PORTLAND – Gov. John Kitzhaber today released findings of his timber panel, which spent three months trying to come up with a solution that would open forests to logging but continue conservation.
In a letter to Oregon’s Congressional delegation, Kitzhaber called for federal action to support the timber mills, an industry that plummeted in the 1990s-era in part because of strict harvest regulations designed to protect the Northern Spotted Owl.
“I applaud the panel for establishing a foundation of understanding and trust between county officials, forest product industry representatives and conservation leaders that has eluded O&C discussions for decades,” Kitzhaber said in a press release. “I believe a solution can and should be passed into law that achieves significant economic and environmental benefits for Oregonians.”
But the suggestions outlined in summaries of the report are vague and it appears there is still work to be done.
“The panel seeks to continue its work with the Oregon delegation to resolve the longstanding O&C issue,” Kitzhaber said in his release.
The panel is made up of conservation, timber and county officials and they were charged with finding a compromise that would open the forests to logging but continue conservation.
Since 1937, 18 counties on the western side of the state, which are part of the Oregon California Revested Grantlands, have shared timber proceeds with the federal government. Some counties are facing serious budget issues as the money has dried up with the limited harvesting.
The panel has drafted a 94-page report that includes suggestions for considering a solution to the problem. Kitzhaber listed the following points that he says should be part of a solution and are backed up by the panel’s analysis:
- Stable and predictable timber sale levels above current harvest levels can be achieved with minimal impact to old-growth and aquatic ecosystems;
- Timber harvest and/or land disposition revenues can significantly improve the financial stability of O&C counties;
- There are approximately 150,000 acres of special places deserving of Wilderness designation or some other form of legislative protection. Additional acres should be considered for Wild and Scenic River designation;
- Voluntary, non-regulatory private land conservation strategies can play an important role in advancing conservation values, timber supply and fire management; and
- The O&C Act should be amended to create more certainty in producing environmental and economic outcome