Sen. Ron Wyden recently announced the reintroduction of his O&C (Oregon & California) federal forest legislation, pledging once again to “double” timber harvests as a way to create desperately-needed jobs in rural Oregon. However, a recent report commissioned by Oregon’s affected counties indicates that the Wyden plan would actually reduce harvest levels…The only support for Wyden’s bill came from the Portland and Washington D.C. environmental groups that helped write the legislation.
Oregon’s key O&C stakeholders do not support Wyden’s bill…(because) the Wyden plan does not increase timber harvests, would not provide certainty against excessive litigation, and would not generate revenues for counties. In fact, Wyden’s bill doesn’t “double” timber harvests at all…
The report’s key finding was that Wyden’s plan would have resulted in long-term sustained harvests of only 85 to 171 million board feet (mmbf) per year. This is a reduction, not the “doubling” of timber harvests that Wyden promised…
The Wyden plan…will not generate the revenues O&C counties need to provide services and restore public safety agencies…
We Respond & Your Comments
“If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor. Period.” – Pres. Barack Obama
“John McCain met with Islamic State Terrorists.” – Sen. Rand Paul
“A referendum was held in Crimea in full compliance with democratic procedures and international norms.” – Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin
We could go on – and on. Our point is that politicians of all parties and nationalities tend to (and we say this diplomatically) “shade the truth.”
In fact, they tend to twist it into a pretzel, grind it up, spit on it and try to sell it to you as a fresh pretzel.
This is not to excuse Sen. Wyden’s attempt to sell you a cut in timber harvesting as a doubling of it. It’s to remind readers that almost any claim made by any politician cries out for scrutiny. Maybe especially here in Oregon.
By Jay Bozieviech
As a vocal supporter of Lane County’s successful public safety levy, I was encouraged to see so many citizens step up to support our local law enforcement and help keep violent offenders in jail.
However, as I testified to the Oregon House of Representatives, the levy doesn’t offer a permanent solution for stable revenues for essential services, nor does it assure a stronger economy in the future.
While voters approved an important but temporary lifeline for public safety programs, it is critical for Congress to provide a comprehensive solution that resolves the annual uncertainty of county timber payments.
I am hopeful that Congress will continue to work on solutions that restore active management to our Federal forestlands, including the unique O&C lands that, in the past, created jobs and a thriving economy for communities and reliable funding for county governments.
The Federal O&C Act of 1937 specifically set aside 2.4 million acres of these Federally-owned forest lands for the economic benefit of 18 Western Oregon counties. Unfortunately, the Federal Government has failed to keep its promise to O&C counties, and litigation and conflicting regulations have only made the situation worse.
When timber was still being harvested on O&C lands Lane County alone received around $17 million annually. In today’s dollars, this equates to about $30 million per year. To put this in perspective, the recently passed public safety levy will generate less than half that revenue without adding significantly to jobs. The levy, while desperately needed, is only a “Band-Aid” fix to a serious and long-term problem.
Rural Lane County citizens cannot afford to fund public safety without some change in a rural economy devastated by the lack of federal forest management. One result of this devastation is that 80% of students in Mapleton and Oakridge school districts are on free or reduced lunch programs. Poverty and unemployment consume government and rural communities’ resources without adding jobs that could pay to fund essential services.
Lane County has a large population base, a diversified economy and other attributes such as a world-class university. Other O&C counties are not so lucky. Many of these rural communities once thrived with vibrant timber-based economies, but now suffer from higher unemployment and higher poverty levels.
It’s easy to scorn the voters in other counties who recently rejected public safety levies, but criticism of these Oregonians reveals ignorance of the serious challenges of funding services where many people don’t have jobs and can’t afford higher taxes. Though Lane County voters approved the levy, I believe it is wrong to single out and penalize counties that are not as prosperous as we are.
It is a grave mistake to ignore the importance of renewable natural resources that exist in our O&C forests. Sustainable management of these resources will benefit both our economy and local governments. It is heartening that members of Oregon’s Federal delegation understand this and that our Governor is also advocating for changes in Federal policy. It’s great to see they are willing to cross party lines to find a permanent solution.
While the bipartisan Walden/Schrader/DeFazio “O&C Trust, Conservation, and Jobs Act” remains on the table, we have also seen Sen. Ron Wyden release a “framework” of possible legislation.
I hope our delegation continues to work together on a bill that helps rural communities across all O&C counties. I believe we have a solution that protects environmentally sensitive lands while allowing more timber harvesting where it is environmentally sustainable. Thanks to an existing Federal law prohibiting the export of raw logs from Federal lands, wood products from O&C lands would be processed and milled by workers here at home, thus creating jobs that pay taxes to fund county services.
By putting people back to work in the woods we can lift more rural communities out of poverty. Creating jobs combined with reliable timber receipts will generate more tax revenues to sustain vital services.
Now that the public safety levy has been approved and Lane County has some short term stability, we need Congress to pass real solutions to help fund these services over the long term.
Jay Bozievich – West Lane County Commissioner
By Pat Farr
“How do we get out of the budget hole the County is in?”
Or: “Do you have a plan to fix the mess?”
Or: “Why would you want to be a County Commissioner at a time like this?”
These are the most commonly asked questions from the seeming mass of people who look at me with a combination of puzzlement and pity in their eyes. They don’t expect an answer, it seems. But unlike my (former) opponent, who often says, “I don’t know” when asked questions about how to proceed with policy issues, I have answers. (Rob Handy really [did] say, “I don’t know” when asked policy questions—I have video of him doing so!)
My quick response is always, “First we have to get people working in Lane County.”
Which I follow with the explanation, “Lane, as a county, has among the highest unemployment rates in Oregon, which in turn has among the highest unemployment rates as a state.”
The questioners’ expressions quickly change to consternation. “Well, duh,” they think. Everybody knows that answer because everybody has already heard somebody say it. And nobody’s doing anything about it.
But it is the answer. In order to generate revenue to pay for general government we must have more people with jobs. People with jobs receive paychecks from which they pay their share of taxes and buy their share of food and clothes and entertainment and housing. All of which in turn puts more people to work. It’s a fierce cycle, with fierce being a good thing regarding this cycle. Jobs create prosperity which spreads throughout the community. That is not a secret.
Not unlike the systematic dismantling of the economy that has taken place in this county, creating jobs doesn’t happen with the flip of a switch. Job creation has to be built on a multi-faceted front.
To begin with, I support the efforts by Oregon Congressmen Peter DeFazio and Greg Walden to open limited portions of our vast Douglas Fir and mixed species Federally-owned forests to sustained harvest. See the Forum Lane post from April 18 2012 headlined, “Handy has the better funding idea (?) I don’t think so. By Pat Farr” This article has links to O & C forest land history and the Walden/DeFazio/Schrader plan.
Next we make sure that land is available and appropriately zoned to allow for expansion of current manufacturing businesses and to attract new manufacturers. We have started this with the Envision Eugene process (see the draft proposal) that will ultimately provide for appropriately sized properties near the county’s urban center where job providers can have choices of where to locate their companies. Site choices are critical when competition arises for locating a new plant, whether the investor is choosing between Boise Idaho and Lane County for a new plant or a local business owner is deciding whether to build close to the existing metropolitan area or push further out into the county.
One other way to foster job growth is to look at another natural resource that we possess in Lane County: prime agricultural land. Here in the lower Willamette Valley, like trees, food grows abundantly. In recent years we have lost our capability to process the vast array of food crops we are capable of growing here. There used to be canneries—I worked for years at Agripac in Junction City canning green beans. There used to be more specialty food processing—I worked for years picking cherries for a maraschino cherry processing plant that no longer operates here.
We have great examples of local small businesses that grew to be large exporters of finished food products that can be replicated. Glory Bee Foods produces the world’s best honey. Grain Millers produces the world’s best cereal products. Springfield Creamery produces the world’s best yoghurt. The list goes on. And it can go on and on and on given the right encouragement and policy attention.
To allow businesses to prosper and grow in our county we will need a nurturing approach that includes incentives we naturally have in place (who wouldn’t want to live here?) and makes certain that policies and procedures for job expansion are in place to make sure that the owners of companies know we actually want them here creating jobs.
It can be done. It should have been done already. Starting now, we can, by working together, bring jobs to Lane County.
Reprinted with permission from Forum Lane
Pat Farr is a Eugene City Councilman and Lane County Commissioner-Elect. He blogs at http://www.forumlane.org/
To provide protection for Oregon’s old growth and natural treasures the O&C TRUST, CONSERVATION, AND JOBS ACT
Provides legislative protection for old growth on 2.6 million acres of public forests in western Oregon for the first time in history.
Adds nearly 150 miles of Oregon rivers to the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, including:
- 93 miles of the iconic Rogue River and its tributaries;
- 21 miles of the Molalla River;
- 19 miles of the threatened Chetco River; and
- 15 miles of Wasson and Franklin Creeks, tributaries of the Umpqua River
Protects 90,000 acres of Oregon forests as wilderness, including:
- 58,000 acres to be added to the existing Wild Rogue Wideness
- 32,000 acres of some of the last remaining old growth in Oregon’s Coast Range and permanent protection for Devil’s Staircase
Transfers more than 1,000,000 acres of mature and old growth forests from the Bureau of Land Management to the Forest Service to be managed as National Forest Lands.
Requires thousands of miles of legacy roads and logging roads in disrepair to be brought up to federal and state standards.
Repeals the contentious O&C Act of 1937 that led to the Western Oregon Plan Revisions.
Includes management restrictions on O&C Trust lands to protect clean water, terrestrial, and aquatics values, including:
- Prohibition on aerial application of herbicides and pesticides and a requirement for a public process for the development of an integrated Pest Management Plan;
- Long and short timber rotation ages to provide diversification and to encourage the recruitment of complex, early serial habitat; and
- A sustained yield requirement to prevent overcutting
Expedites land exchanges between the federal government, the O&C Trust lands, and private landowners to create larger contiguous blocks of forested land in western Oregon and to improve the conservation values of such lands.
Ensures the scientific community and general public are represented on the O&C Board of Trustees
Maintains federal ownership of all O&C lands and public access privileges.
To uphold the federal governments’ commitment to rural and federally forested communities in western Oregon the O&C TRUST, CONSERVATION, AND JOBS ACT provides:
- Forested counties in western Oregon with a sustainable and more predictable level of revenues in perpetuity to support basic county government services like law enforcement, education, health, and transportation.
- Turns around nearly two decades of gridlock on federal forests that will help timber dependent counties in Western Oregon improve their economic and financial outlooks.
- Estimated to create thousands of new jobs in rural communities throughout Oregon and will reduce unacceptably high unemployment levels in the State.
- Moves counties away from an uncertain future of federal payments to a long-tern solution that meets the federal government’s obligation to federally forested communities while bringing jobs back to our communities and health back to our federal forests.
- Ensures legal certainty by establishing a fiduciary trust for the O&C Counties and ensures strong O&C county representation on the Board of Trustees to guarantee the Board’s fiduciary obligation to the 18 O&C Counties.
- Sets a fair standard for the federal government by requiring the Board of Trustees to provide a return from the O&C Trust lands to the American taxpayer and U.S. Treasury.
- Establishes a temporary federal loan to aid O&C Counties during transition to payments from the O&C Trust.
Oregon’s rural communities cannot afford another 20 years of gridlock in our federal forest. Without a new path forward, mills will continue to disappear, forest jobs will be outsourced, counties will be pushed of the budgetary cliff, and forest health will continue to decline.
A bipartisan plan now before Congress, “O&C Trust, Conservation, and Jobs Act” would create thousands of new jobs in Oregon’s forested communities, ensure the health of federal forests for future generations, and provide long-term funding certainty for Oregon’s rural schools, roads and law enforcement agencies.
Federal support payment to rural and forested communities commonly known as “county payments” or “timber payments” that have helped support rural Oregon counties for over a decade expired on September 30, 2011. Lack of revenues from timber harvest from our federal forests or a continuation of timber payments in lieu of timber revenue will have serious consequences for Oregon families and businesses. A recent Oregon State University study found that without timber payments, Oregon’s rural counties will shed between 3,000 and 4,000 jobs. Oregon business sales will drop an estimated $385 million to $400 million. Also, Oregon’s rural counties will lose $250 million to $300 million in revenues.
For counties already near the financial cliff and facing depression-like unemployment, this could be the final blow. In fact, a few counties in southern Oregon may soon call for a public safety emergency and will be forced to eliminate most state-mandated services- including police, jails, courts and services that help the neediest citizens in our communities.
This should alarm all Oregonians, even those who do not live in rural communites. Failing counties will have both budgetary and quality of life consequences for the entire state. Vital county services would be severely restricted or altogether disappear. Counties will continue to release offenders and close jail beds. Pot-holed roads and structurally deficient bridges will be neglected and school funding throughout the state will be reduced.
Given the serious fiscal crisis our counties and schools face, a new approach is necessary to create jobs, help stabilize funding for our schools and communities and better manage our forest. Passage of “O&C Trust, Conservation and Jobs Act” is essential.
ACT MYTHS AND FACTS
MYTH: The expiration of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act, aka “county payments, will not have a major impact on forested counties in Oregon, so a long term forest management plan is not needed.
FACT: A new study by Oregon State University found that if county payments are not extended or replaced with a long-term solution, Oregon counties will face combined revenue losses of $215 million, and lose 4,000 jobs, $400 million in business sales, and $250 million in value added economic activity. In fact, without a viable long-term solution, some rural counties in western Oregon may be forced to declare a public safety emergency or dissolve.
MYTH: Congress could solve the county payments problem by assessing a tax on raw log exports.
FACT: A tax on raw log exports is unconstitutional. Article I, Section 9, Clause 5 of the U.S. Constitution directly states, “No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State.”
MYTH: The O&C Trust, Conservation, and Jobs Act (OCTCJA) is a bad deal for taxpayers.
FACT: Taxpayers spend $110 million per year to manage 2.6 million acres of O&C forests in western Oregon. OCTCJA would require a Board of Trustees to assume all management costs for the Trust lands, saving taxpayers tens of millions of dollars per year by reducing.fhr annual federal management costs associated with the management of western Oregon timberlands. Additionally, the Board of Trustees would be required to submit an annual payment to the United States Treasury to help pay down the federal deficit, Finally, active management will create thousands of jobs and produce net revenue for American taxpayers while ensuring county governments can provide essential county services, like law enforcement, education, health, and transportation.
MYTH: The plan would make it more difficult for private landowners to access and manage their own lands.
FACT: The plan preserves and protects all existing and valid rights of neighboring land owners, including tail hold, road access, and right-of-way agreements.
MYTH: O&C Lands will be sold to Wall Street speculators.
FACT: No O&C Lands will be sold. All O&C Lands will remain in public ownership and the public will retain access privileges.
MYTH: This plan has few conservation components.
FACT: The plan includes 90,000 acres of new wilderness, 150 miles of new Wild and Scenic river designations, and provides the first legislative protection for mature and old growth forests. The plan also excludes environmentally sensitive areas, parks and recreation areas, wild and scenic corridors, and wilderness areas from the O&C Trust lands.
MYTH: This will make it more difficult to control wildfires.
FACT: The plan would maintain the existing cooperative fire protection agreements for the O&C Trust, Forest Service and adjoining private lands.
MYTH: The Act does not provide any protection for the Northern Spotted Owl.
FACT: The plan specifically mandates that the O&C Trust Lands be managed in compliance with federal and state laws as those laws apply to private forest lands. This includes complying with ESA provisions that prohibit harm or take of threatened or endangered species. Consistent with the intent of the Northwest Forest Plan and Owl Recovery Plan, old growth forests, which serve as the best habitat for the Northern Spotted Owl, will be excluded from the management trust
MYTH: The Act undermines the Northwest Forest Plan
FACT: The intent of the Northwest Forest Plan was to provide a sustainable supply of timber while protecting habitat critical to the survival of threatened species, such as the Northern Spotted Owl and salmon. The plan strives to accomplish these intended goals – which the Northwest Forest Plan failed to achieve – by providing greater certainty about what lands are eligible for sustainable logging and what lands are to be set aside to sustain threatened species.
MYTH: OCTCJA sweetheart deal for rural Oregon counties so they don’t have to raise property taxes.
FACT: There are constitutional limitations on property tax increases in Oregon. As a recent Oregon State University study confirmed, even if counties were able to obtain voter approval to increase property, lodging, and real estate taxes, rural Oregon counties would only be able to make up 8-24 percent of the funding gap. The plan fulfills a historical commitment to federally forested communities in Oregon by creating thousands of jobs in our forests and mills, and providing a sustainable and more predictable level of revenues in perpetuity to support basic county services like law enforcement, education, health, and transportation.
MYTH: Millions of acres public forests will be converted into industrial plantations.
FACT: Private industry lands in Oregon are typically managed on a 30-40 year rotation. The plan requires at least half of the landscape to be managed on a long rotation of between 100-120 years and to be geographically dispersed across the landscape to provide ecological diversity. The plan also minimizes the use of pesticides and provides protections for old growth.
MYTH: OCTCJA would increase logging exports to China.
FACT: The plan explicitly prohibits exporting raw logs from the O&C Trust lands. The plan would continue the ban on exporting unprocessed logs from federal lands and impose penalties on businesses that violate the law and send family-wage jobs overseas.
MYTH: Revenues from logging cannot support rural counties because the timber market is so bad.
FACT: While there is still current demand for timber, it remains far below historic levels. The proposed O&C Trust would not be fully operational for two years after enactment thus providing some time for timber markets to recover. The plan requires the Board of Trustees to capitalize a Reserve Fund to balance payments to counties in years of market volatility. Finally, the plan requires the Board of Trustees to offer timber sales on a competitive basis.
MYTH: The Board of Trustees will be exempt from federal lows and the public process.
FACT: The O&C Trust Lands will be managed in compliance with federal and state laws as they apply to private forest lands in Oregon, including the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act The :general public will be represented on the Board of Trustees and meetings of the Board involving :management decisions will be open to the public.
MYTH: This plan does not address the “checkerboard” nature of the O&C Lands that have created significant management challenges-
FACT: The plan expedites land exchanges between the federal government, the O&C Trust lands, and private landowners to create larger contiguous blocks of forested land in western Oregon and to improve management efficiencies of both federal and private land.