Critics say EPA policy would cripple forestry industry

Tuesday, December 21st 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

IDABEL, Okla. (AP) -- Landowners and forestry officials say regulations the Environmental Protection Agency have proposed for forestry activity would hurt the state's forestry industry. The proposed EPA changes would force landowners, loggers, timber companies, state forestry services and the U.S. Forest Service to obtain the same stringent EPA permits for routine activities that are required for sewage plants.

"It would definitely cut production," said Don Herron of Idabel. Herron is the head of Herron Timber, which is one of the largest private timberlands owners in the state. "It would probably drive timberlands more into the hands of industrial owners rather than private landowners, which I don't think is a good thing.

Herron told the McCurtain Daily Gazette that he believes the EPA regulations "would make us further dependent on imports of timber and raise the prices of lumber and wood products to consumers." Paul Fuller of Idabel, executive director of the Oklahoma Forestry Association, said passage of the EPA regulations would have a big negative impact on the forest products industry in the state.

Forestry contributes more than $1 billion annually to the state economy. The industry is centered in McCurtain County. The EPA has proposed bringing forests under point-source pollution standards instead of non-point source standards. Non-point source involves runoff into streams from sources that aren't clearly and specifically identified. Agriculture, rangelands and forests were identified as non-point source.

The newspaper said that timber harvesting, thinning, site preparation, planting trees, controlled burning, road-building and maintenance and pest control all could come under the EPA proposals. Herron thinks the proposal is ludicrous and points to reports that show forests contribute only about 5 percent or less of pollution to the nation's streams. Most of that is in the form of sedimentation.

EPA views the inclusion of forestry as a logical extension of a section of the Clean Water Act passed in 1972 and Total Maximum Daily Loads. Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act requires states prepare a list of streams impaired or threatened by chicken litter runoff, forestry-caused sedimentation or other stream-polluting sources.

TMDLs set the maximum amount of pollutants from various sources that can enter the streams without water standard violations. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is challenging the EPA proposals on a variety of points, including that Congress drew a distinction between point sources and non-point sources of pollution.