Members of Oregon’s Congressional delegation are developing potential solutions for restoring active management to the 2.5 million acres of Oregon & California (O&C) Grant timberlands.
Extreme environmental groups have mobilized to stop any solutions. These radical groups desperately want to protect the status quo that is hurting our forests, workers and rural families. Please read below and click here to send your federal representatives a personalized message asking them to take action on this important issue – it takes less than 2 minutes.
Currently, there’s very little active management of O&C lands to provide both economic and environmental benefits. Our overgrown forests have become more vulnerable to insects, disease and catastrophic wildfire, while our friends and neighbors are continuing to lose family-wage jobs. Rural communities throughout Southern Oregon continue to suffer from chronic unemployment and high poverty rates, and the situation is only getting worse. Due to the lack of a reliable timber supply, the Rough & Ready mill— the last sawmill in Josephine County- was forced to close and lay off 85 workers. These stories are being repeated across our rural communities.
By law, the O&C forests are required to be managed for sustained yield timber production, and are capable of sustaining up to 1.2 billion board feet of timber harvest per year. With an average harvest of 137 million board feet over the past two decades, these levels are far below what is legally required under the O&C Act and even under President Bill Clinton’s failed Northwest Forest Plan.
In response, Oregon Congressmen Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrader and Greg Walden have developed a proposal called the O&C Trust, Conservation and Jobs Act. Their proposal puts 1.5 million acres of the O&C lands into a management trust, dedicates all of the net profits generated from timber sales to O&C counties, and places the remainder of the land base (timber stands over 125 years of age) into various designations aimed primarily at natural succession. By allowing for permanent timber production primarily on lands that have been previously harvested, and ensuring a sustainable level of timber and forest products from federal lands, the congressmen say their proposal would create thousands of new jobs in rural communities and generate tens of millions of dollars to fund rural county governments.
As Chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Sen. Ron Wyden says he is working on his own O&C legislation. Sen. Wyden has not released details of his proposal, but he has publicly endorsed increasing timber harvests by “modernizing” existing federal laws as they apply to these lands. However, it is unclear if Wyden’s approach will provide any real certainty, adequate harvest levels, or be sustainable over the long term. As Chair of this key committee, Sen. Wyden has an extraordinary opportunity to resolve the crisis on O&C lands and allow more rural citizens to return to work in the woods.
Oregon’s congressional delegation has pledged to end the gridlock on these forestlands, but nothing will happen unless more Oregonians stand-up for jobs and forest health. Please contact your federal representatives today, and let them know you support a permanent solution that creates desperately-needed jobs while protecting our forests for the future.
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