Money growing on Oregon trees
by Tom Partin, guest opinion
Sunday November 30, 2008, 1:02 PM
The economic news facing Oregon is grim. Governor Ted Kulongoski and the state's legislative leaders face an anticipated $1 billion budget shortfall and an unemployment rate that has shot up to 7.3 percent. Meanwhile, Oregon's forest products industry is struggling mightily and is estimated to lose another 7 percent of its jobs in 2009 on top of the 7.5 percent reduction experienced this year. The Governor has an opportunity to aid Oregon's economy and the struggling wood products sector by supporting the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Western Oregon Plan Revision.
The BLM's plan would help put rural Oregonians back to work and improve forest health conditions for the 2.1 million acres of O&C County timberlands in southwest Oregon. The plan calls for the sustainable harvest of 502 million board feet annually, which is less than half of the annual growth of these forests. The plan also sets aside over half of those lands for endangered species. It is a balanced plan that would also help idle plants reopen and improve the dire economic conditions the Governor must now address.
Harvests from Oregon's federal forests are less than 10 percent of levels experienced in the early 1990s. A more sustainable level of harvest is needed to help the industry access reasonably priced local timber to remain economically viable in the face of intense domestic and international competition. Our federal forests are also in a dire need of increased management to address a growing forest health crisis.
Earlier this summer, the Governor toured federal and private forests in Klamath and Lake Counties and witnessed firsthand the devastation caused by insects, disease and overcrowding which are direct results of a lack of forest management. Afterwards he stated, "These poor forest conditions are present throughout much of Oregon's federal forests and greatly increase the risk of catastrophic wildfires" and called for action to restore forest health, reduce fire risk and provide a sustainable resource for Oregon's long-term economic viability.
Now is the time for the Governor to take action to address Oregon's forest health problems and the economic woes that are currently plaguing our state. The Governor received the plan in early October and was given 60 days for review. He must support the BLM's plan to restore sustainable management to the O&C County timberlands in order to prevent disastrous effects, not only to our forest lands, but also to our air quality, drinking water, and our state's struggling economy.
Tom Partin is the President of the American Forest Resource Council. AFRC represents forest product manufacturers and landowners throughout the west and is based in Portland, Oregon.