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Timber Payments Continue to Dwindle

4-7-timber-paymentsMEDFORD, Ore. – Another year, another round of timber payments. For years the pie has been getting bigger, but Southern Oregon’s slice has been getting smaller.

“Right now we have… maybe 700 counties that are now included in the pot for what used to be the 18 original O&C counties,” said Southern Oregon Timber Industry Association President Dave Schott.

Seven or eight years ago that slice used to be around $20 million a year. But Schott says that in order to encourage the federal government to keep issuing money, lawmakers had to allow more and more counties to get on board.

Now the $6 million being carved out for Jackson County is consistent with the past few years — barely enough to scrape by.

“It’s really not going to make any difference from last year in providing stable funding for our libraries or long term dollars for anything,” said Jackson County Commissioner Doug Breidenthal. “We don’t even know for sure how much we’re going to get for next year.”

Of this year’s funds, $4.6 million will go to the county general fund — supporting a variety of projects, but most notably libraries and law enforcement. Another $1.4 million will go to county roads.

County commissioners say one of the big problems, as they plan their budget, is that those funds are up for renewal each year.

“You always are sitting there wondering what program is going to get cut,” said Breidenthal. “The real solution here isn’t to rely on [Secure Rural Schools] payments. The real solution is to get back out into the woods and manage our natural resources.”

Three timber bills sponsored by a handful lawmakers in Oregon are trying to do just that–find a management solution.

In the meantime, industry experts say the clock is ticking until timber payments run out entirely.

“A lot of people perceive it to be a bailout,” said Schott. “It’s really hard to get that kind of measure passed.”

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  1. Kay King says:

    Senator Ron Wyden is saying that the Secure Rural Schools Act must be saved to save schools and public service in Oregon and other timber dependent states.
    Senator Wyden is one the main lawmakers who worked to close our national forests to timber harvesting . Without the timber harvesting our schools, roads and public safety have suffered terribly. We are not running out of trees–we are running out of tax dollars coming from the Secure Rural Schools Act. Taxpayers should not be having to pay to not have timber harvesting. The forests need to re-opened to a sustainable harvest.–never harvesting more than we replant. We do not need the Secure Rural Schools Act–we need a timber harvest on National Forests. Ron Wyden is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He is pushing the act to keep the forests closed to harvest. And what is happening to the forest? It is becoming bug infested and subject to extreme fires. Do not trust Senator Wyden–push to have the forests re-opened to a sustainable harvest.

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