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Timber Talk 4/21/14

Posted By Gayla Fleming, Monday, April 21, 2014

Statehouse News
The legislature is on spring break and statehouse activity has slowed for a couple weeks. The following are brief notes of legislative and policy activity.

Timber Theft Legislation - Last week, there was an article in the Springfield News-Sun concerning recently introduced HB 515, Timber Harvesting, a bill sponsored by Rep. Ross McGregor (R-Springfield) aimed at addressing timber theft in Ohio. The article has quotes from both Rep. McGregor and OFA.

Governor Kasich Swears in New PUCO Chairman - Last week, Governor Kasich swore in Tom Johnson as the new Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO). Tom Johnson served in the Ohio legislature for 22 years representing southeast Ohio and then later became the Director of the Ohio Office of Budget and Management. Interestingly, during the swearing in ceremony, Governor Kasich made a comment that he believed deregulating Ohio’s electric utilities was "not the smartest thing we’ve ever done” but also quipped that there is no going back.

Poll Touts Public Support for Continued Renewable Energy Standards - A poll by Ohio Advanced Energy Economy, an association of energy efficiency and renewable energy businesses, found that 72% of respondents believe the state should continue to replace traditional forms of energy, like coal, with renewable sources like wind and solar power. The poll also said that a majority of Ohioans want the state to maintain the renewable energy standards created in 2008. These results come as the legislature debates a bill by Sen. Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville) that would freeze the standards at current levels. Opponents and proponents take opposing views of the value of the renewable energy standards and both tout statistics that indicate points in their favor. Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) commented that "Those that are benefitting from the government mandate that their products be purchased like the mandates. Those that are paying for the mandates, which is Bob and Betty Buckeye and the backbone of our industrial strength in Ohio, don't like the mandates - they're not benefitting from them," he said.

Poll Touts Public Support of Domestic oil and gas production - While the renewable energy debate continues, the American Petroleum Institute released results of a poll that indicated an overwhelming number of Ohio voters (79%) supported increased production of oil and gas reserves in the U.S. while only 12% opposed efforts. A vast majority believed that production could lead to more jobs for Ohioans.

New Unemployment Compensation Requirements Take Effect - As of April 11, Ohioans applying for new unemployment compensation benefits must first sign-up through OhioMeansJobs.com or a local employment "one-stop” and complete a series of job-related activities beginning as early as the 8th week of receiving compensation benefits. The changes come from legislation passed last July.

Ohio March Unemployment Drops to 6.1% - The Department of Jobs and Family Services reports that Ohio unemployment dropped to 6.1% from 6.5% in February. Unemployed workers fell by 24,000 during the month, with an increase of 600 jobs, for total Ohio employment of 5,282,900. The national unemployment rate is 6.7%.

Fighting to Protect Favorable Timber Tax Rules
Tax reform is heating up in Congress, and one of the areas forestry interests will be working to protect are three timber tax provisions that encourage investment in and retention of forest land and timber production. The three areas are:

  • Capital gains treatment of timber sales revenues;
  • Tax incentives for reforestation; and
  • Deduction of forest management expenses as business expenditures.

It is unclear at the present how tax reform will play out. Regardless of how it does, it will take some time to make any changes, let alone significant ones. While these play out, however, OFA will watch closely what transpires and will work with forest industry and forestry coalitions on tax provisions that best meet the needs of private woodland owners and forest industry investment.

Coshocton County Career Center Receives Grant from OFA Foundation
The Board of the OFA Foundation recently approved a small grant to the Coshocton County Career Center to purchase a portable sawmill for the forestry program at the school. The growing program at the career center sought to expand its education efforts by adding a portable sawmill for instruction and training in lumber and manufacturing.

Good Wall Street Journal Letter to Editor on Wood as a Green Fuel
It is short and to the point, but a very well-written Letter to the Editor in the Wall Street Journal, promotes the benefit of wood as a green fuel source. Apparently, it was written in response to other letters talking about EPA response to tamping down on wood smoke from wood burners. It will only take a minute to read the letter, but it is a great statement and makes its point in few words.

Regional Forestry Association Newsletters
Following are links to the May Newsletters from the East Central Ohio Forestry Association (ECOFA) and the Northeast Ohio Forestry Association (NEOFA). The ECOFA newsletter has information on the recent general meeting with featured speaker Kathy Smith, OSU Extension presenting on the Woodland Steward Program and a slate of upcoming meetings and events. The NEOFA has information on the quickly approaching annual meeting on April 25 in Canfield, and efforts to raise money for students to attend the OFA Forestry and Wildlife Conservation Camp, the Ohio Tree Farm of the Year, the Coldwell Family Tree Farm, and upcoming events and activities.

OFA Forestry and Wildlife Conservation Camp
This is another reminder that the OFA Forestry and Wildlife Conservation camp is not far off, and students wishing to take advantage of lower registration rates can do so by May 1. Information can be found on the OFA website. There are funds available to help students attend camp through local forest landowner associations, logger chapters, soil and water conservation districts, garden clubs, OFA members, and other individuals. Contact the OFA office at 614-497-9580 for information and questions.

U.S. Forest Service Report: Five anthropogenic factors that will
radically alter forest conditions and management needs
in the Northern United States
.
The U.S. Forest Service recently released a report that identifies five factors that will affect the northern forests of the United States over the next 50 years. The five factors include:

  • northern forests lack age-class diversity and will uniformly grow old without management interventions or natural disturbances;
  • the area of forestland in the North will decrease as a consequence of expanding urban areas;
  • invasive species will alter forest density, diversity, and function;
  • management intensity for timber is low in northern forests and likely to remain so; and
  • management for nontimber objectives will gain relevance but will be challenging to implement.

You can take a closer look at the report on the U.S. Forest Service Northern Research Station website.

Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) May Reduce Landowner Fees Due to Royalty Revenues from Gas
According to an article last week on Ohio.com, MWCD may decrease the $12/parcel annual assessment charged to more than 500,000 parcel owners within the 18 county watershed district. First levied in 2009, the assessment raises about $11 million per year. The decision to assess the fee occurred before the Utica shale gas boom of recent years. Because of the increased revenues, the MWCD Board asked the district to assess the current fee structure to see if a reduction may be in order.

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