Timber Industry Warms to Wyden Forest Act

Timber Industry Encouraged by Wyden Introduction of Oregon Eastside Forests Restoration, Old Growth Protection, and Jobs Act of 2009
By American Forest Resource Council

Portland, OR–The American Forest Resource Council, a timber industry trade association based in Portland, Oregon, is hopeful Sen. Ron Wyden’s (D-OR) introduction of the Oregon Eastside Forests Restoration, Old Growth Protection, and Jobs Act of 2009 and the program of work it envisions will benefit all Oregonians. AFRC appreciates the work of both Senator Wyden and members of the environmental community who, together with industry representatives in Eastern Oregon, were involved in crafting this template for moving forward.

“Senator Wyden’s legislation is an important part of an overall effort to restore the health of our Eastside forests while preserving the logging and milling capacity needed to do the work on the ground,” said Tom Partin, AFRC President. “Senator Wyden’s personal commitment to aggressively pursue increased federal forest management funding and provide needed oversight to ensure on-the-ground mechanical treatments are accomplished in our federal forests were important factors in our participation and are essential to the viability of the legislation and rural communities east of the Cascades.”

The legislation requires the Forest Service to undertake large-scale forest restoration projects designed to improve forest health, reduce insect and disease infestations, prevent catastrophic wildfires and sustain the remaining forest products industry infrastructure in Eastern Oregon. Science-based collaborative planning, oversight and a streamlined objection process will complement existing Forest Service authorities, reduce delays and provide the agency added resolve for taking decisive action.

Upon passage of the bill, each Eastern Oregon National Forest will be required to mechanically treat substantially more acres, which will reduce the backlog of fire prone forests and provide additional sawlogs to keep area mills in operation. In recognition of the emergency conditions that exist east of the Cascades, the legislation exempts forest management projects from administrative appeals until collaborative large-scale projects are successfully implemented. If Eastern Oregon’s milling capacity were lost, as has happened in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming, the total cost of forest health restoration would skyrocket, with the total financial burden falling on the taxpayers. By selling sawlogs and other commercially valuable material, the Forest Service will be able to increase the number of acres it can restore each year and sustain the handful of mills remaining in Eastern Oregon.

“The agency won’t be able to accomplish this work without additional appropriations in 2011. Forests throughout our region are short on funding, which means new monies are necessary to prevent taking money away from other forests in Oregon and Washington. We appreciate Senator Wyden’s strong commitment of support on that front,” Partin said.

“In order for this legislation to bear fruit, it is vital that all interested parties commit to overcoming the gridlock currently plaguing federal forest management. We believe Senator Wyden is committed to providing the oversight needed to sustain our forests and our rural communities,” said Partin. “We are counting on all those who participated in these discussions to continue in the spirit of cooperation and collaboration to deliver on the promise of healthy forests and healthy communities. Our forests and the citizens of Oregon, especially our Eastside communities, depend on it,” Partin concluded.

The American Forest Resource Council represents forest product manufacturers and landowners throughout the west and is based in Portland, Oregon.

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