A panel convened by Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber has drawn up a list of options, but no clear plan, for increasing logging on 2.5 million acres of federal land.
Kitzhaber says 18 western Oregon counties need more money from timber sales on government land to plug gaping holes in their budgets. An aid program called Secure Rural Schools that has long helped counties cope with declining federal timber sales is set to expire again, perhaps for good, this year.
Kitzhaber’s panel looked at a variety of strategies to increase logging on the Bureau of Land Management’s O&C forests, from creating a new community forest to setting aside a big chunk of federal land for industrial logging, to selling some of the lands.
Modeling predicted that many of those scenarios would roughly double the timber available for harvest and increase revenues for the 18 counties.
However, putting any new plan into action will be controversial. The lands in question are home to a dozen threatened species, including salmon and spotted owls, and are also key sources of drinking water for Oregon communities.
Counties have said they hope that logging increases could provide an additional $110 million a year in revenue. But a report prepared by the governor’s staff concluded it will be impossible to reach that goal without violating environmental laws.
Here’s a copy of the report, which lays out the history of the O&C lands and the Northwest Forest Plan, and then models a range of strategies for increasing timber harvest.
Governor Kitzhaber sent a letter to Oregon’s congressional delegation, updating them on the panel’s work and urging them to consider legislation that will increase logging in southern and western Oregon.
“More studies are not needed,” he wrote. “Instead, we need to use this information to settle on a solution that has economic and environmental benefits. Waiting to watch litigation swing the pendulum of short-term legal advantage from one side to another will not achieve anything on the ground.”
Read the letter, in full, below:
Correction: Feb. 7, 2013. An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the Endangered Species Act status of species that include salmon and the spotted owl. Nine of those species are listed as threatened and seven are listed as endangered.