It’s difficult to say what’s a more difficult proposition — helping save the spotted owl or holding a seat on the Lane County Board of Commissioners. Either way it’s a lot about the timber industry and all about politics. Longtime forest advocate Andy Stahl says that having made a career of “speaking truth to power” in dealing with federal forest issues, he’s ready to take on Lane County.
He says he advocates for kids, trees and good governance and currently none of those needs are being met, so “I should get in there and do it myself,” he says.
Stahl has announced he is running against incumbent Pete Sorenson for the South Eugene commission seat. Soccer coach and Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Kieran Walsh has also entered the race. Stahl announced he is entering the race on Jan. 11, with the support of state Sen. Floyd Prozanski.
Stahl, the executive director of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics, says he brings to the table his experience in saving old-growth forests (the habitat for spotted owls), stopping landslide-inducing logging in national forest areas of the Coast Range, lobbying through Congress the original Secure Rural Schools legislation that provided Lane County with funding in lieu of timber receipts, and providing a framework for a logging plan proposed by Congressman Peter DeFazio to replace the expired SRS financing.
“What has Pete Sorenson accomplished in 14 years on the commission?” he asks.
He says that despite a background in fighting the timber industry, he doesn’t foresee that being an issue in decision-making because “95 percent of decisions made by the board are nonpartisan.” He adds, “I know I can work collaboratively with Faye.” Commissioner Faye Stewart is from a longtime timber family.
Stahl also points to a lawsuit in which he was the lead plaintiff that restored adoption assistance payments, meeting children’s ongoing special needs, to families who adopted foster children. The state had pulled those payments. Stahl is the parent of two adopted foster children. He has a total of three children in south Eugene schools — South Eugene High, Roosevelt and Spencer Butte. He jokes that if kids could vote, he’d have the race wrapped up.
Stahl is also on the Citizen Review Board for Lane County that oversees the state’s care of foster children, and served for four years on the school board of a rural school district.
Stahl says that instead of the “penny ante” cost-saving measures recently advocated by Commissioner Jay Bozievich, such as commissioners cutting expense budgets for running their offices, he advocates for saving the county more money by reducing the commissioner seats from five to three and changing the seats from being tied to a district to “at-large” positions as is done elsewhere in Oregon.
He criticizes the current board for in-fighting and for the alleged serial decision-making that led to an open meetings court case, and he supports the ruling by Judge Gillespie against Sorenson and Commissioner Rob Handy. He says when it comes to local government, “You do the horse trading in public.”
“I can’t run against all five,” he says. “I can only run against the one whose district I live in.”