Senate passes bill that includes funds for timber counties

The Senate has passed a bill that includes a one-year extension of a federal subsidy for timber counties, including about $100 million for Oregon.

Sen. Ron Wyden had added the extension of the now expired Secure Rural Schools program to a bill addressing the impeding shutdown of the national helium reserve, which passed the Senate on Thursday.

In a statement, Wyden said selling the federal helium reserve would help traditionally timber-dependent counties and ensure continued access to helium for the health care sector and other industries, including high-tech, that use the gas."

The House has passed a helium bill, but without the timber county funding, and the fate of that program remains uncertain.

Mike McArthur of the Association of Oregon Counties cheered the bill's passage, saying it would give struggling counties another year of funding while Congress considers legislation that would boost logging on federal lands, particularly those that fund rural counties in Western Oregon.

— Associated Press

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