By Bradley W. Parks
Timber and environmental groups have reached an agreement that sets Oregon on a course to overhaul management of 10 million acres of private forestlands in the state.
The deal, announced Saturday by Gov. Kate Brown’s office, concludes more than a year of negotiations between often at-odds sides to develop a plan to boost protections for vulnerable fish and wildlife while shielding the timber industry’s ability to log.
Friday was the deadline for both sides to either reach consensus, abandon the process or move the deadline. Negotiators worked through the day Friday and wrapped up business shortly after 1 a.m. Saturday. Brown and her staff helped push the negotiations to completion.
“Today’s historic agreement is a perfect example of the Oregon Way –– coming together at the table to find common ground, to the mutual benefit of us all,” Brown said in a press release. “Together, this agreement will help to ensure that Oregon continues to have healthy forests, fish, and wildlife, as well as economic growth for our forest industry and rural communities, for generations to come. I would like to thank everyone involved for their role in making this agreement a reality today.”
Jim James with the Oregon Small Woodlands Association similarly praised the compromise. “We were able to put down the contentious situations that we’ve had in the past and we had a continuous agreement to move forward,” James said. “I think that’s an extreme positive for the state of Oregon.”
In 2020, the sides each planned a series of competing ballot measures that could have turned into a costly political fight. Environmental groups sought, among other priorities, strict limits on spraying of aerial pesticides and improved protection for forest waters. Meanwhile, the timber industry sought compensation for private landowners when state regulations limited their ability to log.
Brown instead pushed for the two sides to negotiate, and their agreement to do so was hailed as historic even then, though it was just a beginning.
Representatives from the timber industry and environmental groups were charged with setting terms to pursue a statewide habitat conservation plan to safeguard fish, wildlife and water quality. A habitat conservation plan, or HCP, is a tool that allows practices like logging or irrigation to continue while minimizing damage to wildlife habitat.
Saturday’s deal sets in motion what could be a lengthy, possibly yearslong process to craft, approve and adopt an HCP into law and begin implementation.
By Jerry Painter for AP
U.S. officials recommended approval on Friday of a plan to block new mining claims for 20 years on the forested public lands that make up Yellowstone National Park’s mountainous northern boundary.
Regional Forester Leanne Marten submitted a letter to the Bureau of Land Management endorsing the plan to withdraw 30,000 acres (12,140 hectares) in Montana’s Paradise Valley and the Gardiner Basin from new claims for gold, silver, platinum and other minerals, U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Marna Daley said.
A final decision is up to the office of U.S. Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke, who favors the withdrawal. Zinke said in a statement that it could be finalized in coming weeks.
The Trump administration’s support is notable given the president’s outspoken advocacy for the mining industry and his criticism of government regulations said to stifle economic development. The proposal has received bipartisan backing in Montana, with Democrats and Republicans alike eager to cast themselves as protectors of the natural beauty of the Yellowstone region.
Contact Barbara Riley/Chuck Fuqua
The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) announced 2017 advocacy priorities that include smarter regulations to unleash economic growth, comprehensive tax reform, efficient transportation, and trade policies that advance U.S. competitiveness. The association will pursue these over the coming year to support the paper and wood product manufacturing industry’s ability to create jobs and grow the economy.
AF&PA’s top advocacy priorities for the coming year:
Smarter Regulations to Grow the Economy: The cost, complexity, and volume of regulations disproportionately affects manufacturers. Regulations must be designed to provide net benefits based on the best scientific and technical information through a transparent and accountable rulemaking process, with due consideration of the cumulative regulatory burden. A top focus remains resolving the regulatory treatment of biomass carbon. In addition, we will work to stem the tide of overreach on air and water regulations affecting the industry, including modernizing the cumbersome air permit process and ensuring reasonable, science-based human health water quality criteria.
Comprehensive Tax Reform: Comprehensive reform of our tax system will improve economic growth, job opportunity, capital investment and the competitiveness of U.S.-based businesses and is critical. Lower tax rates are needed for all businesses, and reforms should support investment in US manufacturing while recognizing the complex global supply chains that make robust US manufacturing possible.
Transportation Efficiency: Our industry’s shipping functions must be globally competitive. Safely increasing truck weight limits on federal interstate highways and freight rail system rate and service improvements are necessary and have our support.
Trade: U.S. paper and wood product manufacturers need unrestricted access to international markets and a level playing field among international competitors through the elimination of both tariff and non-tariff barriers. Trade agreements that generate substantive economic benefit to U.S. forest products manufacturers and their workers should be maintained. Enforcement of trade agreements and laws that ensure all nations play by the rules so that trade flow are not arbitrarily distorted is essential.