Bipartisan O&C Forests Plan
Dear Oregonian and Interested Parties:
Oregon’s rural communities cannot afford another 20 years of gridlock in our federal forests. Without a new path forward, mills will continue to disappear, forest jobs will be outsourced, counties will be pushed off the budgetary cliff, forest health will continue to decline, and irreplaceable old growth will be one court decision away from liquidation.
During a time when it’s particularly hard to find common ground in public policy, Rep. Greg Walden, Rep. Kurt Schrader, and I have achieved a balanced forest health and jobs plan — in a uniquely Oregon way. After years of hard work and negotiation, we crafted the bipartisan “O&C Trust, Conservation, and Jobs Act” (OCTCJA) and passed our plan on a bipartisan basis out of the U.S. House of Representatives. The plan is now pending in the U.S. Senate.
What does the OCTCJA do?
The OCTCJA includes 2.8 million acres of forestland in Western Oregon. These lands, known as the Oregon and California Railroad Grant Lands (or O&C lands) are statutorily, geographically, and biologically unique. By law, the O&C lands are required to be logged on a sustainable basis for the benefit of 18 Western Oregon counties.
Under the OCTCJA, 55 percent of the 2.8 million acres would be managed for conservation purposes. This acreage would include the last remaining mature and old growth forests, scenic streams and rivers, riparian zones to protect water quality, wilderness, parks, monuments, and other developed recreation areas.
Approximately 45 percent of the 2.8 million acres would be managed for sustainable timber production by a public trust under strict guidelines. This acreage would include young forest stands that have previously been managed.
Revenues generated by the O&C Trust Lands would be used to support basic government services in Western Oregon, including keeping violent criminals in jail, sheriffs on our roads, and more teachers in the classroom. All land would remain in federal ownership and the Trust would be required to pay the U.S. Treasury $10 million per year for the privilege of managing these public lands.
The OCTCJA is a realistic solution for failing rural communities, struggling local economies, and environmental treasures, such ancient forests in Oregon, that could be liquidated by the decision of an unpredictable federal judge.
The O&C Trust, Conservation, and Jobs Act at a glance:
Creates Jobs for Oregonians and Revitalizes Local Economies
-Creates thousands of new private sector jobs in Oregon’s rural communities, according to the Oregon Forests Resources Institute;
-Continues the prohibition on exporting unprocessed logs from Federal lands to make sure Oregon logs are milled here at home, not in China;
-Allows for permanent timber production primarily on lands that have been previously harvested, ensuring a sustainable level of timber and forest products from federal lands to maintain and create jobs in the local timber industry;
-Geographically disperses timber production on the O&C Trust lands and mandates long and short timber rotation ages to meet the needs and capabilities of mills throughout western Oregon.
Brings Financial Stability to Rural Oregon Counties
-Provides forested counties in western Oregon with a sustainable and more predictable level of revenues in perpetuity to support essential county services like law enforcement, healthcare, schools, and transportation; the plan would mean close to $1,000,000,000 for Oregon over the next 10 years;
- Reduces counties’ dependence on uncertain federal support payments in favor of a long-term solution that allows them to return to the tradition of self-reliance that embodies the best traditions of our state.
Protects Oregon Treasures
- Protects 90,000 acres of Oregon forests as wilderness – including expansion of the existing Rogue River wilderness and new wilderness to protect Devil’s Staircase in the Oregon Coast Range;
-Adds 130 miles of Oregon rivers to the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and protects 300,000+ acres as riparian reserves to safeguard our drinking water supplies; the plan also devotes five percent of net Trust revenues to riparian protection on neighboring private lands in Western Oregon.
-Transfer more than 1,200,000 acres of mature and old growth forests from the Bureau of Land Management to the Forest Service and provides the first ever legislative protection for old growth on O&C Lands;
-Maintains federal ownership of the land and details strict management guidelines for Trust lands to ensure sustained yield, to prevent against overcutting, and to protect clean water and terrestrial and aquatic values;
-Limits application of herbicides and requires a public process for the development of an integrated Pest Management Plan.
U.S. Representative Peter DeFazio, U.S. Representative Greg Walden, U.S. Representative Kurt Schrader, Oregon House of Representatives, Oregon Senate, Oregon State Sheriffs Association, League of Oregon Cities, Ted Wheeler (Oregon State Treasurer), Clackamas County, Columbia County, Coos County, Curry County, Douglas County, Jackson County, Josephine County, Klamath County, Lane County, Linn County, Marion County, Polk County, Tillamook County, Washington County, Yamhill County, Eugene Chamber of Commerce
O&C Trust, Conservation, and Jobs Act Bill Text (Large file, split in 3 parts)
More on Bipartisan O&C Forests Plan
Rep. Peter DeFazio today led a bipartisan letter to House Leadership with fifty-one other Representatives urging Congress to reauthorize full funding for the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) Program for FY2016.
The Secure Rural Schools program was created to help timber-dependent counties after changes in federal timber policy dramatically reduced timber receipts to rural communities across the United States. Today, the SRS program provides financial support for municipal services such as law enforcement, infrastructure and education.