Oregon county fears repercussions of radical anti-logging policies

By Rebekah Rast — In 1988, the booming timber industry in Oregon harvested 8,743 MMBF (million board feet) of wood.  In 2010, the amount harvested was less than half at only 3,227 MMBF.

For comparison, in 2009, Oregon Business cited Bob Ragon, executive director of Douglas Timber Operators, as saying that over the last two decades Oregon and Washington states have lost 35,000 jobs in the timber industry.

Why?  A restriction on logging due to the Endangered Species Act protection afforded the Northern Spotted Owl and hard economic times resulting from somewhat dwindling demand for timber have made it difficult for the industry to survive.  But as restrictions on this industry abound from federal and state governments, counties in Oregon are learning the hard way that this industry is indeed vital to their way of life.

Sixty percent of forestlands in Oregon are owned by the federal government and the resulting government interference in the name of “protecting” forest land has diminished those county budgets that depend upon logging revenue.

Fox News reports that Oregon’s Lane County faces a $100 million budget deficit and recently released 92 inmates from its jail due to revenue shortfalls.  This follows the elimination of 64 positions in the county’s Sheriff’s Department.

The fact that 54 percent of the county’s land is owned by the federal government makes it easy to see why the county is in such a fiscal disaster.  The government doesn’t pay taxes on the land; therefore the county receives no tax revenue.  And due to the protection of the Northern Spotted Owl, loggers are not able to harvest any timber, which was the main revenue source for Lane County.

However, in an attempt to give a reprieve to those in the logging industry during the spotted owl debate, then President Bill Clinton initiated a form of payout to loggers for not timbering the forest land. Lane County was receiving $50 million a year in timber payments. This year it will get $10 million.

Lane County is now home to loggers who aren’t allowed harvest timber and criminals who received a get-out-of-jail-free card.  Not the ideal situation for a financially strapped county.

“We keep hearing from the mouths of Obama and his administration that job growth in the U.S. is a priority, yet at the same time they are destroying the timber industry and devastating entire communities of people who depend on this business for their livelihood,” says Bill Wilson, president of Americans for Limited Government (ALG).

Those in the timber industry have a special skill set and are able and ready to work.  These are the workers who clean up the air by planting many more new and younger trees than they remove. They keep forest clean and healthy, which helps to prevent forest fires. They help maintain habitats where wildlife can thrive, including the endangered Northern Spotted Owl.  These people care a great deal about the environment — it is their livelihood.

Lane County Commissioner Sid Leiken told Fox News, that instead of Washington, D.C. telling “Lane County, you’re not important,” he’d like to see the U.S. Forest Service resume timber sales.  “If we would just put the forest back to work,” he said, “I just think about the employment that would happen, let alone the revenue that would come into Lane County.”

There is an industry right in the backyard of Lane County that is ready and able to create much-needed revenue.  But that land is being held up by bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile the cash-strapped county is letting its criminals walk out of jail because of this anti-forestry ideology and that is the real crime.

Rebekah Rast is a contributing editor to Americans for Limited Government (ALG) and NetRightDaily.com.  You can follow her on twitter at @RebekahRast.

This article has 9 comments
  • Cheesy 18.07.2012 10:51 AM

    Humboldt county in CA was once fueled financially by the timber industry, until the radical environmentalists got their way.
    Now we have uncontrollable forest fires (don’t have as many fire-fighting tankers, also thanks to the feds) and Humboldt has a new industry: growing good pot.
     Of course, the feds want to put an end to that, how dare people be self-supporting and ignore the bully state!

  • Steve 18.07.2012 10:58 AM

    Will the enviromentalists be there to protect those spotted owls when the fires start?

  • Ted Smith 18.07.2012 11:54 AM

    Used to live in logging country (SW Washington). It was heartbreaking to see what the spotted owl legislation did to people on the Olympic Peninsula.

    And since that legislation was put into place, guess what. The spotted owl has done far worse. Turns out what was harming the spotted owl was the barred owl and restricting logging caused the barred owls to go nuts.

    Typical govt in action.

  • SmileyFace 18.07.2012 1:11 PM

    Just another case where the Government is sticking its nose into business it doesn’t belong in.

  • mkirby 18.07.2012 6:44 PM

    Where is state sovereignty?  You have obviously taken the payout and not done anything about it for years.  This sounds like a state issue, and you should have exercised their rights as a sovereign state many years ago.  We (states) tend to sit back when the Feds promise us money and take it and then realize the strings attached, and often it is too late to get out of the mess.  The Feds are doing this right now with our education–Common Core, and with our health care.    Know your constitutional rights and act on them.  They are our path when lost to go back to what you know.  We know the Constitution is the document we are governored by.  Use it.  And, don’t be afraid to use it.
    The state of Alabama Constitution says: “That the sole object and only legitimate end of government is to protect the citizen in the enjoyment of life, liberty, and property, and when the government assumes other functions it is usurpation and oppression.” (Art. 1, Sec. 35)  Get out from under the Feds, and use the land as the people of this state choose to use it.  M

  • Greg137 19.07.2012 6:36 AM

    Those states are going to be getting a HUGE spike in their “carbon-foot print” when the lightening strikes ignite their precious forrests..  Thanks to the spotted owl that can be found ANYWHERE, Oregon and Washington states aren’t even going to HAVE any forrest land left… Where ever Environmentalists enact their rules the first thing to go bye-bye is the environment… Libtards are so STUPID…

  • Tony Fendt 19.07.2012 7:04 PM

    So, remind me how many endangered eagles are killed by the windmills ?

  • stopspending4 19.07.2012 7:57 PM

    Sounds like a good plan but the only problem is that it is so hard to get out from under the fed gov.  States that have tried have been sued by the feds for environmental issues, voter registration issue, immigration, on and on. So sad.  Just pray for a change in administration in Nov and that the Repubs will end some of this silly regulation bs.

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