Two House Bills Would Use Forests To Fund Cash Strapped Counties

Feb 17, 2012

MEDFORD, Ore. -- Representatives from the Northwest released not one, but two controversial forestry bills Thursday. Both would channel funds from timber sales to rural counties. Amelia Templeton reports.

The first bill was introduced by Doc Hastings. He’s a Washington Republican and chair of the House Natural Resources Committee.

Hastings’ bill would require the Forest Service to raise money for counties using projects like timber sales and mining.

Hastings: “This will provide a stable revenue stream for counties and schools, it would create new jobs, it would strengthen rural economies.”

The committee approved the bill, which now goes to the full house, but it faces opposition in the Senate.

The non-partisan group Headwaters Economics has analyzed the bill. The group says a state like Oregon would have to increase logging more than 2 thousand percent, to meet the bill’s revenue targets.

Oregon lawmakers including Democrat Peter DeFazio and Republican Greg Walden have drafted a separate proposal.

Its focuses on Oregon forests managed by the Bureau of Land management, or BLM.

Their bill would place half the BLM forest in Oregon in a trust. And give counties profits from logging on the trust land. DeFazio says his bill also aims to protect trees more than 125 years old.

DeFazio: “We need to end, once and for all, forever, the controversy over old growth.”

DeFazio and Hastings say they are negotiating to combine the two bills.

But Hastings has questioned the cost of DeFazio’s plan. And DeFazio is critical of the changes to environmental laws in Hastings’ bill.

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network