Sterling: Oregon counties lumber lawsuit is counterproductive

Oregon is the nation's leading producer of lumber. 

Growing up in the big city, I have lived my life almost completely separate from Oregon’s rural communities. Blinded by the multitude of financial opportunities available in Portland, it is easy to forget what drives external economies.

Outside of the city limits, Oregon is the nation’s leading producer of lumber, according to Business Oregon. Nearly 80 years ago, the state of Oregon signed a contract with 15 rural counties nearby, and now these counties receive two thirds of all state timber sales profits. 

Lane County and 13 of the other aforementioned counties are now suing the state for over $1 billion, claiming that Oregon did not maximize their logging efforts on the land that funds the counties, according to OPB. The counties are seeking $35 million annually since 2001 and are asking for compensation for future damages, OPB reports.

Although these counties depend on timber revenues for funding their communities, suing Oregon for over $1 billion is ridiculous and will likely accomplish nothing. Additionally, the lands in question are not exclusively used for logging purposes. Logging cannot go on forever in its current state, as timber is not necessarily a sustainable resource, and the management practices of the state are troubling

In response to nagging budget issues, the forestry department has cut down additional, easily accessible trees to provide short term relief. Land conservation commitments have steadily dropped in recent decades, putting plant and animal species at risk.

University of Oregon sophomore and Tillamook native River Veek has grown up around the timber industry. Regarding the current lawsuit, which Tillamook County is a part of, Veek said, “The timber industry is deeply rooted in Tillamook County, but in recent months, there has been a divide between supporters and the opposition of the industry.” Veek also stated that the county’s connection to timber is all certain families have ever known.

Since these counties rely on timber for community funds, logging at its current pace should be continued, but in the face of climate change, further deforestation is not the answer. Environmental protection and alternative land uses must be promoted instead.

The land is utilized for its water supply and recreational purposes. Oregon also claims environmental protection is necessary, and their conservation efforts comply with the federal Clean Water and Endangered Species Act. 

Our state resources need to be used in multiple ways, and asking the state and possibly taxpayers to shell out millions is counterproductive.

This is proven by the decision of Clatsop County, the largest beneficiary of Oregon logging revenues. They chose not to join the lawsuit on the basis that it promotes conflict rather than productivity. Clatsop County has the most at stake in this debacle, as increased logging would give them a substantial paycheck.

I completely support Clatsop County’s decision. This lawsuit will not solve the issue and is only creating tension between Oregonians who should be striving for the same goals. 

Oregon’s forest department is plagued with sustainability issues already, and increased logging will only further this environmental degradation. Combined with cashing out on state forests, the departments will take a blow that could take decades to recover from.  One billion dollars cannot be pulled out of thin air, and wherever the money may come from will likely result in public outrage.

In order to solve a collective state issue, all parties must work together, not against one another. This lawsuit is dangerous for the future of Oregon and is a sign of internal troubles.