 members of Congress, there is strong sentiment that LEED should not play favorites and recognize all, legitimate forest certfication systems.
On August 17, 2010 the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled “that stormwater runoff from logging roads that is collected by and then discharged from a system of ditches, culverts, and channels is a point source discharge for which an (EPA) NPDES permit is required.” The Supreme Court waspetitioned, including a request by 26 State’s Attorney Generals, as its decision overturns 35 years of categorizing forest roads as non-point activities under the 1976 Clean Water Act’s Silvicultural Rule.
On Dec. 13 2011 the U.S. Supreme Court issued an order asking the Solicitor General for the views of the federal government on the Ninth Circuit Court’s ruling that forest roads are “point sources” requiring an industrial discharge permit under the Clean Water Act (CWA).
In Dec 2011, Congress and the Administration enacted bipartisan legislation to prevent the Ninth Circuit decision from taking effect until September 30, 2012.
In May 2012, EPA published a Notice of Intent to deem reinfall on forest roads as “non-industrial” sources, thereby eliminating the mandatory NPDES permit requirement. EPA is collecting information through June 22 about State Forest Practices and BMPs regulating logging roads.
In May 2012, the Solicitor General issued its brief stating that the Ninth Circuit got it wrong, by not defering to EPA’s interpretatin of its own regulation, however that Congress and EPA were able to better handle the issue, rather than the Supreme Court.
On June 25th, the Supreme Court decided to review the case, which raises significant questions regarding the need for further administrative action by the EPA pending a final decision by the Court.
On September 4, 2012, EPA published a proposed rule to clarify that logging is not an industrial activity requiring NPDES permits under the agency’s stormwater regulations. EPA sent the final rule to the Office of Management and Budget November 8, 2012.
On December 3, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in the case. Due to the EPA action on November 30, the argument focused almost entirely on the effect of the new rule on the case, rather than on the three issues raised by the Ninth Circuit’s decision.
On November 30, 2012, EPA signed the final rule clarifying existing regulations that logging is not included in the industrial activity definition, which removes forest roads from the mandatory stormwater NPDES permit requirement. The final rule was published in the Federal Register December 7, 2012.
On March 20, 2013 the Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit’s ruling requiring a mandatory industrial discharge permit but did not address the Ninth Circuit’s other ruling that forest roads are point sources.
On May 16, 2013 The Silviculture Regulatory Consistency Act (S. 971 and H.R.2026)was introduced by lead co-sponsors Senators Wyden (D-OR) and Crapo (R-Idaho), and Representatives Herrera Beutler (R-WA) and Schrader (D-OR)to preserve EPA’s 37-year old policy treating forest roads as nonpoint sources under the Clean Water Act (CWA) and regulated under state-adopted Best Management Practices (BMPs). Only Congress Can Provide Legal Certainty by Preserving EPA Regulation of Forest Roads as Nonpoint Sources.
Private forest landowners in Washingtion have strong state-based rules to protect clean water under Road Maintenance and Abandonment Plan(RMAP) requirements. RMAPs are required by the Forests and Fish Law and designed to improve roads to protect water quality and fish habitat. Learn more at http://www.forestsandfish.com/.