County commissioners pass Peter DeFazio's logging revival

The Lane County Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 last Wednesday in support of Congressman Peter DeFazio’s@@ proposal to support more logging on federal forests in Lane County.

DeFazio recently teamed up with Reps. Greg Walden@@ and Kurt Schrader@@ to write a recommendation to try to replace the income the county has lost from lack of timber harvests.

“We have worked together over the last several months to build a balanced plan that brings jobs back into the federal forests through sustainable management, ensures the health of federal forests for future generations and provides funding certainty for our rural schools, roads and law enforcement agencies,” DeFazio, Walden and Schrader said in a joint statement.

The draft legislation deals primarily with Oregon and California lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management. DeFazio’s plan asks to increase logging on 2.2 million acres of BLM forests. The lands could be split into environmental and timber trusts.

Commissioners Sid Leiken, Jay Bozievich and Faye Stewart@@[email protected]@ approved DeFazio’s letter. They said an increase in logging could help stimulate the economy by providing jobs and funding county service. Leiken was happy to support DeFazio’s plan.

“The letter asked for us to send in support for Congressman DeFazio, and his efforts in putting forth a forest management plan which would include opening up the public lands for harvesting,” he said. “It’s important for us to be a good partner, especially when our Congress is asking for our support.”

@@These numbers below in story are checked, according to [email protected]@During their campaigns for office, newly elected Commissioners Leiken and Bozievich both received contributions to their election campaigns from local lumber and construction companies. Leiken received a total of $26,250 from these interest groups, comprising approximately 38 percent of all campaign contributions. One company alone, Eugene-based Seneca Jones Timber Company, contributed $13,000.

Bozievich’s campaign received more, with nearly $48,000 coming from Seneca Jones and Murphy-Hardwood Plywood Division. Bozievich also received got $15,500 from various local construction companies. The sum of these contributions accounted for approximately a quarter of his campaign funding.

These contributions from companies within the timber industry drew concern from other commissioners on the Board.

“I think that the contributions from the timber industries are quite strong and they contribute that money on the expectation that they will get something in return,” Commissioner Pete Sorenson said.@@see link [email protected]@

Sorenson and Commissioner Rob Handy@@see link [email protected]@ both voted against the measure for fear that passing it could compromise current environmental protections and have negative environmental impacts.

“Suspending the environmental laws or weakening the enforcement of these laws is not going in the right direction,” Sorenson said.

Logging has been drastically reduced in Lane County over the last 20 years. Approximately 90 percent of Lane County is forested, and logging used to be a major source of revenue for the county. Various environmental regulations have reduced logging by approximately 78 percent.

“During the early parts of the 1990s, we were receiving $40 or $50 million  on a regular basis. Now it’s only $4.9 million,” Leiken said. “Lane County is one of the largest recipients in federal timber funds of any other counties in the country.”

Environmental groups across Oregon are disappointed with the idea of increased logging. Oregon Wild, an environmental activism group, is upset with DeFazio for proposing to “liquidate vast tracts of western Oregon BLM forests.” Its website urges their supporters to write letters to DeFazio protesting the proposal.

Leiken is not expecting backlash from environmental groups to be directed at the county commissioners.

“It will probably be more for Congressman DeFazio and his efforts — I assume it will be pointed more toward them,” Leiken said.

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