Applegate Valley residents petition Wyden about forest management

More than 150 Applegate Valley residents signed a petition and presented it to U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden's staff in Medford today, asking Oregon's senior senator to consider what they say are reasonable forest management goals on so-called O&C lands.

The group also expressed opposition to the O&C Trust, Conservation and Jobs Act expected to be voted on by the full House later this month. The bill, which calls for some 1.6 million acres of O&C land managed by a trust for timber production, was written by Oregon U.S. Reps. Greg Walden, R-Hood River; Peter DeFazio, D-Springfield; and Kurt Schrader, D-Canby.

Democrat Wyden, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is expected to release his own proposal regarding future management of the former Oregon & California Railroad Co. lands. Timber receipts in lieu of taxes are distributed to 18 western Oregon counties where the lands are located.

"These forests are worth more if we emphasize recreation, property values, wildfire hazard reduction," said Applegate Valley resident Kirsten Shockey, spokeswoman for the group.

"We support thinning out the underbrush, including commercial trees," she added. "That is where our management emphasis ought to be focused."

The group believes the value of the forested land, including clear water and recreational activities, is greater than using the acreage as industrial timberlands.

"As residents of the Applegate Valley, we value the Bureau of Land Management lands that surround our homes because they are integral to our community," the petition says.

"The forests and rivers managed by the BLM are essential to the clean drinking water, native salmon runs, and the expanding recreation economy," it adds.

The petition asks Wyden to focus management on thinning forest to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires and increase recreational opportunities on the forestlands.

Noting it is unrealistic to expect timber receipts alone from O&C lands to make up budget shortfalls to counties, it also calls for decoupling logging receipts from providing revenue to counties. It urges exploring alternative revenues, including ecosystem services of public lands.

Increased county funding could also be derived through increased taxes on private timber harvests and increased county property taxes as well as additional state or federal contributions, according to the petition.

— Paul Fattig

Read more in Friday's Mail Tribune.

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