Refuting Misleading Info on O&C Lands Bills

Tom Partin
By American Forest Research Council

I recently received a copy of this press release and “white paper” from Senator Ron Wyden’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee staff (below). Many of you may have received the information as well. I felt compelled to contact you in response to this email and to provide you an update on the lack of a response to the letter AFRC sent to Senator Wyden nearly two weeks ago.

Clearly Oregonians are beginning to raise serious questions about the details and effects of the Wyden O&C legislation. When concerns were raised about whether Senator Wyden’s O&C legislation would provide certainty for timber harvests, his Oregon spokesman was quoted in the Oregonian last week as saying “let’s pass the bill and find out.” We don’t agree with this approach and believe it is critical that we fully understand how the Senator’s legislation will address today’s legal and analysis paralysis, how much timber volume is likely and how it will be geographically distributed, and the county timber receipt revenue likely under the proposal.

As you know, nearly two weeks ago I sent a letter to Senator Wyden requesting that his office and the BLM release all the information needed to model and analyze his proposal so we can understand its impacts and how it compares with the House proposal. I have attached that letter again. Nearly two weeks later we haven’t heard a word back and have been joined in asking for the information by the Association of O&C Counties, Members of the Oregon House delegation, and Governor Kitzhaber’s office. Unfortunately, the information has not been released. Only when this information is released can we independently verify the timber harvests and county revenues likely under the legislation. Until then, we are going to see a steady stream of the kind of “white papers” and press releases below.

As you may know, the O&C Counties have raised concerns about the amount of timber receipt revenues likely to be generated under the legislation. In response, Senator Wyden’s office is pointing to a recent analysis by the Headwaters Institute claiming that the Senate O&C legislation would generate $36.3 million to $43 million each year as well as an internal analysis in the attached white paper claiming that the legislation would generate $55 million to $68.2 million each year. There are some serious questions about both of these claims.

First, both of these estimates directly conflict with information on Senator Wyden’s website and attached in the FAQ document released by the Senator. The relevant portion is below:

How much money does this mean for the 18 O&C counties? How does it compare to what they get now?

Senator Wyden has said all along that logging alone, or this bill alone, won’t solve all the problems of cash-strapped counties. What it will do is create jobs and provide a stable and predictable source of money for these counties.

The only way to match the current $35 million of Secure Rural Schools funding would be to increase the harvest beyond acceptable levels – in the neighborhood of 700 to 800 million board feet. That is not going to happen.

The press release and white paper below seek to refute “lobbyist’s” claims of county timber receipt revenue estimates of $17-$19 million under the Wyden legislation as “misleading.” However, the Senator’s FAQ document actually validates the estimate. While we don’t agree with the figure, the FAQ claims that 700 million board feet is required to generate $35 million. It then follows that 350 million board feet would generate approximately $17.5 million – the exact number that the information below seeks to refute.

Meanwhile, the press release seeks to play up an analysis from the Headwaters Institute, which as we understand it merely took the 300-350 mmbf estimate from the Wyden office and assumed that timber receipts would roughly double over recent levels since 300 mmbf is roughly double the current harvest levels. Their analysis in no way confirms the 300-350 mmbf harvest estimate nor does it tease out how timber receipt revenues are likely to change under the restrictive “ecological forestry” prescriptions included in the Senate O&C proposal.

I think we can all expect and encourage a vigorous debate as the House and Senate proposals are compared. We hope this is the start of a serious effort of compromise and negotiations among our delegation. However, it will be important to have facts and an accurate apples-apples comparison of the bills to aid that dialogue. We understand that the Governor’s office is willing to model both proposals again through his O&C Task Force. Unfortunately, Wyden’s office has not yet agreed to this or released the information needed to run detailed modeling on his proposal to determine harvest levels, the geographic distribution of those harvests, and the likely county revenues. We hope you will join us in asking his office why they haven’t agreed to this so all Oregonians can review the facts for themselves.

Please contact me if you have any questions and thank you for covering this critical issue.


Tom Partin
American Forest Resource Council
5100 SW Macadam, Suite 350
Portland, Oregon 97239

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