Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio continued a series of forums in western Oregon last week, including a stop in Coos Bay on Thursday.
After his forum, the Democrat stopped by The World offices for an editorial board meeting.
Among the topics discussed were timber bills that are now being considered in Congress.
“(Sen.) Wyden’s holding a hearing the first week of February,” DeFazio told the editorial board. “He’ll hold a hearing on his version. We’ve been in early, intensive talks between myself and the senator and our staffs are now talking about what changes we might be able to make to come to an agreement.”
DeFazio, along with Oregon Reps. Greg Walden and Kurt Schrader have managed to pass a bill that would more than double timber harvests across the country and calls for placing about 1.6 million acres in a state-managed trust focused on timber production.
Wyden has proposed a bill that would allow less harvest and provide less money to Oregon and California railroad lands.
“This new foundation will more than double our timber harvest across 18 timber counties and ensure that harvest continues for years to come,” Wyden said in a news release in advance of his announcement.
DeFazio says they know it will take some hard bargaining to get the house and senate bills conjoined and get the legislation passed and signed.
He says, when it’s all said and done, he hopes something significant is passed.
“The objective hasn’t changed,” he said, “which is certainty; higher levels of revenues, which depends on a higher level of harvest.”
He also said the bills would need to meet certain environmental protections.
“We’re still in agreement on those,” The Fourth District Congressman said. “He says he can’t pass a trust. We’re willing to work within his framework without a trust, if we can meet the objectives ... and that’s going to require some changes.”
Wyden will hold the hearing next week in his Energy and Natural Resources Committee and then is expected to take over as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. It’s not clear where Wyden would stand with the energy committee.
“I hope (the energy committee) would move the bill out,” DeFazio said. “Then, that puts us in a position to begin negotiating. This bill isn’t going to pass the senate as an individual, free-standing bill. It’s a one-state bill. The senate’s pretty dysfunctional.”
He said the bill could be part of a larger “land package” later in the year.
“But, if he moves the bill out of committee, then we can begin to discuss what changes could be made to be put into a larger land package,” DeFazio said.
That package could include federal land protections, creating more national monuments, creating more wilderness areas, more active management on federal forest lands and creating more “wild and scenic” rivers.
DeFazio said there hasn’t been new designations for those in more than three years.
The Democrat said, if it goes well, it all could be done before the summer Congressional break.