In September, Rep. Peter DeFazio, the ranking member of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee, saw the passage of the Oregon & California Trust Act. This bill effectively opens federally managed O&C Trust lands in the Cascades and Coastal Range for logging of up to 500 million board-feet per year, compared with 200 million board-feet annually harvested over the past few years through BLM-managed Oregon forests. The bill also establishes 90,000 acres of new wilderness, 130 miles of new Wild and Scenic river designations, and provides protection for more than 1.2 million acres of mature and old growth forests. The logging proceeds would generate an estimated $90 million for Oregon counties that are facing the long-anticipated cut of federal logging subsidies known as the Secure Rural Schools legislation. Proponents of the bill cite its continued federal funding and job creation. Opponents of the bill see it as a repeal of the Northwest Forest Plan, which aims for lower forest production and conservation. Here, Rep. DeFazio and Oregon Wild director, Sean Stevens debate the merits of the bill.
Click below to view each side.
Executive Director, Oregon Wild
Oregon is justifiably proud of our majestic forests – but we haven’t always done a great job of keeping them standing for future generations.
During the 1970s and 1980s, the timber industry cut down almost 90 percent of Oregon’s old-growth forests. Because county governments receive a share of the logging revenues off federal public lands, this clear-cutting resulted in huge windfalls to county bureaucracies. In the 1990s, when the Northwest Forest Plan finally brought science-based forest management, the pay-outs began to shrink.
With declining federal subsidies and the lowest property taxes in the state, some Oregon counties now face insolvency. The timber industry and the politicians they support are hoping to exploit the county funding crisis to achieve a return to unsustainable clear-cut logging.
Recent proposals to heavily log the so-called “O&C lands” in western Oregon fail to recognize that Oregon’s modern economy is driven more by quality of life, outdoor recreation, and scenic values than it is by clear-cuts. A Georgetown University analysis found that in Oregon, employment in recreation and related industries is expected to grow by 31 percent by 2020—exceeding the 3 percent expected job growth in logging and related industries.
Instead of returning to a funding model that dirties streams and puts wildlife at risk of extinction, state and county governments must share the responsibility. Reinstituting a state logging severance tax that Oregon eliminated in the 1990s and modernizing property tax rates in counties that currently have some of the lowest taxes in the state are two viable options.
Forest managers are slowly moving toward a focus on thinning in areas previously damaged by logging, and on improving habitat for wildlife and salmon. They consistently meet their timber goals, but do so without conflict or controversy.
We need a plan that fosters balance between responsible logging and other interests– not a plan that takes us back to the cut-and-run days of the 1980s.