As a member of the Governor’s O&C Panel, a lifelong resident of Southern Oregon and president of the Association of O&C Counties, I felt compelled to respond to the recent letter by Portland-based John Kober of Pacific Rivers Council.
In his Sept. 13 letter to the editor, Mr. Kober suggests that the counties, the timber industry and our bipartisan Congressional representatives were unwilling to negotiate in earnest, on a management solution on the O&C lands. That is simply untrue.
Over the last two years in a concentrated effort to create a balanced solution for the management of the O&C lands, there has been nothing but negotiation.
Negotiations among the stakeholders, negotiation with the federal agencies and Congressional committees, and negotiation with the state through the Governor’s O&C panel which included six environmental representatives.
If, as he suggests in his editorial comments, several conservation organizations have over the last year been working toward a compromise, where is it? More importantly, what is it? Is it a true compromise including increased harvest levels, and sufficient resources for vital county services? Does it take into consideration the economic condition of our communities and our counties’ chronically high unemployment rate? Does it provide real family wage jobs? That is what a balanced solution must contain.
The O&C Trust, Conservation, and Jobs Act represents our best opportunity to pass a reasonable and balanced solution through Congress.
The legislation sets aside roughly half of these lands for sustainable timber harvests. These forests would be managed by Oregonians on a board of trustees appointed by the governor, rather than by distant politicians and high-level bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.
The other half of these lands would be set aside for permanent conservation, including new Wild & Scenic River designations, 90,000 acres of new wilderness, and legal protections for old-growth forests. This is what compromise truly looks like, yet folks such as Mr. Kober are opposing it at any cost.
The O&C lands grow 1.2 billion board feet of timber per year, yet due to continual litigation from Pacific Rivers Council and other groups, timber harvests from these lands have diminished to less than 200 million board feet per year.
These extreme groups obviously recognize that their stranglehold on responsible, active forest management is threatened, so they’re resorting to scare tactics over water quality that are false and misleading.
Their claims are a cynical attempt to defeat any compromise that might be achieved in the legislative process. They’re happy to continue pursuing their agenda through obstruction and endless lawsuits while our communities suffer from high unemployment and poverty.
Again, if the conservation community actually has a balanced proposal, let them come forward as we have done and defend it.
Doug Robertson is the chairman of the Douglas County Board of Commissioners and president of the Association of O&C Counties. He can be reached at 541-440-4201.