Area foresters ‘suffering’ across Allegheny National Forest region

Roach-Bauer Forestry Forum steering committee member Ned Karger, at left, presented a black cherry biltmore stick to Bryan Rice, director of forest management for the U.S. Forest Service, as the traditional gift given to the speakers at the forum, held at the Kane Country Club. Ruth Sutton, public affairs officer for the Allegheny National Forest, and Nadine Pollock, the ecosystem staff officer for the Allegheny National Forest, are also pictured.

KANE — Bryan Rice, director of forest management for the U.S. Forest Service, spoke at the bi-annual Roach-Bauer Forestry Forum held at the Kane Country Club on Thursday night to give a presentation called “Perspectives from inside the Beltway.”

However, Rice received the perspectives from some foresters who work on the Allegheny National Forest, and their assessment of the state of the local timber industry differed from Rice’s perspective on a national level quite dramatically.

Rice explained how stewardship contracting has actually increased the amount of timber sold throughout the Forest Service while helping in restoration projects in the national forests. 

The Forest Service defines stewardship contracting as focusing “on the ‘end result’ ecosystem benefits and outcomes, rather than on what’s removed from the land.”

Rice described there are basically three types of timber sales: Traditional timber sales, integrated resource timber contracts, and integrated resource service contracts. He said the latter two of the group make up an integral part of stewardship contracting.

Rice claimed the timber sold throughout the entire Forest Service was at 2.8 billion board feet, up 18 percent since 2008. He said the Forest Service’s target was 2.9 billion board feet for 2015.

However, with many area municipalities seeing a sharp decrease in timber revenue from the Forest Service, those at the forum disagreed with Rice, and they wanted answers.

David Kiehl of Marienville-based North East Timber Inc., sees a lack of consistent leadership on the Allegheny National Forest. Kiehl described a “revolving door” of management on the ANF who do not stay long enough to see the forest’s problems. He claims the Forest Service is only cutting a fraction of the timber they should be cutting on the Allegheny. 

Kiehl said that local industry, schools, and counties are “dying with the forest” and they need someone to stay long enough to get the forest healthy again before it’s gone.

“We’re suffering out here,” Kiehl said.

Jack Hedlund, former executive director of the Allegheny Forest Alliance, said the Forest Service seems to be more focused on recreation, invasive insects and diseases than they are with practicing sustainable forestry, even going as far as saying the topic of harvest appears to be avoided.

Ken Kane of the Allegheny Forest Alliance noted there have been plans to balance age classes on the Allegheny in both 1985 and 2005, neither of which has been brought to fruition by the federal government.

Rice admitted that while the figures indicate an increased timber harvest on the national level, there are some areas which have not seen the same timber harvest results. He stressed that more collaboration needs to take place.

“It takes time to get things done,” Rice said.

Joe Fadden, senior field representative for U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., reminded Rice to pay heed to the foresters in attendance, saying those on the Allegheny National Forest are the finest the United States has to offer.

“You’re looking at the best foresters in the country,” Fadden said.

On a positive note, Rice reported the 2014 Farm Bill passed on the federal level may help forests across the board. He said of the $1 billion used for fire suppression annually, $300 million is used for catastrophic fires in the western part of the country. Rice said Congress has restructured the budget to have the $300 million come out of the same funding that is used for earthquakes, floods, tornadoes and other natural disasters. 

Roach Bauer forum steering committee member Ned Karger presented Rice with the traditional Black Cherry biltmore stick given to speakers of the forum.