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Unlike the Rust Belt or the Corn Belt, the population of Oregon's Timber Belt is actually stable.
Weyerhaeuser made headlines recently when the timber company sold 140,000 acres of forest land in Clatsop County to The Campbell Group, a timber investment management organization (TIMO) based in Portland. The Daily Astorian editorial board has raised concerns about how the land will be managed now that it's in the hands of an investment company, which may have different goals and therefore a different effect on the community than the land's previous owner:
The well being of neighboring communities isn't a major consideration. The land is just a trading card. Public access isn't guaranteed. Key management decisions are made far away.
For most of the last century, U.S. counties with federal timber land (read: much of Oregon) got a share of the proceeds of sales. Originally used to fund schools and roads, these payments now go to a wide range of other county services — everything from libraries to mental health clinics, bridges to jails. The money allowed timber-full counties to keep their taxes low (and they didn't have very large tax bases to begin with). But when logging on federal lands plunged in the 1990s — remember the spotted owl? — the revenue dropped, too. Congress fixed it for a while, making up the difference from other funds. But that fix expired, and a stop-gap one year extension is now due to go away this June.
Today, Senator Ron Wyden released his long-awaited plan for Oregon's O&C counties.
Update: March 8, 2:30 pm The U.S. Senate just passed a temporary one-year extension of the timber payment program. Oregon's Curry County is among the state's poorest counties and one of the hardest hit by the anticipated end of timber payments by the federal government. There is some good news: President Obama's budget plan contains money to extend the payments and before they adjourned, the Oregon legislature passed a law to allow strapped counties to fund sheriff patrols with money ordinarily reserved for roads. Nevertheless, some counties are bracing for the worst. Counties like Curry say temporary fixes are not enough, and they may have to cede some of their essential services to the state. Commissioners there are thinking of putting a sales tax on the local ballot to help create a stable funding source.
For more than ten years now, services and programs in rural counties have depended on payments made by the federal government to make up for the money they used to receive from logging on federal lands. On past shows, we've talked about how rural counties depend on this money and how they might manage without it. The climate in Congress now, however, couldn't be worse for securing any kind of replacement, with the ticking August 2nd deadline to raise the federal debt ceiling and no deal in sight.
Results for OPB
Sports | News | local | OPB News Blog
Sports franchises have been trying to figure out the secret sauce for die-hard fans like the the Portland Timbers Army, but a recent study suggests that the location of a stadium plays an important role in attendance numbers.
The helicopter pilot at the center of an aerial herbicide-spraying controversy in Southern Oregon applied a far wider variety of toxic chemicals than what he originally reported, according to documents.
A bill that that would extend timber payments to rural Oregon counties is headed to the desk of President Obama. The one-year extension would reduce payments by 5 percent.
A plan to build 17 miles of mountain bike trails on the slopes surrounding Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood has hit a snag. Environmental groups filed a lawsuit Thursday.
Two Southwest Oregon counties are preparing for deeper cuts to public safety services after the election day defeat of short-term property tax increases.