On July 31 the House Natural Resources Committee approved a bill to open more than 1.3 million acres of federally owned forests in Western Oregon to revenue-producing harvests.
The Hastings Bill includes the plan developed by Oregon Representatives Peter DeFazio, Greg Walden and Kurt Schrader in which roughly one half of the 2.6 million forested acres in the Oregon and California Railroad Grant lands would be placed under permanent protections. The remaining 1.3 million acres would be placed in a trust and managed to produce maximum revenues for the 18 Oregon counties that contain O&C lands.
As well, the Hastings Bill would require harvest levels in federal forests sufficient enough to replace revenues currently supplied by the Secure Rural Schools program.
The Secure Rural Schools program provides timber-heavy counties with direct payments intended to compensate them for the damage brought on local economies and tax bases by restrictions on logging on federal land. The payments have been extended several times. The bill would extend Secure Rural Schools funding for an additional year at 2010 levels, a $200 million increase over current funding, to give rural counties a bridge until additional revenues begin coming in.
This legislation would also address the growing problem of western wild fires. Last year 9.3 million acres of national forest land burned in wildfires. Tens of thousands of acres in Southern Oregon are burning right now. The largest, the Douglas complex fire near Glendale has already consumed nearly 40,000 acres. The Hastings Bill includes language that would require management of forestlands to prevent such catastrophic fires. Rep. DeFazio’s efforts to get the Hastings Bill successfully out of committee have been terrific.
We are all Oregon Regional Solutions Advisory Committee members. Our task is to identify economic priorities and solve problems at the regional level. Restoring healthy forests for healthy communities is of vital regional priority. We applaud the efforts of Representative DeFazio and Senator Ron Wyden to secure passage of legislation that would achieve this important goal. We urge a rapid passage of the Hastings Bill, or one similar, by both Houses of Congress.
Our forests are burning up, our counties and municipalities are in dire straits, and our school funding is no longer secure. We are in strong support of Representative DeFazio’s and Senator Wyden’s efforts to remedy all three. We encourage you to be in support, too.
Keith Tymchuk, Mayor of Reedsport
Susan Morgan, Douglas County Commissioner
John Sweet, Coos County Commissioner
David Itzen, Curry County Commissioner
Dave Kronsteiner, Port of Coos Bay Commission