Oregon Governor Gives Vision For Federal Forest Management

Jan 9, 2014

SALEM, Ore. -- State forestry leaders in Oregon know they alone can't change the way federal forests are managed. But they joined Gov. John Kitzhaber Wednesday in outlining the changes they'd like to see as Congress considers several bills that would change forest management.

The Oregon Board of Forestry voted unanimously on a list of recommendations that include streamlining environmental reviews to allow for more logging in some federal forest areas.

Kitzhaber told the board he supports that idea and that the getting the right mix of logging and conservation could require what he called "modernizing" federal environmental laws.

"I want to make it very very clear that I don't support returning to past harvest levels or past practices," Kitzhaber said. "I am a staunch and unwavering supporter of our nation's environmental laws. But I also think that after 40 years it's not unreasonable to take another look at them and see whether the rule might have changed in the last four decades."

Congress is considering several bills that would change the rules for logging in federal forests, including one introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., that would revamp the management of 2.1 million acres of forestland in Western Oregon.

Another bill that would increase logging in all national forests has support from U.S. Reps. Greg Walden, Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader. Sen. Jon Tester of Montana also has a bill that would add wilderness and logging projects on federal lands in his state.

"Now that Congress is looking at changing federal forest management policy, we're asking: What should that look like?" said Kitzhaber's natural resources adviser Brett Brownscombe. "How does the state weigh in?"

Brownscombe said several similar bills may end up getting rolled into one federal forest management bill, and that state leaders might have some influence over which policy changes are included in the final version.

"The Board of Forestry has traditionally stayed within the bounds of state and private forests," said Chad Davis, a senior policy analyst with the Oregon Department of Forestry. "The board is raising its voice because federal forests affect state lands."

The state forestry board is advocating for "business relationships" among local, state and federal governments as well as the private sector to pool funds for forest management. It's also requesting legal protection for logging projects that encourage collaboration and gain support from a wide variety of stakeholders.

Kitzhaber told the board he will have his own recommendations for reforming federal forest management later this year.

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