Governor proposes logging options for timber counties

Gov. John Kitzhaber on Thursday gave members of Congress a menu of options for increasing logging on the so-called O&C timberlands in western Oregon to help rural counties shore up cash-strapped budgets and produce logs for local mills.

The governor said he hopes Oregon's congressional delegation will use the options to produce legislation resolving the funding problem for Oregon timber counties. They have struggled nearly two decades since logging cutbacks were adopted on federal lands to protect the northern spotted owl and salmon.

Kitzhaber said he thinks options from the report can be put together that respect conservation values and still produce more than $70 million for the O&C counties — about double their last payment under a safety net that is expiring, and about 10 times the amount they would get from a direct sharing of federal timber revenues.

The 94-page report was the product of three months of work by a taskforce put together by Kitzhaber that included representatives of timber counties, the timber industry, and conservation groups.

The report did not reach consensus on a specific proposal for the 2.5 million-acre patchwork of federal timberlands in Western Oregon and Klamath County. But it did offer various options, including variations on a plan from three Oregon congressmen that would split the lands in two, with half going to a trust dedicated to timber harvest, and half transferred to the U.S. Forest Service to be managed for fish and wildlife habitat and clean water.

Members of Oregon's congressional delegation welcomed the report as useful.

"After looking over the materials, I'm optimistic," Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio said in a statement. "The report confirms that there are shared goals and there is common ground among Oregon counties, environmentalists, and the timber industry."

— Jeff Barnard, Associated Press

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