Douglas County, in southwestern Oregon, is so broke it had to close all its public libraries earlier this year.
However, according to an investigation in the Oregonian, Douglas County Commissioners “have awarded Communities for Healthy Forests a total of $490,000 in federal money over the last two years, $250,000 of it to make videos. Only one has been released.”
After originally reading the story, I went to Guidestar and looked up the most recent 990 tax report for Communities for Healthy Forests. Turns out, according to their 2015 990 report to the IRS, Communities for Healthy Forests paid their executive director, Javier Goirigolzarri, $77,258 in 2015 for a 30 hour work week. That comes to almost $50 an hour.
Below is the opening few paragraphs of the Oregonian story. Click here to read the entire thing.
The six-minute video opens to ominous music and burning trees. After the flames are out, a narrator says, forests suffer from devastating neglect, turning into a “vast sea of dead, charred trees” that aren’t reforested because of a maze of confusing, contradictory environmental regulations.
The music brightens as the answer appears: Salvage logging. The video concludes by urging viewers to call their elected officials “and tell them these federal lands… are too valuable to simply walk away.”
The clip credits a tiny nonprofit called Communities for Healthy Forests and went online in early September, a day before Oregon Republican Rep. Greg Walden introduced a bill to harvest trees burned this summer in the Columbia River Gorge. Timber companies support the plan.
It’s become routine for cryptically named interest groups to push changes in federal policy that industry wants. The surprising twist this time: Federal money paid for it.
Douglas County, a local government so broke it closed all its public libraries earlier this year, funded Communities for Healthy Forests to create the video. And it did so with federal safety net money meant to ease rural Oregon’s dependence on timber revenue.
Commissioners have awarded Communities for Healthy Forests a total of $490,000 in federal money over the last two years, $250,000 of it to make videos. Only one has been released.
The Douglas County commission’s spending raises questions about a federal program called Secure Rural Schools, which has suffered from a lack of oversight since it was co-authored in 2000 by Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat.