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In a Congress Where Little Happens, Progress on O&C Lands Could Be the Exception

Tuesday, March 25, 2014
The current, bitter bi-partisan nature of Congress has made it difficult for Congress to pass laws and get the business of the United States done.  No doubt important land conservation bills, as well as other bills, have stalled in this quagmire.  

But in the case of the O&C Land bill, we have a chance to counter the trend.  Senator Wyden is the kind of leader that has shown an ability to overcome partisan politics, to find balanced solutions and to accomplish the country’s business. While Senator Wyden’s O&C bill still needs important adjustments to protect our key federal environmental laws, the bill also protects more than a million acres of our public lands and hundreds of miles of Oregon’s pristine rivers and clean drinking water .  

This bill is the kind of balanced solution to a long-term problem that Congress should move, and we’re lucky that we have a champion Like Senator Wyden who knows how to move these kinds of bills through a difficult Congressional landscape.  

Some have suggested that Senator Wyden’s move to Chairman of the Finance Committee may dim the bill’s prospects for passage.  But the Senator is still a senior member of Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and Finance is a powerful position. And most importantly, he is the senior Senator from Oregon.  Given the Senator’s commitment to resolving this tough issue, his skill for finding a path forward, and his overall influence and respect in Congress, we trust that there will be progress on this bill soon ; the next milepost would hopefully be a “mark-up” in late April or May. 

In the meantime, Senator Wyden’s office is making refinements to the bill.  We look forward to working with his staff on making changes we see as necessary and to a markup on the bill later this year. 

Wyden O&C Bill gets First Hearing. Continues the Call for Balance and Actions this Year

Friday, February 21, 2014

This month, Senator Wyden held a hearing on his new O&C lands bill. Click here for our take on that bill. Representatives from the timber industry, O&C counties and conservationists traveled to Washington, D.C. to give testimony to the U.S. Senate about their views on this bill. Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR) also testified at the hearing.

Senator Wyden  opened the hearing asking all to consider the need to find the right balance on these lands. He spoke about the unique history of these lands, from federal ownership to private ownership and back again to federal lands. He spoke about “devastation” in the counties, highlighting both the lack of law enforcement and library resources, and he spoke about the extremists on both sides – folks that aren’t willing to find a compromise on this difficult issue. He acknowledged that his bill wasn’t perfect and that he was interested in hearing from folks about how he could make it a more balanced bill.  But he also made clear that this was a situation where no one was getting everything they wanted, but Oregon would indeed get what it needed. He made it clear that he was looking to solve this decades-long debate this year by moving a bill forward in the U.S. Congress.  

Rep. DeFazio testified first. He acknowledged that his O&C bill would not pass the Senate and said he was looking forward to working with Senator Wyden and others, using the Wyden bill as the platform to find an agreeable solution to this issue.  

Conservationists, timber and county representatives all acknowledged the need for balance. Most said they were encouraged by Senator’s Wyden’s approach and looked forward to working with him to get the balance closer.  

Senator Wyden has made a good start. But there is still work to be done to ensure that his bill protects the special qualities of the O&C lands.  This is an important moment to contact Senator Wyden to thank him for his approach, and ask him to keep moving forward while protecting our clean drinking water, wild places and healthy habitat for fish and wildlife. To send Senator Wyden a letter, click here.


Oregon Business Owners Stand up for Balance, Protections for Oregon’s O&C Lands

Tuesday, February 18, 2014
As Senator Ron Wyden pushes his bill to settle the longstanding issues surrounding Oregon’s O&C Lands, over 50 businesses have written to the Senator urging him to continue his balanced approach while asking him to protect several key areas not currently included in the bill.  They say that safeguarding these areas is critical for their businesses, as well as protecting an irreplaceable natural heritage.
 
“As business owners who depend upon a healthy environment and access to recreation, we recognize the tension between natural resource utilization and natural resource conservation. We agree that finding the right balance is the key to Oregon’s future economic growth,” the letter reads. “We believe your draft legislation on O&C lands is an important step in the right direction, and we appreciate all of the work you and your staff have done to get this far along in the process.”
 
As the hearing opened, Senator Wyden highlighted the significance of recreation jobs, saying they are an important part of the Oregon economy.


Read the letters here and here.

Big Day for Oregon’s O&C Lands

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

This Thursday (February 6) is an important moment for finding a balanced solution to the longstanding issue of Oregon’s O&C lands. That is the day that Senator Ron Wyden’s ‘‘Oregon and California Land Grant Act of 2013’’ (S. 1784) will receive its first hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

For too many years, the management of Oregon’s O&C lands has been in gridlock. The failure to come to any sort of resolution has hurt rural communities and has left long-term protections of water quality, ancient forests and some of Oregon’s most special places in limbo. Senator Wyden’s bill is a strong move to find a balanced solution.

Wyden’s Balanced Approach

The bill is not perfect: it needs some changes and additions and clarifications that we have identified previously and will hopefully surface during the hearing process.  But it shows genuine leadership and thoughtfulness by Senator Wyden. His bill strives to balance conservation and timber interests and creates a road map that could finally put more rural Oregonians to work in our forests while protecting our clean drinking water and wild places. The bill:

  • Permanently protects approximately more than 400,000 acres of ancient forests;
  • Creates two new wilderness areas – the Wild Rogue and Devil’s Staircase – totaling more than 88,000 acres;
  • Designates approximately 200 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers;
  • Creates six new primitive areas in Southwest Oregon (totalling more than 50,000 acres);
  • Expands – by  almost 6,000 acres –  the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument;
  • Establishes two new National Recreation areas – the Wild Rogue and the Mollala;
  • Creates new statutory protection for more than 80 special areas of environmental concern equaling more than 90,000 acres;
  • Designates a salmon and botanical area in the Illinois Valley – known for both its rare and beautiful wild flowers as well as its elusive but magical steelhead trout; and
  • Creates a ¼ mile buffer on both sides of the Pacific Coast Trail as it goes through these lands.

At the same time, it would double the current timber harvest on these lands using “ecological forestry” that will provide increased sustainability and create stable jobs for economically hurting rural communities.

Timing is Critical

Senator Wyden’s leadership on the O&C lands has been bolstered by his position as Chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The timing of this hearing is important: he will soon be leaving that post to chair the Senate Finance Committee.  Senator Wyden will remain on Energy and Natural Resources as a member, but it is critical that we make progress towards a final bill right now.  We need him to continue to protect these special places while making some changes to ensure certainty and clarity for all moving forward.

Watch this space for an update on what happens during the hearing and to find out what you can do to bring protect our environmental legacy and create jobs in Oregon’s O&C lands.

The O&C Lands and Oregon’s Hunting Heritage

Monday, December 16, 2013

I grew up hunting on the public lands throughout Oregon.  My father planned trips for our family when I was a young boy.  We’d look over maps, think through our plan and pack up the truck.  Those outings were a special time for us to spend together; to explore the wildlands of this beautiful state, to learn about the wildlife and the plants that call these places home,  and to talk late into the night about everything and anything.  It was an extraordinary way to connect as a family. 

This is a heritage that belongs to every Oregonian.

My children and I have carried on those traditions and now my children are also a part of the adventure. We love these lands and all that they possess.  But little by little, the places the public lands that we love and cherish are being destroyed. 

The O&C lands in Western Oregon are an important part of this legacy.  While some of these lands are and should remain as timber producing lands, many of the O&C lands provide clean drinking water to millions of Oregonians and are home to our some of our most precious habitats and wildlife.  

It’s time to find the right balance and to leave a legacy for our children and our children’s children.

Sen. Wyden Takes First Step Toward Balance for O&C Lands

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

On Tuesday, November 26, 2013 Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) released his long awaited draft legislation on the Oregon and California (O&C) Lands issues.  We applaud the Senator for his leadership on this issue and for working so hard to find a balanced approach to this long-standing debate.  The bill, while not perfect, strives to balance conservation and timber interests and creates a road map that with some additions and changes could finally put more rural Oregonians to work in our forest while protecting our clean drinking water and wild places.

In his bill, Senator Wyden safeguards clean drinking water sources and habitat for wild salmon by creating new drinking water protection areas, legislatively protecting Key Watersheds and maintaining effective riparian buffers.  The bill also protects more than 1 million acres of forested lands through a variety of special designations. Wyden’s legislation:

  • Permanently protects approximately 700,000 acres of ancient forests;
  • Creates two new  wilderness areas – the Wild Rogue and Devil’s Staircase – totaling more than 88,000 acres:
  • Designates approximately 200 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers;
  • Creates six new primitive areas in Southwest Oregon (totally more than 50,000 acres);
  • Expands – by  almost 6000 acres –  the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument;
  • Establishes two new National Recreation Areas – the Wild Rogue and the Mollala River;
  • Creates new statutory protection for more than 80 special areas of environmental concern equaling more than 90,000 acres;
  • Designates a salmon and botanical area in the Illinois Valley – known for both its rare and beautiful wild flowers as well as its elusive but magical steelhead trout;
  • Establishes new drinking water protection areas;  and
  • Creates a quarter- mile buffer on both sides of the Pacific Coast Trail as it goes through these lands.

It’s an impressive list.

At the same time, the Senator’s bill will increase timber harvest on these lands.  In fact, the measure will double current timber harvest coming from these lands; that’s a 100% increase in timber harvest.  The bill ensures this increase by cutting federal government red tape by requiring government officials to work together and to work together early to make decisions.  It also forces those wanting to challenge those decisions to do so quickly.  Again, it’s not perfect, but it will provide stable jobs for rural Oregonians.

On balance, the Senator’s legislation is a good step forward on this difficult and longstanding issue.  We believe there are still important aspects of the bill that need to be improved and we look forward to working with the Senator to make those changes prior to the bill’s passage. But it is fair to say that Ron Wyden has taken the balanced, thoughtful approach that Oregon needs for its O&C lands.

Forest to Faucet

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Here is a great illustration that shows an important reason we must achieve the right balance in our O&C Lands. These forests naturally filter the drinking water for over 1.8 million Oregonians. Clean water for 81 communities depends on Congress getting it right.

See the original article featuring this image here

Protecting the Recreation Economy for Oregon's O&C Communities

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I grew up fishing – with my grandfather and my dad – and then brought this tradition home to my children and my grandchildren.  Fishing and clean rivers and streams are part of who we are; they are a part of our Northwest way of life.  

Now, I’m fortunate enough to work for an industry that both brings thousands jobs and billions of dollars to our local economies while at the same time holding fast to the values of healthy rivers, wild fish and well-managed forests.  We understand that these pieces are all intricately connected.  Our forests clean, filter, protect and feed our streams and wildlife, and these in turn create jobs and brings billions into our economy. 

It’s a balance.

Just like the balance that we must find on the O&C lands.  Timber is certainly a part of the solution.  Many of our rural communities depend on our forests for their survival.  And we can produce timber in a sustained manner while at the same time protecting the treasured rivers, salmon and wildlife that make Oregon, Oregon.  

This debate has been polarized for far too long.  We are smarter and more creative than that.  Now is the time to put aside the debate and find a solution – a fair balance between timber production and permanent protections.  Sustainably harvesting to protect water temperatures, to protect fish habitat, will help our timber counties and keep the $12 billion that outdoor recreation brings to Oregon’s economy. The key is finding a balanced approach to these issues. 

We owe it to our children and our children’s children to resolve this issue.  To find this balance.  Now is the time.

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