By Steve Pedery, Oregon Wild
Oregon Wild, the state’s leading public lands and wildlife conservation organization, today voiced strong opposition to H.R. 4019, the “Federal Forests County Revenue, Schools, and Jobs Act of 2012”. The bill, which received a hearing in Congress this morning, would legally mandate that the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) log no less than 33.2 billion board feet per year—15 times greater than 2010 levels—to generate funds to support county budgets.
“Apparently, the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives believes we can clear-cut our way to prosperity,” observed Steve Pedery, Conservation Director for Oregon Wild. “It is like the DeFazio, Schrader, and Walden clear-cut logging plan on steroids.”
The brainchild of Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA), H.R. 4019 mandates intensive logging, grazing, and oil and gas production in order to hit unrealistic revenue targets. To meet the mandated county funding goals, environmental laws such as the Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act would not apply to projects carried out under the legislation. Additionally, the right of American citizens to challenge the decisions of their government in court for these projects would be suspended.
Also released today, but notably missing from H.R. 4019 was the much-hyped proposal by Reps. Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrader, and Greg Walden to put approximately 1.2 million acres of publicly-owned BLM land into a dedicated logging “trust”, where it would be similarly managed for industrial logging to generate revenue for some western Oregon counties. This proposal – titled the “O&C Trust, Conservation, and Jobs Act” – was developed in secret over the last six months and has generated intense opposition from Oregonians opposed to clear-cut logging and the likely effects on salmon and clean water.
Conservationists observed that neither plan would actually do much to solve the impasse over county funding.
“Under the Hastings bill, we would need to see a 1,500 percent increase in logging on America’s public lands,” said Pedery. “To generate the money needed to bail out county budgets in western Oregon at current timber prices, Reps. DeFazio, Schrader, and Walden would need to increase logging on public BLM lands by 400 to 500 percent. The public won’t stand for that kind of rampant clear-cutting, and Congress knows it. The House of Representatives seems more interested in posturing and creating false hope than in actually solving the problem.”
Both measures seek to re-frame the House of Representatives failure to consider a temporary extension of important county funding legislation as a “logging problem” rather than a failure of leadership. Sen. Ron Wyden and Sen. Jeff Merkley have been working to advance such a measure in the U.S. Senate.
During the logging epidemic that swept across America’s public forestlands in the 1970s and 1980s, county budgets received a share of logging sale revenues. While this generated an enormous windfall, it also polluted thousands of miles of rivers and severely damaged fish and wildlife habitat. Strong public opposition finally brought an end to rampant clear-cutting in the 1990s – and the money going to counties from timber sales shrank. Congress cushioned the fall by instituting Secure Rural Schools legislation, first passed in 2000, to help transition the counties away from dependence on federal timber receipts. These county payments expired this January.
Earlier this month, a coalition of six local, state, and national conservation organizations unveiled a balanced, three-pronged strategy to solve the looming county funding crunch. This “shared responsibility” approach, where county governments, the State of Oregon, and the federal government would each take responsibility for resolving a portion of the county funding problem, stands in stark contrast to the Hastings and DeFazio proposals being debated in committee today.