Anna Yarbrough: Forestry, Federal Land and Public Education in Oregon

Anna Yarbrough, a forester, contributed the following article in light of a proposed tax increase in the Oregon Legislature. We appreciate her willingness to allow us to publish the following, which first appeared on her Facebook page:

First, let me preface this by saying I come from a family of educators and I 100% support fully funding our schools. I’ve seen firsthand the amount of money and extra time teachers passionately donate to their classrooms without reimbursement. #RedForEd

But I do not support HB3427.

Now let’s talk about forestry on federal land in Oregon and the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program.

Historically, rural counties and school districts received funding from timber revenue produced on federal land. After the listing of several species on the Endangered Species Act in the late 80’s, including the Spotted Owl, timber revenue drastically declined on federal land dragging funding for counties and schools down with it. Since then, we have unsuccessfully “patched” the funding issue with the SRS program while our federal forests go unmanaged. The SRS program is a short term fix that requires continual (and uninsured) renewal.

So what’s the long term solution? Well, call me crazy, but why can’t we find a way to produce a steady revenue stream for the counties and schools, provide the needed early seral habitat for our declining ungulate populations that’s currently missing on federal land, produce sustainable wood building materials, provide clean air and water, and support rural communities through job creation? The answer is—we can! We can “have our cake and eat it to”! Those against forest management activities would have you believe that all those things are like oil and water. Well the truth of it is, forest management activities, healthy forests (clean air/water, wildlife habitat, decreased fire risk), and healthy rural communities go hand in hand. We really can have it all while providing a steady revenue stream for our counties and schools through timber harvest.

The kicker? A checkerboard of 2.4 million acres of publicly owned timberland spanning across Western Oregon, known as the O&C Lands, is already mandated to do just that. The O&C Act mandates that the O&C Lands “shall be managed” for “permanent forest production on a sustained yield basis”. The revenue created would be divided amongst the 8 counties that it resides in. So why are these lands still sitting unmanaged? Litigation. The same groups that are hiding behind the sham of “saving the planet” by filing lawsuits, are destroying our federal forests by blocking management activities, which in turn has brought our county and school funding down with it, all while increasing wildfire risk due to lack of management.

So there’s my two cents on the topic, or maybe more like a dime. The next time you’re inevitably choking on wildfire smoke, think of all those county and school dollars quite literally going up in flames. Thanks a lot so called “environmentalists”.

Anna Yarbrough: Forestry, Federal Land and Public Education in Oregon