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America's Great Outdoors: Conservation Grab for this Century

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America's Great Outdoors: Conservation Grab for this Century

Postby Scott Hatch » Tue Aug 10, 2010 2:50 pm

America's Great Outdoors
Working Forests Listening Session
August 9, 2010
Grappone Conference Center
Concord NH

written by Scott Hatch


The first thing that struck me when I entered the hall was the overwhelming presence of the anti-access crowd....and when I say crowd, I mean that there was approximately 500 people in attendance. I saw "conservation" that I'd never heard of as well as The Nature Conservancy, Seirra Club, AMC, etc. To say I was a bit intimidated would be an understatement. Also in attendance were Governor Lynch and Senator Shaheen.

This meeting had three different components; the Welcome and Opening Remarks, a Panel Discussion, and finally everyone broke out into 6 different Group Conversations.

The Welcome and Opening Remarks

The Welcome and Opening Remarks were given by the many politicians in attendance. The first speaker was NH Governor Lynch. As expected he discussed NH's accomplishments in land conservation over the past 100 years starting with the Weeks Act (created the WMNF) and how our state is now 85% forested. He want on to implore the attendees that we need to "Protect 'our' Forests" whether public or private. As I listened I began to hear a common theme, and as was later remarked, this listening session was unique as it was concentrating on private land whether in private ownership or owned by timber management.

The next speaker was Michael Bean, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, Department of the Interior. This speaker implored the people that President Obama and Director Salazar directed him that "we" need to protect the "special places". He went on to exclaim that it was nice to be in a part of the country where people didn't view these goals as "socialist" ideals.

After Mr. Bean our junior Senator Jeanne Shaheen took the stage. It soon became very clear to me that he goals, views, and ideals are not in line with my own nor anyone that enjoys "motorized" recreation or large private land ownership. During her speech she went on about how NH needs to keep its landscapes intact. She brought up images of the state "timbered off" 100 years ago. She thought it was crucial the groups would be discussing ways to protect large tracts of privately held lands. This was important to prevent the state being timbered off like it was 100 years ago. It was for this reason that this session was the only session in the country where the focus would be on private land. She went on to explain that these forested areas were needed to "harness" and "dilute" carbon emissions. She like the speakers before her implored the people in attendance to "protect the forests for future generations".

The final speaker for the opening remarks was Secretary of the USDA, Tom Vilsack. Secretary Vilsack began by thanking Senator Shaheen for being very "active" in Washington DC protecting the forested areas in our country and our region. He went on to state that she was a "forward thinking" person. Furthermore he stated that the America Great Outdoor Initiative would be THE major conservation land move of our century. He explained that 53% of the water supply for lower 48 states comes from Forested Areas. In addition the US forested areas off set 12% of the global carbon emissions.

He stated some of the things that the USDA has done to "protect" private and public lands. They are restoring forest health to prevent wild fires and building resilience for climate change. He was concerned with 56% of US forested lands in private ownership - the total was 430 million acres currently owned by 11 million landowners. He explained that we need to realize the REAL threat to private forests and that is development - stating that 57 million acres are threatened by developments. This would impact the water quality, species, and forest health. The top 2 of 3 impacted watersheds threatened by development are in NH. They felt that the threat is because the average age of the landowners is increasing and the USDA is afraid of rapid turn over and then development of private property.


He ended his speech by stating that conserving the forested areas was something he believed he "must do".

Throughout the Opening Remarks there were several common themes:

- Conserve large tracts of privately held land

- "Reconnect" children to the outdoors, items like childhood obesity and diabetes were sited , by "education of conservation"

- finding ways to give landowners tax incentives for conservation easements

- forested lands off-set carbon emissions

- climate change


Panel Discussion

The panel was moderated by the Secretary of the Interior, Tom Vilsack and the members and their organizations are as follows:

- Jane Difley, President of the Society of the Protection of NH Forests (anti-motorized)

- Brad Simpkins, Acting NH State Forester (unknown)

- Roger Milliken, The Nature Conservancy (anti-motorized)

- Peter Stein, Lyme Timber Company (unknown, seemed to lean towards anti-motorized)

- Dave Tellmen, NH Family Forest Landowner (unknown, seemed to lean towards motorized)

- Will Manzer, CEO Eastern Mountain Sports (Pro Recreation of all types)

- Walter Graff, VP Appalachian Mountain Club (anti-motorized)

- Jamey French, President Hardwood Federation and Northland Forest Products (unknown, seemed to lean towards motorized)

The panel discussion's main focus was how to keep the US Forests working. Towards this end the majority of the discussions didn't directly pertain to our interests however there were some interesting points discussed. I have entered above the accepted position of the groups position towards motorized use. I must admit was also surprised with some of the comments made by the panel members which shook my understanding of their organizations positions on motorized use. Brad Simpkins, Acting NH State Forester mentioned that they do not want to see barriers erected which would prevent landowners from protecting and managing their property. Roger Milliken of The Nature Conservancy stated that the coffers are empty to purchase new easements. Jamey French and Dave Tellman were both concerned about the loss of markets for the pulp industry, the lack of credit for their industry, and loss of their work force due to the recession which they feel they will never regain.


Break

During the break I was able to filter through the crowd and engage in a couple of conversations. I was again surprised with some of the views held by the people I was speaking with. We all agreed on the concern of the loss open spaces which we need to recreate on. While these people may not have thrown their arms open to the thought of summer motorized recreation, I could see that I did change their prejudices. I was able to explain that we work with landowners, timber management companies, towns, and state agencies maintaining trails using the NH Trails Bureau Best Management Practices to protect the environment and water quality.

I did see NH Trails Bureau Chief Chris Gamache at the meeting and I later found out there was a member from the NH Snowmobile Association in attendance.

Group Conversations

There were 6 different Group Conversations

- Promoting markets and providing incentives for traditional wood products and new markets for working forests

- Providing incentives, investments, and policies to support the strategic conservation of working forest landscapes

- Providing incentives, investments, and policies to re-connect Americans, including outdoor recreation and educational experiences, to working forests

- Maintaining and managing working forests in the face of climate change

- Engaging youth to be the future conservation leaders of working forests

- General Discussion, open to anything

I choose the discussion group, "Providing incentives, investments, and policies to re-connect Americans, including outdoor recreation and educational experiences, to working forests".

During these discussions there were 4 points to cover on the above discussion topic

1) What successes can your organization point to?

2) What obstacles does your organization face?

3) What role can the Federal government fulfill to assist?

4) What tools are needed to meet these goals?

I did speak on behalf of our interests. I mentioned that we work with private landowners, timber management companies, towns, and state agencies maintaining trails using the NH Trails Bureau Best Management Practices to protect the environment and water quality. I went on to explain that one of things that worked was offering donations to assist landowners offset the costs of owning land like taxes.

As a member of the NH State Trails Advisory Committee our group works with all trails users. NH trail organizations have a unique working relationship that is not found in any other part of New England. The inclusive nature that the NH Trails Bureau takes promotes all users and bridges the gaps between motorized and non motorized users. Further I explained that the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) uses taxes from the federal gas tax for fuel that is not used on "highways". I went on to inform the attendees that these funds are split 30/40/30 - 30% motorized, 40% multiple use (in NH multi use is motorized and non motorized), and 30% non motorized. These funds are the life blood of the majority of non-motorized trail groups. I went on to point out that the greater number of motorized trails increases the amount of gas tax which increases the amount of RTP funds available per state.

The obstacles that our organization faces are the closure of lands and trails. I explained that much of the language written in easements excludes summer motorized use. I explained that closing these trails only increases illegal activity when working together with trail users would promote a healthy forest for all users.

The role that I asked the Feds to address was reenacting the RTP funds through the Federal Highway Administration. I also informed moderator to allow summer motorized use on properties with easements.

There were also other organizations present that had similar concerns and were quasi pro-motorized. Ducks Unlimited was present and the NH Timber Owners Association supported summer motorized access

Conclusion

After having attended approximately 10 years of the White Mountain National Forest revision process the nature of the "listening" groups was a welcome change. The federal agencies were not dictating or laying out the way things were going to be. Instead they were noting and recording everyone's position and comments. While I don't know what may happen, one can only hope that "hear" the recommendations made by many people to include all concerned parties instead locking groups out of the discussion.

One of my largest concerns was the federal government encroaching on the roles of state and local officials. Also the biggest concern was overwhelming feeling that the elected officials feel they know whats best for privately owned land.

I still see this as an up hill battle from the comments made by our elected and appointed officials during their opening statements. We need as many comments as possible supporting motorized recreation. Please give specific reasons such as boosting the local economy at the below link:

http://ideas.usda.gov/ago/ideas.nsf/sea ... 0&count=40
Last edited by Scott Hatch on Tue Aug 10, 2010 9:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby tammylynn » Tue Aug 10, 2010 3:03 pm

Thanks for attending Scott and posting this. :up: Posted on DWE. I'll respond when I have more time to digest this.
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Postby jeepinjp » Thu Aug 12, 2010 11:58 am

Scott,
Thanks for attending and representing our cause. Nice write up. And I must say excellent point on RTP.." These funds are the life blood of the majority of non-motorized trail groups. I went on to point out that the greater number of motorized trails increases the amount of gas tax which increases the amount of RTP funds available per state." :D
Thanks JP 911 NEVER FORGET
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing" Edmund Burke "
Blue Ribbon Coalition Board of Directors http://www.sharetrails.org/
NJ Partner NOHVCC http://www.nohvcc.org/
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Postby Scott Hatch » Thu Aug 12, 2010 12:40 pm

You're welcome....

I am a member of the NH STAC (State Trails Advisory Committee) that works with NH Trails Bureau. This past year I was one of the members that approved RTP Grants. This was a very eye-opening experience and gave me a tremendous insight into the RTP grant process (content and writing). In addition every state approves grants differently and as such NH is being looked at as an example for the rest of the nation by the Federal Highway Administration.

Unfortunately many non-motorized activist don't understand or realize the symbiotic relationship between motorized and non motorized trail use. I felt it was crucial to show how motorized users benefit the non-motorized users.

Ijust wish there was some way I could receive a half decent pay check to further motorized interests like many of the anti-access organizations do with their legions
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Postby Eric » Thu Aug 12, 2010 1:02 pm

Scott Hatch wrote:. . . I just wish there was some way I could receive a half decent pay check to further motorized interests like many of the anti-access organizations do with their legions


First of all, great job Scott!

I would agree with you that motorized interests need to step up and provide support for those that invest so much time fighting for the cause. I have no idea if this idea has been discussed before but perhaps it is time for the NEA to consider establishing some sort of a Foundation or PAC that can support a part-time activist (or two or three) through donations.
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Postby swampdonkey » Sat Aug 14, 2010 9:23 pm

Scott
You do a tremendous job at representing ohrv's, the great outdoors meeting you went to-wow your good.
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