Rural leaders tout sustainable forestry bennies in D.C.

Posted by Renee Magyar on May 23, 2013

Sustainable Business Oregon reported on the RVCC 2013 Western Week in Washington

RVCC participants met with Senator Merkley in DC in May 2013

By Andy Giegerich, Sustainable Business Oregon editor

Several downstate Oregon business leaders returned from Washington, D.C. this week after giving elected officials, Obama Administration members and agency heads an earful about biomass and sustainable forestry practices.

Twenty-two members of the Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition, which includes the Sustainable Northwest group, hit the nation's capitol to hold more than 70 meetings over four days. The group, which included members from seven states this year, makes the trip during RVCC Western Week in Washington each year to share ideas about policy challenges facing the rural west.

The idea is to inform federal leaders about opinions of rural communities as they pertain to national policies, said Dylan Kruse, a Sustainable Northwest program manager who made the trip.

"We're just basically folks looking for solutions in the Western U.S.," said Kruse, who's part of the team led by Martin Goebel. "We want to empower rural residents who work on forest landscapes and give them an opportunity to participate in federal discussions where they live."

One issue the RVCC team is driving is biomass, which is giving the federal government a different way to look at lands it manages.

"It's a completely different type of practice than just timber management," Kruse said. "We can help them find new ways of reinvesting (their resources). It's a whole new world."

During the group's 2013 trip, Congress market up the Farm Bill, which sets national agriculture, nutrition, conservation and forestry policy. The last Farm Bill was passed in 2008 and expired last year.

"It was a good time to be there," Kruse said. "We think we influenced the conversation on it." The measure is currently being debated on the Senate floor with sizable input from Oregon senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley.

RVCC members met with Democrats Wyden and Merkley and Republican Rep. Greg Walden, who represents eastern and central Oregon.

The group also talked to leaders about the National Forest System Planning Rule, which regulates how forests and grasslands are developed and managed.

The RVCC's members come from Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington. Among other tenets, the group believes that "long-term resource security is more dependent on reinvestment in the associated ecosystems and rural economies than on the profits generated by their production."

Said Kruse, "We made some headway. It's important that people with the federal agencies hear about how the policies affect the people who use them every day. They need to hear from people who work on the landscape."

Read the original article here.