In another blow to hard-presses timber-dependent communities in the rural West, the U.S. House of Representatives Nov. 20 approved a bill imposing strict land-use restrictions along a 21-mile stretch of Oregon’s Molalla River.
Sponsored by Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Oregon), the bill, H.R. 2781, was approved by a 292-to-133 margin, with 40 Republicans joining 252 Democrats in passing the legislation.
In addition to the land-use restrictions, the bill also bans logging on 400 acres adjacent to the river. The prospect of further reducing timber harvests in the economically depressed area prompted Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, to introduce an amendment in the House Rules Committee renaming the bill the “School Children and Jobs Left Behind Act.” Bishop argued that cutting back timber harvests would reduces revenues to local schools. He proposed that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) offset the loss of timberland by setting aside 400 acres of BLM land in the area for logging. His amendment was rejected by the Rules Committee which argued that his proposal was outside the scope of the bill.
Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Washington) joined Bishop in lambasting the bill on the House floor. Hasting dismissed the notion that 400 acre tract is too small a parcel to have much of an economic impact by putting the logging ban into context.
“The fact of the matter is that these 400 acres come on top of thousands and thousands of acres locked up in recent years,” Hastings told his House colleagues. “Excusing this 400 acres today feeds the
notion that tomorrow or next week we can excuse the taking of 6,000 acres away from helping schools and rural communities.” (Environment & Energy Daily, Nov. 20, 2009)
Schrader, the bill’s sponsor, has said he will work with the Interior Department to safeguard local timber production by other means. But it is not yet clear what he has in mind. Meanwhile, a companion measure, S. 1369, introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) is pending in the Senate.