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Voters Want Trees, Wildlife and Clean Water

Oregonians would rather protect water, forests, fish and wildlife on their federal forestlands than cut them down for money for the timber economy and local governments. That’s the gist of a recent bipartisan statewide poll of likely voters in western Oregon by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

The poll came out of Gov. John Kitzhaber’s panel of timber interests, conservationists and county commissioners who were tasked with finding a solution for Oregon’s O&C lands, named for the Oregon and California Railroad. The lands have historically been logged to generate revenue for counties. Conservationists say the trees have more value left standing, while logging proponents beg to differ. The governor’s panel stemmed from a controversial proposal by Rep. Peter DeFazio and two other congressmen to split the forests between conservation and logging.

“This new poll clearly shows that any plan moving forward on O&C lands should include balanced protections for clean drinking water, ancient forests and fish and wildlife — something Oregonians feel very strongly about,” says Nicole Cordan of Pew. She adds, “These lands are about timber, but they are about a whole lot more.” 

The poll asked voters to give their top priorities for O&C lands. The choices were stabilizing funding for local governments; ensuring the future of logging jobs and the timber economy; protecting places to hunt, fish, hike, swim and enjoy the outdoors; or protecting old-growth forests, bodies of water and the wildlife that live there. 

The top priority both statewide and in the “target counties,” which house large swathes of O&C lands, including Lane, Josephine, Jackson and Douglas, was “protecting old-growth forests, bodies of water and the wildlife that live there.” The lowest priority was stabilizing local government funding.

A second question asked if voters would rather allow for logging on 20 percent of the O&C public lands and produce $40 million in annual revenue for local governments (Plan One) or log roughly 60 percent and produce $165 million (Plan Two). Pew says, “The survey found that voters favor Plan One by a strong majority (61 percent favor, 29 percent oppose) but are divided over Plan Two (45 percent favor, 46 percent oppose).”

Sen. Ron Wyden announced his framework for a forest plan for the O&C lands on May 23. While it keeps the idea of dividing the forests between conservation and “sustainable timber harvests,” it also calls for retaining federal logging rules on the federal lands. Earlier plans calling for waiving federal logging rules on the O&C lands drew the ire of environmentalists. Find the Pew poll at http://wkly.ws/1hi.