Photo by Ellen Miller

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Where were they 20 years ago???

By Ralph Saperstein, NWTimberBlog

The Oregonian published an Editorial “Taking an ax to rural Oregon”.  In the piece the authors admonish President Obama’s Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who during a recent trip touting President Obama’s Jobs Plan, predicted an end to county timber payments.


“Listening to Vilsack, it's not clear that he or anyone else leading the Obama administration fully understands the challenges of keeping county governments and schools operating in places where the U.S. Forest Service owns more than half the land and about the only economic activity it generates is whatever is spent putting out the wildfires that flare every summer.”


No kidding.  Since President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore came to Oregon to hold a timber summit in 1994, the federal government has failed to address the reality of rural Oregon’s dependence on the scientifically sound management of our federal forestland.


Instead, President Clinton’s Northwest Forest Plan has failed to maintain the economic and social viability of the rural communities in the Pacific Northwest.  Lately, elected officials urge continuing county timber payments. 


They decry the “broken promises” of discontinuing the county timber expenditures, or welfare payments, for all Western Counties that have lost the economic activity federal forestlands once provided.


This scream of “broken promises” misses the most important point.  The federal government, through the Departments of Agriculture and Interior promised rural communities that they would provide a Sustained Yield of raw materials for the independent timber industry.


Through the sale of timber, the federal forests would generate county revenue for schools and roads, and family-wage jobs for foresters, loggers, truckers, tree planters and thousands of mill workers.  That ‘community stability’ is the real broken promise of every Administration since the timber crisis began in the 1990’s.


Worse, while rural communities have been thrown under the bus, the forests continue to lose Northern Spotted Owl and other fish and wildlife habitat as a result of burning from uncharacteristic wildfires that result from the exclusion of scientifically sound forest management.

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