Atkinson pitches timber cutting

By Jim Moore of the Daily Courier

Josephine County Commissioner Simon Hare is on the record that the county could be broke by November without a new source of revenue.

State Sen. Jason Atkinson, R-Central Point, is convinced that opening federal lands to increases timber harvests will ease a lot of that financial pain.

If logging begins tomorrow, “it will solve the financial problem in about three years,” he said. The jobs such a move would create will provide an immediate boost to local morale, he added.

The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act, which compensated 700 counties nationwide for the loss of revenue from declining timber sales on federal land, is scheduled to expire this year.

During the act’s peak, Josephine County received between $12 million and $15 million annually to support general fund operations, in particular public safety.

Atkinson met with Gov. John Kitzhaber in Salem on Thursday to state his case. He was pleased with the meeting. “The governor and I have a good relationship and can be candid with each other,” he said. The two will continue the discussion in a week or two.

Next Tuesday, Atkinson will state his case to U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden.

“We have to keep the plight of rural counties on their radar,” Atkinson said. “It sounds simple but it isn’t with everything else on their plates.”
Josephine isn’t the only county facing calamity.

In Curry County, officials have openly discussed the possibility of the county government collapsing. Last month, Hare joined a contingent of officials from other counties who met with Kitzhaber. Atkinson fears a domino effect if even one county goes under.

“The very worst thing is a county going bankrupt and those services being pushed onto another county,” he said. “Josephine County can’t afford to absorb any of those services.”

Atkinson also noted that rural Oregon counties face a unique challenge.

“Some are small population-wise and large geographic-wise, but dominated by federal lands,” he said. “You could triple property taxes and it won’t solve the problem.

“The federal government is really holding us hostage,” Atkinson added. “It all comes back to the fact we have been told we can’t harvest timber.”

The expiring funds are no surprise and Atkinson noted that plenty of people have sought solutions for years. To him, the answer is obvious.

“We’ve studied this to death, now it’s time harvest the timber,” he said.

A possible solution is a bill proposed in Congress in November that would increase logging in some federal forests and conserve other areas. It could also provide jobs for people in rural areas and some think it offers long-term stability for local governments.

It crosses party lines, having been crafted by U.S. Reps. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, Peter DeFazio, D-Springfield, and Kurt Schrader D-Canby.

Atkinson said the bottom line is: “If the federal government allows us to harvest timber it will improve morale, allow local mills to operate and produce jobs.”

Now, he said, the state “needs real help from the governor and Sen. Wyden” to persuade the federal government to increase timber harvests, Atkinson concluded.

  • Sol668

    The Defazio, Schrader, Waldon plan is sure to please neither environmentalists, nor the logging industry

    Which probably means its the best way forward to bring jobs to rural oregon, while still preserving that natural environment and the scenic beauty that all oregonians treasure.

  • valley person

    Logging isn’t going to “begin tomorrow,” or the next day for that matter. We have these pesky federal laws like the endangered species and clean water acts that federal forest managers have to follow.

    Besides, most Oregonians and most Americans do not support a return to high levels of logging on federal lands.

    Its long past time for Josephine County to grow up, get off the federal bottle, raise their property tax rates to at least the average of the rest of us in Oregon, and learn to pay for their essential LOCAL services.

  • Dicko

    Finally! Someone with ‘common sense’———-Dick

  • ScottsdAle

    I agree. Tree cutting is not the answer to pay high wages to county workers. Plus, the owls are still in trouble. Plus, no one is building new homes so lumber prices are not good. If clearcutting God’s wilderness is their best idea then they are finished. It simply will not work. Ever.

    • The Bill Post Radio Show

      Just once I’d love to have an actual Oregonian, over 40 speak on this issue. Oh and one who lives outside of loonyland.
      Those of us who are a bit older, who live in rural areas of Oregon and who remember when that thing called “renewable” as in cut tree, plant two more, wait and repeat, were regular activities and the flow of jobs from the chainsaw guy to the green chain guy to the truck driver to the banker to the store owner and on and on were ALL prosperous!  Screw the owl, the fish and anything else.  Why can’t you outsiders go back to where you came from, Oregonians understand we have a MAJOR industry that has been killed by uninformed outsiders.  And please don’t come back with any answer to this unless you identify and prove that you fit the categories I have mentioned, otherwise your anonymous opinion means nothing to anyone. 

      • 3H

        Why don’t you just be upfront with what you want.. someone over 40, born in rural Oregon, or at least outside of Portland, and, no doubt the most important part, although un-said, who agrees with you.   Because it’s just annoying and messy to have to listen to differing opinions.  Poor baby.

        So, the Forest lands you want to “open” up have been previously forested and replanted?  Previously unforested stands should be left alone?

        “Screw the owl, the fish and anything else.”

        Screw the fisherman.  Screw the hunters.  Screw backpackers and hikers.  Screw the tourists and the tourist industry.  Screw clean water.  Screw anyone who has doubts that raping the land is a good idea.

         “Why can’t you outsiders go back to where you came from, Oregonians understand we have a MAJOR industry that has been killed by uninformed outsiders.”

        YES!  Leave native founded companies like Georgia Pacific Alone.

        Oh..  as for outsiders going back, I suspect there some members of the Nez Perce and Klamath tribes that would be all for that.  Got your bags packed Bill? Or are you cherry-picking who is an outsider and who isn’t?  Thought so.

        “And please don’t come back with any answer to this unless you identify and prove that you fit the categories I have mentioned, otherwise your anonymous opinion means nothing to anyone.”

        You’re just too funny.  And too easy.  Gosh, will providing my real name (not that you could prove it was my real name) really settle anything?   And, just to be clear, I really don’t want nut-jobs like yourself having my real name.  I simply don’t trust you.  

        I was born, and raised, in Oregon.  If you don’t believe me, that is your problem.

         But, before we go any further, are you willing to prove that you were born in Oregon?  Going to post a scan of your birth certificate on OC?   

        How would you know that my anonymous opinion means nothing to anyone?  Are you really so vain and conceited that you feel you can talk for everyone and not just for yourself?  Do you have God-like powers to divine the thoughts of all? 

      • valley person

        I’m over 50, have lived in Orygun 34 years, and have worked in the natural resource field most of that time. I live in Clackamas County, which I assume is out of your version of looneyland.

        What has to be renewable Bill, BY LAW, includes wildlife, clean water, and recreation as well as board feet. National forests and BLM land belongs to the entire American people, not just to people living in Counties that happen to  have federal land within their boundaries.

        The timber industry has not been killed, it is quite alive and reasonably well considering the collapse of the housing industry. It has changed a lot. Old growth trees are rarely harvested, and their are few mills left that can even process big logs. Much of the harvest from private lands is shipped to Asia for milling, which is a private, free market decision that costs Oregon a lot of jobs. Remaining mills have been modernized, mechanized, and produce lumber with far fewer workers than back in the glory days. But I guess that is the breaks of capitalism.

        I’m not sure how to “prove” to you anything. Believe whatever you want.

        • Sol668

          Sorry Valley, but bill doesn’t care about any of that…just as on the national stage they frame our debates in terms of “real americans” (or oregonians) versus us the “commie traitors” out to destroy them….I was born here (in portland) but I’ve lived in central oregon, my family is from Klamath falls….Its easy for bill to scapegoat us in “loonyland” its hard for them to appreciate that the timber industry is suffering from many of the same ails that have crushed the middle class across the nation….off shoring…modernization…which you correctly pointed out.

          That being said, I do acknowledge the need for a balanced approach to our forest policies, which is why I support the recent shrader/waldon/defazio forest plan

          • valley person

            The problem with the Shrader et al plan is that

            a) it isn’t yet a plan, it is simply a concept and

            b) the concept appears flawed with respect to the sciences of landscape ecology and conservation biology.

            They want to re-start short rotation clear cutting on the “once a plantation, always a plantation” principle. This would leave remnant old growth patches isolated and dysfunctional ecologically, and would fail to have any “replacement” older forests as existing old forests inevitably succumb to natural disturbances.

            Public forest managers, with the best available science, have looked at many ways to conserve old forest dependent species and water quality while maximizing the amount of area available for timber harvest. The best minds came up with the NW Forest Plan, which is a compromise between cutting and conservation. That plan should be given time to work, and time, in forestry, is measured in decades, not the election cycle.  

            What we should be doing is establishing some landscape level forestry models, like was tried with the Tillamook Forest plan, that manage a shifting mosaic of forest over very large areas over very long time periods, along with permanently conserved areas and intensive plantations on the lowlands.

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