O&C Forest Legislation
Senator Wyden has released a long-anticipated bill to utilize O&C Forests for more timber production in an attempt to give revenues to the O&C Counties.
The following comes from Wyden’s press release in the Oregonian:
This might be the best chance to pass O&C legislation before at least some of Oregon’s timber counties become what Wyden termed “economic sacrifice zones.” Wyden is chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., is chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, and Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., is the ranking Democrat. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., is part of House leadership and has close ties to Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. After 2014 elections, committee assignments will change and the odds of pushing a similar piece of public lands legislation through Congress likely will diminish.
But more importantly, Wyden’s plan makes sense. It seeks to roughly double timber harvests on O&C lands from the levels of the past 10 years, reduce litigation, protect old-growth trees, provide habitat for sensitive species, safeguard drinking water and fisheries, and create new conservation areas. To accomplish this, Wyden leans on “ecological forestry” concepts developed by Jerry Franklin of the University of Washington and K. Norman Johnson of Oregon State University. Franklin and Johnson, two of the region’s leading forest scientists, helped develop the Northwest Forest Plan in the early 1990s.
Of course, disagreements arise from the details – some of which are certain to evolve as the legislation moves through Congress – more than from the principles. “We should be adapting what we’ve learned to how we manage the land,” said Steve Pedery, conservation director for Oregon Wild. However, Pedery disagrees with Wyden on how to make those changes.
In general, Oregon Wild and other conservation groups feel that the O&C plan undercuts the Northwest Forest Plan. Among other specific reservations, Pedery said the O&C plan was developed too quickly with too little input, doesn’t set aside enough new wilderness area and does not maintain reserves of older trees that don’t meet the old-growth cutoff of 120 years.
“What he’s trying to do is solve a political problem,” not improve forest management or the environment, Pedery said. And that’s the rub, no matter your point of view on logging and forest practices. Because this is a political problem – one that affects the ability of many rural Oregonians to earn a living.
See the bill with maps and information here: www.wyden.senate.gov
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