Change is in the air for Oregon’s forests
For decades, the logging industry has held an incredibly disproportionate amount of political power in Oregon. Using our lax campaign finance rules, they’ve been able to easily bend the state’s environmental protection rules and tax policies to their will, gutting funding for rural community services while polluting our rivers and endangering clean drinking water, salmon, and wildlife. They even have their own public relations firm embedded in the state government to tell Oregonians everything is fine.
However, the logging industry’s influence looks to be on the downswing. This week saw the first legislative hearing to dismantle that in-house propaganda firm, the Oregon Forest Resources Institute. At the same time, a working group formed to reexamine the industry’s sweetheart tax deals that have brutally shortchanged rural Oregon communities.
Most importantly, this week also saw new Members approved to the Board of Forestry. The Board has been steeped in conflicts of interest that have essentially allowed the logging industry veto power over any new state protections for fish, wildlife, or clean water. The new Board Members seem poised to tilt toward a more balanced approach. (You can watch our webcast with one of the new Board Members Ben Deumling here) One more seat on that Board remains to be filled, and we’re hopeful it will be given to a scientist who will be able to guide forward new climate-smart forestry proposals.
There is still a lot of work to be done, but the winds are changing, and there is the possibility of a better future for Oregon’s forests, as well as the fish, wildlife, and communities that depend on them.