Senator Wyden & BLM to Invoke New Native Forest "Timber War"
Senator Wyden's new BLM plan for O & C Lands will only inflame a new "timber war" because it seeks to increase logging on 2.6 million acres of western Oregon's native forests to appease Oregon's big timber elite. The Wyden bill will also exaggerate the positive role and ignore the negative effects that these seemingly "too big to fail" tree fiber operations impose on Oregon's economy and ecosystems. These mega tree fiber operations concentrate profits, reduce Oregon jobs through automation, and decimate forest ecosystems. Oregon's lawmakers, Federal and State, should instead remove huge tax exemptions provided to Oregon's timber elite granted by Oregon Governors and Congressmen and re-focus them to fund essential services for Oregon counties.
Senator Wyden, Congressman DeFazio, and Governor Kitzhaber continue to mimic the timber industry rhetoric that Oregon's mega tree fiber operations don't have enough logs to operate their mills. The Oregon 2013-2015 Tax Expenditure report reveals a different reality. The report states that as of 2011 the Oregon timber industry held timber sale contracts that totaled more than 270 million board feet on Oregon state lands and over 600 million board feet on Oregon federal lands. Add the hundreds of millions of board feet taken off Oregon's private industrial forests and exported as raw logs from Coos Bay and Longview every year and the alleged "timber shortage" is a complete fabrication.
New Wildlife Research Reveals the Current Loophole Ridden Northwest Forest Plan is Failing Threatened Species
Balance would require rectifying the more than 50 years of mismanagement and corruption by Federal and State agencies at the behest of Oregon's big timber elite. Recent scientific assessments of the dramatic population declines in species currently listed under the Endangered Species Act reveals the Northwest Forest Plan's failure. One report released in 2012 by U.S. Fish Wildlife scientists documents a 30 percent population decline for the Threatened marbled murrelet since 2000. Another report released by U.S. Geological Survey on May 22, 2013 documents plummeting amphibians and frog populations in the U.S. It is time to adopt the most biologically defensible plan proposed by top Agency scientist 20 years ago, Option 1. Option 1 was proposed and analyzed by a team of the top Northwest forest scientists called the "Forest Ecosystem Management Assessment Team" (FEMAT).
The Forest Ecosystem Management Asessment Team's Option 1 Proposed in 1993 is the Only Ecological Viable Alternative
Option 1 would virtually assure the survival of the current ESA listed species but would likely assure the survival and even distribution of at least 900 other species that are dependent on the native forests of the Pacific Northwest. This would include most salmon and steelhead runs within the range of the Northern spotted owl. Most of these 900 species were not assured survival under the current Northwest Forest Plan.
To meet some tree fiber extraction demands, Option 1 designates 2 million acres of second growth forest for fiber extraction. These areas are categorized as the "Matrix" lands. However, these "Matrix" federal public lands should be mandated to maintain 80% of every 9 square mile area as forest with trees at least 11 inches in diameter at breast height with a canopy cover greater than 50%.
Closing Big Timber's Tax Exemptions and Loopholes Could Net Oregon and Struggling Counties Well Over $200 Million Per Year
To support Oregon's counties and schools while reducing logging levels on federal lands Oregon lawmakers must eliminate specific tax exemptions granted to the big timber elite by both Democrats and Republicans. Oregon House Bill 3575 signed into law by Governor Kitzhaber in 1999 granted a tax exemption for Oregon forest land owners with more than 5,000 acres. Conservative estimates reveal revenue loss created by HB 3575 of $35 million per year. Secondly, the Private Forestland property tax reduction according to the Oregon 2013-15 Tax Expenditure Report causes a loss to Oregon counties of another $35 million per year. The third and largest Oregon tax subsidy, enacted in 1977, is called the "Private Standing Timber" exemption. The Oregon 2013-15 Tax Expenditure Report estimates this tax exemptions will cause a revenue loss of more than $200 million per year. All total this is more than $270 million in revenue losses per year. Oregon lawmakers must show courage and re-direct most of those $270 million in "lost" revenues to essential services for Oregon counties and schools.
If Oregonians force our elected officials to bite the bullet and implement an equitable tax system where the big timber elite finally pay their fair share Oregon will attain a more sustainable and balanced economy with a more resilient ecosystem as a result.
FYI. By the way, neither the Oregonian nor Eugene Register Guard "Gatekeepers" (editors) refused to publish this Guest Opinion.
Written by a
Ex -mill worker, wildlife surveyor, and forester.