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Timber Talk 8/5/13

Posted By John Dorka, Friday, August 9, 2013

Blue Rock State Forest Proposed for Fracking
It was reported in state and national media last week that leasing of mineral rights below Blue Rock State Forest in Muskingum County had been proposed by the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) which oversees federal mineral rights. The federal government owns the majority of mineral rights below Blue Rock State Forest as the land was originally acquired by the federal government. When Blue Rock was transferred to the state of Ohio, the federal government elected to retain a majority of and controlling interest in the mineral leases. BLM had been working on plans to lease the mineral rights. (BLM administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral rights throughout the US.) ODNR had reportedly been notified of BLM actions to pursue leasing but was never asked for or given "consent” to move ahead the action. Environmental interests immediately jumped on the bandwagon to claim that they had never been given ample opportunity to review the actions and weigh in on the request and were immediately taking ODNR to task. You can read an article from July 31 in the Columbus Dispatch that explains the leasing plans. The following day, the Bureau of Land Management indicated that it was halting plans to auction the Blue Rock mineral rights on December 12, 2013 and admitted that ODNR had in fact never provided its "consent” to move ahead with leasing plans. This article on the following day indicates that BLM has suspended plans for the auction, pending opportunities for public review.

OFA Supports Division of Forestry (DOF) State Forest Management at Open House
The DOF held its annual State Forest Management Open Houses this past week in Chillicothe and New Philadelphia. The purpose of the Open Houses are to share state forest management plans for the coming year with the public and get feedback. OFA supports DOF plans to manage the forest and encourages the division to maintain its aggressive "working forest” management strategy. OFA attended the Open House in Chillicothe. There were a number of people from the Save Our Shawnee Forest group in attendance, and it appears that one of their main concerns dealt with DOF plans to re-open Forest Road 5 at Shawnee Forest, which was closed to public vehicular traffic a number of years ago. Forest Road 5 runs through the middle of the Back Country Management Area (BCMA) on Shawnee. The road was previously identified as the "Panoram Loop” which offered a number of scenic views in the forest. DOF intends to eliminate the designation of the BCMA and manage the area as it does other areas of the forest, which for the most part is how the BCMA had been managed. Re-opening the road is the only significant proposed change for management.

OSU Extension Holds Thousand Cankers Disease Seminar for 250 in Butler County
OSU Extension held a seminar on Thousand Cankers Disease (TCD) this past week in Hamilton (Butler County) in the area where Walnut Twig Beetles were found this past year. The seminar was to update participants on the status of TCD in Ohio and what actions may be taking place. In 2012, 8 Walnut Twig Beetles (WTB) were trapped by Division of Forestry staff in Butler County, but Thousand Cankers Disease had not been isolated from those beetles. Trapping this summer in a larger area around the initial find has resulted in trapping of more WTB. The Ohio Department of Agriculture has commissioned testing of the beetles to see if any were carrying the TCD fungus that causes the walnut mortality. As of the date of the seminar, DNA testing had not been completed, but ODA felt virtually certain that the fungus causing TCD has been carried by the beetles. ODA is in the process of quarantining certain walnut products from Butler County. To establish the quarantine, rules must be filed and Ohio has a formal process that takes at least 3 months to complete. Part of the process will involve a public hearing to review the rules. OFA has been provided this early copy for our members to review. Please give me your feedback and comments if you have any.

OFA Co-Signs Carbon Neutrality Letter to US EPA Administrator McCarthy
Last week, OFA, along with dozens of other forest products associations and businesses, agreed to co-sign a letter to US EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy dealing with biogenic carbon emissions and federal Clean Air Act rules. The letter makes the point that there is ample scientific evidence to show that biomass energy is carbon neutral. The US EPA is in the process of updating the Tailoring Rule which will affect many forest products companies across the country with managing their power production and boiler emissions.

Ohio Legislative and Policy News

Medicaid Expansion Generating Expected Controversy in Legislature - After the legislature decided not to include any Medicaid expansion or reform in the recently passed budget bill, there was general agreement that the issue would be dealt with later in the year and in a larger context following the budget passage. The controversy which is generally running along party lines is coming from House Democrats that the Republican leadership is taking too long to tee up the issue. House Finance and Appropriations Committee Chairman Ron Amstutz (R-Wooster) said he plans to move on a dozen Medicaid-related bills by early October. The Senate will begin holding general hearings much sooner by mid-August.

House Speaker Batchelder Appoints 3 Special Study Committees for Summer Work - Speaker Bill Batchelder (R-Medina) appointed 3 special study committees to take a look at "reform” for higher education, health care, and tax policy. The committees will meet around the state this summer. Higher Education Reform will be chaired by Rep. Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville); Prescription Drug Addiction and Health Care Reform will be chaired by Rep. Robert Sprague (R-Findlay); and Tax Reform will be chaired by Rep. Gary Scherer (R-Circleville).

House Panel to Meet in SE Ohio for Hearing on Coal/EPA Regulations - The House Policy and Legislative Oversight Committee will have a field site hearing on August 12 at the Ohio University Eastern Campus in St. Clairesville to discuss the impact of EPA regulations on Ohio power generation.

Ohio Association of Realtors (OAR) Reports Increase in Home Sales - The OAR reports that the number of single-family homes and condos under agreement in June rose 13.4% over June 2012. Ohio’s June Pending Home Sales Index rose to 137.9 from 121.6 in June 2012, making this the 26th consecutive month that the index has increased. In June 2009, the index was 97.9.

Ohio Department of Insurance (ODI) Health Exchange Analysis Draws Outrage from Both Supporters and Opponents - Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, who is also the Director of the ODI announced last week that an analysis of 200 ODI-approved individual health plan providers and 184 small group providers which will run on the Health Insurance Marketplace Exchange. According to the analysis, individual plan premiums could rise by 41% while small group premiums could rise by 18%. Proponents of Obamacare chided the Lt. Governor for saying that the information is flawed, while opponents claim concern about the rising cost of health insurance for everyone.

Most Consumers Prefer Paper Bills and Statements
A survey commissioned by Two Sides, a non-profit organization created to promote the responsible production, use, and sustainability of print and paper, shows that a majority of U.S. consumers want to keep the option to receive paper bills and statements. Six in 10 consumers want to have the option and 88% want to be able to have the choice to switch between electronic and paper bills without difficulty or cost. The survey involved 2,000 U.S. consumers. Among other research findings, 64% say they would not choose a company that does not offer paper bill options; 72% believe that paper can be an environmentally sustainable way to communicate; 84% believe that e-bills are promoted to save costs but 91% are unwilling to pay for paper bills. You can read more about the report here and find out more that consumers still are interested in and rely heavily on paper documents.

Upcoming Events

Logging Standard Council (LSC) Meeting, August 7, 2013, OFA Columbus Office. A special guest will join the Council that evening, traveling from Auburn University. Tom Gallagher is a Professor of Forestry representing the Wood Supply Research Institute (WSRI), and he will talk with the LSC about the research and work commissioned through WSRI.

Ohio Tree Farm Committee Meeting, August 8, 2013, Vinton Furnace State Experimental Forest.

Lumberman’s Outing, September 8, 2013, Orrville, Oh.

Paul Bunyan Show, October 4-6, 2013, Guernsey County Fairgrounds.

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