Is there a path through the development of sound legislation and management, that could lead to increased O&C-BLM timber harvest receipts in the future? Could this help the Douglas County libraries now, or long term?

There are roughly 2.5 million acres of Western Oregon O&C-BLM forestlands. When and if timber is harvested, 50 percent of the O&C-BLM harvest receipts are paid to the O&C counties. In recent years, these receipts have been a small fraction of historic levels and this has put O&C counties, including Douglas County, in a serious financial bind.

The BLM recently completed new management plans, years in the making. These plans are being challenged in court for different reasons by conservation, timber and O&C County interests. Although they contain some sound management strategies, these new plans will fall short of the significant management needed for these forests. The O&C-BLM management is further reduced by ongoing appropriation shortfalls. Managers cannot do the work needed for the forests or the values of the public.

Receipts to the O&C counties under the new plans will also fall short. For these reasons, we are now voting on Measure 10-145, for the Douglas County Library System.

No broadly supported forest legislative solution has emerged in the last 30 years. Proposals have failed by giving only lip service to traditionally conflicting viewpoints. There are many moving parts — policies, laws and court rulings — that must be addressed like so many links in a chain. Any broken link keeps the chain from working properly.

There is increasing recognition that timber interests, the O&C counties and conservation interests must work together toward a science-based long-term vision, in an atmosphere of mutual respect and constructive dialogue. Viable solutions should scientifically address issues of forest health and multiple resource sustainability while producing stable long-term timber supply and county revenues. Diverse participants will have to share the goal of solving the O&C-BLM forest management problem while bringing their own perspectives to the table. Historically uncomfortable bedfellows will need to cooperate, side-by-side, to constructively develop a workable solution.

Each interest will also need to adjust its goals to leave room for others interested in a constructive solution to play in the sandbox. On the brighter side, widespread support could be the secret sauce to drive a solution over the finish line.

Could O&C-BLM harvest receipts realistically fund the Douglas County Library System going forward?

Short term, the answer is “no.” The Douglas County Library System (DCLS) will be long gone before this stubborn problem is solved. Those who say we can wait for timber receipts are unrealistic, or may not place a priority on saving the library.

Longer term, the answer is “probably not.” If cooperatively developed legislative and management policy changes can be achieved, harvest receipts could increase. First priority for the funds would be key services and necessary county government infrastructure. Funding for the DCLS, while theoretically possible, would be lower priority. This solution will be complex and take many years to implement.

The DCLS has been cut from the county budget because there are insufficient funds now and for the foreseeable future.

Without immediate and ongoing secure funding, our libraries will close in 2017.

Douglas County is as big as the state of Connecticut. The main and 10 branch libraries serve the largest county in Western Oregon. The DCLS also plays a vital role in the public interest by providing an accessible source of multimedia information to children and adults without charge, by state law. People living in tax compression areas who feel the modest request for libraries is a priority can vote “yes,” yet would pay no additional taxes if it passes. The DCLS is an essential building block supporting lifestyle and education in the 100 Valleys of the Umpqua.

Please join me. Vote YES on Measure 10-145. The future of O&C-BLM management and harvest receipts has yet to be charted, but with your support the Douglas County’s 11-Library System can be sustained.

The author is retired from a forest management career at Sun Studs and Lone Rock Timber, which used to buy BLM timber sales. He also writes a monthly timber industry column for the News Review. He can be contacted at rsohn@umpquacoquille.com.

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