Lane County Board of Commissioners Chair Sid Leiken comments on Governor Kitzhaber’s letter to the Federal Delegation regarding future management of the O and C lands of Western Oregon
I would like to express my thanks to Governor John Kitzhaber for convening a group of Oregon stakeholders to take on the exceedingly tough public policy issue of how to best manage the O and C lands of Western Oregon. He has clearly prioritized this issue. His willingness to put into writing his expectations for our Congressional leaders should be appreciated by all of Lane County’s citizens, especially given the huge amount of federal land that surrounds our communities.
His letter to the Oregon delegation of the United States Congress summarizing the work of his panel could not have come at a better time. Literally today, Lane County received its last check from the federal government with dollars that came as a result of the Secure Rural Schools Act, first passed into law in 2000 under the leadership of Senator Ron Wyden. Notably, that check held back $500,000 of O and C revenue due to an un-expected and un–appreciated maneuver by the Department of the Interior. These are the very dollars that Lane County would be able to use for critical public safety services and their elimination is precisely why the Board of County Commissioners has been discussing putting a modest property tax proposal in front of the voters of Lane County.
The Governor clearly understands the tough road ahead for our federal delegation. These lands are unique to western Oregon, and their fate lies in the hands of the entirety of the US Congress. With Senator Wyden’s historic advocacy for the communities of Western Oregon and the more recent and courageous bi-partisan plan created by House members DeFazio, Walden, and Schrader, Governor Kitzhaber’s recommendations provide a foundation that should quickly lead to collaboration amongst the entirety of the federal delegation. Speaking with one voice united between the House and the Senate is crucially important given the rancourous nature of the current political environment in Washington DC.
It remains my belief that a way forward can only be charted if there is a sense of shared responses from local, state, and federal partners. Governor Kitzhaber states “Oregon state and local governments should share in the responsibility to fill any gap which may remain between timber revenues and the funding level required to keep counties fiscally viable.” I know that both the Governor and our delegation are aware that Lane County is contemplating a local money measure that would fund jail beds and youth services. Our residents also know that this new revenue will not cover the entirety of our public safety structure. I am willing to take the first step to place the shared response the Governor speaks to squarely on our shoulders. In doing so, I am confident that if we are successful there will be even more reason for the state and the federal government to act. Allowing some responsible degree of harvest to return to these forests is an absolute must.
To provide protection for Oregon’s old growth and natural treasures the O&C TRUST, CONSERVATION, AND JOBS ACT
Provides legislative protection for old growth on 2.6 million acres of public forests in western Oregon for the first time in history.
Adds nearly 150 miles of Oregon rivers to the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, including:
- 93 miles of the iconic Rogue River and its tributaries;
- 21 miles of the Molalla River;
- 19 miles of the threatened Chetco River; and
- 15 miles of Wasson and Franklin Creeks, tributaries of the Umpqua River
Protects 90,000 acres of Oregon forests as wilderness, including:
- 58,000 acres to be added to the existing Wild Rogue Wideness
- 32,000 acres of some of the last remaining old growth in Oregon’s Coast Range and permanent protection for Devil’s Staircase
Transfers more than 1,000,000 acres of mature and old growth forests from the Bureau of Land Management to the Forest Service to be managed as National Forest Lands.
Requires thousands of miles of legacy roads and logging roads in disrepair to be brought up to federal and state standards.
Repeals the contentious O&C Act of 1937 that led to the Western Oregon Plan Revisions.
Includes management restrictions on O&C Trust lands to protect clean water, terrestrial, and aquatics values, including:
- Prohibition on aerial application of herbicides and pesticides and a requirement for a public process for the development of an integrated Pest Management Plan;
- Long and short timber rotation ages to provide diversification and to encourage the recruitment of complex, early serial habitat; and
- A sustained yield requirement to prevent overcutting
Expedites land exchanges between the federal government, the O&C Trust lands, and private landowners to create larger contiguous blocks of forested land in western Oregon and to improve the conservation values of such lands.
Ensures the scientific community and general public are represented on the O&C Board of Trustees
Maintains federal ownership of all O&C lands and public access privileges.
Nearly every day in Lane County the unemployed stream into local businesses looking for work. They can’t pay their mortgages. They can’t pay their bills. They can’t feed their families. They don’t have health insurance. Their jobs are being choked off as the manufacturers, industries, farms, ranches, trucking companies and others who employed thousands here with good family-supporting wages, benefits and vacations, are just quitting.
We need good quality of life regulations. But excessive regulations are unnecessarily limiting the use of our best assets: our natural resources and population of willing workers.
The key areas in which we could expand our economic development are private businesses and industries consisting of manufacturing, construction, agriculture, transportation and other industries noted below. Oregon and Lane County are unique in that they possess the natural assets that could pull us out of our economic doldrums. We can grow and make products; we can add to their value; we can sell and ship them across the nation and around the world. Local entrepreneurs and established businesses will create real jobs – if we just get out of their way.
Take agriculture, which has been one of the larger and more stable sources of employment for workers in the region. Before the 2009 recession, Oregon’s agriculture industry was linked to a workforce of 214,511 full or part-time jobs & $25.8 billion in sales. Oregon’s agricultural exports grew 71.6% and comprised one of the top two export industries through the first quarter of 2008 on a year-over-year basis.
Often, private job creation is hobbled by excessive planning processes and resulting regulations. Region 2050 Problem Solving Program, Envision Eugene, LTD’s West Eugene EmX, Lane Livability Consortium and Smart Communities Project just to name a few. Lane Livability Consortium alone proposed 193 scheduled meetings over the next three years as it plans to duplicate and triplicate efforts of local elected governments in an effort to create a spaghetti-like tangle of regulations and processes. The strategy seemed to be to overwhelm citizens with thick reports and paperwork, then burden them with a multitude of monotonous meetings that accomplish little.
The past two decades have generated a record number of rules, regulations, fee increases, taxing districts, overlay zones and additional government controls. We need good regulations that help maintain our high quality of life. Traditional blue-collar workers, who once earned a living wage of about $50,000 per year from manufacturing industries or trades, are losing their jobs in record numbers, in part because their employers – the job providers – simply cannot comply with unnecessary, burdensome regulations and still stay in business. The table below shows the loss of jobs in manufacturing and trades over the last five years here in Lane County.
Since the early ‘80’s, which marked the beginning of spotted owl litigation, our government, state and local agencies and regulators have continued to aggressively restrict and tax the private businesses that create jobs. These private industries and businesses used to purchase millions of dollars of local consumables each year, putting even more people to work. Now they are downsizing, closing or moving out of Oregon. These employers are being forced away because it can be more profitable doing business elsewhere. We need these jobs back. We need to encourage our Job Providers while maintaining reasonable quality of life regulations.
Our Job Providers are not on strike. They simply gave up and sought out more hospitable business environments.