In January, the 112th Congress has the opportunity to make a difference for rural counties suffering from lost timber revenues on federal lands. To do so will take both courage and willingness to look at old problems in new or modified ways. One of the many immediate issues to be addressed is the reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (SRS).
In 2008 $477 million was dispersed to pay for schools, roads and other essential services for local communities. This would back-fill lost revenue for counties from declining timber harvests on federal lands. Oregon alone received nearly $134 million that year.
In Oregon, federal timber harvests have fallen more than 90% since 1990, while harvests on private lands have remained stable. That is why the Federal Forest Counties and Schools Stabilization Act of 2010 makes sense. This proposed legislation would privatize 1.2 million acres of the 2.4 million acres of O&C lands currently managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
Proceeds from the sale of these lands would be used first to establish a trust fund to supplement O&C counties’ revenues to provide essential services. The biggest win, however, is the privatization of 1.2 million acres of timber lands, which will increase a stable timber harvest and provide long-term natural resource jobs that our state so desperately needs.
Karla Kay Edwards is Rural Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.