The 190,000-acre Chetco Bar Fire raged through the forest Court Boice loved all his life and came perilously close to the town of Brookings in the summer of 2017. It was that devastating fire, and the belief that it was caused by poor public policy, that inspired Boice to run for Congress.
Boice blames a lack of federal timber management for the catastrophe that hit his home county. For too long, Boice believes, the government hasn’t harvested enough logs, especially in previously burned areas. That’s made those areas vulnerable to new fires, he said. It’s policy he said was pushed by powerful environmentalists whose ideas haven’t worked.
“Thirty years has brought us to this, to where we’re burning up Oregon’s forests. Somebody’s got to stand up,” he said.
Boice dropped by The News-Review on Friday for an interview about his campaign. If Boice’s name sounds familiar, that’s probably because he’s the second cousin of Douglas County Commissioner Chris Boice.
Court Boice was a longtime river pilot and lodge owner who took tourists up the Rogue River for back-to-nature vacations, and raised his family in the Rogue River Wilderness. A fifth-generation Curry County resident, he said he wants to protect the forest while also increasing timber harvests. Under current policy, Boice said, previously burned areas are burning again, and salmon habitat and clean air are being damaged.
“Nobody has a greater appreciation for the environment and wilderness than I do. It was sacred to us, but that doesn’t mean common sense should be compromised,” he said.
The Gold Beach resident has been a Curry County Commissioner since 2017.
Now, he’s campaigning for the House seat that’s been held by U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Springfield, for three decades. The 4th Congressional District includes Lane County and most of Southwest Oregon.
Before he could face DeFazio, Boice would have to defeat four other contenders for the Republican nomination, including Cave Junction chemist Art Robinson. In the past four elections, Robinson has won the Republican nomination only to lose to DeFazio in the general election.
Boice thinks he might have a better shot at winning the general election than Robinson. He’s already an elected public official, and no one knows the district better than he does, Boice said. He said he would reach across the aisle to work with Democrats and that he won’t run a negative campaign.
He does disagree with DeFazio on policy issues, and he thinks it’s time for new people in Congress. He believes in term limits. At 63, Boice said he would like to serve in Congress until he’s 71.
“I don’t want to be a career politician,” he said.
The main hurdle for Republican candidates in District 4 has been more liberal, populous Lane County. Boice said he thinks he could win enough Lane County support to take the district. He cited the closeness of the last presidential race in District 4, in which Democrat Hillary Clinton had 45 percent and Republican Donald Trump 44 percent of the vote.
A fan of free markets and small government, Boice disagrees with DeFazio’s decision, and the other Democrats’ decisions, to vote against tax reform.
“Most of the people in this district, they don’t understand that — that somehow the government would be better at spending their hard-earned dollars than they themselves would be,” he said.
Boice said it’s important for America to help legal immigrants, but also to secure its borders. He also said Oregon has a border problem of its own because California is a mess.
“We have people pouring over our Oregon borders, drugs, criminals coming up (Highway) 101,” he said. He said the loss of timber revenues has taken money from local law enforcement, making it harder to handle the criminal activity.
Boice’s campaign slogan is “Oregon Strong, Oregon Green.” The green refers to increased timber harvests. It also references marijuana policy that ensures growers are operating legally. And it refers to Boice’s hope that Oregon is about to have an economic boom, as long as it elects leaders who understand business.