Monday, December 09, 2013
Covering Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Falls City and surrounding areas since 1868
Of the 2.6 million acres of Oregon & California Railroad Lands spread across 18 Western Oregon counties, 42,205 acres are in Polk County, highlighted above.
September 24, 2013
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Legislation to continue the now-expired timber payments was passed in the U.S. Senate last week, while the House approved a bill containing a plan to increase harvest on Oregon's "O&C Lands."
The Oregon & California Railroad Lands (O&C Lands) legislation, crafted by Reps. Peter DeFazio, Greg Walden and Kurt Schrader, was included in House Resolution (H.R.) 1526, which would substantially increase logging on federal lands nationwide. The O&C plan aims to put nearly 1.5 million acres of O&C lands into trust to be managed by a committee appointed by the governor. Logging and other commercial activities would be allowed on designated trust lands. It also sets aside land for wilderness and scenic designations.
Its fate, however, may be tied to that of the larger bill, which passed the House on a 244-to-173 vote Friday, but will have difficulty passing the U.S. Senate to reach President Obama's desk.
Even if it does get there, it very well could be vetoed. The White House's Budget Management Office released a critical assessment of the bill, saying the president's senior advisers would recommend a veto.
Polk County Commissioner Craig Pope, who is part of a delegation of O&C county officials in support of the plan, said he was disappointed, but not surprised given the stance of Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). Wyden is the chairman of the Senate committee on energy and natural resources.
"He has indicated it would not see the light of day in his committee," Pope said. "The O&C provisions were not starters for him."
Wyden has also announced he will present his own O&C plan this fall. Pope said he has not seen details on the upcoming plan, but speculates it could lower timber harvest levels and revenues going to counties.
"My fear is we will stay status quo," he said.
Meanwhile, the Senate passed a bill that included a one-year extension of expired federal timber payments to counties. The provision was included in the Helium Stewardship Act, which passed the Senate on a 97-to-2 vote on Thursday.
The one-year extension would send $100 million to 33 Oregon counties. The bill will now be considered by the House.
Pope said he hasn't seen estimates of Polk County's share, but said it could result in a similar amount to last year's approximately $750,000 payment, which isn't enough to make up for long-term revenue losses.
Furthermore, Pope is frustrated with the timing, with Polk County's public safety levy on the ballot in November. He said news of an extension gives the impression the counties won't need the additional revenue being requested of voters. Pope said the amount proposed on a one-year extension would do little to solve budget issues.
"If the 18 O&C counties don't receive at least $100 million on a sustainable path, it won't work," Pope said.