Activists ask government panel reviewing Oregon's timber resources to open meetings to public; panel looking at initiatives to revive sawmills using US$6.6M in state funding, address timber supply issues

LOS ANGELES , December 21, 2012 () –

A government panel in Oregon that is reviewing the state’s timber resources and job creation at sawmills has been asked by activists to open up its meetings and provide meeting minutes, reported the Northwest Watchdog on Dec. 18.

Letters requesting the public access were sent to Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber on Dec. 18 by former Lane County Commissioner Jerry Rust and conservation activist group Forest Web Project Director Cristina Hubbard.

The governor’s office decline to comment on the matter when contacted, the Northwest Watchdog reported.

The public process on legislation to which the panel will contribute is to be held in Washington, D.C., but Hubbard stated that it would be difficult for the average resident to travel across the country to attend the hearings.

Gov. Kitzhaber has asked the panel to make recommendations that will be added to the O&C Trust, Conservation and Jobs Act, which is expected to be introduced as legislation in the Senate by U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden in 2013.

The panel is also looking into state initiatives in line with the US$6.6 million in state money allocated in the governor’s budget for increasing business for sawmills, reported the Northwest Watchdog.

On Dec. 17, 19 conservation groups announced their support for Wyden’s legislation, except for the part on timber harvesting. In a press release, the groups stated that “modest activities” does not include “large-scale logging.”

The legislation could open up federal lands to clearcutting, according to Hubbard and Rust. Rust stated that counties seem to be seeking more revenue after years of depending on their share of federal revenue from harvests.

The panel is working to revive the sawmills, which have experienced hard times since 1990s legislation hindered logging, including a harvesting cap designed to protect the Northern Spotted Owl, the Northwest Watchdog reported.

Some of Oregon’s 18 counties in the western part that share timber proceeds with the federal government face budget problems as limited harvesting has severely reduced that revenue stream.

The panel is supposed to make a recommendation this month or next month, said Hubbard. However, it is difficult to determine when the findings will be released. Since the panel was appointed this fall, all of its meetings have been closed, reported the Northwest Watchdog.

The primary source of this article is Northwest Watchdog, Salem, Oregon, on Dec. 18, 2012.


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