Others Say 2/15/13
Environmentalists, time industry finding consensus
Give Oregon’s governor an “A” for effort. His panel of timber executives, county leaders and environmentalists was a noble effort to find consensus on a persistent logging standoff. And it made some progress.
In the end, however, Gov. John Kitzhaber has to hand the problem back to its rightful owner, Congress. The so-called O&C funding crisis is a creature of the federal government, and only the feds can tame it.
The policy issues surrounding the O&C timber lands can best be summarized this way: The 2.6 million acres of formerly private forest in Western Oregon provided wood-products jobs and fed county budgets for decades. But 30 years of environmental lawsuits and legislative deadlock have starved local economies and county governments alike.
The governor released a 94-page report last week on the panel’s work. Notably missing was a specific proposal. That’s a disappointing outcome for Kitzhaber, but he gave it a positive spin as he returned the issue to Oregon’s congressional delegation.
“We prepared a menu,” he said. “Now they have to take it back to D.C. and prepare a meal.”
The ingredients of that meal are far from settled. Conservationists continue to advocate raising property taxes and timber taxes to fund county services — a solution that would worsen rather than relieve economic hardship. Any solution that repairs county budgets while ignoring rural Oregon’s economic plight is only half a solution. In short, we need to harvest more timber.
One panelist, Allyn Ford of Roseburg Forest Products, commented that the project helped build a better working relationship among the parties. The governor ... (suggested) the lawmakers reconvene the same panel to help craft a legislative proposal.
That suggestion may be useful. Any solution to the O&C deadlock must come from Congress, but if Oregonians can come closer to consensus, the governor’s project will have been worthwhile.