U.S. House passes bill to increase logging

The U.S. House of Representatives this morning passed a bill to boost logging on some federal lands in the Northwest in exchange for protecting other lands for fish and wildlife habitat despite an Obama administration's veto threat.

HR 1526 includes the O&C Trust, Conservation and Jobs Act, which would open logging on federal Bureau of Land Management lands, translating into more timber receipts to Jackson and other counties that historically relied on them.

This morning's vote was 244-173, with 17 Democrats supporting it and one Republican's dissent despite the Obama administration's threat Wednesday to veto it over potential impacts to endangered species and the increased chance of lawsuits.

It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

"I actually think it's a pretty good day," Walden told the Mail Tribune this morning after the vote, which followed a final pitch by Walden on the House floor. "It's up to the Senate to work on it."

The bill calls for slightly more than half of the O&C lands — 1.47 million acres of previously managed timberlands — to be sustainably managed for timber production, with a portion of the revenues going to the 18 O&C counties in Western Oregon, including Jackson and Josephine.

The remainder of the O&C lands would be managed by the U.S. Forest Service as old-growth forest preserves, including tracts of land with trees that are more than 120 years old.

It also would add 58,100 acres to the Rogue Wilderness Area in the lower Rogue River drainage. The proposal designates 93 miles of 35 tributaries of the Rogue as either "wild, " "scenic" or "recreational" under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

Finally, it would ban mining on 19 tributaries on the Rogue River as well as 11 miles on the Chetco.

The bill as passed has little chance of approval in the Democratic-controlled Senate, although senators have not ruled out adoption of a forest management bill, the Associated Press reported.

Opponents called the bill a giveaway to the timber industry and said it would harm water quality and habitat for fish and wildlife and jeopardize recreation areas that have become a major source of jobs in national forests.

— Mark Freeman

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