A bill sits before Congress that could change Douglas County’s future.
Instead of county commissioners having to continue to look for ways to cut county services or increase fees, they could expect a consistent and adequate source of income.
The bill would put county residents back to work cutting timber on federal lands unique to Western Oregon — the Oregon & California Railroad lands. The harvests would bring a steady supply of logs to our mills and provide money for our schools. This bill would even save the federal government money because Oregon would pay for the privilege to manage these lands, and the Bureau of Land Management would no longer need to spend $100 million annually to do so.
What’s rare about this bill is its bipartisan support in a fiercely divided Congress. Republican Greg Walden of Hood River and Democrat Peter DeFazio of Springfield, who represents Douglas County in the House of Representatives, have stood by one another in support of this bill. Its best chance for passage will be next year when Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden achieves a higher ranking on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
DeFazio’s constant support and significant role in developing and pushing for this plan is one of the reasons we believe he should be re-elected to his 4th Congressional district seat in November.
We realize that means supporting a Democrat in a county where Republicans are the majority: 44 percent are registered GOP members while 30 percent favor the Democratic Party. DeFazio’s affiliation, however, hasn’t stopped one of the biggest believers in this plan, Douglas County Commissioner Doug Robertson, a Republican, from working with DeFazio to push for approval of this bill.
In contrast, Republican Art Robinson, who is challenging DeFazio for a second consecutive time for the 4th district seat, says DeFazio has done nothing effective to force Congress to honor the O&C Act of 1937. He criticizes the plan because it would set aside a portion of the 2.2 million acres in a trust to preserve old growth timber and enhance habitat for fish and wildlife, plus it would establish new wilderness areas.
The criticisms are documented in Robinson’s 410-page book, “Common Sense in 2012.” Yet Robinson doesn’t appear to provide his own solution for the financial woes facing Western Oregon counties.
The News-Review editorial board wasn’t able to have a conversation with Robinson on his plans for increasing employment, timber harvests or any other issue important to county residents because he walked out on the meeting he scheduled with the board. He refused to state his platform or answer questions because he mistakenly believed this newspaper had not reported that one of his sons, who switched to the Democratic party to run against DeFazio in the primary, had been exonerated by the Oregon Secretary of State’s office following a complaint that the younger Robinson made a false statement in the voters pamphlet.
Robinson had actually been quoted in the story he claimed never appeared.
DeFazio gets our nod for re-election for several other reasons: his work on behalf of veterans and the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center; his belief in improving the transportation infrastructure and the dollars he’s brought to Douglas County for such projects; and his desire to see the federal budget balanced and debt reduced.