The investigative reporters at the Oregonian continue to uncover some very questionable actions by politicians who want to dramatically increase industrial logging on U.S. Forest Service lands. Previous on this blog, we highlighted the fact that Douglas County spent nearly 1/2 million dollars of Secure Rural Schools money on on a pro-timber industry video and animal trapping. Below are some clips from the latest piece by Rob Davis, which was published this week:
They bought first-class and premium airfare. One paid to travel with his dog. They’ve eaten at banquet award dinners. One expensed a $200 meal at a lounge. They’ve attended governing and timber industry conferences around the country, staying in Jackson Hole, Sunriver, Skamania Lodge and Sun Valley.
These are examples of how Douglas County commissioners spent $43,000 in federal money meant to help their struggling county over the past five years. The trips were underwritten by the Secure Rural Schools program, which pays jurisdictions like Douglas County that suffered financially after endangered species listings curtailed federal logging.
The money was supposed to be spent on firefighting, wildfire planning and search and rescue efforts. Instead it was spent on behalf of leaders in a county so broke that it shut down all its libraries in 2017. Much of their federally funded travel was to lobby Congress against restrictions on federal logging.
Douglas County charged The Oregonian/OregonLive $2,000 for the records that reveal these questionable expenditures. The newsroom paid the fee. The county delivered the documents and said the request was closed, then demanded another $700 after a reporter asked questions about the spending detailed in them.
Commissioners said their expenditures were proper and that the U.S. Forest Service, which disburses the federal money, audits the spending.
The Forest Service does not perform such audits, its officials have previously said.
One commissioner, Chris Boice, traveled for two nights in November 2016 to a remote outpost in Arizona to talk about forest management policy with Doyel Shamley, a natural resources consultant who’s also a far-right conspiracy theorist. A 2014 profile of Shamley in Mother Jones described him as believing “UFO sightings are a false-flag operation by the Illuminati to accumulate more power.”….
Hundreds of pages of records obtained by The Oregonian/OregonLive show Douglas County’s commissioners have used the federal money to pay for expenses that have nothing to do with firefighting or wildfire planning….The national Secure Rural Schools program has given $3 billion to Oregon counties since Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, co-authored legislation creating it in 2000.