Bill to privatize Elliott Forest moves on


TIMBER NEWS: Bill to end logging in the Elliott State Forest dies; federal aid for timber-dependent counties reinstated; pests could ravage natural resources after warm winter; Oregonians rebuffed after challenging industry.

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BY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

A pair of bills regarding the Elliott State Forest were decided recently.

One piece of proposed legislation that aimed to end private logging died; a bill that takes a step toward forest privatization moved on, OregonLive.com reports.

House bill 3474, sponsored by Rep. Tobias Read, D-Beaverton, failed to leave the House Committee on Rural Communities, Land Use, and Water by Wednesday, the deadline for bills to make it out of their first committee. Another Elliott-related bill introduced less than two weeks ago is still alive. House bill 3533, sponsored by Rep. Caddy McKeown, D-Coos Bay, would give the State Land Board the authority to sell any state forest land that was a national forest in 1913. The legislation is crafted to circumvent a state law that forbids selling land that was national forest in 1913. That law applies to parts of the Elliott, and environmentalists have cited it in a lawsuit against the state’s plan to sell a 788-acre parcel of the Elliott.

The 92,000-acre Elliott is among 780,000 acres of Oregon trust lands, designated in the state Constitution as moneymakers for K-12 schools. Historically, the Department of State Lands has sold timber leases in the Elliott to make money, but a series of legal challenges over the threatened marbled murrelet seabird steeply curbed timber cutting there. Since then, the state has been looking for a way to stop the financial bleed.


Federal aid for timber-dependent counties reinstated

Congress approved a measure that will provide $95 million of aid to rural Oregon counties this year.

From OregonLive.com:

The aid goes in some degree to almost all Oregon counties, but it’s a particularly important part of local government budgets in the heavily forested counties of southwestern Oregon that have seen their economies up-ended by the sharp decline in logging on federal lands. The state’s congressional delegation has repeatedly battled to keep the program alive and has resorted to stuffing language in unrelated legislation steaming through Congress.

The latest effort was engineered in the House, where Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., attached it to the Medicare bill while Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., won the support of House Democratic leaders. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who sponsored the 2000 legislation creating the timber aid, endorsed the approach in the Senate. Counties would receive about $95 million this year and about $90 million next year. That’s down considerably from the program’s height, when it totaled about $250 million a year.

In a statement, Ron Wyden said: “This extension ends months of uncertainty for Oregon’s rural communities, who have grappled with on-again, off-again funding for roads, schools and first responders,” Wyden said in a statement. “Renewed county payments buy us time to build support for solutions that address the broader economic issues that plague too many of our rural areas.”  


Pests could ravage natural resources after warm winter

Researchers are anxiously awaiting this summer to see if pests will wreak havoc on the state’s Douglas firs.

From OregonLive.com:

The persistent drought conditions in much of southern and eastern Oregon are turning the state into a tinderbox. But an unknown antagonist is stoking the problem as Douglas firs are starting to turn red on top and on individual branches, a sign that the trees are struggling. The core of fir country is so far still healthy, where much of the timber economy thrives. A possible combination of disease, bark beetles and foreign climate conditions is taking hold in zones where oak trees dominate the forest and wildfires swept through regularly, but firs crept in over the years as the fires decreased.

“We’re not sure if the Douglas firs are getting smacked back to the way they ought to be, or if it’s something different,” [OSU forestry professor Dave] Shaw said. “We’re not trying to make any huge generalizations until we have more evidence.”

Southern California researchers have noticed a wide-reaching culling of trees due to drought conditions.


 

Oregonians rebuffed after challenging industry

A woman who lost her dog likely to aerial weed killer sprays tried to take her concerns to the Capitol.

Kathryn Rickard fought the industry, and the industry won, OregonLive.com reports.

Rickard hadn’t made a campaign contribution in her life. She struggled to get lawmakers in Oregon’s coastal caucus to even let her speak in March. The timber and chemical industries had already met privately with those legislators. She asked for 40 minutes for herself and three others. They got 20. It wasn’t much, but the opportunity was important. These lawmakers would cast key votes – if the measure got that far.

So Rickard drove to Salem for yet another night in a hotel to be on time for the 7:30 a.m. meeting in the Capitol. All to give a two-and-a-half minute speech to less than a dozen legislators.Among the lawmakers at the caucus was Wayne Krieger, a tree farmer and Republican from Gold Beach. He is Rickard’s representative, but she said he hadn’t returned her calls and emails. Now, she’d finally gotten an audience with him, and at a vital time. Just before Rickard walked into the conference room, Krieger got up and left.

Read Rob Davis’s powerful report here.

 

 




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