Tag Archives: Ron Wyden

Wyden-Merkley pressed on forest bill

Wyden-Merkley pressed on forest bill

May 1, 2013

Forest Industry Urges Comprehensive Solution for Federal ForestsAFRC
–Requests that Wilderness Legislation Not Advance Separately
American Forest Resource Council,

A group of forest products industry associations sent a letter to Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley urging enactment of a meaningful legislative resolution to the paralysis affecting federal forest management in Western Oregon.

The American Forest Resource CouncilAssociated Oregon LoggersDouglas Timber Operators and Southern Oregon Timber Industries Association sent the letter in advance of a hearing of the Public Lands Subcommittee of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee scheduled for April 25, 2013 to consider a number of public lands bills. Among them is the “Oregon Treasures Act of 2013” (S.353) which includes the proposed Wild Rogue Wilderness and Molalla Wild and Scenic Rivers designations. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is chaired by Senator Wyden.

“Our industry is opposed to the passage of these proposals, as well as other Wilderness areas proposed for Western Oregon, unless they are coupled with, or preceded by, the enactment of a meaningful legislative resolution to the paralysis affecting federal forest management in Western Oregon,” the letter states.

The letter notes last week’s closing of Rough & Ready Lumber Company, the last sawmill in Josephine County, where the unemployment rate is 11.6 percent and the average poverty level is 17.8 percent. The mill closed for lack of timber supply from nearby federal forests managed by the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The BLM managed Oregon and California Railroad Grant Lands (O&C Lands) grow over 1.5 billion board feet to timber per year, but recent timber sale levels have been well below 200 million board feet. In fact, in 2011, the total timber volume awarded by the BLM was only 137 million board feet. Harvesting on Forest Service lands remains well below the drastically reduced levels called for in the Northwest Forest Plan.

“This very real crisis, not additional Wilderness designations, should be a priority issue for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee,” say the letter’s authors.

The letter references a March 19, 2013 opinion piece in the Oregonian in which Senator Wyden wrote, “with cooperation from stakeholders on all sides we will have a solution that works for all of Oregon” and “that solution must increase timber harvests and economic activity on some lands while permanently conserving others.”

The letter concludes by expressing the hope that Oregon’s Senators will join Oregon delegation members Representatives Peter DeFazio, Greg Walden and Kurt Schrader and Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber in their efforts “to find a true, lasting solution for Oregon’s federal forests and rural communities.” The O&C Trust, Conservation and Jobs Act, a draft bill supported by the majority of Oregon’s House delegation, contains provisions for both forest management to produce jobs and revenue for counties and for permanent conservation of areas included in S. 353.

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Ore Timber groups on Senate payment plan

Ore Timber groups on Senate payment plan

March 21, 2013

Oregon Timber Industry Comments on Senate County Payments Hearing and Outlines Real Solutions

By American Forest Research Council

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is holding a hearing in Washington, DC today entitled “Keeping the Commitment to Rural Communities” to review the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (SRS) and Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) county payment programs.

Tom Partin, President of the American Forest Resource Council (AFRC), is urging Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, to take action on meaningful solutions to restore active, sustainable forest management to Oregon’s Forest Service and BLM O&C forests.  The data suggests that relatively modest timber harvest levels could generate county payments significantly higher than those expected from SRS while also providing thousands of new jobs in rural Oregon.

“If the federal government is truly interested in honoring the nation’s commitment to Oregon’s rural, forested communities it will promote real solutions to restore the health of our forests and the vitality of rural communities through balanced, sustainable management of our federal forests,” said Partin.  “Merely doling out dwindling Secure Rural School payments clearly falls short of meeting the needs of local governments and does nothing to generate the private sector employment these communities so desperately need.”

Beginning with “Spotted Owl Guarantee Payments” in the early 1990’s and continuing through today with SRS payments, Pacific Northwest counties have received billions in often deficit spending subsidies from Washington, DC when all they’ve asked for is the sustainable management of the federal forests in their backyards.  Secure Rural Schools payments have declined significantly in recent years and many Oregon counties receive less than half of what they received as recently as 2008.  Rural Oregon now faces chronic unemployment, record food stamp use and insecurity from an underfunded law enforcement and criminal justice system.

Last month, Oregon Congressmen Peter DeFazio (D), Greg Walden (R) and Kurt Schrader (D) wrote Chairman Wyden asking that he convene a hearing to explore lasting solutions for Oregon’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Oregon & California Grant Lands forests, including their O&C Trust, Conservation and Jobs Act.  The bipartisan House proposal would permanently protect all of the old growth on BLM lands while managing the remainder of the land on a sustained yield basis to provide over 500 million board feet of timber, over 5,000 jobs and $165 million to the counties every year into the future.  The harvest level called for under their proposal represents less than half of what these forests grow each year.  Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber has also called upon the entire Oregon Congressional Delegation to promote this type of meaningful solution, but thus far Chairman Wyden has largely avoided addressing the issue.

“We hope Chairman Wyden will join his bipartisan House colleagues to develop real, balanced solutions for Oregon’s O&C counties,” continued Partin.  “Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber has also called for federal legislation providing lasting certainty for Oregon’s O&C counties, but if today’s hearing is any indication it appears that the Senate is inclined the kick the can down the road yet again.”

Meanwhile, AFRC has provided an outline of the modest harvest levels that would be required to generate county timber payments nearly double of those expected this year from Forest Service lands if Congress merely increased revenue sharing from 25% to 50% and reformed how a small portion of these lands are managed.  In addition to providing nearly double the revenue to local county governments this approach would generate tens of thousands of new jobs across Oregon’s hardest hit communities and provide additional receipts to the federal Treasury.

“The facts clearly show that you can provide significant revenue to local counties and schools as well as jobs in rural communities through the sustainable management of our federal forests, concluded Partin.  “In most cases the harvest volumes are less than the volume of timber that dies each year, a small portion of the annual growth and a minor fraction of the standing volume on our federal forests.”

The American Forest Resource Council represents forest product manufacturers and landowners throughout the west and is based in Portland, Oregon.  www.amforest.org

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