By Francis Eatherington
During the week of June 16, representatives of Cascadia Wildlands, Oregon Wild, and KS Wild traveled to Washington DC to discuss two bills, one from Senator Wyden and one from Representative DeFazio. Both mandate an increase of logging on western Oregon BLM lands.
We had over 21 meetings with agency staff, senators and representatives. We pointed out that if laws like the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA) are weakened in Oregon (as both the Wyden and DeFazio bills propose) it sets a precedent nation-wide.
Both bills claim western Oregon BLM districts are in litigation “gridlock” because of environmental troublemakers. It’s not true. There is no gridlock. In December 2013 the BLM released information going back 6 years showing the BLM has been meeting its timber targets when averaged over all western Oregon districts. For instance, in 2012, the timber target for the 6 BLM districts with O&C land was 203 mmbf (million board feet). The exceeded that by offering 205.4 mmbf of mostly non-controversial, non-litigated timber sales. It is hyperbole to call this “gridlock.” Instead, the problem is that the BLM Districts with dryer forests (Medford and Roseburg) haven’t been able to meet their targets, which were set too high. But that is made up by the BLM districts with wetter forests (Coos Bay, Salem and Eugene) that have exceeded their target volume.
The Oregon congressional delegation is being pressured by counties who have such low tax revenue (and low tax rates) that they want to return to the days when they reaped in a huge share of BLM logging revenue.
We pointed out that reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools legislation would solve that problem on the federal level, while we recognized that state and county governments need to address the funding crises at local levels. For instance, the large percentage of private land in Oregon owned by the timber industry has a far lower tax rate than rural families pay. And if a timber corporation owns more than 5,000 acres, they pay even less taxes. Added to those tax gifts is the fact that industry has no fees on the large amount of raw-log exports from Oregon, unlike the payments required from industry in California and Washington State on raw-log exports.
On our last day in DC we discussed with legislators our concerns over exporting Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). Veresen, a Canadian corporation, wants to use southern Oregon to export fracked gas to Asia. Veresen claims that if they can’t export, they will have to stop fracking. They want to take property from over 300 Oregonians for a pipeline to Coos Bay to feed a proposed LNG terminal in a tsunami and earthquake subduction zone.
While the staff of Senator Wyden seemed concerned when they met with us, they could offer no explanation to Senator Wyden’s statements that he “applauds” this project. They will get back to us on if he meant he applauds condemning his constituents lands, or he just applauds the release of huge amounts of methane in fracking, as methane is 100 times more polluting than coal when released unburned into the atmosphere. I’ll be sure to let you when they get back to us.
5 thoughts on “A Trip to Washington DC”
Francis, was this the first trip to DC as a delegation of several conservation groups? I think it's a wonderful undertaking and I thank you and the others for lobbying for our environment. Such irony that we should have to do so!
Wyden will not get my vote the next time he is up, and DeFazio might not, either. There are many other ways for Southern Oregon to raise the "lost" rural school O&C money, and many good suggestions are in the blog above
As sad as that may be, for a lifelong Dem and former active campaigner, I can longer watch the supposed "lesser of 2 evils" weaken already weak environmental law, applaud fracking and pipelines, vote for judges that write rules for killing citizens, and send drones to kill, among other things.
And because a vote for Working Families or Greens will end up with the Dems anyway, I may withhold my vote this time. Merkley still gets my vote, but I don't know for how long. I know this is a very unpopular stance, but I'm sick of Dems expecting us to vote for them because of a couple of measley votes throughout the year where it is "safe" to vote for a progressive cause.
That news is worrying! wot about our wolf OR7 and his family we were assured they would be safe but im uneasy hearing about that big timber company and that fracking gas isnt any of our wildlife gonna be safe! cause cutting down those trees is taking away there habitation and the gas could and would be lethal cant we do anything !!
Why didn't you take me with you, Francis? Oh, well. You can tell them all that Columbia (O&C) County voters just approved funding for our oversized jail after the Sheriff decided to ask for less money, closed part of it as unneeded and explained in the voters pamphlet. Josephine County Sheriff should try the same. People not wanting to pay county property tax is not a federal problem.
Thank you so much for setting them straigh. I appreciate that a lot. Tax Free Raw Log exports is a huge problem, too, that puts our mill workers out of work. Outsourcing should be taxed too heavily to make it profitable to Weyerheauser and others. You should see all the ships and mounains of logs on both sides of the Columbia River bound for foreign mills. Wyden said "That's a good thing, though, isn't it?"
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