Clearcuts and Congress

Logging not a clear-cut solution for counties

The O&C lands debacle, thanks to the historic linkage between county funding and logging of these lands, is not an easy one to solve. While conservationists point out the need for timber companies and citizens in counties that pay extremely low property taxes to pay their fair share to help fund county services (see the "Shared Responsibility" paper); and while evidence mounts that preserving our natural resources is good for Oregon's economy, Congressional representatives insist the only way to solve county problems is to return to failed logging practices of the past. 

A variety of proposals to address this problem have been offered in recent months and years, ranging from plans to re-couple county funding to logging revenues from federal public lands, to selling off or otherwise privatizing federal public lands through "trusts" in order to raise funds. These alternative proposals have significant problems – socially, politically, and environmentally.

Proposals in Congress to dramatically increase logging of public lands put clean water, fish, wildlife, our new economy, and our quality of life at risk. 

Legislative proposals a bad deal for conservation

Rep. DeFazio's "timber trust" proposal

For the past few years, Congressman Peter DeFazio, who represents much of western Oregon, has been talking about and promoting a concept that would essentially privatize and  increase logging on a million acres of BLM O&C lands to prop-up county funding.

Developed along with Reps. Kurt Schrader and Greg Walden, the "O&C Trust Act" proposal was released early in 2012. The bill was attached to Rep. Doc Hastings' bill, H.R. 1526, and passed the U.S. House in September 2013. The legislation would be a major step backwards for conservation, sacrificing clean water, fish and wildlife habitat, and quality of life for many rural residents. Learn more about the House bill here.

Senator Wyden's O&C Lands Logging Bill

In November 2014, Senator Wyden released the most recent iteration of his proposed legislation to manage O&C lands for increased timber production. Unfortunately, this plan is seriously flawed. While it does include measures that protect our oldest forests and trees and establishes new protected areas, one million acres will be set aside to be aggressively logged - putting at risk clean water, wildlife, and other public values. Learn more about the Senate bill here.

Key problems with Congressional proposals

  • Will not solve county funding problems

To match revenues once provided to counties to replace unsustainable logging, current logging levels would have to increase nearly 10 fold. This simply can not be done while still complying with environmental safeguards like the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, and National Environmental Policy Act. 

  • Will add to global warming pollution

Increased logging on O&C lands will contribute significantly to global warming pollution, at a time when our forests are desperately needed to help store more carbon to mitigate climate change. Read our white paper on the topic.

  • Dismantles the Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP)

The bills remove or reconfigure reserve systems set up under the NWFP to ensure habitat connectivity and conserve old-growth forest habitat across both National Forests and BLM lands.

  • Weakens federal environmental laws

Public involvement and scientific analysis under the National Environmental Polcy Act is weakened, and there are many concerns with how the Endangered Species Act and other laws are applied.

  • Sets back a decade of restoration

The sucessful shift from clearcutting public lands to thinning of plantations and watershed restoration would be set back with the Congressional mandate to use "variable retention regeneration harvest" to produce revenue.

  • Threatens wildlife habitat

These proposals further fragment wildlife habitat, and eliminate the Northwest Forest Plan's survey and manage provisions for rare species in some areas.

  • Shrinks streamside protections

The Northwest Forest Plan protected streamsides, but these bills reduce the no-logging buffer along many of these streams, potentially harming fish habitat, drinking water, and the connectivity of habitat in streamside forests.

  • Ties controversial logging to protecting Wilderness

Both bills include protection for some of Oregon's wildest places - the Wild Rogue and Devil's Staircase proposed Wilderness areas, and over 100 miles of proposed Wild & Scenic Rivers. We believe these protections should stand on their own, and not be held hostage by bills to increase logging.

 

  

Photos (top to bottom): Graphic from Oregon Wild Fall 2013 newsletter; photo of Buck Rising Timber sale, unit 2, with private land clearcut in the background (Chandra LeGue)