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More federal relief money on the way to cash-strapped O&C counties

Josephine County One of many O&C Counties hammered by timber harvest declines. The Oregonian photo

Josephine County
One of many O&C Counties hammered by timber harvest declines.
The Oregonian photo

From Senator Ron Wyden’s Office

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, and Reps. Peter DeFazio, Greg Walden, and Suzanne Bonamici welcomed the Bureau of Land Management announcement that it has sent $39.6 million to Oregon’s 18 O&C counties under the Secure Rural Schools program. In all, 33 Oregon counties will receive a total of $107 million in timber payments for the 2013 fiscal year. The program will distribute a $329 million to more than 700 counties across the United States.

“These payments mean more teachers in schools, patrols on the street and asphalt on the road, which is why I used every lever at my disposal to extend this lifeline for another year,” Wyden said. “I will continue to work until there are more jobs in the woods, and a long-term solution that gets Oregon’s counties off of the roller coaster of county payments.”

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Sen. Jeff Merkley: “We must ensure that Oregon’s rural communities have the resources they need to provide for their schools, roads, and public safety,” said Merkley. “Today’s payments will make a big difference in communities across our state, but they are no substitute for a long-term plan to grow our rural economy. I am working with Senator Wyden and other members of our delegation to increase and improve national forest management to support rural Oregon and create more jobs in the woods.”

Rep. Peter DeFazio: “This is good news for cash-strapped counties that are struggling to pay for vital county services like law enforcement and jail beds—and we are glad these critical payments are finally reaching the O&C counties, some of which are on the brink of insolvency. But we need a long-term solution. That’s why the Oregon Delegation continues to work together to bridge the gap between the House-passed O&C plan and the Senate proposal, and ultimately find a bipartisan, bicameral solution that creates family-wage jobs, ensures the health of federal forests, and provides funding certainty for our rural counties.”

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Rep. Greg Walden: “This short-term relief will help Oregon’s struggling rural communities provide essential local services like law enforcement, schools, and roads. But it’s not sustainable. Our people need jobs, and our counties need certainty. It’s past time that we change federal forest policy to make it work for Oregon’s rural communities.”-

The Oregon delegation successfully extended the Secure Rural Schools program last year as part of a bill to transition the federal government out of the helium business. Sen Wyden co-authored the original SRS program in 2000. Since then, the program has brought $2.8 billion to Oregon counties devastated by declining timber harvests.

The U.S. Forest Service released more than $68 million in timber payments earlier this month: http://www.fs.usda.gov/main/pts/securepayments/projectedpayments.

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