Rural Oregonians deserve Senate leadership on O&C lands

Jason Conger_thb

Jason Conger for U.S. Senate

PORTLAND, ORE – State Rep. Jason Conger (R-Bend) yesterday said Western Oregon’s forested communities need a U.S. Senator who will fight for an effective, balanced solution on federal O&C timberlands.

As a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, Rep. Conger said he supports restoring active management to O&C lands and other federal forest lands to create middle class jobs, help struggling rural families and communities, and save the state’s remaining timber industry.

“Many of Oregon’s rural counties are struggling to fund critical government services and suffer from systemic high-unemployment due to the mismanagement of federal forestlands. Continuing with the status quo is unacceptable,” explained Rep. Conger. “We need leaders from both parties to come together and pass a solution that actually puts Oregonians back to work and sets our rural counties on a path to sustainability and self-sufficiency.”

Earlier this summer, the U.S. House approved bipartisan legislation creating an Oregon-managed trust to allow sustainable timber harvests on nearly half of O&C timberlands.  Just before Thanksgiving, Sen. Ron Wyden introduced an O&C reform bill that seeks to increase timber harvests, but adds new layers of federal regulation. Sen. Jeff Merkley has not taken a position on any measure to reform O&C forest management or taken any action to effectively reduce joblessness and poverty in the state’s forested communities.

“Most of Oregon’s congressional delegation understands something must be done to improve the health of our federal forests and restore economic opportunities for rural Oregonians,” Conger said.  “While there is widespread, bipartisan support for putting people back to work in the woods, it’s clear we need stronger leadership in the U.S. Senate to get an effective solution passed.”

“As someone who was raised in forested communities and who once worked in the timber industry, I understand how federal over-regulation and gridlock can devastate a community and how that impacts the families who lose their jobs.  Ironically, it also harms the environment – increasing the risk of disease, insect infestation and catastrophic wildfire. As State Representative I have had a strong record of supporting active management of state and federal lands to support our economy, protect our environment and provide more funding for schools, public safety and other essential services. As U.S. Senator I will take this approach to Washington D.C. We need to end partisan bickering and start producing real solutions.”

Western Oregon’s O&C timberlands were established under federal law to be actively managed, with counties receiving a significant portion of timber receipts to support essential services.  The spotted owl crisis and President Bill Clinton’s Northwest Forest Plan led to a steep decline in federal timber harvests, which resulted in the loss of Oregon mills and thousands of rural middle-class jobs. Because the federal government owns as much as 70 percent of land in rural counties and does not pay taxes, local governments throughout the state have lost the ability to fund critical government services.  As State Representative, Conger supported a resolution urging Congress to pass the bipartisan House O&C bill, and has voted to increase sustainable timber harvests on state forest lands.