U.S. Senator Ron Wyden At the Oregon Coast Eonomic Summit this week at the Chinook Winds in Lincoln City predicted that the long festering O&C forest lands controversy will soon be over and that the Oregon congressional delegation will fix the problem by working more closely together. Wyden said the House version of the bill puts too much old O&C lands under the control of those who will seek to short cut environmental protections of those forest lands which produce salmon runs, wildlife habitat and sustainable forest production.
Wyden says that the upper house, the U.S. Senate, will agree to an increase in cutting on O&C land to help bolster southwest Oregon county budgets but not at the expense of good forestry. He said that timber harvesting must be suitable for specific environmental conditions. “If it means that we cut a little bit here, and a little bit there…that’s fine. What we want is a sustainable forest,” he said. Wyden added “What matters is the amount of wood taken to market, not specifically which specific O&C lands it comes from.”
Wyden said the priority of the U.S. Senate is good stewardship of our federal forest lands.
Wyden did not mention whether the amount of allowable timber cut under the Senate’s plan would be enough to bail out bankrupt southwest Oregon county governments. His statements centered on making harvest plans for O&C lands reflect the need for wood but also for preserving good fish habitat in rivers and streams that flow through those forests, as well as providing good wildlife habitat, not only for wildlife but for those humans who hunt them.
Also absent from his statement was any reference to the need for southwest Oregon county property taxpayers to pay at a rate that is more toward the state average as seen across the Oregon. Property tax rates in Douglas, Curry and Josephine Counties are well below average which reflects a bygone era when O&C timber harvesting was fast and furious with little regard to the concept of sustainability for timber or wildlife habitat and which poured tens millions of dollars every year into county bank accounts.
Wyden did say that Oregon’s congressmen will have to sell the idea to their constituents back home in order to get it through both houses of Congress and onto President Obama’s desk.