RELEASE: October 22, 2009

CONTACT: Neil Ward (301/838-9385)

Rockville, MD - On October 20, the Forest Resources Association submitted testimony to the U.S. Department of Labor pointing out that DOL's proposal to move the status of non-native guestworkers employed in reforestation from H-2B to H-2A visa status would essentially shut down the guestworker program in that sector, threatening the reforestation work that underpins sustainable forestry in much of the U.S.

"A Task Group of 18 FRA-member reforestation contractors has reviewed the DOL proposal," stated Michael Kelly of Mike Kelly Forestry Services, who chairs FRA's National Forestry Contractors Task Group. "If implemented, this move will put many treeplanting firms out of business and threaten the future of U.S. commercial tree planting on millions of acres."

In FRA's submitted comment to the record, FRA President Richard Lewis pointed out that the H-2A visa program, directed toward conventional farm work, does not have the flexibility to deal with the special needs of treeplanting, brush clearing, and pre-commercial thinning. He noted that the need to arrange for inspected housing, and to specify work locations and working hours, months in advance of actual work, does not account for the special weather-related and logistical realities of this type of employment, with decisions about actual working locations often made within very short time-frames.

FRA's statement also observes that guestworkers presently employed in reforestation under the H-2B program are already covered under the federal Migrant and Seasonal Workers Protection (MSPA) Act, which addresses basic issues of housing, sanitation, and fair treatment.

FRA's Task Group has requested that DOL hold a formal hearing on the proposed rule, and has asked to testify at such a hearing. In addition, the Task Group has requested that the present hearing docket remain open for another 60 days, at a minimum, so that all contractors currently licensed under the H-2B program have an opportunity to submit individual comments.

The Forest Resources Association Inc. is a nonprofit trade association concerned with the safe, efficient, and sustainable harvest of forest products and their transport from woods to mill. FRA represents wood consumers, landowners, independent logging contractors, and wood dealers, as well as businesses providing products and services to the forest resource-based industries.

His leafy legacy

The forester Gifford Pinchot believed natural resources were ours to use as well as cherish. As we seek balance in a green economy, his ideals are relevant today.

At the dawn of the 20th century, the nation's forests were in trouble.

The country was headed for a timber famine. The great woodlands of the East had been cut, and those in the West were in the path of the loggers. Public land was being sold for pennies or given away outright.

To Gifford Pinchot, a young forester from Pennsylvania, it was "a gigantic and lamentable massacre."

He thought the nation's resources should belong to - and benefit - all, not just a wealthy and powerful few.

He decided to do something about it.

In 1905, largely due to his efforts, the U.S. Forest Service was created, and he became its first chief. His legacy is still being played out in forest conservation today. And his ideals are still its foundation, even as hitherto undreamed of challenges such as climate change threaten.

To be sure, the nation's foresters have never forgotten Pinchot. Two months ago, when U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack outlined his vision for the future of the nation's forests, he began by invoking "G.P," whose guiding principle was to manage forests "for the greatest good, for the greatest number, for the longest time."

But recently, Pinchot - a two-term governor of Pennsylvania who died in 1946 - has come back into wider public focus.

Today, publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is releasing The Big Burn by Timothy Egan, the story of the largest wildfire in American history.

In 1910, more than three million acres of western forest were incinerated by a wall of flames and black smoke that rolled across a parched landscape with a mighty roar. Eighty-five people died.

Central to Egan's story are the nation's forests themselves. And Pinchot's efforts to conserve them.

Ken Burns' recent PBS series on national parks touched on Pinchot's friendship with John Muir and their differing opinions on how to protect the wilderness they both loved.

Muir's romantic, spiritual philosophy was one of preservation - cordon nature off and leave it alone, basically. It led to the national park system, which now includes 84.6 million acres.

Pinchot's conservation philosophy was utilitarian - manage the lands for maximum public good, which could include recreation, protecting water quality, and, yes, logging. It led to the national forest system, which encompasses 192 million acres.

"Today, if you like that nice wooden salad bowl, you're going have to cut down a tree to get it. But, as long as the resource is used wisely and sustainably, then we can continue to have both - the forest and the product," says Lori Danuff-McKean, of the U.S. Forest Service in Milford, Pa.

"That was Pinchot's philosophy 100 years ago. And that's the same philosophy the Forest Service is using today."

Indeed, it was because the land could be used that it was saved at all, says Al Sample, president of the Pinchot Institute for Conservation.

Politically, "we never would have been able to protect 192 million acres of federal land as national park, managed strictly for preservation."

Pinchot was, perhaps, an unlikely hero. His grandfather was a timber baron who clear-cut wide swaths of Pennsylvania. Pinchot himself often touted the common welfare, yet lived in a family castle with 63 turrets - Grey Towers in Milford, now a national historic site.

He was tall, leggy, and had a bushy mustache. His sweetheart died young, but throughout much of his life, Pinchot often thought he was being visited by her.

He had studied forestry in Europe but found it lacking. In France, it was "a fussy thing practiced by a mildewed gentry," Egan writes.

Back in the United States, Pinchot became a friend of Teddy Roosevelt. They boxed, roamed the landscape outside Washington, D.C., and skinny-dipped in the Potomac.

That friendship led to Pinchot's post as the nation's first forestry chief.

In the beginning, his "Little G.P.s" - rangers sent to protect national forests - proved powerless to thwart the land thieves and loggers.

At one point, a ranger who found a swath of forest cut and replaced by a saloon wired his boss the following question: "Two undesirable prostitutes established on government land. What should I do?"

The snarky reply: "Get two desirable ones."

Eventually, Roosevelt left the White House and Pinchot returned to Pennsylvania, where he became the state's first forester in 1920. His nationwide efforts notwithstanding, Pennsylvania's forests were in terrible shape, says Jim Grace, executive deputy secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Virtually the entire state had been clear-cut; fires raged out of control; streams were polluted with erosion.

Pinchot, who later became governor, wanted to set aside 6 million acres of state forest land, but never achieved it. The state now owns 2.2 million acres of forest.

In Pinchot's day, Pennsylvania's forest had been so heavily logged that there was hardly a tree older than two decades. Now, the trees are "70 to 100 years old, from one side of the state to the other," Grace says.

Its management continues to reflect Pinchot's philosophy, Grace says. "You can harvest timber. You can extract natural gas. You can certainly have recreation. You can certainly ensure you're going to have clean water."

The secret, however, is balance, and "that's always been the difficult task."

The Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington state is, oddly enough, held up as an example of a new detente among differing interests.

In the 1980s, the Pinchot forest was under seige by loggers. Tempers flared, suits were volleyed. It was an us vs. them battle. Spotted owl, good. Logging, bad.

Now, "a lot of environmentalists have really changed their tune on logging," says Greenpeace's forestry director, Rolf Skar. Over the last 10 years, "I saw a dramatic shift from just saying 'no' to realizing there could be common ground."

The Nature Conservancy also is adjusting its approach, continuing to manage some of its lands under the Muir tradition, but adding a significant dose of Pinchot.

The Conservancy has found that, in today's world, management makes more sense than ever. With natural regimes suppressed, controlled fires can help rejuvenate some forests. And "using" the forests - for timber, even for carbon credits - gives forest owners an economic reason to hang on to their woods instead of turning them into malls.

But now, everything might be trumped by climate change. Foresters are already seeing the migration of tree and animal species, the influx of invasive species, infestations of diseases and insects, increased wildfires, and changes in precipitation.

With threats like those, even the most pristine land has to be managed, many say.

Bob Williams, a New Jersey forester who manages private forests as vice president of Land Dimensions Engineering, thinks Pinchot would be right at home, trying to figure it all out.

Muir would be cautious, worrying that wind turbines would destroy the prairies.

Pinchot, however, would be saying, "We need energy. We can put up turbines that won't harm birds."

"Out of the conflict has to come a solution," says Williams. "What can the ecosystem provide, and how do we do that without destroying it?"

Action Alert: House Could Vote on Estate Tax in Two Weeks!

Ask Your Representatives to Cosponsor HR 3524--A working woodlands estate tax bill

Dear Family Woodland Advocate,
The U.S. House of Representatives could vote on the estate tax as early as October 26th. Please call or write your Representatives TODAY, asking them to support HR 3524, the Family Farm Preservation and Conservation Estate Tax Act-to improve the estate tax for working woodlands.

Click "take action" above -it will only take a few minutes of your time! HR 3524 will give family woodlands owners options, so they do not have to sell their land or unsustainably harvest their timber to pay the estate tax. The bill exempts working woodlands from the estate tax if the land is passed on to heirs and corrects flaws in current estate tax law that limit woodland owner participation in special estate tax exemptions for working lands. HR 3524 currently has 27 cosponsors. We need to significantly increase the number of cosponsors on this legislation to show the Ways and Means Committee and House leadership that this bill should be included in the larger estate tax bill that could be considered by the full House in 2 weeks!

Final details of the larger estate tax bill that the House will consider have yet to be finalized. It's likely that the bill will include an extension of the current (2009) estate tax rates, which allows for a $3.5 million exemption from the tax and a tax rate of 45% for estates. Whether the extension will apply to only one year or multiple years, is still uncertain.

Click here for talking points or enter your zip code below and click "take action" to be directed to a sample letter you can edit with your story. Be sure to check if your Representative is already a cosponsor (for info click here). If they are a cosponsor, you'll be directed to a thank you letter.

Please contact your Representatives today, and let us know if you receive any feedback. It is critical that we show strong support for this legislation over the next 2 weeks!
Thank you for your support!
Rita Neznek
Vice President, Public Affairs
American Forest Foundation

Take charge of your legacy - free workshop for Maryland woodland owners

~ 8:00 am to 12:00 pm Saturday, October 24, 2009
Owning woodlands can be a rewarding experience. However, the woodlands in our region face many threats that can make this experience challenging. Join us in Dorchester County for a free workshop to discover various programs, management techniques & opportunities designed to help you care for and improve the vitality of your woods.

Contact Craig Highfield (info below) with questions or to register.

Location: Thendara 4-H Center
6275 Lord's Crossing Road
Hurlock, MD 21643
Dorchester County

Contact: Craig Highfield
Program Manager
Forestry for the Bay
410 Severn Avenue
Annapolis, MD 21403

8:00-8:30—Registration Light refreshments will be provided

Agenda: 8:30 – 12:00
  • The benefits of a plan—an overview of the Forest Stewardship Program as well as other MD Forest Service programs
  • Restoring & enhancing wildlife habitat— Maryland DNR’s Landowner Incentive Program
  • Farm Bill 101; new opportunities for woodland owners
  • Early successional habitat—managing strategies after a harvest
  • New resources in MD - Forestry for the Bay & LandServer
  • Field tour—Q&A with natural resource professionals

Space still available for Friday afternoon field tour on Forest Operations at Evergreen Estates

As part of MFA 2009 Annual Conference

Friday ~ October 30th ~ 1:00pm to 5:00pm
Bus leaves Rocky Gap Lodge at 1 pm
Limited to 50 people / $5 registration fee
CFE and CE Credits awarded


The Evergreen Heritage Center will provide a unique experience with an overview of their education center and the outdoor classroom, plus the opportunity to tour local history through the eyes of the Keene family. The field tour includes a "green" small scale logging demonstration with local logger Matt Diehl & forester Dan Hedderick.

The Evergreen Heritage Center (Evergreen), located on 130 acres of "Federal Hill" in Allegany County, is an historic Maryland estate that pre-dates the Revolutionary War. Evergreen includes the Trimble family's ancestral home (now a museum), beautifully landscaped grounds, forest and streams, all in a scenic location adjacent to the Great Allegheny Passage and Western Maryland Scenic Railway. In 1976, Evergreen was recognized by the Maryland Historical
Trust and added to its inventory of historical properties. Two generations later, in 1993, the descendent landowners converted the family's ancestral farmhouse to a museum, displaying over 200 years of antiques, artifacts, and historical deeds and documents. (CLICK ON PHOTO TO GO TO EVERGREEN WEBSITE)

Evergreen also contains 115 acres of forest that have been managed per Maryland forestry guidelines since 1949. In 1984, Evergreen adopted a Forest Conservation Management Agreement, and in 1986 was named MD Tree Farm of the Year. Due to environmentally friendly tree harvesting methods used at Evergreen, the DNR frequently utilizes the Evergreen forest to conduct demonstrations on responsible logging for landowners considering timber
harvesting on small lots.

Maryland Receives National Acclaim for Enacting the Sustainable Forestry Act of 2009

Annapolis, Maryland: On September 21, 2009, Maryland's Department of Natural Resources (Forest Service) was honored at the 87th annual meeting of the National Association of State Foresters for having enacted the Sustainable Forestry Act of 2009 - "Outstanding Forestry Legislation of 2009". This prestigious award was bestowed upon Maryland by the National Woodland Owner's Association - an award not annually given and one most coveted within the Nation's forest community. Three days later at the same gathering, Maryland's State Forester (Steve Koehn) was elected as the President of the National Association of State Foresters.

"The honor bestowed upon Maryland by the Nation's forest community is unprecedented. At one time, Maryland is not only recognized for having enacted America's best sustainable forestry law, but its own State Forester (Steve Koehn) is elected by his peers as their new Leader" stated Gary Allen, Chairman of the Partnership for Sustainable Forestry. "Maryland's forest community has cause for celebration of this historic two-fold achievement. It will never happen again in our lifetime."

"On March 4, 2009 before the House Environmental Matters Committee (Maryland General Assembly), I informed the Members the eyes of the Nation were upon Maryland as it deliberated the proposed Sustainable Forestry Act", noted Steve Koehn. "When it was enacted, my peers from across the country called to congratulate Maryland for having enacted a sustainable forestry Act worthy of national emulation. It was an exhilarating moment and one rivaled only by the honor afforded me by my peers as being elected as the President of the National Association of State Foresters. It is an honor of a lifetime, from both perspectives."

The Partnership for Sustainable Forestry is an alliance of forestry, business and conservation organizations whose primary objective is to promote the prudent and sustainable management of Maryland's rural and urban forest resources through advocacy, education, awareness and collaboration.

Koehn Elected President of NASF

Steve KoehnNew Officers, Policy Decisions from State Foresters at
2009 NASF Annual Meeting

Washington, DC, September 29, 2009 - Steven W. Koehn, State Forester of Maryland, will lead NASF as president in 2009-2010. Mr. Koehn is the director of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Forest Service where he is responsible for the statewide delivery of all technical and financial forestry assistance programs on both public and private lands.

"It is an honor and a privilege to serve NASF as president and I am truly humbled to lead the nation's most dedicated and passionate natural resource professionals," said Koehn. "In the coming year, NASF will continue to advance initiatives dedicated to sustainable forest management and the resulting natural resource benefits important to all Americans, including clean and abundant water, renewable wood energy sources, carbon sequestration and mitigation, wildlife habitat, recreation and markets for thousands of forest products."

Mr. Koehn has previously served as NASF's vice president and treasurer, has served as the chair of the Northeastern Area Association of State Foresters and is a member of the Society of American Foresters. He has also held leadership positions in the Chesapeake Bay Program Forestry Workgroup, Society of American Foresters, Maryland Association of Forest Conservancy District Boards, and Maryland Forests Association. In addition to working for Maryland Department of Natural Resources, he has also taught forestry courses at Johns Hopkins School of Professional Studies in Business Education.

NASF represents the directors of forestry agencies from the fifty states, eight U.S. territories and associated states, and the District of Columbia.