Oregon Wild campaigns against Wyden logging plan

Oregon Wild campaigns against Wyden logging plan
(AP Photo/Matt Hill)

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Campaigns over proposals to increase logging in western Oregon federal forests are ramping up, and two significant steps are expected within weeks.

The U.S. House plans to take up a bipartisan bill from three Oregon members, and Democratic U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden is expected to reveal his proposals for what are known as the O&C lands. The government has managed the forests since a railroad company went bust in the 19th century and lost its land grants.

Since the 1930s, 75 percent of the gross revenues from timber sold on the lands have gone to 18 western Oregon counties. It costs the government more to put the timber up for sale than it makes when the timber is sold.

Republican Rep. Greg Walden said the House will vote in September on the measure he sponsored with Democratic Reps. Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader. It is part of a federal forests bill.

"We will have it out of the House in a few weeks," he told the Medford Mail Tribune (http://bit.ly/15eQnDG). "Then it will go to the Senate and whatever Senator Wyden is putting together. We will have to work out the differences."

Their proposal would put about 1.6 million acres into a trust managed by a state board that is aimed at producing higher timber harvests, The Oregonian (http://bit.ly/19KJ6cV) reported.

Wyden has said he will unveil his legislation after Congress resumes its session next month. He's expected to propose a smaller increase in logging and fewer curbs on environmental restrictions.

The campaigns focus on Wyden, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. They pit environmental groups warning of clear-cut logging and lower water quality against the timber industry and local allies in western Oregon counties hurt by the long-term decline in logging.

Portland-based Oregon Wild has listed the O&C lands as No. 1 on its annual list of "10 Most Endangered Places" in the state, and the Pacific Rivers Council released a nearly 10-minute video calling the O&C legislation a threat to clean water used by some 1.8 million Oregonians.

The video ends by urging viewers to contact Wyden: "He has the opportunity to rectify the threats to clean water proposed in Congressman DeFazio's bill and ensure protections for our rivers are maintained for future generations."

Several environmental groups have formed the Coalition for Our O&C lands and have been airing a television ad in the state telling viewers "to let Sen. Wyden know we want a balanced proposal to protect Oregon for all of us."

Supporters of the O&C bill counter that the legislation includes several provisions to protect environmental values, including setting aside some 90,000 acres as wilderness.

Rocky McVay, executive director of the Association of O&C counties, said the conservationists also downplay the environmental damage from wildfires worsened by the lack of management on O&C lands.

County officials have been meeting regularly with Wyden and his staff to urge him to support the bill. An industry-backed group, "Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities" is also drumming up support for the House measure.

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