April 30, 2008

Wyden urges swift action by U.S. Forest Service on proposed salvage timber agreement to aid economy, create timber jobs in Eastern Oregon

Washington, D.C. - Oregon Senator Ron Wyden urged the U.S. Forest Service today to act quickly on a proposed agreement to salvage valuable timber in fire-ravaged areas of Grant and Harney counties.

"The conservation community, the timber industry and the local elected officials in Eastern Oregon have proposed an agreement that will salvage valuable timber, provide needed product for local lumber mills and aid the ailing economies in a rural area of my state," Wyden said in a letter to the Forest Service. "I am writing to ask that you give immediate and serious consideration to their efforts."

In the letter, Wyden pointed out that the Shaketable fire in the summer of 2006 and the Egley fire in 2007 devastated a significant amount of valuable forest land in Grant and Harney counties, two areas of the state which have experienced difficult economic conditions for the past decade.

He added that under the proposed agreement, up to 38 million board feet of timber from two timber sales could be made available to local mills this spring before decay renders the logs worthless, "providing the U.S. Forest Service can expedite the approval of the agreement."

"I can not overstate the importance of these sales to these economically distressed areas of Oregon," Wyden said. "I believe this is a unique opportunity to tide over the local mills until further green thinning sales can be offered and we can move forward with productive forest management."

Under the terms of the proposed agreements existing and future legal challenges to the timber sales would be dropped.

"My understanding of the resolution is that it clearly does not give any of the parties everything that they would ultimately like to see in a final product, but, by promoting trust and collaboration, this proposal will result in timely access to a significant volume of timber before it loses its economic value," Wyden said in the letter.