No Solution Yet for Timber Payments

EUGENE, Ore. — After months of work, there’s no real solution from the state yet about how to solve the battle over federal timber payments.

Governor Kitzhaber released his recommendations in response to his panel’s study that impacts all of western Oregon.

It’s a complicated tug-of-war that spans decades, so it was surprising back in October when the governor said he expected the panel he formed to find a solution.

But here we are now with no specific recommendations and many are left wondering what this means for these financially strapped counties.

“One of the difficulties is for people to understand how different and unique the O&C lands are,” said Doug Robertson, Douglas County Commissioner.

Those differences are more than just physical.

The 2.6 million acres have often been compared to a checkerboard, divided into numerous private parcels each governed by their own set of rules. So it’s no surprise a resolution to its problems remains elusive.

“This is a complex issue and it has been for a long time so from my perspective this is nothing new,” said Sid Leiken, Lane County Commissioner.

But with no resolution, the BLM doesn’t plan to release its Secure Rural School payments anytime soon–that’s $500,000 that would be cut from Lane County’s budget.

“The budget committee will look at this. There’s potential. We could backfill this and that money will hopefully be restored and put back into reserves. We have some options,” Leiken said.

Those options that include possibly putting a public safety levy on May’s ballot, but Lane County isn’t the only place that could take a hit. Douglas County is in the same boat.

“We started putting money aside some years ago, and that does give us a bit of a cushion, but the reality is that we can’t run our operations on reserve funds. Nobody can,” Robertson said.

But ultimately, that means cuts but commissioners aren’t sure what would be affected yet. Despite the uncertainty, the involved parties all seem to believe there will be a solution.

“The answer is there. There’s a way out of this particularly for rural resource dependent communities like ours,” Robertson said.

We’ll just have to wait and see what answer is. Commissioners from both counties say while an exact solution wasn’t decided on, the information gathered by the panel along with the governor’s support gives them hope a resolution won’t be too far off.

The issue will hopefully be up for discussion in congress in March or April.

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