Gov. John Kitzhaber deserves credit for seeking consensus on federal timber issues that would help our rural counties. Though his panel of stakeholders failed to agree on specific proposals, there’s momentum behind a solution that involves putting more Oregonians back to work across O&C timberlands. Republicans, for years, have called for increased timber harvesting to create jobs and increase revenues for rural local governments. It’s heartening that more Democrats, including some in our congressional delegation, are speaking the same language.
There’s little the governor and the Legislature can do to fix the federal government’s gross mismanagement of our forests. Real solutions must ultimately come from our distant landlord in Washington, D.C. A bipartisan trio of Oregon Congressmen – Reps. Greg Walden, Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader – has proposed converting a portion of O&C lands into a public trust that would increase sustainable harvesting and generate over $100 million in additional tax revenue for our county governments. While the bill isn’t perfect, it’s a great start.
These Congressmen have initiated a productive discussion in our nation’s capital, but we also need our Senators to help deliver a solution to the President’s desk. Sen. Ron Wyden, as the new chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is in a unique position to help our counties and create natural resource jobs. Hopefully, he’ll understand that simply raising property taxes on rural Oregonians won’t fix the root of the problem. We need our entire federal delegation to secure a fix that creates economic opportunities where we need them most.