ROSEBURG, Ore. –Douglas County is home to four different O&C land districts.
“That’s why this is so important, not only to counties, but to our communities, our economy, our job base,” said Doug Robertson, President of the O&C County Association.
The association of O&C counties says because of protests and environmental lawsuits, forestry services have been slashed.
“Poorly managed if at all, the outputs have been negligible, the receipts have been negligible, that’s why there’s discussion about reauthorization of a safety net to keep the counties from becoming insolvent,” Robertson said.
That’s why local counties and those in the timber industry support the change in management that would increase logging on these federal lands.
“It would stabilize our resources to the extent, it wouldn’t provide sufficient resources for any counties as perhaps in the past 30-40 years ago,” Robertson said.
While half of the O&C lands would be used for timber production, the rest would protect some of Oregon’s natural resources.
“It’s the first legislative set aside of old growth ever. A million acres of older timber would be set aside, not to be managed for timber,” Robertson said.
Local environmentalists say the changes won’t help the environment at all.
“If your vision for Western Oregon is one of stump fields and muddy rivers, this bill is for you,” said Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildland Campaign Director.
Laughlin says this legislation would have a negative impact on Oregon’s drinking water.
“It really flushes a couple decades worth of conservation measures down the toilet and kicks us back into reckless forest management of the 1950s, 60s, 70s,” Laughlin said.
Although advocates for the bill say is would increase stream protection, Laughlin says it would do the exact opposite.
“It’d radically reduce the current protection measures that stream sides currently have, but it would be a small step from the way state and private forests are managed,” Laughlin said.
Those who support the legislation say it’s a win for the timber industry, local counties, and the environment.
“The health of the forest, declining rapidly, isn’t working. That doesn’t mean we’re gonna turn away from concern about the environment, it’s just the opposite, but we don’t want to see an environmental policy that drives resource dependent communities into extinction either,” Robertson said.