A Missed Opportunity: Oregon Governor MIA on BLM’s Western Oregon Plan

Southwest Oregon fire danger jumps to 'extreme' this week

Oregonians who care about the environment and the economy can’t say they haven’t been warned about the failure of our leaders to take action that will improve both. This past Monday (August 15th) came reports in the Medford Mail Tribune that several days of “triple-digit temperatures and an already parched landscape” have raised the Oregon Department of Forestry's fire danger to its highest level. A little over a week ago, I issued a statement on Governor Brown’s failed leadership on the recently finalized BLM's Western Oregon Plan, A little later in the week I met with Oregonians who are worried that mismanagement of O&C timberlands is setting Oregon up for economic, fiscal and environmental failure that Oregonians far beyond these lands or counties will experience.

All three events are related.

 Photo Credit: OPB

Photo Credit: OPB

The Bureau of Land Management's Resource Management Plan for Western Oregon is another example of failed leadership in Salem and Washington DC. Fixing the federal government's mismanagement of O&C timberlands is a critical issue for thousands of Oregonians. Yet under the BLM's plan, Oregon will continue to lose family-wage jobs and forest products infrastructure and suffer more reductions of vital public services.

O&C land management is highly relevant to our state government. Under federal law, the O&C lands must be sustainably managed for the benefit of counties. Timber revenue is essential in many rural Western Oregon counties where the federal government controls much of the land base. For generations, O&C land management contributed to rural prosperity and supported public services such as law enforcement and social services. With the dramatic decline in timber harvests, many of our communities suffer from poverty and high unemployment. Several O&C counties are in immediate danger of insolvency.

Many county services must be provided under state law. If action isn't taken, the State of Oregon will eventually be responsible for funding and providing these services. This will have a serious impact on the state budget and the state government's own ability to fund services well beyond the O&C counties facing insolvency. Kate Brown could have provided leadership for Oregonians by challenging the BLM on this disastrous plan. She refused. Our governor was AWOL, and our government and its citizens – as well as these lands and our air quality – will pay a big price.

As Governor, I will actively work with Oregon's congressional delegation to find a balanced O&C solution that protects our counties and puts more Oregonians back to work. Any solution must assure a reliable timber supply, adequate revenues for counties and more jobs and economic opportunity in rural Oregon."

So what’s all this have to do with the fire season in Oregon and the threat to Oregon’s environment, clean air, global warming and all the rest? This inadequate, Kate Brown-enabled BLM plan will also result in more catastrophic wildfires, especially in southern Oregon's dry fire-prone forests. We need to manage these lands and clear out the understory build-up of trees that form ladders that contribute to catastrophic fires when temperatures rise across our parched landscape.

Bottom line: Oregon – it’s economy and its environment, it’s rural and urban communities needs a governor who will lead for a change.