Wyden bill no panacea, but it's a step
Sen. Ron Wyden recently announced, along with representatives of the
timber industry and environmental groups, that an agreement had been
reached on a new forest restoration bill, one that the senator said
would result in providing timber for the near-decimated eastside forest
The Oregon Eastside Forests Restoration, Old Growth Protection and Jobs Act applies to the six eastside national forests. The bill is a step in the right direction of improving forest health while at the same time allowing some logging, but it is certainly no panacea. Still, Wyden, D-Ore., and the players from both sides who crafted the legislation should be commended for opening a dialogue that heretofore had been absent. It’s a start, and Eastern Oregon communities can benefit from even a little boost in logging from national forests. The bill would provide for restoration work on the six national forests and it proposes “wood harvests to sustain adequate levels of industry infrastructure.’’ That sounds good, but the fact is it doesn’t provide any target
Wyden at least is cognizant of the economic predicament Eastern Oregon has been in since the 1990s. Our communities, surrounded by thousands of acres of national forests, have been in economic decline for 15 years. The great recession of the past year, including the downturn in the housing industry, has only exacerbated the problem and removed many of what few jobs still existed, including right here in La Grande. U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., has been trying valiantly for years to accomplish the same feat, to improve forest health while at the same time provide some timber for harvest. But to little avail. Maybe Wyden’s bill, with both sides of the debate signing on, will get something happening on the ground for the communities in our region.
We need all the help we can get to resurrect what remains of the timber industry in our region. Perhaps this bill, combined with an improving housing industry, will help put some of our people back to work and help keep what remains of the timber industry viable.
The bill won’t cure what ails the timber industry, but it could help reduce some of the pain.