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Forest Debate Packs Public Library

More than two million acres of public forests, a checkered history, and federal and state laws confusingly mixed with county funding means that the current O&C lands logging proposal can be hard to wrap your mind around. About 150 people came to the downtown Eugene Public Library Aug. 26 to try to understand the “DeFazio bill,” or as it is more properly known, the O&C Trust, Conservation and Jobs Act.

Congressman Peter DeFazio has said the plan for the O&C forestlands (named for the Oregon and California Railroad) solves 30 years of gridlock over logging in Oregon’s federal forests, but speakers at the “Our Backyard Forests On the Chopping Block: A Community Forum” begged to differ. The bill would split forests between conservation and logging trusts, but Shawn Donnille of Mountain Rose Herbs, who spoke at the forum, said the logging of federal lands under rules of the Oregon Forest Practices Act and the aerial pesticide use is much more akin to private industrial timberland logging and a worry for his organic farm.

The DeFazio bill passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee in July and now the timber industry and conservationists are waiting for Sen. Ron Wyden, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, to introduce his version of the legislation. DeFazio told EW that Wyden does not favor the trusts, which are a central element of the plan.

Ernie Niemi of Natural Resource Economics said his analysis showed that 5,500 logging jobs would come as a result of the DeFazio plan, but compared that to the number of jobs Oregon already generates. “Every five weeks we are generating as many new jobs in this state as in all this logging,” he said. 

He pointed out that the logging would cost Oregon in recreation and fishing jobs as well as quality of life — people don’t recreate among or want to live next to stumps. Niemi said the logging would also essentially “tax” Oregonians in cleanup costs for damages such as turbid water and flooding and landslides, and it would cost the state as much as $85,000 per acre in long-term monetary damages as more climate change-inducing carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere.

The forum’s audience represented a wide swath of perspectives on the O&C issue from former County Commission candidate Andy Stahl, who devised the original plan for a timber and conservation trust, to members of the Cascadia Forest Defenders, whose tree-sitting efforts led to a round of applause. 

According to Greg Block of the Wild Salmon Center, who did not attend but is with one of the groups that make up the Coalition for O&C Forests, “The conservation community isn’t monolithic, it’s nuanced, but is all consolidated against the DeFazio bill.” 

In an effort to get the public more involved, the Coalition for Our O&C Lands has been campaigning with video and internet ads, combating the “AstroTurf” campaign of Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities, a pro-logging coalition that includes Lane County Commissioners Pat Farr, Jay Bozievich, Sid Leiken and Faye Stewart. Another anti-logging campaign, Clearcut Oregon, a project of Oregon Wild and several other groups, has launched, complete with billboards and an ad at the Eugene airport showing ugly clearcuts.

The O&C event was put on by Oregon Wild and Cascadia Wildlands and moderated by Eugene Weekly.

This article has been updated.