In the 1990s, counties that had relied heavily on the timber industry saw tax revenue dry up as environmental laws and the Oregon economy changed.
Congress responded by directing the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service to compensate rural counties with federal forestland.
Congress has extended and restructured these payments a few times, most recently a year ago. But they’re increasingly not paying the bills in rural parts of the state.
For the first time, the BLM and the Forest Service combined for less than $100 million in payments to Oregon counties.
Douglas County is getting the largest share — nearly $18 million from the two agencies.
Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley welcomed the spending, but pointed out its tenuous future.
Wyden said he wants Congress to reauthorize what he calls “vital aid.” But Merkley added long-term solutions are needed for timber-dependent payment counties.