The battle over Oregon’s federal O&C forestlands isn’t just taking place in the backrooms and hallways of Washington, D.C., it’s playing out on the internet, in emails and on video. A new video about the O&C lands out of Rep. Peter DeFazio’s office has made it through the House Franking Commission, which has to approve “unsolicited mailings of 500 or more pieces of the same matter” before taxpayer money is used to send it.
Franking is more commonly associated with mass mailings, such as DeFazio’s longtime newsletter, but these days the congressman says a lack of funding means he can no longer send three or four newsletters a year to his constituents.
DeFazio, along with Reps. Greg Walden and Kurt Schrader, introduced a bill called the O&C Trust, Conservation and Jobs Act that would split the lands between a logging trust and a conservation trust. That bill has made it through the House, and supporters and opponents are awaiting Sen. Ron Wyden’s companion bill in the Senate.
DeFazio says that the bipartisan bill will create jobs and protect forests and wilderness and provide funding for cash-strapped Oregon counties. Opponents, such as conservation group Oregon Wild, say the bill endangers waterways, removes federal protections on public lands and fails to protect old growth.
Oregon Wild’s conservation director Steve Pedery says, “It is a ridiculous waste of taxpayer dollars to produce an ad to promote clearcutting legislation.”
He continues, “If a Republican were doing this to promote a government shutdown or privatizing Social Security, Rep. DeFazio would be outraged. It would be nice if he held himself to the same standard when it comes to promoting clearcutting public lands.”
Pedery says the ad repeats claims about the legislation that newspapers have reported as factually untrue.
Environmental groups have been creative as well when it comes to fighting DeFazio’s O&C legislation. Oregon Wild is one of several groups that launched the website and billboard campaign called Clearcut Oregon, which features a 1950s postcard-like ad and the words “Welcome to Oregon: Home of the Clearcut.” The ad is up at the Eugene airport.
DeFazio tells EW that the video is a way to communicate about “legislation that is vital to my constituents in southwest Oregon” and does it in a modern, cost-effective way. He adds that his newsletters have addressed forestry issues in the past. DeFazio says he has often been on the forefront of new means of communication — he had the first congressional website on the House side, hosted on the UO’s old darkwing webserver, and Ted Kennedy had the first website in the Senate. The DeFazio video can be seen at http://wkly.ws/1lk.