Associated Oregon Loggers, Inc.
2015 Madrona Avenue, Salem, OR

Welcome to the Associated Oregon Loggers

Associated Oregon Loggers, Inc. (AOL) is the statewide trade association representing some 1,000 member companies engaged in the harvest and sustainable forest management of Oregon’s 30 million acres of forestland. “Logger and Proud of It!”

Introduction to AOL

Recent News

Key Issues

The Associated Oregon Loggers, Inc. has been involved in many federal legislative issues this past Spring and early Summer. Following is a summary of the key issues affecting our industry. We work closely with the Federal Forest Resource Council (FFRC) and the American Loggers Council on these matters, and much of the following report should be attributed to their reporting of issues in their communication to members. AOL has also been involved in many issues of unique interest to the logging sector and the status of those issues are also reported below.

Senate Farm Bill, With Slim Forestry Title, Heads to Conference: The Senate Thursday June 28, 2018 approved a bipartisan Farm Bill by a vote of 86 to 11, setting up a contentious conference with the House. The Senate forestry title has one new legislated Categorical Exemption (CE), some wood promotion provisions, and a few other items. The House title, in contrast has 11 new CE’s and numerous other NEPA streamlining provisions.

Of course, the Farm Bill never turns on the forestry title (at least it hasn’t yet). The Senate bill focuses on bolstering farm income support programs and retaining a large conservation program that is intended to achieve conservation results (while bolstering farm income). Many commodity prices are at or near historic lows, prompting calls to bolster the farm "safety net." The real fight will be over SNAP, known more widely as food stamps. The House bill includes stringent work requirements for able bodied adults who are not raising small children, while the Senate bill does not.

Resignation of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy: Perhaps the biggest news of the summer is the announced resignation of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. While AOL certainly was not a factor in Kennedy’s decision, the fact is that this provides the Trump Administration with an opportunity to shape the future of the government’s Judicial Branch. The nine-member court is comprised of four established liberals and four established conservatives. Kennedy had the reputation to be the "swing vote" on many controversial issues, sometimes siding with the conservatives and sometimes with the liberals. His successor will certainly change the current balance and tip the panel in the conservative direction. As The Mainline goes to press, President Trump announced the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh as his selection to succeed Justice Kennedy. Kavanaugh was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush and is considered to have impeccable credentials, strong intellect and sterling character. His confirmation promises to be one of the great political battles in recent history.

Other Pending Confirmations & Congress’ Summer Agenda: Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced earlier this month he was cancelling most of the traditional August recess, primarily to keep confirming President Trump’s nominees. Naturally, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) hinted they may place holds on nominees unless the Senate votes to reverse tariffs the President put in place for "national security" reasons.

One of those nominees is Jim Hubbard, the President’s pick to serve as Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment. If confirmed this summer, he’d take office late in the second year of the Trump Presidency. And with one third of the Senate up for reelection this fall and a vacancy on the Supreme Court, a lot of time will be spent grandstanding, rather than voting on overdue nominations…

We’re still expecting the Forest Service to formally release an updated NEPA handbook for public comment. That is, unless the bureaucracy grinds that process to halt. That handbook revision will unfold in parallel with an ongoing "forest products modernization" effort, and efforts to rapidly implement the provisions of the March 2018 Omnibus Bill, which fixed fire funding and provided new management authorities.

Also potentially up next month is action from the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee to modernize the Endangered Species Act. We’re not certain of the level of enthusiasm for that effort, but time will tell.

House Panel Discusses Road Closures While Lacking Forest Service Representation:

On Tuesday, June 26th the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on the Interior, Energy and Environment held a hearing on the access to public lands and effect of forest service road closures. Chairman Greg Gianforte (R-MT) noted that "the Forest Service has closed more than 21,000 miles of roads [just in Montana] since the 1990s, nearly one third of all Forest Service roads in the state." This has resulted, he said, in limited access and prevents the people from using Federal lands. He noted reduced access for a variety of uses, including grazing and recreation, and asserted that fires were harder to control due to reduced access.

The Committee heard from four witnesses: Montana State Representative Kerry White,

Baker County (Oregon) Commission Chair Bill Harvey, California Off-Road Vehicle Association Managing Director Amy Granat, and Jim Furnish, a retired Forest Service official from the Clinton Administration era. The Committee discussed how the closure of public roads and restricted access to Forest Service lands impact local government, small-town economies, recreational activities, daily life, and tourism. Witnesses testified to problems with the travel management plans (developed entirely during the Obama administration), and the consequences are of losing public land and the role it has played in their local economies.

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) hinted that the road closures could be at least partially responsible for the catastrophic wildfires happening across the country, especially in Arizona. Gosar criticized the panel of witnesses, noting the lack of current Forest Service expertise. "Let’s have another hearing, and next time we need representatives from the Forest Service so they can be held responsible for their actions," said Gosar.

Travel management plans were developed over the course of the Obama Administration. While a great deal of public outreach was done, many local people feel that these plans were biased towards road closures and reduced access, and in many cases the Forest Service and local authorities clashed over which roads to keep open, and – in extreme cases – which roads were under which agency’s jurisdiction. The Trump administration has left these travel management plans in place, for the most part, and has recommended a 59 percent reduction in road funding. This hardly seems like a budget focused on retaining access to public lands.

Is Logging an Agricultural Activity?: The American Loggers Council (ALC) has asked its members if it should pursue a legislative strategy to align timber harvesting and associated logging activities with agriculture. The goal would be to receive the same benefits and exceptions from certain regulations that agriculture receives under federal law. Through the monthly newsletter, ALC Executive Vice President Danny Dructor posed this question in the form of an informal poll. The answer we received was an overwhelming "Yes." Of the 166 loggers who took the online poll, 97 percent expressed approval of this policy initiative. As a result, the Legislative Committee will begin exploring our options, looking for partners in the effort and keep you posted.

Bill to Repeal FET on Trucks and Trailers Makes Its Way to Senate: U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) has introduced S.3052, a bill to repeal the 12 percent federal excise tax (FET) on the sale of heavy duty trucks and trailers. The federal excise tax on commercial trucks and buses was originally imposed in 1917 to help pay for World War I. It has grown from 3 percent to 12 percent and adds $12,000 to $22,000 on the price of a new heavy duty truck. It is the highest excise tax Congress levies on a percentage basis on any product, including alcohol and tobacco.

"This burdensome tax creates excessive costs that are passed on to truckers, who play an essential role in maintaining our nation’s economy," stated Senator Gardner. "I was happy to introduce legislation to repeal it."

S.3052 is similar to the "Heavy Truck, Tractor and Trailer Retail Federal Excise Tax Repeal Act" (H.R. 2946) introduced by U.S. Representative Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) in June 2017. The House bill currently has 17 cosponsors.

AOL will keep close attention to these bills and expressed our support when opportunities arise.

AOL Event Calendar