Leaders of Oregon’s timber industry and some of the state’s best known environmental groups took an important first step Monday when they announced they’ve agreed to work out their differences in ways that benefit everyone.

Now the hard work begins.

Both groups have agreed to drop their efforts to place measures on the November ballot if — and it’s a big if — the Legislature does its part by approving tighter restrictions on aerial herbicide spraying. The last time the subject came before lawmakers, in 2015, they let the measure die without final action.

That must not happen again, despite complaints by at least one lawmaker, Sen. Herman Baertschiger, R-Grants Pass, who complained that the deal will make it harder for his party to block cap-and-trade legislation. Oh, well.

Passage of a modified House Bill 4025, which deals with aerial spraying, is the trigger that environmental groups and the timber industry say is necessary to get them to the bargaining table.

Once there, talks will be mediated by a professional and all parties have agreed to a set of 13 ground rules aimed to keep their discussions going. If they’re successful, when the talks have finished the group will have laid the groundwork for what Gov. Kate Brown, who helped bring about the agreement, said should be a “significant rewrite” of the Oregon Forest Practices Act.

The act, which went into effect in 1972, governs forest practices on Oregon’s private timberlands, which make up about a third of forest lands in the state, according to the Oregon Forest Resources Institute.

Oregonians have been fighting about their forests for far too long, and neither the timber industry nor environmental groups can declare themselves winners of the war. A final agreement by this group, if one is reached, promises to be better for all, with loggers getting protection from lawsuits and wildlife, including endangered species, getting protection of habitat and water in ways that environmentalists can support. That, in turn, is a win for all Oregonians who love their forests and the creatures that inhabit them.

— The East Oregonian


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