Timber Panel Gives Options to Lawmakers

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CAVE JUNCTION, Ore. — The governor’s special panel to address county timber payments says it has come up with options to help counties, logging, and the environment.

In October, Governor John Kitzhaber put together a special panel of county leaders, timber companies, and environmental groups to try to solve the issue of reduced O & C funding. Members of the panel say they don’t have a permanent solution, but said they’ve laid out several options for lawmakers.

Members of the panel included the co-owner of Rough and Ready Lumber in Cave Junction, and Josephine County Commissioner Simon Hare. At issue were ways to work around the O & C Plan. The federal government has paid counties to make up for reduced logging on federal protected lands, but those payments have become smaller for the past several years, and have been in danger of being cut by federal lawmakers.

The governor’s panel hoped to find options that gave funding for counties and work for timber companies, while also protecting local forests and endangered species. They are set to release a report with several options for state and federal lawmakers.

“I think in the end we came up with all the elements of a solution, I think all the components, of all the issues we needed to consider were there,” said Jennifer Phillippi of Rough and Ready Lumber Co.

This comes at the same time the Bureau of Land Management is holding back 10 percet of this year’s timber payments to counties, because of possible automatic budget cuts in March. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden said he was upset by the delay, and said the payments are a lifeline for timber-dependent communities.