A vote in the U.S. House of Representatives last week left Oregon’s rural communities without an extension of the federal forest payments that have become essential to budgets in counties across the state. The bill, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio, would have funded the extension through back royalties on offshore oil and gas leases, which were originally lost through a government error. The vote came after a debate — a rancorous one according to the Oregonian — between Rep. DeFazio and Republican Rep. Greg Walden.
The counties caught in the middle of this struggle have some difficult choices ahead of them. Some have seen the writing on the wall, and already begun to budget differently when it comes to funding roads, law enforcement and other crucial infrastructure. Meanwhile, others are hoping that a Senate vote provides the timber payment extension they need to make it through another year without a major budget overhaul. None of these rural communities will be able to avoid slashing funds for libraries, law enforcement and public health services. In some cases, private funds are picking up the tab.
What would the loss of federal forest payments mean to your community? How have budget cuts already affected your quality of life? What creative solutions do you see to this ongoing problem? Have you feelings about timber payments changed since our first show about them, four months ago?
Gil Gilbertson: Josephine County Sheriff
John Audley: Federal Government Relations for The Nature Conservancy