ASHLAND, Ore. — A tree can go a long way in southern Oregon. Environmentalists say forests are a source of beauty and timber officials say they are a staple of the economy. Soon enough, most of them could come under new management.
“It’s two and a half million acres, and they are some of the most productive timberlands in the country,” said president of Rough and Ready Link Phillippi.
Last week President Obama announced former REI CEO Sally Jewell as his pick for Secretary of the Interior.
That would mean new oversight for 60% of the state’s forests.
“Well I don’t know a lot about the nominee for secretary, but I can tell you the job is very important,” said Phillippi.
Logging is carefully restricted on national lands. In the past, that lost productivity was made up for with federal dollars, but the money has dried up.
As towns struggle, some local loggers say that management needs to change.
“It’s been lacking tremendously lacking in the last 20 years. These lands have to provide more for benefit for these counties,” said Phillippi.
But environmental activists have a different message for the next interior secretary; Keep protected lands protected.
“We are dealing with a pretty unique and special place, and I moved here for its recreational value and a good place to raise a family,” said Rogue Group Sierra Club spokesman Bob Palzer.
The economic value, Palzer says, is just as great.
“We are attracting more people here and the economy is growing because of the unique resources,” said Palzer.
One thing is for sure, changes in interior policy would mean big changes for southern Oregon.