WHY THE O&C TRUST ACT CAN'T SEE THE FOREST FOR THE TREES?
For the past year Oregon news has been filled with stories of timber-dependent counties on the brink of bankruptcy. Beginning in 1937 these 18 western Oregon counties benefited from federal timber receipts, as they overcut old growth forests on western BLM lands—the so-called "O&C" lands granted to the Oregon and California Railroad in 1866 and taken back by the government in 1916 for violating terms of the land grant. The unsustainable clearcutting of old-growth forests, and the receipts they generated, plummeted in the early 1990s when the threat to salmon, wildlife, clean water and watersheds could no longer be ignored. Congress cushioned the fall by instituting direct federal payments to help transition the counties away from dependence on federal subsidies. These payments expired this year.
To solve the financial crisis facing these counties, three members of Oregon's congressional delegation (Peter De Fazio, Kurt Schraer and Greg Walden) are proposing legislation that would creat a timber trust on two thirds of the O&C lands' 2.6 million acres, managed for the sole purpose of maximizing revenues from logging for the benefit of the 18 O&C counties in Western Oregon.
On this episode of Locus Focus we talk with Randi Spivak, Vice President of Government Affairs with the Geos Institute in Ashland, about why Oregon's conservation movement is not pleased with this proposed legislation and what are some alternative solutions to the O&C counties' fiscal crisis.