Oregonian presses Obama hard on forest, free trade, energy

Oregon Natural Resource News Note: Below is a Tuesday Oregonian newspaper Editorial Board statement on the eve of President Obama’s visit.  The open letter is very forward in asking for Obama’s help and attention to Oregon’s issues of forest policy, land-use and trade issues.

Oregonian Editorial:

Look down as you fly into Oregon on Wednesday, Mr. President. That sea of green below is both the history and future of our economy.  Take a good long look out the window. Because once you’re on the ground in Portland — let alone back in Washington — it’s easy to forget what you’ve seen: the millions of acres of federal forests and rangeland, the scatter of small rural towns fading into the landscape, the blue rivers pouring toward the Pacific.

Oregonians are counting on you to remember, Mr. President. We’re struggling with persistent 10.6 percent unemployment, ever more crowded classrooms and shorter school years. And life is hardest in those little towns you’ll see down there on the edge of the forests.

Of course, you have a lot on your mind — two grinding wars, an economy terribly slow to recover, a threatening midterm election. But Oregon is not asking for much.

Only this: Opportunity.

All Oregonians seek is the chance to make the most of everything you’ll see from your plane — our forests and rivers and clean sources of energy, and our special place on the edge of the Pacific Rim. We can take it from there — that’s what we’ve done throughout our 150-plus-year history.

So here is our ask, Mr. President:

One, put the reauthorization of federal forest payments in your budget for the coming year. These payments will provide more than $230 million to rural Oregon counties this year. Without them, counties will have to lay off sheriff’s deputies, stop road maintenance, close libraries, cut prosecutors and perhaps tip into insolvency altogether.

As you have acknowledged, federal forest payments are not a long-term solution for Oregon or any other state. But for now they are the only way the federal government can keep its century-long commitment to help support schools, roads and other public services in communities surrounded by public forests.

Two, Mr. President, during your 2008 campaign you said you supported county timber payments and would work with Oregon’s congressional delegation to find a meaningful, long-term solution. Sen. Ron Wyden has brought most timber industry leaders and conservation groups together around an agreement to expedite logging of eastside forests while protecting old-growth trees. It’s a partial solution — affecting only the dry east side — but it’s a start that could lead to a similar westside accord. Would you direct your administration to help push the Wyden agreement through Congress?

Three, we desperately need more federal leadership on energy issues. At great cost, Oregon has positioned itself as one of the top green-energy states in the nation. We lead the nation in solar panel production, and several international energy companies have opened their North American headquarters here. We have spent tens of millions of tax dollars encouraging wind farms. There’s so much more we can do with biomass, solar, wind and wave energy, but only if the federal government matches Oregon’s commitment.

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