Congressmen want your comments on O&C Trust

Representatives Greg Walden (R-OR), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), and Kurt Schrader (D-OR) have proposed a bill to take all O&C Lands and divide them in half, setting aside half of them to be permanently withdrawn from timber management. The other half would be put in a forestry trust, administered by the state of Oregon, for the benefit of the O&C counties.

This is theoretically supposed to increase timber production and jobs in the forest, but the trust lands would still be subject to environmental regulations, and the environmentalists would no doubt continue to litigate any and all timber sales on them. The trust would be managed according to the Oregon Forestry Practices Act, rather than NEPA, but it’s not hard to imagine how long it would take the environmentalists to start targeting the OFPA, once half of the O&C lands are under its jurisdiction.

What is the up side for the O&C Counties? We lose all economic benefit from half of the O&C lands forever, and the rest is potentially not much better off than it is today. Your congressmen want to hear your comments on this. Please let them know how you feel about it by visiting their Web sites and posting a comment.

The O&C lands are a small portion of all the federal land in Oregon. And this small portion was dedicated by Congress in the 1937 O&C Lands Act to be used for permanent sustained yield timber production for the benefit of the O&C Counties. The reason for that designation was because most of the land in these counties is owned by the federal government (70% in Josephine County) and the counties receive no tax revenues on federal land.

In the 1990s, as part of the Northwest Forest Plan, the O&C lands were declared critical habitat for spotted owls, and since then nearly every timber sale has been litigated into oblivion by environmental activist organizations, decimating the local economies of the O&C Counties.

Our Congressmen apparently believe that by ransoming half of the O&C lands to the environmentalists, they’ll back off and let us use the other half the way all of these lands were mandated to be used by Congress in 1937. That is a pipe dream. The environmentalists are already claiming that this trust doesn’t provide enough “protections” for the half of the O&C lands that are not being handed over for permanent preservation. There is no reason to doubt that they will continue to litigate every significant sale on the remaining lands.

Far from creating more jobs and helping our economy, it will cut in half the little that remains. This is a bad idea!

The Josephine County Republican Central Committee adopted a resolution on January 31 officially opposing the Rogue Wilderness Expansion, which is part of this bill. Please let your congressmen know that you oppose this misguided plan to sell the O&C counties down the (Wild & Scenic) river!

To learn more about the Wilderness Expansion proposal, please attend the Wilderness Expansion Town Hall, sponsored by the Joesphine County Republican party on Thursday, February 23, at 6:00 in the Floral Building at the Josephine County Fairgrounds.