From Timber Products’ sun-drenched Medford parking lot on August 9, County Commissioner and Upper Rogue resident, C. W. Smith, opened with a sobering revelation. “Southern Oregon’s soaring, double-digit unemployment rate ranks second to none in the nation.” Smith then introduced fellow Republican, Congressman Greg Walden, who had called this conference to address his concerns about Jackson County’s job scarcities.
Walden displayed charts and graphs furnished by Oregon Forest Resources Institute. In essence, this array of visual aids detailed comparisons between available timber, and board feet harvested. One illustrated ratios of forest land proprietorship. According to Walden’s information sources, the Federal Government owns 60 % of the forest land here, but in recent years has failed to manage it wisely, if at all. He added that since 1990, Federal (timber) harvests have decreased 90 %, resulting in a 74% reduction in capacity, precipitating a 66% drop in jobs.
Since 1980, 43 mills have closed in Jackson, Josephine, and Klamath Counties, he continued. In all, the direct and related employment losses attributable to these closures total about 21,000. Among related concerns, he expressed dismay over the loss our mismanaged forests suffer from neglect, triggering inevitable fires.
The Congressman then explained what he deemed a pressing need for reversing these trends. He referred to a bipartisan consensus that aims toward “getting counties off the federal dole, and back…to good-paying jobs in the woods.” This plan involves the concept of public land trusts. Walden’s Sr. Field Representative, Troy Ferguson, distributed flyers asserting that nationwide, such trusts annually return billions to beneficiaries from resources on states’ land. It further reports that in 2005, Washington’s 2.9 million acres of public land managed in trust for schools, produced gross revenues of nearly $300 million. Trust lands have also worked in Arizona and New Mexico, Walden said.
When asked what answer he’d give to environmentalists’ concerns for our forests, Walden replied, “There’s no greener renewable industry than trees. You cut one; you plant one. It’s actively managing those trees, not letting them burn down.”
He concluded with the view that rural communities want their federal resources invested in creating jobs, not in supplying lunches for fire-fighters.
By F. C. Blake
Of the Independent