Senator Ron Wyden is beginning to receive some local political support for his bill that would craft a long-term solution to the funding crisis hitting a number of rural Oregon counties. In Douglas, Curry and Josephine counties especially, layoffs have devastated services and the workers who provided them, including law enforcement.
Sen. Wyden is tackling a very complex issue with a long history, 76 years, involving what are called Oregon and California Railroad lands, or “O&C” for short. Spreading over 18 counties, revenues from timber cutting from O&C lands were shared with the rural counties in which they were cut. But over the years, environmental protections for endangered wildlife and salmon kicked in, thereby reducing harvest levels along with revenues to those counties.
Senator Wyden, taking a top down approach to the controversy, has proposed to reorganize O&C and other private and federal timber lands in a way that creates a timber harvest plan that restores timber revenues for hard hit counties while properly managing the surrounding environment with regard to fisheries, wildlife and recreation. By juggling lands and varying their rates of harvest, all these factors can be accounted for while complying with federal environmental protections.
And it appears Wyden’s plan is getting bright glimmers of support from federal and local officials. However, the old saying “the devil’s in the details” was never more applicable.
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