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Lawmakers reveal timber proposal
Plan would provide alternative to expiring federal timber paymentsA long-term bipartisan plan for managing O&C lands in 18 Oregon counties, including Klamath, was released Thursday by three Oregon congressmen who want to provide financial certainty for rural counties.
U. S. Rep. Greg Walden, R- Ore., and Reps. Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader, both D-Ore., emphasized theO&C Trust, Conservation and Jobs Act proposal is a discussion draft specific to about 1.5 million acres of the 2.7 million acres of O&C lands. The plan is separate from legislation proposed Thursday by a Washington lawmaker that would allow for more harvesting of timber on federal lands. Both proposals would replace direct federal payments to counties with federal timberlands. Under the Oregon delegation’s draft proposal, Klamath and other counties with O&C lands would receive revenue from timber production on those lands, which would be managed by a seven-member board of trustees. Without the timber payments or a plan to increase ha r vests, Klamath County will lose about $800,000 in general fund revenue in the 2012-13 fiscal year.
During a telephone conference Thursday, DeFazio said the proposal sets no harvest or revenue goals, but previous reports estimated timber harvests of 500 million to 750 million board feet annually.While declining to set goals, both DeFazio and Schrader said they believe O&C timberlands should be put into production in a way that benefits rural counties over the long term.
“It’s time to use our natural resources in a healthful, sustainable manner,” DeFazio said of what he calls a “uniquely Oregon” plan.Conservation, timber
The discussion draft includes plans for managing nearly 1.5 million acres of timberlands for commercial production and places other another 1.3 million acres into various protected status, including designated wilderness.DeFazio said the proposal aims to define and preserve old growth forests, something he said has not been addressed in previous proposals.
The proposed act:• Authorizes formation of a seven-member board of trustees, with two representatives from forest/ woods products industry, one from the general public, one from the science community and three from governmental agencies.
• Prohibits the export of raw timber from O&C Trust lands and imposes penalties on businesses that ship Oregon timber and jobs overseas.• Requires all land transferred to the U.S. Forest Service be managed under the Northwest Forest Plan.
• Includes nearly 90,000 acres of new wilderness, 150 miles of new Wild and Scenic river designations, and provides the first legislative protection for mature and old growth forests.• Establishes shortand long-term rotation requirements for O&C Trust lands, including a stipulation that 50 percent of the commercial lands be managed on a 100- to 120-year rotation.
• Establishes a temporary federal loan to aid O&C counties until payments are received from the O&C Trust.firstname.lastname@example.org
Aid for timber counties
Panel OKs timber bill
Bill is unlikely to have enough support in SenateWASHINGTON (AP) — A House panel approved legislation Thursday that would lead to greater harvesting of trees on federal lands as part of a Republican-led plan to replace a recently expired program that has sent billions of dollars to rural counties over the past decade to help them operate their schools and provide other essential services.
Republicans used their majority to pass the bill in the Natural Resources Committee by a vote of 26-17. Still, prospects for passage in the long run are slim. A mandate leading to increased logging, grazing and other activities is unlikely to go far in the Senate.Nevertheless, the debate signals the renewal of a longtime political battle that will be waged over the coming months as lawmakers attempt to renew a program that has been a lifeline for many rural communities in the West.
That program, called the Secure Rural Schools program, expired in September and Western lawmakers and their constituents are anxious that future payments could be endangered because of tough budget times for the federal government.The program provided counties with about $360 million during the latest fiscal year. Payments made under the program were designed to help replace logging revenues that began to decline in the 1990s as a result of environmental laws designed to protect fish and wildlife habitat.
The committee bill would set revenue targets that would in turn require the Forest Service to increase timber harvests to meet those targets.“Today we acted to take the first step in helping rural communities get back on their feet,” said Doc Hastings, the bill’s author and the committee’s chairman.
In the Senate, Oregon Democrats Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley want to extend federal payments to timber counties for five years while a long-term solution is worked out. Payments would ramp down 5 percent a year.
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