Klamath Co Commissioners Angry Over Conditions in National Forests

Beetle-kill areas are a last step in a sick forest’s evolution

by Pat Bushey, editor, Klamath Herald and News Tuesday, September 23, 2008 [here]

Klamath County Commissioners are right to be angry over the lack of support by the federal government for Oregon’s national forests.

Commissioners are primarily concerned about the Fremont-Winema National Forests in Klamath and Lake counties, but the points they made last week could be made about national forests throughout Oregon.

Commissioner John Elliott raised the issue of trying to get the federal forest lands ceded to the state if the federal government can’t take proper care of them. That concept has logic behind it, especially with the cutoff of the county payments program that compensated Oregon counties that have federal forest lands. Federal lands aren’t taxed, and thus don’t produce property tax revenue for such things as schools, roads and law enforcement provided from local funds. But the proposal for local or state control of federal forest land has come up before and never got much traction.

The Association of O&C Counties tried something along those lines in 2006. It offered a plan which would have put 1.2 million of the 2.4 million acres of O&C lands permanently off limits to logging and sold the rest to private buyers to create four trust funds that would have supported: Oregon schools; schools across the nation that have shared in forest receipts; Oregon counties; and management expenses for the 1.2 million acres being preserved. The proposal didn’t go anywhere.

The O&C lands were a land grant more than a hundred years ago to the Oregon and California Railroad Company. After the railroad didn’t resell the land to settlers as promised, the land was reclaimed by the United States in 1937, with the understanding that it would be managed primarily for timber production.

Disaster threatens

Last week, Klamath County commissioners railed at the potential disaster in eastern Klamath County and Lake County as an infestation of the pine beetle turns thousands of acres of once-green forests an ugly red. They’re full of tinder and only a lightning strike away from an inferno.

Meanwhile, the Forest Service is being forced to curtail thinning operations in order to find money for fighting wildfires, the cost of which has soared from 13 percent of its 1991 annual budget to almost half.

There’s more wrong than the pine beetle, though. Insect infestations usually are one of the final steps that a sick forest evolves through. Unfortunately, there’s no way to undo the past forest practices that encouraged development of large stands of even-aged lodgepole pine trees crowded together competing for water and nutrients. The forests have to be thinned. Failing to do so creates more kindling for disastrous wildfires.

The Fremont-Winema had to cancel five thinning projects along with projects reducing hazardous fuels this year so the money could be used for fighting fires.

Let’s hope next summer we aren’t staring through smoke-filled air at the eastern horizon’s red glow while flames roar through a tangled mess of dead timber.

27 Sep 2008, 8:42pm
by YPmule

It looks like they want to lock folks out of the Eastern Oregon forests:


30 Sep 2008, 8:39pm
by Bruce O.

To whom it may concern:

We are going to promote a bill this coming January.

The purpose: to have the State of Arizona retake control of all lands with in our borders that are currently managed and operated by the U.S.Departments of Agriculture and the Interior, i.e. the Forest Service and BLM.

Please visit our website [here] where we will explain this bill as it is developed.



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