Timber groups and rural towns say the Oregon Department of Forestry’s plan to manage 600,000 acres of state forests needs to be revamped because of concerns it will lead to declining trees and income.
In Oregon Forest Industry CouncilA trade association representing forest owners and forest product producers said ODF used incorrect information when drafting the Forest Environment Protection Plan, which will manage the state’s forests for the next 70 years.
Their main concern was that ODF had initially said its plan would allow for an annual output of 250 million board feet, but revised it to 173.5 million board feet over the next two years. The cities are concerned that the amount will remain in place for seven decades, reducing ODF budget revenue by $30 million in two years and for the counties that depend on it.
“The proposed plan would reduce local government revenue by approximately $8.5 million, affecting education, public safety, transportation, health care and other first responders,” Clatsop County Commissioner Courtney Bangs said in a news release. “It will also have a wider impact on the local economy and result in the loss of family jobs.”
Timber cities said they want the Oregon Forestry Board to reject the plan and go back to the drawing board. They said the drop in revenue would make the Legislature need more funding for critical ODF functions, including firefighting.
Oregon Department of Forestry spokesman Jason Cox said OFIC is wrong and claims that harvest levels will not increase over the next 70 years are false.
“The data (they) refer to is for the next two fiscal years, which sets the target yield for that time frame,” Cox said. “Although they include conservation measures included in the proposed Environmental Protection Plan, these cover a two-year time frame, not the average expected harvest over the 70-year HCP period.”
Lumbering groups and cities also confirmed that the plan was developed largely without their input.
“ODF developed this plan behind closed doors and what they’re releasing to us seems unrealistic, which we’ve been concerned about since day one,” Tillamook County Commissioner David Yamamoto said in a news release.
Cox also denied the allegations, calling it a “problem.”
“We have openly provided comprehensive information and updates to the public 12 open meetings to date, to regional commissioners, to the board of forestryand to State Advisory Committee on Forestry,’he said.
OFIC said the plan was implemented controversial from the beginningbecause the collection of timber in state forests is a source of income for the department and for 15 County Forest Trust Lands and hundreds of taxing districts. The state has an almost century-old contractual relationship, which actively manages the lands of the counties to the state. In return, ODF provides 64 percent of timber harvest revenue to cities for essential public services.
“We hope to see strong leadership from the Chairman of the Forestry Council calling for a rethink,” said OFIC Chairman Chris Edwards. “This is a 70-year plan. They have time to go back to the drawing board and develop a sustainable win-win plan for the future of our local communities. “
Zach Urness has been an outdoor reporter in Oregon for 15 years and is the host of the Explore Oregon Podcast. To support his work, subscribe to “Statesman” magazine. Urnes is the author of “Best hikes with kids: Oregon” and “Southern Oregon Tourism.” He can be contacted [email protected] or 503-399-6801. Find him on Twitter at @ZachsORoutdoors.