Headwaters Economics takes a look at Wyden’s O&C Bill
Wyden logging bill would favor urban counties in Ore. — analysis
That’s because Wyden’s bill stipulates that timber revenue be allocated based on the relative taxable value of land as of 1915, delivering a higher per-acre share of receipts to counties including Clackamas, Washington and Multnomah compared to rural ones including Douglas, Josephine and Klamath and Linn.
In contrast, the decade-old SRS program allocates money based on historic revenue sharing, relative per-capita income and the share of total acres of federal forests, Headwaters said.
“This analysis raises a broader issue related to county payments — the tension between recoupling payments to commercial receipts and continuing to make payments from the federal treasury,” the analysis said.
Wyden’s office estimated that the bill would roughly double timber harvests to 350 million board feet a year. But it said twice that amount of logging would be needed to replace the $35 million that O&C counties received from SRS last year.
O&C counties currently receive 50 percent of federal timber receipts.
Wyden’s bill and a similar measure by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) seek to revive logging on the roughly 2.4 million acres of O&C forests, boosting revenues for cash-strapped rural counties.
Logging levels plummeted on O&C lands in the 1990s following protections for the northern spotted owl. As federal assistance has declined, some O&C counties have cut key services including law enforcement.
Revenue will be a key consideration for O&C counties as they weigh both bills. While DeFazio argues that his bill would generate more county revenue, Wyden has argued that his proposal is more politically viable.
Environmental groups have roundly opposed DeFazio’s bill, though some have signaled support for Wyden’s measure.
Still, the Association of O&C Counties this week voiced strong skepticism toward Wyden’s bill, saying it fails to maximize the productive capacity of O&C forests (E&E Daily, Dec. 3).
Wyden has said he intends to introduce companion legislation to extend long-term funding to counties that receive SRS money. Such a bill could address possible discrepancies in timber payments to rural and urban counties.
Wyden has argued that his bill would create new logging and milling jobs while increasing regulatory certainty through streamlined National Environmental Policy Act reviews.
Headwaters said its analysis underscores the need to also reauthorize SRS, which expired at the end of last September.
“Managing land to maximize commercial receipts may not be the most effective way to create jobs or safeguard the environment,” the analysis said. “Companion legislation decoupling payments from commercial receipts will focus the discussion of the O&C Act of 2013 to focus squarely on the proper management of public lands for economic and conservation purposes.”
Conservation groups support SRS, warning that dependence on commodity payments puts undue pressure on counties to develop public lands.
O&C counties are entitled to 75 percent of timber revenues but have historically received 50 percent of those revenues. Counties surrounding national forestlands are entitled to 25 percent of timber receipts.
Wyden’s bill would provide O&C counties between 60 and 68 percent of timber revenues, Headwaters said.