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6 Oct 2013 - We Need to Support the Logging Bill

It is time once again to start harvesting more timber on federal lands. I know that statement drives most environmental groups crazy and I can already see the nasty e-mails. But it is time, and late last month the House passed a bill, HR 1526, that would allow that to happen for the first time since logging was shut down because of the Spotted Owl controversy. The problem is the bill will not make it through the Democratic-controlled Senate, and even if it did, President Obama has already said he will not sign it.

I guess it makes too much sense because the bill would sharply increase logging in national forests, it would create jobs in rural communities and help reduce wildfires that have devastated the West. It requires the Forest Service to increase timber sales to half the sustainable yield of the National Forest System with 25% of the receipts going to the counties where the timber was harvested. It provides a one-time payment of $375-million to be shared by timber counties.

It would also give more state and local control so forests could be managed to make them less susceptible to wildfires. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Washington said wildfires burned 9.3-millions acres last year while the Forest Service harvested timber from about 200,000 acres.”We burned 44 times more than we harvested!”

No surprise, environmental groups are totally against it and are fighting it hard, calling the bill a giveaway to the timber industry, saying it would harm water quality and habitat for fish and wildlife and jeopardize recreation areas that have, according to them, become a major source of jobs in national forests. President Obama said he would not sign the bill because it would “ jeopardize habitat for endangered species, increase lawsuits, and limit the President’s ability to create national monuments.”

Those who support the legislation counter those arguments by pointing out... “We lost tens of thousands of jobs going back to the spotted owl controversy three decades ago and this would help bring those jobs back. Oregon alone has 13 timber counties with unemployment over 10%.” Not only that, it would put dollars in rural communities that were decimated by the loss of the timber industry.

To me, this bill would solve a lot of problems. After all, timber is a crop to be harvested to provide wood for the housing industry as well as many other uses. The only difference between it and field crops like corn and wheat is it just takes longer for it to reach maturity and be harvested. And with today’s reforestation programs, we plant more trees every year than we cut. Again, I strongly support the bill.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.