Andy Kerr

Conservationist, Writer, Analyst, Operative, Agitator, Strategist, Tactitian, Schmoozer, Raconteur

Larch Occasional Papers

These papers are produced when I am moved to do so and can be on any subject that moves me. For the earlier papers you may download either a small (faster and suitable for reading on screen) or large (slower and suitable for printing on paper) version of each occasional paper. Some were co-authored.

#21. National What-Have-You Areas: Congressional Conservation of Our Public Lands (15 pages, 2015)

ABSTRACT: Approximately 28 percent of the land in the United States is owned by the federal government. The vast majority of the nation’s public lands are managed by four agencies: the USDA Forest Service, the USDI Bureau of Land Management, the USDI Fish and Wildlife Service, and the USDI National Park Service. For three agencies, all lands administered by the agency are in a designated system: the National Forest System, administered by the Forest Service; the National Wildlife Refuge System, administered by the Fish and Wildlife Service; and the National Park System, administered by the National Park Service. In addition, special designations have been applied to many of the lands in the three conservation systems. In general, most of the public lands administered by the BLM are not within a designated conservation system, but areas that have received special protection by acts of Congress are incorporated into the National Landscape Conservation System. All of these designations can be seen as options for elevating the conservation status of particular areas to ensure that the goods and services most important to Americans are secured on our public lands for this and future generations.

#20.5 21st-Century National Recreation Areas for Oregon's National Forests and BLM Public Lands (54 pages, 2015)

ABSTRACT: National forest ranger districts were created in an era when “multiple use” meant logging and livestock grazing, with other uses deprioritized. With declining timber and livestock industries and a growing outdoor recreation industry—as well as increased concern for watersheds, ecosystems, and native species—it’s time to replace ranger districts with national recreation areas (NRAs) as the fundamental management unit. This paper recommends the wide-scale establishment of NRAs in Oregon national forests to replace the ranger district management model. As of 2014, Congress had designated 22 NRAs as part of the National Forest System and 18 as part of the National Park System. This paper includes lists of potential new Oregon NRAs for the 21st century. Approximately 31 Forest Service NRAs would replace the more than 50 Forest Service ranger district, 14 Bureau of Land Management resource area and other offices in Oregon. Six BLM NRAs in eastern Oregon would replace eight BLM resource area offices. The paper also examines Oregon’s three existing national forest NRAs and two potential NRAs proposed for Bureau of Land Management (BLM) holdings in western Oregon. Finally, it proposes model NRA legislative language that can also serve as a basis for designating similar congressional conservation designations.

#19. Oregon Softwood Lumber Industry 1995-2012: Fewer Mills and Jobs, but Larger Timber-Processing Capacity (8 pages, 2013)

ABSTRACT: While the number of all Oregon primary wood product manufacturing facilities and lumber and wood products jobs both decreased 53% between 1995 and 2010, between 1995 and 2012 the timber-processing capacity of the remaining large softwood sawmills increased 25% above the industry's 1995 levels. Large-capacity Oregon softwood sawmills have a milling capacity far in excess of current and likely domestic demand. These mills also are generally failing to compete with mills in China and Japan for Oregon private logs. Because they are being buffeted between low product prices and high supply prices, these mills seek to increase federal logging levels (federal logs cannot be exported and are thus significantly less expensive to domestic milling operations) from federal public forestlands. Production (utilized capacity) has declined dramatically with the collapse of the American housing bubble, but milling capacity has not (yet).

#18. Oregon Private Timberland Owners Not Paying Fair Share of Federal Income Taxes (7 pages, 2012)

ABSTRACT: The owners of 7.9 million acres of private timberlands in Oregon pay far less than their fair share of federal income taxes. Private timberland owners receive extremely favorable treatment under federal income tax rules. Preferential income tax treatment for private timberland owners means most have more money after “paying” their federal income taxes—that is, the effective tax rate is negative. As federal logging levels have declined, log values have increased. Part of this windfall should be captured to pay the federal government’s fair shares of replacing declining federal timber payments to counties.

#17. Oregon Private Timberland Owners Not Paying Enough State Timber Taxes (14 pages, 2012)

ABSTRACT: The owners of 7.9 million acres of private timberlands in Oregon pay far less than their fair share (compared with what others pay in other states) or even enough for the state to recoup the cost of providing government services to them. None of the state tax collected on timberlands is spent for the common good. Of the very modest Oregon Forest Products Harvest Tax paid on the logging of all timber on essentially all lands, regardless of ownership, 100 percent goes to pay for programs that primarily and directly benefit the timber industry. Historically, The amount of state timber tax monies collected has been three to six times greater than the current level. State timber tax rates are tied to the volume, rather than the value, of timber cut. The result of both conditions has been shortfalls in the provision of government services at both local and state levels. As federal logging levels have declined, log values have increased. Part of this windfall received by timberland owners should be captured to help pay the state’s fair share of replacing declining federal timber payments to counties.

#16. Oregon Private Timberland Owners Not Paying Fair Share of County Property Taxes (19 pages, 2012)

ABSTRACT: The owners of 7.9 million acres of private timberlands in Oregon pay far less than their fair (compared with what others pay) and just (based on wealth) share of county property taxes. Very low taxes on Oregon private timberlands are rationalized as helping to prevent, or at least forestall, development. They do not. County property tax revenues from private timberlands have not kept pace with increasing property values. In 2010, private timberland owners paid $19.5 million in local property taxes. Had they been taxed in the same proportion as their contribution to the state’s total taxable assessed value, they would have paid $30.6 million. Had they been taxed in the same proportion as their contribution to the state’s total taxable real market value, they would have paid $111 million. For property tax purposes, their holdings are valued at $1.9 billion; in fact, the real market value of the holdings is $10 billion. Other property class owners pay higher county property taxes as a result. The current Oregon system of assessment and taxation of property in general—and of private timberlands in particular—is unfair and unjust. As federal logging levels have declined, private timberland values have increased. Part of this windfall received by private timberland owners should be captured by the counties to help pay their fair share of replacing declining federal timber payments to counties.

#15. Native American Tribal Lands and Federal Public Forestlands in Oregon (7 pages, 2012)

ABSTRACT: Tribal lands have nearly as complex a history as Native American peoples themselves. This paper examines Native American tribal “ownership” of lands in Oregon from a singular perspective: the management of federal public lands. Federal public lands are or could be affected by (1) reserved treaty rights, (2) a special provision of law that applies to federal public forestlands that are adjacent to tribal forestlands, and (3) proposals to establish tribal reservation lands through transfer of federal public lands. From a conservation perspective, establishing tribal forests from private industrial timberlands is preferable to creation of tribal forests from federal public lands.

#14. An Overview of Land Management Categories for Oregon Federal Public Lands Under the Northwest Forest Plan (18 pages, 2012)

ABSTRACT: Sometimes conflicting and always confusing, policies for managing federal public forestlands in western Oregon can leave a forest conservationist bewildered. This paper attempts to clarify land management categories by distinguishing among (1) designations, (2) classifications, (3) allocations, (4) overlays and (5) guidance—each of which affect land and resource management by requiring, prioritizing or preventing certain uses as set down in congressional and/or administrative directives. Understanding the specific combination of land management categories that applies to a particular parcel is critical in advocating for that parcel.

#13.2 National Wild and Scenic Rivers and State Scenic Waterways in Oregon (17 pages, 2015)

ABSTRACT: Oregon has more units and miles of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System (NWSRS) than any other state. There are 59 units of the NWSRS in Oregon, totaling over 1,908 stream miles, representing 29 percent of the individual units and 15 percent of the miles in the national system. The area of water and land protected in these Oregon units of the NWSRS is 595,456 acres. The Oregon Scenic Waterways System (OSWS) is complementary to the NWSRS and includes 1,099 miles in 19 units; 79 percent of OSWS miles are also in the NWSRS. Still, fewer than 1 percent of Oregon streams are included in the NWSRS. An estimated additional 10,000 miles (less than 3 percent of the total mileage) of Oregon streams are eligible for inclusion in the NWSRS and OSWS.

#12. Special Congressional Conservation Designations in Oregon (8 pages, 2012)

ABSTRACT: Besides the “routine” congressional conservation designations such as Wilderness, Wild & Scenic River and National Wildlife Refuge, Congress has seen fit to also extend special recognition and/or protection to other or overlapping areas of federal public lands (and sometimes the associated non-federal lands) by generally them as a National “[Something]”. These designations are rated using a 10-point subjective rating system for the level of conservation protection. Some designations are very good and some have loopholes that negate the supposed intent of the conservation designation. These special designations are often used to address policy and/or political difficulties associated with the more routine designations. 

#11. The National Wilderness Preservation System in Oregon: Making It Bigger and Better (12 pages, 2012)

ABSTRACT: Compared to its four adjacent neighbors, Oregon has the smallest percentage of its lands designated as units of the National Wilderness Preservation System. While the average of the areas of the five states protected as wilderness is more than 9 percent, in Oregon less than 4 percent of the land is so protected. Oregon has 47 wilderness areas totaling 2,457,473 acres. Additional potential wilderness areas (a.k.a. roadless areas) in Oregon total more than 12 million acres, with approximately 61 percent of that area being generally tree-free (in the Oregon High Desert and other desert areas considered part of the sagebrush steppe) and the remainder generally forested. Congress should expeditiously expand the National Wilderness System in Oregon.

#10. Oregon and Washington Raw Log Exports: Exporting Jobs and a Subsidy to Domestic Mills (7 pages, 2012)

ABSTRACT: Exports of raw (unprocessed) logs from Oregon and Washington are on the rise again due to increased demand from East Asia. The increase in exports has both economic and environmental consequences. Domestic wood processing facilities benefit from a general ban on exporting logs from federal and state public lands. As overseas mills outcompete domestic mills for logs from private timberlands, domestic mill owners exert political pressure on Congress and the administration to increase logging on federal public lands. Public lands are more important for biological diversity, watershed conservation, carbon sequestration, and recreation and other values than for logging. In 2010, 19 percent of all timber cut in Oregon and Washington was exported as raw logs rather than finished lumber. For perspective, only 8 percent of all timber cut in the two states came from federal public lands. 

#9. Pacific Northwest Offshore Oil and Gas Potential: At Best About A Month’s National Supply; At Worst An Unnatural Disaster (7 pages, 2012)

ABSTRACT: The most substantial threat to the living resources of the Oregon Coast is offshore oil and gas development. $4+/gallon gasoline make consumers/citizens/voters more likely to want to “drill baby drill,” perhaps even the offshore Pacific Northwest. Yet, the estimated amounts of oil and gas “recoverable” offshore of Oregon and Washington would satisfy current United States oil and gas consumption for 21 and 34 days respectively. 

#8. "Small" Wilderness: No Big Deal (10 pages, 2011)

ABSTRACT: There are concerns about the appropriateness of advocating that Congress designate roadless areas less than 5,000 acres in size as units of the National Wilderness Preservation System. These concerns are, generally: (1) these small areas don't provide opportunities for outstanding "solitude" or “primitive recreation” required for Wilderness designation; and/or (2) small areas are not manageable by the responsible agency. One out of every 15 Wilderness areas designated by Congress is a freestanding Wilderness of less than 5,000 acres in size. Congress has also designated other contiguous, multi-unit Wilderness areas of which at least one of the units is less than 5,000 acres in size. Opportunities for solitude and primitive recreation are not necessarily proportional to Wilderness size. Federal land management agencies are managing small and irregular-shaped Wilderness areas without incident across the country. Congress is the ultimate arbiter of whether or not to designate a smaller roadless area as Wilderness.

#7. Overlapping Wilderness and Wild & Scenic River Designations Provide Maximal Conservation Protection for Federal Public Lands (9 pages, 2008)

ABSTRACT: One of the strongest combinations of conservation protection for undeveloped federal public lands is overlapping Wilderness and Wild & Scenic River designations. Each Congressional designation offers protections that the other does not. To most fully ensure public lands are protected for current and future generations, Congress should designate roadless areas as Wilderness and any associated free-flowing streams with outstandingly remarkable values as Wild & Scenic Rivers. These overlapping designations provide a complimentary patchwork of maximum protection for federal lands today.

#6. Establishing a System of and Service for U.S. Deserts and Grasslands (12 pages, 2008

ABSTRACT: The Bureau of Land Management should be subsumed by a congressionally authorized U.S. Desert and Grassland Service analogous to the U.S. Forest Service. The new agency would manage most public lands currently managed by BLM in a new National Desert and Grassland System, analogous to the National Forest System. The agency would have the mission of managing these i lands for biological diversity conservation , watershed protection, carbon sequestration and compatible recreation. As appropriate, remaining BLM would be transferred to the National Park System, National Forest System and National Wildlife Refuge System. Upgrading the BLM from a "bureau" to a "service" would improve public land and resource management. Integrating BLM lands into a new land conservation system would also increase public awareness, acceptance and support for these public lands.

#5. Eliminating Forest Service Regional Offices: Replacing Middle Management with More On-the-Ground Restoration (5 pages, 2007)

ABSTRACT Budget reductions have forced the Forest Service to share rangers and other staff between ranger districts and merge national forests for administrative purposes. Yet, no Forest Service regional office has been eliminated or merged since 1965. Forest Service regional offices should not be merged or preserved, but eliminated entirely. Little conservation good is generated out of regional offices. The private sector has essentially eliminated middle management. Necessary functions now performed by the regional offices could be transferred to the national forest level, Washington Office level or the Albuquerque Service Center. Unnecessary functions currently assigned to the regional offices could be eliminated with cost savings used for other purposes—preferably on-the-ground management at the national forest and ranger district level.

#4. Forest Service Administrative Appeals: A Misallocation of Resources (5 pages, 2007)

ABSTRACT: Conservationists could achieve more and better conservation of national forest lands if they traded away administrative appeals of agency decisions in exchange for Congressionally mandated substantive protections for roadless, riparian, older, naturally younger and other ecologically significant forests. The time and effort spent by the conservation community on administrative appeals could be better spent on preparing for litigation, political organizing, resource monitoring and public education. The proposed legislated trade of process for substance would not affect judicial review of agency actions.

#3. Thinning Certain Oregon Forests to Restore Ecological Function (31 pages, 2007)

ABSTRACT: Politics makes for strange bedfellows and that is particularly the case today with the restoration of Oregon’s public forests. Conservationists must work with cooperative elements of the timber industry to achieve ecological restoration of certain forest types exhibiting certain stand conditions. Significant amounts of this forest restoration will require some commercial logging—“thinning”—albeit only for a few decades and taking much smaller diameter trees than in the past. Logging for ecological restoration will produce much less timber than was historically removed from federal forests, but significantly more timber than has been removed in recent years. Carefully controlled thinning projects in certain forest types with certain stand conditions must be a part of a scientifically justified program of forest restoration that includes protecting all old growth trees, creating more old growth trees, preserving roadless areas, removing roads, removing livestock and/or reintroducing natural fire to forest ecosystems.

#2. Transferring Western Oregon Bureau of Land Management Forests to the National Forest System (18 pages, 2007)

ABSTRACT: Both environmental protection and fiscal efficacy would be improved if federally owned forestlands in west-ern Oregon presently managed by the Bureau of Land Management were transferred to the National Forest System and managed by the United States Forest Service. The Forest Service—even with all its flaws—is the nation’s premier forest management agency. Most forested holdings managed by the BLM in western Oregon comprise “O&C” lands—“Oregon and California” Railroad lands that revested back to federal ownership after a sordid and colorful history as private railroad properties. Unfortunately, that history is perpetuated today by BLM’s consistent, intentional—and often illegal—mismanagement of these lands.

#1. Persuading Congress to Establish a Wilderness and/or Wild & Scenic River: A Checklist (16 pages, 2007)

ABSTRACT: Ordinary citizens have been achieving Congressional protection for their favor roadless areas and/or free-flowing streams since enactment by Congress of the Wilderness Act in 1964 and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968. Though political in nature, there is rationality to the process of protecting a part of America’s wild for this and future generations. There is also a methodology. If you can check off this checklist, you will achieve success that is enduring.

Here is a 2015 addendum to LOP#1.