King Clearcut Lost Big at the Ballot Box. What Does That Mean for Public Lands?
Since the election, there’s been a great deal of attention paid to Democrats seizing control of the House of Representatives and flipping several governorships across the country. Here in Oregon, progressives have celebrated Gov. Brown’s re-election and Democrats winning supermajorities in both houses of Oregon’s State Legislature (see Oregon Wild’s 5 Election Takeaways for Oregon's Wildlands and Wildlife).
But something you might have missed last week: Oregonians decisively rejected logging-industry backed candidates in races large and small. While King Clearcut backed Knute Buehler in his candidacy for Governor, they also heavily invested in County Commission races across Oregon. Those investments did not appear to pay off. Voters unseated status quo incumbents in County Commissioner races in rural and urban parts of the state, which could have major implications for issues related to wildlife, public lands, and future development. Pro-environment candidates made big gains and picked up seats in Washington County, Yamhill County, Lincoln County, and several other counties across the state.
However, perhaps most significant of these local races was in Lane County, where two Commissioners with significant ties to the timber industry were unseated. The conservative politics of the Lane County Commission may surprise many, given Eugene’s green image, but the fact of the matter is the county commission has held a pro-log-it-all-and-log-it-now majority for decades. Commissioners Sid Leiken and Gary Williams have been taking large campaign contributions from clearcutting corporations for years, and in return fiercely advocated for the interests of King Clearcut over the general public. This election cycle alone, Gary Williams accepted $35,000 from two of the most aggressive corporations in the state, Seneca Jones and Murphy Timber Corporation.
When Commissioners-elect Joe Berney and Heather Buch take office in January, conservationists will at long last have three allies on the five-member Lane County Commission, a majority!
The Path Ahead
This could have significant repercussions for a wide-range of issues, including the grassroots effort to get counties throughout western Oregon to withdraw from a timber lobby organization known as the Association of O&C Counties (AOCC). The Association claims to represent the interests of the county governments; however, in recent years the Association has become increasingly aligned with the timber industry.
For example, over the past year, the Association of O&C Counties has used county funds to lobby the Trump administration to shrink the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument by executive order. The Trump administration is now targeting four Monuments nationwide and, largely due to the efforts of this Association, Oregon’s Monument is among them. President Trump has already shrunk the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in Utah by 85% and 45% respectively, which constitutes the largest elimination of protected public land in American history.
In addition to lobbying the Trump administration to attack the Cascade-Siskiyou, the Association of O&C Counties has testified before Congress and lobbied in favor of various logging bills that would dramatically alter forest management in the Pacific Northwest. One bill that they’ve supported, the Resilient Federal Forests Act (HR 2936), would create numerous logging loopholes to our environmental laws and require that millions of acres of public forestland throughout Oregon be managed for the sole purpose of logging.
Six months ago, Oregon Wild published a report that highlights the specific, protected public lands throughout Oregon that would have been stripped of their protective status and logged if the original version of HR 2936, which the AOCC supported, became law. These areas include:
• The Wild Rogue Wilderness
• The Table Rock Wilderness
• The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument
• Parts of Silver Falls State Park
• Several designated Wild & Scenic River corridors, including the Salmon and Clackamas rivers.
At a time when such a small fraction of Oregon’s old-growth forests and pristine wildlands remain, we can’t afford attacks on our protected public lands; and yet, over a dozen Oregon counties continue to fund and support the AOCC, which attempts to do just that. Put simply, to continue supporting this radical organization is to be complicit in these attacks on public lands.
Benton and Multnomah Counties have already pulled out of the Association and other counties can do the same. Is your county is supporting and funding this radical Association? If so, send a short email to your Commissioners today and urge them to withdraw from the Association of O&C Counties once and for all!
The following counties are current members of the Association of O&C Counties:
Clackamas, Columbia, Coos, Curry, Douglas, Josephine, Jackson, Klamath, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Marion, Polk, Tillamook, Washington, and Yamhill.