State Representative Carl Wilson has a plan to quickly fix Oregon’s forest crisis before the terrible looming deadline this July 1st for when the timber payments run out and leave counties without the support they were promised when their land was taken away. Federal forest policy has been stuck in a legal quagmire with the result of leaving rural Oregon with double digit unemployment and a damaged tax base that can’t fund local law enforcement. Rep. Wilson wishes to return federal land back to the states so local communities can create jobs, expand the tax base and fund vital community services. One Bill (HB 3240) would create a task force to study the effect of transferring federal lands to state control to help measure the legal, economic, social and practical benefits. Another bill, (HJR 13) is a House Joint Resolution that urges Congress to return federal land to the state.
One Legislative report on increased timber harvesting showed that Oregon could create 2,100 new jobs while adding $414 million in personal income growth. The tax revenue to counties would hit $33 million over five years.
There are increasing signs that Oregonians want to use their own land. Josephine Commissioner Simon Hare, says that his survey of the public shows over 80% support for more harvesting and better post-wildfire use. Yet, the decisions on Josephine’s land are made by non-Oregonians who live 2,800 miles away on the east coast.
While Representative Carl Wilson is pressing for more local control the alternative idea being pushed is to raise local property taxes to replace the tax revenue timber once provided.