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.