Congressman Kurt Schrader (D-OR) today testified in front of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation regarding the bipartisan O&C Trust, Conservation, and Jobs Act offered by Oregon Democratic Reps. Kurt Schrader and Peter DeFazio and Republican Greg Walden.
The Congressmen believe given the serious fiscal crisis our forested communities face, a new approach is necessary to create jobs, help stabilize Oregon's rural communities and better manage our forests.
"While other parts of the country are recovering and unemployment rates are dropping, the unemployment rates in many rural counties, including Oregon counties, remain in the double digits," Schrader said emphatically. "Unemployment isn't the only problem counties are facing. Due to extreme budget cuts, counties are unable to pay for basic services their citizens rely on, like public health, education for our children, and public safety."
The plan offers sustainable timber harvest primarily on lands that have been previously harvested and to set aside sensitive areas and mature and old-growth forests. The timber harvest lands would remain under the ownership of the federal government, but be managed by a diverse, public board in trust for the counties and under strict guidelines to ensure sustained yield and to protect and improve clean water and terrestrial and aquatic values. The mature and old-growth forests would be transferred from the Bureau of Land Management to the U.S. Forest Service.
"With the 90 percent decline in timber harvest on public lands since 1990, our forests have become increasingly unhealthy," Schrader continued. "Based on a recent model I asked Governor Kitzhaber's O&C Committee to run, our proposal would only harvest less than one-half of what the lands are capable of producing when modeling the harvest using Oregon Forest Practice Act management criteria, which is still one-third less than average harvest levels prior to 1990. The bill we have proposed would protect nearly half of the lands for old growth, critical habitat for species, and aquatic protections for fish and drinking water, along with additional protection for Oregon's special places such as the Molalla River in my home district."
Congressman Schrader remains committed to finding a long-term solution to create jobs for Oregonians, revitalize rural economies and protect Oregon's natural treasures.
The proposal has received endorsements from the Oregon State Senate and Oregon State House of Representatives, the Oregon State Sheriffs Association, the League of Oregon Cities, Oregon State Treasurer Ted Wheeler, 15 Oregon Counties, along with Oregon specific and national timber associations. Oregon Governor Kitzhaber has also expressed support for a sustainable solution.