Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passes US Sen. Wyden's bill to increase timber harvests in eastern Oregon; Ochoco Lumber president sees proposed legislation as 'lifeline' for region's struggling forest economy

WASHINGTON , December 19, 2013 (press release) – The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee today passed legislation sponsored by Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., that would boost timber harvests while protecting and restoring old growth forests in Oregon.

“The eastern part of my state is down to only a small handful of surviving timber mills,” Wyden said. “Yet without them, there’s going to be no restoration of Oregon’s eastside forests, and none of the jobs – none of the jobs – that they provide in rural communities. That’s why focusing on projects that stakeholders can agree need to be done and provide greater certainty of timber supply is so important.”

Wyden’s Oregon Eastside Forests Restoration, Old Growth Protection, and Jobs Act (S. 1301), creates a pilot program for the forests on the east side of Oregon to increase timber harvests and improve the health of old growth forests and watersheds. It is the first legislative protection for trees older than 150 years. It also requires a large-scale environmental impact assessment for projects with similar characteristics and sets targets for the number of acres to be restored.

“Senator Wyden’s Eastside forest bill represents a lifeline for the struggling forest economy of eastern Oregon and the families and businesses that rely on it,” John Shelk, president of Ochoco Lumber Co. in Prineville, said. “Through his efforts to find common ground on how to improve our forests and keep our mills operating, the Malheur National Forest has quickly become a model for what can be achieved under his bill.”

Wyden introduced the bill in July and the committee held a hearing on the bill later that month. The bill now goes to the full Senate.

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