19 Feb 2008, 8:57pm
Latest Forest News
by admin

Timber is a resource — let’s use it

By Suzanne Penegor and Gienie Assink

Guest Viewpoint, Eugene Register Guard, February 14, 2008 [here]

In the 1930s, when the United States was mired in a Great Depression, Congress wisely and with great vision approved the O&C Lands Act to guide the management of federal lands that once belonged to the Oregon & California Railroad in Western Oregon. The act established a method for funding Oregon counties, allowing them to provide such vital services as public safety and road maintenance.

Now, because of the efforts of the environmental movement and its litigious attorneys, the O&C funding formula that was successful for decades has been severed. Alternative 2 of the Bureau of Land Management’s Western Oregon Plan Revision would restore this vital funding mechanism for 2.5 million acres of publicly owned lands in Oregon.

The BLM received approximately 29,000 responses for and against this plan for the restoration of our county tax base. Many folks who oppose the restoration of this tax base weighed in, as did Oregonians who recognize how profoundly businesses and Oregon counties are impacted by the inability to use this economic base for timber production.

Environmental groups and their allies argue that tourism can take the place of the millions of lost timber dollars and revenues from these O&C public lands. But tourism jobs and revenues often simply cannot replace the family-wage jobs and tax revenues that have historically come from timber production on these lands.

Now, Lane County and others in Oregon are struggling to get federal assistance to replace these lost timber revenues. Lawmakers are uncertain whether Congress will restore part of these lost O&C Lands revenues, which have provided $20 million annually to Lane County alone. Now we see the tangible environmental cost to taxpayers of the failed Northwest Forest Plan that President Bill Clinton signed into law. Congress is having a difficult time restoring tax subsidies for Oregon counties to replace these lost timber revenues for vital county services.

For Oregon taxpayers who see their roads deteriorating and public safety in decline, while at the same time seeing a tax base they have been unable to use, this is like sitting in a supermarket and being unable to eat anything around them.

Environmental zealots tell us that every clear-cut is bad, and no tree should be logged or salvaged and replanted. Elected officials have caved to political correctness from those on the left who tell us that natural resource use in this country is wrong, and that we should act like a Third World country that imports such basic needs as lumber and logs. It makes one wonder what the true motivation of these environmental extremists is.

Environmental groups have successfully fought efforts to salvage and replant burned areas in Oregon, even when it would benefit forest health. Tourists are not interested in seeing dead, dying and bug infested forests. Even deer populations benefit from clear-cut areas. As long as Americans need housing and the products that come from the forests, we need to wisely use our natural resources on our public lands to provide those products.

In his Feb. 12 guest viewpoint, local activist Roy Keene discussed the BLM plan. Keene once received an award from the Washington, D.C.,-based Wilderness Society. The Wilderness Society boasts an executive director who earns a hefty six-figure salary and runs a multi-million dollar organization. Keene doesn’t note how the environmental industry and its attorneys benefit financially from disrupting local economies. Groups like the Wilderness Society don’t pay taxes in Oregon, and yet they negatively impact Oregon counties and residents by locking up much of our O&C tax base for noneconomic use.

Wealthy, tax-exempt groups such as the Wilderness Society also work to restrict public access to public lands like the O&C Lands. They work to prohibit the construction of roads into public areas for recreational or economic use. To the Wilderness Society and its executives, and other wealthy groups such as the Sierra Club, the public should be excluded from public lands and those areas shouldn’t be a tax base for local Oregon counties. Ironically, recreationists like hikers and fishermen often access public areas on old logging roads, built by those in the wood products industry.

Timber production is critical for funding for Oregon counties. It’s time for the BLM to restore the economic base that was created — with great foresight — by our forefathers in the economic downturn in 1937 to finance Oregon county services for Oregonians today.

Suzanne Penegor and Gienie Assink are members of the Rubicon Society of Lane County [here]



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