Democratic News

Feb 06 2014

Wyden O&C Bill Moves Forward in Energy Committee

Wyden Pledges to Pass Legislation Into Law; Bill Doubles Average Timber Harvests; Ends Management Paralysis in 18 Oregon Timber Counties; Permanently Conserves Old Growth

Washington, D.C. – Sen. Ron Wyden’s bill to create stable jobs, sustainable forestry and permanent conservation gains on Oregon’s O&C Lands took a step forward today, when the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on the bill. Wyden, D-Ore., is the chairman of the committee.

Wyden said the bill offers a fresh approach to increasing timber harvests, while creating ironclad protections for clean drinking water, wildlife and old growth trees. By using the best science available this approach rejects “the tyranny of extremes” on forest policy, which has left Oregon’s O&C counties struggling to provide basic services.

“Our legislation ends the ‘stop everything’ approach that has paralyzed forest management and, at the same time it acknowledges that the days of billion-board-foot clear cuts are not coming back,” Wyden said.

“This approach substantially increases the timber going to our mills. It creates certainty for our working families, certainty for our counties, and certainty for every employer who will invest in the future of our rural communities.”  

Advocates for extreme courses on these lands are only worsening the economic devastation that has plagued Oregon’s rural counties, Wyden said.

“Today, people in these 18 Oregon counties feel like they’ve been hit by a wrecking ball. Unemployment is high. Newspapers are full of stories about crimes going unpunished because law enforcement simply does not have the manpower to respond. These counties need jobs in the woods, in the mills and for plumbers and restaurants and small businesses that are so vital to the rural Oregon economy,” Wyden said.

The conversation about managing these lands has now been monopolized by ideological extremes who seem allergic to the idea of a compromise,” Wyden continued. “The answer always seems to be clear cutting away the old growth, or blocking even responsible timber harvests.”

Several witnesses called Wyden’s bill the right approach for solving this decades-old problem.

“The folks in rural Oregon deserve the opportunity to go back to work … It’s been 20-plus years these issues have been debated and funded,” said Andrew Miller, president and CEO of Oregon-based Stimson Lumber. “We know the bookends of these issues, and your bill is the appropriate place to begin the process and finally do what we need to do for Oregonians.”

Mike Matz, director for U.S. Public Lands at The Pew Charitable Trusts, also called for collaboration on O&C forest policy.

“There’s often times a tendency to revert to entrenched roles with some who want no development and others who want no protection. We strive to work together to find reasonable resolutions to these conflicts,” Matz said. “It doesn’t mean everybody gets everything they want, but each side can get much of what’s important to them. It can result in a win-win situation. Mr. Chairman, we believe you’re well along the path toward achieving that kind of balance.

Finally, Wyden praised the responsible forest products industry officials, environmental leaders, and local officials willing to work toward a sustainable solution for the O&C counties.

“It’s fair to say that not everybody gets what they want here. Not everybody gets what they believe they ought to get. But this is going to deliver what Oregon needs. It does so because it is designed to end the tyranny of these extremes. It ought to be a new day for the brave who are willing to try something new,” Wyden said.

Learn more about Sen. Wyden’s O&C Act of 2013 here.

Watch Sen. Wyden’s opening statement on YouTube.

An archived video of the full hearing is available on the committee’s website.