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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.
Segmentarticle - July 19, 2011
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.
Segmentarticle - Sept. 2, 2009
How are Oregon's rural counties coping with the possible loss of federal timber payments?
Segmentarticle - June 10, 2008
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.
Segmentarticle - March 9, 2012
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.
Segmentarticle - Jan. 24, 2008
Segmentarticle - Nov. 26, 2013
The financial distress of former logging counties is a familiar issue for many Oregonians — one which we've covered many times before. But with Josephine and Curry counties once more rejecting public safety levies, the conversation in Salem has taken on an even more urgent tone. Since the levies were voted down last month, Governor Kitzhaber has floated the possibility of imposing an income tax on the cash-strapped counties, and even mobilizing the National Guard as a last resort. Legislators are talking with commissioners and sheriffs from Josephine and Curry counties and are hoping to work out a plan by the end of the legislative session.
Segmentarticle - June 6, 2013
Segmentarticle - April 30, 2008
Segmentarticle - Jan. 24, 2014
We'll kick off our show from the Capitol with Governor John Kitzhaber talking about a few hot topics in the legislature right now, including: Reforming the Public Employees Retirement Union Gun control Efforts to help timber counties
Segmentarticle - April 10, 2013
Two new plans were introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives which could increase the revenue some counties receive from federal forestland. Rural counties that used to rely on heavy on logging revenue have depended on federal money since environmental regulations limited the amount of timber that could be harvested on public lands. But those federal payments expired last year, and though President Barack Obama included more money for rural communities in his recent budget, there's no guarantee those provisions will make it into the budget that Congress passes. One new bill, introduced by Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA), would set minimums for how much timber and money that federal forests would have to generate. A separate draft proposal, co-written by Oregon representatives Peter Defazio (D), Kurt Schrader (D), and Greg Walden (R), would transfer the management of some of Oregon's federal forests to a public trust controlled by stakeholders.
Segmentarticle - Feb. 21, 2012
The U.S. Congress is in recess and its members are now back in their home districts. We'll catch up with Oregon's delegation, starting with the 5th District's Kurt Schrader, a Democrat and member of the Blue Dog Coalition. Just before the recess, Schrader saw a bill he helped write with Oregon representatives Peter DeFazio and Greg Walden pass out of the Natural Resources Committee. The bill, if it passes, will allow Oregon loggers to more than double their harvest of lumber in Federal forests formerly part of the Oregon and California Railroad. Oregon Wild has called the plan "a bad deal." We'll talk with Representative Schrader about that bill, his attempts to foster bipartisanship, the federal budget, and much more.
Segmentarticle - Aug. 13, 2013
In our recent congressional recess conversations with Representatives DeFazio and Schrader, we spent time digging into their legislation that would increase timber harvests with O&C forests. The congressional delegation is trying to find funding for formerly logging-dependent counties, as federal subsidies to those counties have all but dried up. The plan is to divide the land roughly in half, with part of the land dedicated to logging, and the rest held for conservation. The legislation was influenced by a panel convened by Governor Kitzhaber that included stakeholders from the counties, timber companies, and environmental interests. But the members of that panel aren't convinced the proposed law serves all of their interests. Conservation groups are concerned with how the land was divvied up — they say some of the land dedicated to logging is critical for spotted owls and other species.
Segmentarticle - Aug. 21, 2013
Warrants are piling up in cash-strapped Josephine County. Defendants there have been skipping their scheduled appearances in court. Earlier this month, Judge Lindi Baker issued "failure to appear" warrants in 15 out of 28 cases. Josephine County is among many rural Oregon counties that has suffered severe budget cuts due to the loss of federal "timber payments" earlier this year. Even a one year extension of the subsidy didn't help all that much. Voters also turned down a levy that would have helped to bridge the budget gap. According to the Associated Press, Cuts have reduced rural sheriff's patrols, prosecutors and juvenile shelter and detention programs. More than 80 criminal justice system employees lost their jobs.
Segmentarticle - Aug. 21, 2012
Roseburg, Oregon is a city of 21,790 in the southwestern part of the state. It's within 100 miles of three of the state's national forests, which is why its history is so closely entwined with the that of the timber industry. After World War II, Roseburg was known as the Timber Capitol of the Nation, due to the abundance of Douglas Fir lumber produced in and around the small city. The spike in demand for housing, and lumber to build it, also made way for the philanthropy that still continues in Roseburg today. Family-owned timber companies still employ many Roseburg residents, but these businesses are no longer the backbone of the community they once were. The recession has been particularly rough for the industry, especially due to the decline in home-building. The choices students are making about what to study at Umpqua Community College (UCC) are a good indicator of what's next for this town. Healthcare, particularly nursing, is a popular field and there's a brand new addition to the Southern Oregon Wine Institute at UCC. The program offers a one-year certificate and an associate's degree. Both paths teach students how to cultivate grapes and how to make them into wine. The local wine industry has experienced a recent growth spurt, but it also has a rich history in the region, which has always been home to fertile farmland. We've put together a companion website for the Our Town series. Head over there to check out our interactive map, which includes interviews and photographs of the people and places of Roseburg. Here are some photos from our live show at Joe Monkey:
Segmentarticle - June 1, 2012
The Polk County Commissioner's Office unanimously voted to add a public safety levy to the ballot in the November elections. The levy would collect 60 cents for every 1,000 dollars of property value. Recently, the Polk County Sheriff's was forced to switch to 20 hour patrol shifts, and were only spared layoffs when 4 deputies voluntarily left the department. If the levy fails, the Polk County District Attorney's Office said they would be forced to stop prosecuting Class B and C misdemeanors, such as shoplifting and tresspassing. The proposal comes on the heels of Josephine and Curry counties rejecting similar levies in the wake of major public safety concerns.
Segmentarticle - Aug. 20, 2013
For decades, the threatened Northern Spotted Owl has been inextricably linked with forest management decisions. The owl has become both a symbol for some conservationists, as well as a flash point for some who blame the owl for ruining timber harvests. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is announcing a formal recovery plan for the owl Thursday — but some of its elements have already drawn fire, like the new modeling tool to predict how various factors will affects Spotted Owl populations.
Segmentarticle - June 30, 2011
Oregonians are passionate about how we treat our trees, especially those that fall under the heading "old growth." The only trouble is that no one seems to agree on exactly how old old growth is. Ecologists, timber industry advocates and environmentalists have weighed in on this question over decades of forest management changes. Some say an old growth tree is 200 years old -- or more. Others argue it's a mere 80 years old. Many people make distinctions between trees that grow in western Oregon's moist forests and those that thrive east of the Cascades in a much drier, more fire-prone climate.
Segmentarticle - Nov. 17, 2008
In 2006 the Northwest Environmental Defense Center (NEDC) sued the Oregon Department of Forestry for allowing muddy water runoff from logging roads to pollute streams and rivers in the Tillamook State Forest. The NEDC argued that this muddy water was industrial pollution as defined by the Clean Water Act, and by 2011 the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of their argument. This decision was reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court, which decided to defer to the EPA's interpretation of the Clean Water Act. The EPA has historically excluded this type of muddy water runoff as a form of industrial pollution, and recently changed the definition of industrial pollution to exclude logging road runoff. In other news, Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley have drafted a bill that would restore tribal ownership over land that was traded to the U.S. government in 1855. Though this is great news for tribal leaders who hope to revive former cultural and religious sites, Doug Robertson of the Association of O & C Counties has said he is concerned that this would mean a loss of timber revenue for counties that are struggling financially.
Segmentarticle - March 25, 2013
Robin Doussard, editor-in-chief of Oregon Business Magazine, joins us for our regular business chat. We'll delve into a few different topics. Consumer confidence is a looming economic indicator as the holiday shopping season approaches. It fell this month, according to national figures. Oregon Business did an interesting survey of area businesses on their confidence levels. The survey found only 25 percent are expecting Oregon's economy to improve, compared with the 37 percent who expected improvement in May 2010. With the end of timber payments on the horizon, rural Oregon is probably feeling somewhat less confident than other parts of the state. Regardless of where they're located, many of Oregon's publicly traded companies have one thing in common: a lack of women on their boards of directors. Oregon Business highlighted this in a recent cover story, pointing out that that nearly half of the state's 46 publicly traded companies have all-male boards, even though companies with more women on the board tend to do better financially.
Segmentarticle - Oct. 26, 2011
Daryl Robison is one of the thousands of people affected by the lack of resources in his county. The down economy combined with the loss of federal timber dollars has made Curry County one of the worst-off in Oregon. Since Robison lives on unincorporated land, he had a hard time getting law enforcement to respond to repeated break-ins on his property. He and his son-in-law finally cornered the culprits themselves. Robison called 911 and said that shots had been fired to get the Sheriff's department to respond. Curry County Commissioners recently rejected the plan that state lawmakers came up with to help insolvent counties. Raising taxes is never an easy prospect, but it's one that the county is nonetheless considering. Earthfix filed this profile of the Curry County financial situation: OPB's April Baer has made two trips to Curry County recently to cover the ongoing fiscal crisis. We'll get the latest from her on what may be next for the cash-strapped county.
Segmentarticle - April 24, 2012
It's been just over two weeks since Josephine county released some very serious offenders from its jail in Grants Pass. Sheriff Gil Gilbertson says crime has not noticeably increased in that short time. However, he says the public safety budget has been "decimated" and the only crimes that he and his three patrol deputies will be able to pursue are Measure 11 crimes. Curry county, another timber-dependent county, is trying to deal with its ever-dwindling resources by creating a separate health non-profit to provide for public health. Meanwhile, the Oregon Secretary of State's office has come out with the first-ever comprehensive review of the financial health of all 36 Oregon counties. Not surprisingly, the timber payment-dependent counties — including Josephine and Curry — ranked among the most distressed. Secretary of State Kate Brown says the report does not make specific recommendations but it does provide a kind of menu of options for counties and state governments based on how some other states have handled similar financial situations.
Segmentarticle - June 18, 2012
Earlier this year, Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley joined Sen. Ron Wyden and 20 other lawmakers in co-sponsoring an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which would effectively reverse the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision. The amendment would bring back federal and state oversight of campaign donations for national and local elections. Merkley is passionate about the importance of the proposed amendment, calling Citizens United "a dagger pointed at the heart of American democracy." This is not the only issue Merkley is vocal about, of course. He has been working with Wyden and others to extend timber payments to Oregon counties that can no longer depend on income from logging on federal land. President Obama raised the visibility of this issue recently by including timber payments in his proposed budget. He also advocated for an amendment he said would strengthen a bill designed to keep members of Congress from using inside information to their financial advantage. The bill is moving forward without the amendment and is likely to pass once the House and Senate have reconciled their versions of the legislation.
Segmentarticle - Feb. 15, 2012
After years of long and often rancorous debate, it seems that Oregon's eastside "timber wars" may be over. That was the news this week from Senator Ron Wyden, who introduced a bill (pdf) based on a historic agreement between logging and environmental voices. Under the bill, logging in 8.3 million acres in six national forests east of the Cascades would increase in return for beefed up protections of large trees and waterways. Loggers and mill owners are applauding the potential for new or saved jobs; environmentalists are celebrating watershed and habitat safeguards. Regular listeners of Think Out Loud — who might have heard us talking over the last two years about thinning, or old growth, or how you assess the value of a forest, among many other shows — might be surprised to hear that groups as divergent as Oregon Wild and the American Forest Resource Council could find themselves on the same side of a sweeping bill. The question is: now what?
Segmentarticle - Dec. 21, 2009
Voters in rural areas of Oregon will weigh in on public safety funding measures on the May 21 Special Election ballot. For many, this will not be a first. In Lane County, this is the tenth time law enforcement has appealed to the public for funds to keep criminals behind bars. To make a point, Lane County Sheriff Tom Turner recently held a press conference on the local levy to coincide with a routine release of inmates due to overcrowding. Josephine County and Curry County — which have both depended on timber money in the past — are also asking residents to approve tax hikes to beef up law enforcement efforts. There are also a few cities that are voting on local bonds and levies. In the small southern Oregon town of Phoenix, there's a measure on the ballot that would repeal a surcharge that funds public safety and other services.
Segmentarticle - May 13, 2013