November 26, 2013

Wyden Releases O&C Legislation that Increases Timber Harvest, Creates Private-Sector Jobs, Protects Old Growth and Sensitive Areas

The Oregon and California Land Grant Act of 2013 Would Also Streamline Environmental Review of Timber Sales; Protect Wilderness Areas, Drinking Water, Streams and Fish; Allow for Consolidation of Lands

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Seeking to improve the management of O&C lands and boost timber harvests while upholding bedrock environmental laws, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) today announced legislation that takes a science-first approach to managing 2.1 million acres of federal land, streamline environmental review of timber sales and protect old growth trees, clean water, fish and endangered species.

“This new foundation will more than double our timber harvest across 18 timber counties and ensure that harvest continues for years to come. It uses the best available science to mimic natural processes and create healthier, more diverse forests,” Wyden said. “My philosophy is that forest policy should be dictated by science, not lawyers.”

“This approach will create a sturdier economic foundation for the O&C counties, centered on new middle class jobs for choker setters and crew bosses working in the woods, jobs for millwrights, sawyers and sawfilers, turning logs into lumber for new homes, and it means jobs throughout rural communities for outfitters and guides, for new lodges and diners, and the plumbers and hardware stores, teachers and deputies who support a strong local economy,” Wyden said.

"Thanks to Chairman Wyden for his strong leadership on one of the most intractable natural resources issues facing our state," said Governor Kitzhaber. "I am pleased that the Senator’s bill incorporates and improves on the many concepts that Oregonians believe are required for long-term solutions to the O&C issue. I look forward to assisting the Chairman, Ranking Member DeFazio, and Congressmen Walden and Schrader in their efforts to pass legislation in 2014."

Wyden’s legislation, called The Oregon and California Land Grant Act of 2013, amends the original Oregon and California Lands Act passed in 1937. Compared to the last ten years it would roughly double timber harvests on O&C lands for decades to come. At the same time, the bill would permanently protect old growth trees, ensure habitat for sensitive species, and put in place strong safeguards for drinking water and fisheries.

The legislation requires the Secretary of the Interior to provide a sustained yield of timber in forestry emphasis areas, while taking the most controversial harvests off the table, ensuring that old growth stands in moist forests currently over 120 years old and trees over 150 years old across the O&C landscape cannot be harvested.

While keeping the O&C lands under the protection of federal environmental laws, the bill proposes streamlining the environmental review of timber sales by:

  • Improving timelines for environmental and judicial reviews;
  • Eliminating the individual environmental impact statements for each timber sale and replacing them with two large-scale environmental impact statements – one each for dry and moist forests – covering 10 years of timber sales;
  • Requiring better coordination between federal agencies during environmental reviews; and
  • Requiring upfront studies of areas to prioritize treatments.

The bill would also permanently protect nearly a million acres of conservations areas that would be managed for the benefit of old growth trees, native wildlife, recreation and tourism. In the conservation areas, road building would be limited and mining prohibited. Timber harvests would be limited to improving habitat and forest health.

Finally, the bill provides new ways to consolidate land ownership and reduce the checkerboard of public and private lands across Western Oregon.

Senator Wyden will introduce companion legislation to this bill that will extend long term funding to the counties which currently receive PILT, SRS, and similar payments, ensuring that communities who produce energy, minerals and timber and other resources that benefit the entire country are fairly compensated for the local impacts of that work. The federal government owes these communities, and other resource producing communities too much to allow county payments to end.