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League of Oregon Cities and Oregon Business Association Support Senator Wyden's Balanced Approach for our O&C Lands

Thursday, November 20, 2014
      

November 17, 2014

The Honorable Ron Wyden
U.S. Senator
911 NE 11th Ave., Suite 630
Portland, OR, 97232

Dear Senator Wyden:

Western Oregon’s cities, counties, and school districts have ridden the roller coaster of timber harvests for decades. For many years, high yields meant rural counties could keep taxes low while providing the services residents need, including law enforcement and vibrant schools. When it was clear that harvesting was starting to harm clean water, fish and wildlife habitat, and outdoor recreation, harvests were cut back. Counties, schools, residents, law enforcers – everyone in rural Oregon felt the brunt of those cutbacks in some way. Payments from the federal government attempted to fill in the gaps short term, but have fallen off in recent years. Many Western Oregon counties are sincerely struggling, and regardless of the reasons why, the future for all Oregonians is at stake.

We do not have a collective position on past actions or decisions. But we do know that Western Oregon’s counties, cities and schools need consistency. We support modest, permanent increases in logging on federal lands, so long as protections for clean drinking water and other core conservation needs are also permanently maintained.

It’s all about balance. That is why we support your balanced proposal that doubles the timber harvest currently coming off federal forests known as O&C lands in Oregon. Doubling the harvest from O&C lands will provide crucial tax revenue for schools, municipal services, economic development, and jobs. It will help counties stay solvent, and reduce the likelihood that cities and the state have to step in to help.

As currently written, your approach will also maintain clean drinking water. Approximately 1.8 million Oregonians get their drinking water from rivers and streams flowing through O&C lands. Clean water is an issue that directly affects counties, cities, schools, families, businesses – everyone. Your proposal sets aside certain areas to protect clean drinking water, and other areas to maintain fish and wildlife habitat, clean air, and outdoor recreation. It is important that we not trade-off one set of problems on O&C lands for a new set of municipal, infrastructure or revenue problems.

Timber alone cannot solve Western Oregon’s local funding crisis. Oregon tried to rely on timber before, and it is not sustainable by any measure. Oregon needs leaders who can find and implement a multi-pronged solution that includes timber, permanent funding for the Secure Rural Schools Act, tax reform, and economic diversification.

Caring for our children and their future is a value common to all of us as Oregonians. That is why we have written to you to support your balanced approach to increasing timber harvest and environmental protections on O&C lands. This is the right step at the right time and we applaud your leadership to get this bill passed this year.

Sincerely,

Michael J. McCauley    
Executive Director
League of Oregon Cities

Ryan Deckert
Executive Director
Oregon Business Association

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