July 16, 2015

Senate Holds Hearing on Wyden’s O&C Bill to Double Timber Harvests, Protect Oregon’s Treasures

Washington, D.C. – Only a balanced approach to managing Oregon’s O&C lands can provide a lasting solution for Oregon’s timber communities, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., emphasized in a Senate Energy and Natural Resources subcommittee hearing today.

Wyden’s O&C Lands Act of 2015, which is co-sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley, would end the gridlock in Western Oregon forests by doubling the timber harvest on O&C lands over 50 years, while permanently protecting old-growth trees and clean water. It is the only bill in the current congress that specifically addresses the unique O&C lands in 18 western Oregon counties.

“Without compromise our forests are going to remain locked up due to lawsuit after lawsuit, management will be stalled, and the health of our forests will continue to diminish while wildfire risks mount,” Wyden said. “It’s time to take the management of our forests out of the courtroom and put it into the hands of forestry and conservation professionals who rely on the best science available.”

Other approaches to forest management include controversial provisions that would gut bedrock environmental laws and block access to courts, without adding protections for conservation or clean water.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has confirmed that the O&C Lands Act would double harvests for the next 50 years. The agency has calculated the timber harvests on O&C, Coos Bay Wagon Road, and Public Domain Lands in Western Oregon would have to increase by 300 percent equal the revenue counties receive through the Secure Rural Schools program, which has brought nearly $3 billion to Oregon counties since Wyden authored it in 2000.

Wyden’s bill passed the Energy Committee on a bipartisan 15-7 vote last year, but House Republican leaders blocked it from being included in an end-of-the-year package of natural resources bills.

In response to a request by Wyden and the full Oregon Congressional delegation, BLM this week agreed to extend the public comment period for its O&C Resource Management Plan by 30 days, until August 21.