U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden’s timber plan could produce as much revenue for Western Oregon counties as a House bill, according to a memo released Wednesday by the Senate natural resources committee.
Wyden’s proposal could raise $36.6 million to $43 million a year for the 18 counties with Oregon & California Railroad trust lands, the memo states, citing an analysis by Headwaters Economics, a nonprofit research group.
The House plan, which has passed that chamber, could generate $33.3 million to $44.2 million, the analysis found.
Counties would receive as much revenue even though annual timber production under Wyden’s plan would be at most 350 million board feet, compared to the House bill, which could produce as much as 500 million board feet, according to the analysis.
Researchers assumed that Wyden’s plan would require the federal government to bear administrative costs, leaving more revenue from timber sales for counties.
The committee’s spokesman, Keith Chu, said the study is the only “independent analysis of both bills from credible forestry economists.”
U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, who co-authored the House plan, blasted the analysis. It doesn’t make sense to think a plan that doesn’t produce as much timber would produce as much revenue for counties, he said.
“Their memo isn’t based on a report, it’s based on an Excel spreadsheet intended to analyze different O&C management scenarios,” DeFazio said in a written statement. “It’s time to stop wasting time with magical thinking, voodoo economics and just bad math.”
The analysis was also viewed skeptically by a timber industry advocacy group and Douglas County Commissioner Doug Robertson.
Robertson said the study assumes Wyden’s bill would double timber harvests and that would translate into double the revenues.
“Right now, all we are doing is speculating on assumptions and really, we just need more data,” Robertson said.
The president of the American Forest Resource Council, Tom Partin, said the analysis doesn’t explain how Wyden’s plan would double timber harvests.
“Their analysis in no way confirms the 300 (million) to 350 million board feet harvest estimate,” he said. “This study is a glossy overlay of something we don’t believe is quite accurate, and we just need more information.”
Wyden says his plan would increase timber harvests by using logging methods advanced by forestry professors Norm Johnson of Oregon State University and Jerry Franklin of University of Washington.
The timber industry has been skeptical about the professors’ “ecological forestry,” which calls for limited clear-cuts and limited replanting.
In a press release that accompanied the memo, the committee accused unnamed “outside lobbying groups” of making misleading comparisons between Wyden’s plan and the House bill.
Wyden’s office has stressed his plan has been review by the Bureau of Land Management. A letter from BLM State Director Jerome Perez to Wyden last month said BLM analysts assisted Johnson, who estimated that Wyden’s plan would produce up to 350 million board feet a year.
“I think that’s certainly a credible estimate,” Chu said. “This is the only estimate by the BLM. There is no comparable estimate by the BLM of the House proposal, so when it comes to harvest projections, this is the best projection.”
The BLM estimates 1.2 billion board feet of timber grows on O&C lands every year. Annual timber harvests have declined from those levels to about 150 million board feet a year since the spotted owl was listed as a threatened species in 1990.
The House bill advocates moving oversight of the O&C lands from the federal government to the state, a key provision that Wyden says can’t win Senate or White House approval.
Wyden’s proposal would retain the timberlands under federal management, which counties say has stifled logging for more than two decades.
Robertson said it would be nice if counties could view data the BLM made available to Johnson.
“And until we get that, we are just all making assumptions, because right now the 300 million board feet is just an assumption,” he said.
•You can reach reporter Christina George at 541-957-4202 or at email@example.com.
All we are doing is speculating on assumptions and really, we just need more data.
Douglas County commissioner