State, federal lawmakers discuss Oregon timber industry

Senators Wyden and Merklely proposed a pair of forestry bills Thursday.

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The Beaver State’s United States senators proposed a pair of forestry bills Thursday, while Sustainable Forestry Initiative lowers standards for products to be considered sustainable. At the state level, Portland-area Democrats are preparing for changes to the timber industry in the upcoming session.

Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley brought forth a pair of bills to bolster the struggling industry, the Portland Business Journal reports.

“The bill would ensure more timber to Oregon mills without waiving bedrock environmental laws or giving away vast swaths of public lands, two approaches that the president has promised to veto,” the pair wrote in a release.

The senators also worked with California Democrats to reintroduce the Klamath Water Recovery and Economic Restoration Act. The measure would implement the landmark Klamath Basin water-sharing agreement reached by tribes, irrigators and environmentalists.

More good news for the timber industry came in the form of SFI released revisions to its standards, according to a report from the Associated Press.

SFI was created by the timber industry in 1994 to certify sustainable forests in the United States and Canada, but it has been independent and nonprofit since 2007. It certifies more than 240 million acres of forest in the United States and Canada. Weyerhaeuser and Plum Creek Timber Co. are two of the biggest users of SFI certification.

Both organizations [SFI and ForestEthics] also certify that wood taken from certified forests ends up in the products carrying their labels that consumers buy. Since 2007, the number of products carrying the SFI label has gone from 50 to 6,000, ranging from pizza boxes to ­lumber, Abusow said.

At the state level, environmentalists would like to see limits to pesticides implemented in the upcoming legislative session.

The conservation groups eventually want to increase state authority over cutting, among other things, but officials are throwing their weight for now behind proposals to increase buffer zones between spraying areas and drinking water and to increase the notification requirements for nearby residents.

State Sen. Michael Dembrow of Portland has recently led the charge to tighten restrictions in Oregon’s Forest Practices Act — more lax than regulations in neighboring states — and state Representative Ann Lininger of Lake Oswego is joining the effort by drafting a bill this year.