Submitted by: Gienie Assink, Springfield, OR
Oregon counties find themselves in a budget dilemma as a result of the inability to use our O&C Lands to provide funding for public safety and federal Forest Service timberlands to provide funding for vital public services like road maintenance and schools. The reality is that Oregon taxpayers cannot make up the huge difference in the lost timber receipts that used to finance these important county services, and it is time to reconsider whether we should restore that lost tax base by reopening those areas for economic use and timber harvesting.
For rural areas, the loss of the federal timber tax base has already meant less education opportunities for children. Further, roads will continue to decay and the cost of those repairs is rapidly increasing while funding continues to plummet. For Oregon counties that don’t have enough revenues now for jail space for criminals, the impact of the loss of timber receipts from the forestry tax base is real in terms of public safety.
If the economic use of Forest Service lands were restored, then funding for Oregon county services like maintenance for schools and roads would also be restored. Since the promises of the Northwest Forest Plan for timber harvesting were never delivered, this also put pressure on Oregon county finances for lack of timber receipts.
This weekend; however, Oregonians received some good news regarding county funding. The trees that hug the ridges rising steeply north and south of the McKenzie River near Vida Oregon will be on the block for clear-cutting under a new management strategy expected to go into effect at the end of the year.
After 15 years of managing its 2.2 million acres of forests in Western Oregon under the guidance of the Northwest Forest Plan, the Bureau of Land Management will shift to a new resource management regime that emphasizes timber revenue over habitat protection. It will increase logging 335 percent, from about 135 million board feet a year to 588 million board feet, and help fund critical public safety programs, schools and roads.
Gov. Ted Kulongoski is reviewing it for consistency with state laws and goals; and a last bout of protests have been filed with the BLM.
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