Dear President Barack Obama,
You want to talk about jobs, about putting Americans back to work in manufacturing so they can earn a living wage.
You have the opportunity to do that in 18 Western Oregon counties, where the unemployment rate remains as high as 11.3 percent.
You don’t have to buy out a company like General Motors to do so.
You just need to remember the day in May 2008 when you spoke in the Roseburg High School Student Center. That’s when you were surrounded by a standing-room-only crowd in a rural Oregon community known as the Timber Capital of the Nation.
The city of Roseburg is considering dropping that longtime slogan because more than 20 years of gridlock in the forest have caused a 90 percent decline in the amount of federal timber cut in Western Oregon.
That’s a shame because as Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden will tell you, God put the trees in Oregon where they grow so well. We’re surrounded by federal forests that are overgrown, disease-infected and prone to wildfire because they haven’t been managed.
But if we can manage them, we can put thousands of people to work, provide stable funding for Oregon counties on the brink of bankruptcy and save money for the federal government.
Isn’t that what you would want for our country and the Oregonians who helped you win the Democratic nomination and presidency shortly after your visit here?
Along with managing our federal forests, we’re determined to set aside 1.2 million acres of old-growth forest for protection, establish 90,000 acres of new wilderness and 130 miles of new Wild and Scenic river designations.
We expect you’ll see this proposal on your desk before the end of the year. A bill passed the House of Representatives on Friday that sets the legislative process in motion. Your Office of Management and Budget advisers tell us they would recommend a veto of House Resolution 1526.
But they’re premature in their judgment. Within that forest legislation is a bipartisan solution to timber country woes called the O&C Trust, Conservation and Jobs Act. We expect Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Wyden to massage the plan to make it palatable to the Democratically controlled Senate and to you.
We urge you to listen to the stories from rural Oregon, where there are few sheriff’s deputies to respond to crime, schools have closed and county services have diminished.
We know you’re concerned about the environment and so are we. Oregon is a beautiful place to live and play. We want protection for clean drinking water and fish-bearing streams, and the separately titled O&C Trust Act can provide that.
Tourism alone will not lift this no-sales-tax state out of the poverty engulfing our rural communities. We need to be able to sustainably cut timber on the federal lands that cover more than 50 percent of our state.
All we’re asking for is your support so we can once again create jobs and provide for ourselves.