and Allyn C. Ford
We applaud the action of U.S. Reps. Greg Walden, Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader as they work to strike a much-needed balance in how our federal forests are managed — for those of us who live here.
It's hardly news that Oregon, particularly rural Oregon, is enduring crippling levels of unemployment, desperately needing jobs from our former economic base: natural resources. One key barometer of Oregon's economic condition is industrial electricity demand, and usage has dropped off severely because of wood products manufacturing decline and mills closing. But it's not just about running mills or selling kilowatts, which is why what our congressmen propose is heartening — a bipartisan plan to put Oregonians back to work in our own forests, in a sustainable way.
By setting aside the most sensitive areas under consideration for conservation and unlocking other areas for active management and harvest, the plan could provide what rural Oregonians — and local governments — need most right now: certainty. Today, there is no certainty for local communities that the federal government will continue providing the timber payments that currently fund even the most basic services — law enforcement, emergency response and other essential government functions most of us take for granted.
The congressmen's plan recognizes that as these federal payments dry up, the only sustainable solution for Oregon's natural resource dependent communities is to un-tether from the federal appropriations game and be allowed to meet their needs locally. Home-grown jobs and some certainty of locally generated revenue are crucial for the literal survival of many Oregon communities, which is an effort worth supporting.
We represent companies that have provided critical electric service for 100 years and a wood products company that has grown over a half century into one of the major innovators and suppliers of products internationally, while maintaining its roots here. Over the years, and by working together, we now have a partnership where Roseburg Forest Products generates most of its own electricity and even sells back to Pacific Power — sustainably. We know that Oregon can manage local resources and find creative ways to add value to our communities because we are doing it. We listened closely at the recent Oregon Business Leadership Summit and heard Governor Kitzhaber loud and clear when he said that we need a new and collaborative approach to forest management. OK, here you have it. We both see promise in Oregon's future and know that this kind of vision and plan can lead the way to realizing a sustainable forest-based industry with economic stability, jobs and support for critical public services.
To do that, though, these representatives of our great state need our full-throated support for seeking a path forward. We welcome other business, civic, natural resource and elected leaders to join us in moving this plan forward quickly to gain approval.
R. Patrick Reiten is president and CEO of Pacific Power. Allyn C. Ford is CEO of Roseburg Forest Products.