Janice Reid

Janice Reid

I attended the Board of Commissioners (BOC) meeting on Dec. 14. At the end of the BOC meeting, outgoing Commissioner Morgan used her time to lecture the attendees on her opinion about the current fiscal situation of the county. She opined that the budgetary deficiencies are the result of the spotted owl listing. I have heard the same claim from Commissioner Boice.

I have studied the spotted owl for over 30 years. It is time that the BOC and other public employees stop blaming the spotted owl for something that was a combination of poor planning and shortsightedness. The commissioners have expressed their opinion but the facts can be found in documents exploring the history of the timber industry in Douglas County (http://www.company-histories.com/Roseburg-Forest-Products-Company-Company-History.html).

In the mid ‘40s Kenneth Ford “made large purchases of Douglas County timberlands, which he was able to get for as little as $2 an acre. He soon owned some 160,000 acres in Douglas County. Rather than cut on his own land, however, Ford secured rights to cut timber on nearby government-owned land.”

“In the early 1980s, the timber industry suffered a downturn as the housing market slumped. The downturn hit Roseburg particularly hard. Because it had contracted to cut government timber while prices were high, it was liable for significant losses when prices fell over the next few years. During the late 1970s, Roseburg signed contracts with the United States Forest Service worth $383 million for 1.3 billion board feet. The company’s average cost worked out to about $300 per 1,000 board feet. By 1983, however, the going price per board foot was only $120. Roseburg stood to lose a huge amount of money if it harvested the wood at this price, and his was not the only lumber company in this position. Scores of companies in the Northwest were affected, and total possible industry losses were estimated at $2 billion, according to Forbes magazine (Jan. 30, 1984).”

The federal government bought back those high bid sales. Douglas County Commissioners apparently did not object even though these sales would have resulted in quite a bit more revenue for the county budget.

The tired argument of blaming the spotted owl for the fiscal woes is nothing more than deflection of the real issue that improper leadership when the county really needed it is to blame.

The company rebounded enough that they “… bought an interest worth $750 million in International Paper’s area forests. The arrangement brought Roseburg 214,000 acres of second-growth timber in the mountains between Reedsport and Eugene. Though Roseburg again offered no comment on the deal, it seemed to be part of a long-term strategy to supply the company with enough timberland so it would no longer need to rely on government-owned trees.” The company then experienced competition in the market that resulted in layoffs in their plywood plant. None of it related to the spotted owl listing.

More recently when the timber companies fought to decrease their contribution to county budgets, the Douglas County commissioners did not object, siding instead with the industry. Ernie Nieme (http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2014/06/logging_expansion_wont_help_ru.html) writes about the reasons for the decline of revenue in the counties, among others are: “The industry also has directly grabbed from county coffers money that could support public safety and other social services. Timber companies operating in Oregon used to pay timber-harvest taxes similar to what they paid in Washington and California.

They don’t now. In 1993, using the spotted owl as an excuse, their lobbyists convinced the Oregon Legislature to phase out the tax. They still pay it in California and Washington, and many companies operate profitably in all three states. If Oregon had a similar tax, it would have provided counties in western Oregon about $40 million in 2011.

Increased logging on federal lands will not fix these problems. Instead, it will diminish jobs in one of Oregon’s fastest growing industries, outdoor recreation. The outdoor recreation industry employs about 140,000 workers in Oregon (logging and wood-products manufacturing employ fewer than 30,000). Nationally, jobs in outdoor recreation are growing 5 percent annually. High-quality recreation attracts middle- and high-income families to settle in rural counties, too, boosting local economic activity.

There is abundant research and data showing that our federal forests would do far more for workers, families and local businesses if managed for ecosystem and human health rather than as tree farms. Yes, rural economies are suffering. But reduced logging on federal lands is not even close to being the main culprit. In the 1990s, lawmakers phased out what was called the “privilege tax” on timber. According to analysis by InvestigateWest, that decision has saved Oregon’s timber companies an average of $59 million each year, adjusted for inflation. “Restoring the privilege tax on private timber companies could provide nearly $50 million a year for schools and $25 million for Oregon counties.”

The spotted owl was listed over 25 years ago and even without the listing of the spotted owl, the harvest rate of the 1980s could not be sustained. The listing of the spotted owl led to a comprehensive, scientifically based and peer reviewed document called the Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP). The 1937 Oregon & California Railroad Act contained provisions for “protecting watersheds, regulating stream flow, and contributing to the economic stability of local communities and industries, and providing recreational facilties (sic),” essentially protecting an ecosystem. The NWFP was designed to do just that, protect an ecosystem. Economists have pointed out that the spotted owl has been used as a convenient scapegoat to hide the real culprits. Blaming the spotted owl for deficiencies in the county government more than 25 years later is nothing more than deflection of the real issues of improper leadership.

As the timber industry thwarts regulations that could contribute to the county budgets, shouldn’t the county leaders object to that as well? While the counties continue to get revenue from federal lands (there is still harvest on federal land), more concern should be focused on the more recent reduction of revenue from private lands. More support should be given to ideas for other forms of revenue, including legislation that could alleviate the budget deficits.

It is time for the Douglas County elected officials to accept that we cannot keep hoping that timber receipt levels from the 1980s will be resurrected. It is possible to institute changes that could increase revenues from private timber lands that were historically owned by Douglas County. Our county needs fresh ideas. There have been a lot of good ideas that have been expressed by members of the community with little support of the commissioners. Even if the harvest were to resume at an unprecedented rate, what is the plan for when harvest of merchantable trees is no longer possible? Continuing to focus blame on the spotted owl is counterproductive.

Janice Reid has lived in Douglas County while studying the spotted owl for over 30 years.

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(7) comments

PickNGrin

There’s no question that timber harvests on O&C Lands create a revenue stream directly to 18 O&C counties, with Douglas County receiving the largest share. However, one should not ignore the fact that recreation also has rather significant economic outputs and jobs associated with them that are simply good for community economic development and diversification. Grazing does too, as does mining and various other multiple use and commodity production activities.

Within Oregon alone during their Fiscal Year 2014, BLM estimated its total economic output at $1.3 Billion and 10,154 jobs supported by BLM operations. BLM estimated public lands in the state received 8.1M recreation visits. Economic output is the total value of goods and services produced from operations on BLM-administered lands. Within the recreation sector in Oregon, BLM states that they generated $526M and 5,162 jobs. Within the timber sector, they claimed an economic output of $598M and 2,746 jobs supported by their operations that year. Economic output from grazing public lands in Oregon generated $152M in economic output and 2,230 jobs supported. The source of this data is from the FY15 U.S. Department of the Interior Agency Financial Report found on-line at: https://www.doi.gov/pfm/afr/2015/visualization/value

PickNGrin

BLM adheres to many mandates, competing uses and what the public wants too. Their resource mgmnt plans are balancing acts, often with competing objectives for such things as clean water, timber harvest, wildlife habitat, mining, recreation, livestock grazing, fisheries habitat, archeological and historical sites, etc. Encumbrances have led to reductions in the harvest land base, to the point that it's now only about 20%.

BLM says that they have to comply with many laws, allow for multiple uses, and incorporate the will of the people throughout the entire Nation. Even though their latest proposed plans may say that 205 MMBF is what the counties can count on for an annual sale quantity into perpetuity, lawsuits then also happen that obstruct or slow down project implementation.

Forester353

The BLM manages two types of land classifications public domain and O&C trust. The mandates are different for the two types, but this is lost in the discussion. The management of O&C lands was set up to provide a sustainable source of revenue to the counties in which these lands were located, this was in lieu of property taxes which would have originated from this land had it been homesteader and sold to private parties, as was done with the majority of the land, not designated as national forest, in other states. O&C lands were not designated as multiple use, as were National Forests, they were designated and set to be managed for timber production. Currently, the BLM plan does not harvest even the annual growth of the lands designated for timber production. Had this land been sold to private parties this whole discussion regarding, BLM managed O&C lands, would not exist and counties would be receiving the taxes from these lands. So the mandate set up by the O&C act should either be followed or the land sold to private parties, as originally designed.

PickNGrin

BLM's planned targets for timber harvest are fine ... if they'd actually meet them! BLM hasn’t achieved many of the levels of treatments they planned for in their 1995 Resource Management Plans. On average, regeneration harvests have been 26 percent of levels anticipated in 1995 RMPs, varying from 9 percent to 36 percent among districts. On the other hand, commercial thinning has averaged 137 percent of levels anticipated in the 1995 RMPs, varying from 95 percent to 569 percent among districts. With the exception of commercial thinning, levels of silvicultural activities on BLM lands in western Oregon have been substantially less than were anticipated. Average decadal accomplishments since 1995 include 14,275 regeneration harvest acres sold and 122,245 acres of thinning sold. There have been 139,793 acres of PCT. Levels of reforestation treatments have been directly affected by timber harvest activities that BLM has implemented. The lack of anticipated regeneration harvest levels and the shift to commercial thinning has reduced the extent of reforestation and young stand management activities since 1995. BLM needs to develop realistic, implementable plans so counties can plan accordingly. At the same time, counties should be working to decrease their dependence on timber receipts from the BLM to fund necessary county services.

OlderCowGirl

(Very well said Forester 353)
This article made me angry...spoken as usual by the typical Wildlife Biologist with concerns for wildlife...and not humans. This applies also for the state of Oregon...not just Federal. Anyone remember how many farmers in Klamath Falls and Tulelake lost their farms due to the water being cut off for a sucker fish? I worked for the Forest Service for many years. I know all too well about Federal land grabbing and severe restrictions/regulations. Road access being denied for the very citizens who pay taxes on those lands. It's not just about the Spotted Owl. There are many wildlife critters who the Feds set aside many many acres to survive. There was a certain squirrel put on a "List" due to it's low population...only to learn that it wasn't humans that caused the squirrel to decline...they were being killed by big predator birds (eagles and such). I live in SW Oregon and have seen my neighbors livestock (including my own) killed by the overpopulation of the Mountain Lions (Cougars). Who was it that stopped the hunting of these predator cats? ONLY after our livestock have been killed (cattle, sheep, goats, house pets, etc) will authorities allow the hunting of that particular predator. Every night we have to lock up our livestock due to Cougar over-population (and let them out each morning).

I'm sick and tired of Federal and State agencies believing that they know what's best for the forest. Every citizen is concerned about our forests...not just Federal or States employees...who've had failure after failure to manage wildlife.

I agree that we can't just let everyone go willy-nilly about the forest and do what they please. But setting aside thousands of acres for each tiny pair of owls, for example, (and other critters) is just plain stupid. And creates huge areas that are never managed properly for fires...which blow over onto private lands and destroy our investments.

It is known by many that agencies like the EPA, Green Peace, just to name two...that their goal is to kick everyone out of not only forests, but high deserts, low deserts, including many private lands, they can set aside so we cannot enjoy the very properties we either pay taxes on (Public Lands) or lands we own outright that we've paid huge sums of money for.

I won't even go into the private lands that contain minerals, or rare turtles, or lizards, or cactus... And have I mentioned that private land owners can't even manage or collect rain water on their own property? I'd say to these authorities...then stop making it rain on my property.

Forester353

While Ms. Reid is correct in many points, she seems to leave part of every truth out. For instance the allocation of taxes that would have been collected. The fact that not all Timber Companies accepted the buy back option from the USFS. The fact that the co-authors of the NWFP have admitted publicly on more than one occasion that they were wrong on both their land allocation and their assumptions of future results. She fails to identify that lack of forest management has resulted in unnatural and unsustainable levels of biomass, which has contributed to lower stream flows in critical periods as well as larger fires which are more devastating than fires 100 years ago. She also fails to point out that the Tiller Ranger District refused to salvage millions of board feet of burnt timber from the Stouts Fire, wood which now rots away releasing thousands of tons of CO2. Nor is it pointed out that the USFS protects "ghost" circles - areas where there are no Spotted Owls, but there could be, maybe, at some point. Look at the long range harvest plans for the Forest Service and you will see large areas that are off limits due to current or potential spotted owl habitat, read the NEPA documents and you will see a very common restriction "NSO habitat", "LSR", "critical habitat".
Additionally, the idea that recreation will replace timber jobs fails to recognize several facts. 1) while this sector is growing nationally at 5%, here in Oregon it is not. 2) the average wage for recreation is just over minimum wage, while timber related jobs are half again that with a majority around $18-$20.
BUT the biggest fact omitted is that while the timber owners have been given tax breaks until the timber is harvested, the Federal Government who controls 53% of the land in Oregon pays no property tax to the counties, and for the last 2 decades have failed to harvest 5% of the annual growth of our Public Forests. Yet they are one of the largest employers in the State costing millions in tax dollars that we the citizens and private landowners must pay.

Rise722

Environmental protests and continued frivolous lawsuits have contributed greatly to the decline of the timber industry.

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