Letters to the editor

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The Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) is proposing to dramatically decrease timber harvests on Oregon’s state forests with a Habitat Conservation Plan that will reduce harvests on the North Coast (Forest Grove, Tillamook, and Clatsop State Forests) by 25-30 percent. This will result in $27.6 million per year of lost revenue to the state and rural counties, not to mention the hundreds of millions of dollars in lost income and opportunities for local businesses.

Oregon’s state forests have 18 billion board feet of renewable timber inventory. This equates to $6 billion in harvest value, of which $3.8 billion could be distributed to the fifteen Forest Trust Land Counties (Tillamook is one of these counties). Under this new plan, only 6 billion board feet would be available for harvest, which equates to $2 billion in harvest, of which only $1.3 billion would go to the counties. This plan has been developed without consideration for the contractual requirements the state has to these counties, which should be fresh in the department’s mind with the recent loss of a $1.1 billion class action breach of contract lawsuit which concluded that ODF failed to maximize harvest revenues for counties. This lawsuit is accruing about $262,000 per day in interest as it awaits appeal by the state. It seems that the department is developing this plan as if the lawsuit never happened, which is in flagrant disregard for the 15 counties represented in this lawsuit.

This plan will leave the ODF roughly $10 million short per year of what is currently needed to pay for the agency’s work to maintain the economic and recreational value of these lands and to protect against wildfire. This budget shortfall will require ODF to compete with schools and other social programs for General Fund revenue. In a time of economic uncertainty, why would the department take from k-12 programs when schools are depending on revenue that is generated and owed to them through timber harvest?

Hampton Lumber’s Warrenton and Tillamook mills each employ roughly 150 people and generate $100 million worth of activity in North Coast communities.  Hampton is just one example of the many rural manufacturers that rely on state forests. Every single wood manufacturer will be affected by this loss, which will in turn affect jobs, the local economy, and the families of this community.

It is clear that this plan is not in the best interest of our community. The funding of our North Coast schools will be affected, family wage jobs will be lost, and the county (public works, sheriff department, etc.) will be devastated by the loss of revenue that this plan will inflict. If this is concerning to you, please write to the Board of Forestry at boardofforestry@oregon.gov before they meet at the beginning of October to approve this plan. 

Ellie Hilger

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