Environmentalists fight O&C bill with advertisement

    An ad campaign launched statewide this week is obviously not meant to be a compliment to the O&C Trust, Conservation and Jobs Act now before the U.S. Congress.

    Indeed, the "Oregon, Home of the Clearcut" campaign by environmental groups is a tongue-in-cheek and blunt criticism of the measure the full U.S. House is expected to vote on in September. The bill was written by a bipartisan trio of Oregon lawmakers: Republican Greg Walden and Democrats Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader.

    "People across America think Oregon is synonymous with strong environmental values, but we have a dirty little secret when it comes to clearcut logging," said Sean Stevens, executive director of Oregon Wild.

    "Clearcutting is rampant on state and private forest lands, and now some politicians want to return to clearcutting on our public lands as well," he added. "These ads aim to show the ugly reality of just what that would mean for Oregon."

    "Most Oregonians, including those who live next to these lands, want more protection for forests, rivers and clean water, not the kind of destruction that comes with clearcutting," added Randi Spivak, wildlands director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

    The campaign includes huge photographs of clearcuts on billboards that are being placed near the Portland and Eugene airports, a full-page ad in the Oregonian newspaper on Thursday and on a website at www.clearcutoregon.com.

    The ad campaign has caught the attention of bill sponsor DeFazio, a Democrat from Eugene.

    "Oregon Wild and other environmental organizations have launched a campaign to block any action on management of the O&C lands," he said in an email his staff sent to the Mail Tribune.

    "Oregon Wild's agenda is to eliminate all timber harvests in the O&C lands, which would be a disaster for the counties, rural economies and the health of our forests," DeFazio added.

    While the bill relies on the Oregon Forest Practices Act as a baseline management regime, it does add significant management requirements above and beyond state law, according to his office.

    For example, it requires that half of the O&C Trust land be managed on a long rotation of between 100 and 120 years and that those stands be geographically dispersed to provide maximum ecological benefit, his office noted. Conversely, private lands are typically managed on a 30- to 40-year rotation.

    In addition, the bill would protect scientifically defined mature and old-growth forests on lands transferred to the U.S. Forest Service as well as on the O&C Trust acreage, his office reported.

    The O&C Trust act would place the roughly 2.6 million acres of O&C land on U.S. Bureau of Land Management forests in Western Oregon into two trusts. Roughly half of it would be managed for conservation while the remainder would focus on sustainable timber production to help fund county coffers.

    It also would add 58,100 acres to the Rogue Wilderness Area in the lower Rogue River drainage. The proposal designates 93 miles of 35 tributaries of the Rogue as either "wild," "scenic" or "recreational" under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

    Finally, it would withdraw 19 tributaries on the Rogue River and 11 miles on the Chetco River from mining. The proposal is supported by the Oregon House and Senate, 15 county boards of commissioners, the Oregon State Sheriffs Association and timber industry groups.

    Supporters say economic relief is desperately needed for rural communities and for the 18 budget-strapped western Oregon counties that have been dependent for decades on timber-based payments from former Oregon & California Railroad Co. lands.

    Oregon senior U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat and chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is expected to come out with his own proposal in September.

    Reach Mail Tribune reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.

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