Congressman Peter DeFazio’s long-awaited forest plan has gone public, but the bill is under fire from conservation groups, and it’s questionable whether the controversial proposal that aims get funding for Lane and other cash-strapped counties will go anywhere at all.
The draft plan put forth by DeFazio and Reps. Greg Walden and Kurt Schrader called the “O&C Trust, Conservation, and Jobs Act” is billed as a “balanced forest health and jobs plan,” but Eugene-based Cascadia Wildlands and other conservation groups are casting a critical eye upon it.
It was thought by many that DeFazio’s timber and conservation trust plan would be a part of a bill put forth by Washington Republican and chair of the House Natural Resources Committee Doc Hastings. The Hastings bill, which got a subcommittee hearing Feb. 16, would also use logging to provide money for the cash-strapped Oregon counties that are home to large swaths of “O&C” federal lands that do not generate taxes, and it would have similar effects in other states.
A temporary fix for county funding woes is also addressed in President Barack Obama’s proposed 2012 budget.
The nonpartisan group Headwaters Economics analyzed the Hastings bill and says Oregon would have to cut 10 billion board feet a year in order to meet revenue targets in that bill. That’s more than twice the highest amount of timber cut in a year between 1980 and 2010, according to Headwaters.
DeFazio says his bill resolves the controversy of overharvesting old growth, defines old-growth reserves and provides “perpetual revenues for the counties.” Information provided by the congressman’s office says the bill would also create 90,000 acres of new wilderness, 150 miles of new Wild and Scenic River designations, and it excludes environmentally sensitive areas, parks and recreation areas, Wild and Scenic corridors, and wilderness areas.
But Josh Laughlin of Cascadia Wildlands says the plan goes back to the status quo of using logging to generate revenue.
“This scheme that’s being proposed once again targets our recovering federal public lands to become our workhorse to solve our county funding challenges,” Laughlin says.
He says that native, unlogged stands of trees 80 to 120 years old are not protected under DeFazio’s plan. “Those aren’t young stands; those are stands critical to the survival of a host of species teetering on the edge of extinction.”
An analysis of the bill by conservation groups shows 70 percent of the 2.4 million acres of O&C lands would go to timber harvest and only 30 percent into the conservation trust, according to Laughlin. The increased logging, even in younger stands of trees, could harm native and endangered species and wildlife corridors that allow species to move from one protected area to another, he says.
Of special concern to Lane County residents is that the plan would increase logging in the McKenzie River watershed, source of Eugene’s drinking water, and “drastically decrease” streamside protections, he says.