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Counties Asked to Pay Back Timber Money

SALEM, Ore. — Local counties are being asked to pay back federally funded timber payments and lawmakers are speaking out.

In a letter sent to Governor John Kitzhaber, Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said Oregon must pay back $3.6 million that had been paid to Oregon through the Secure Rural Schools Act.

In the letter, Tidwell asks Governor Kitzhaber to make a decision by April 19th on how to repay those funds, whether it will come out of Title I funding, or Title II, which covers conservation projects. Oregon Representative Greg Walden says many counties are hurting financially and have already distributed those payments to important services.

“They ought to be able to find other things to cut and reduce and eliminate rather than this, to our local communities. It just feels like they’re putting the pain as close to the people as possible,” said Rep. Walden.

On Thursday, Oregon Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden also spoke out against the Forest Service’s decision.