Gov. John Kitzhaber has entered the federal forests and county funding fray by proposing a forest panel made up of environmentalists, county officials and timber interests. The panel, which is based on the proposed DeFazio-Walden-Schrader forest legislation, is tasked with coming up with a plan for using federal Bureau of Land Management O&C forests to fund payments to cash-strapped Oregon counties.
Conservation group Oregon Wild was specifically “dis-invited” from being a member of the panel, says Steve Pedery, the group’s conservation director. He says the enviro groups that were selected don’t have a lot of history with working on the O&C lands issue. The groups selected include the Wild Salmon Center, the Pew Foundation and Defenders of Wildlife. Among the timber interests are Allyn Ford of Roseburg Forest Products and Dale Riddle of Seneca Sawmills. No Lane County commissioners are on the panel.
Pedery says that fellow conservationist Andy Kerr, who refused to join the panel, summed it up when he said the effort is just “putting lipstick on a pig.” Pedery says, “I can think of some other metaphors, but they are probably not fit to print.” Oregon Wild and Kerr had vociferous objections to DeFazio’s controversial forest plan, which called to basically split the forestlands in half, partly for logging (and some clearcutting) and partly for conservation.
Pedery wants to call attention to a list of O&C lands principles recently released by Sen. Ron Wyden, which Pedery says are not perfect, but do draw some lines in the sand. He says given the present and expected post-election makeup of the Senate and the House “at the end of the day, if anything is going to happen to resolve county payments, Sen. Wyden is the only person who can do it.” He says that before this Wyden had been quiet about the DeFazio bill.
Wyden’s principles include stable funding for Oregon counties, sustainability, wilderness and permanent land conservation, following federal environmental laws and safeguarding old growth. Wyden also calls for “opportunities to finally honor unrealized treaty obligations to the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians, and the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians, understanding that some lands considered for their reservations may not be O&C lands. Both tribes have treaties pre-dating the O&C Lands Act.”
Walden and DeFazio want to not raise taxes and to log their way out of the county funding crunch, Pedery says, but “if the governor just comes up just with a logging solution and doesn’t have the support, it really can’t go anywhere.” He adds, “Wyden has to have something he can actually pass.”