The White House on Wednesday threatened to veto a timber harvest bill crafted by Oregon and Washington lawmakers who are frustrated with federal forest management and the ongoing fiscal crisis in historically timber-dependent counties.
The administration says the bill would harm threatened and endangered species and undermine the government’s ability to enforce environmental laws.
The bill, HR 1526, was introduced by Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash. It requires the Forest Service to create Forest Reserve Revenue Areas in each national forest. Those areas would be logged to deliver a fixed amount of timber harvest to provide revenue and jobs in rural counties.
The bill also contains provisions introduced by Oregon Reps. Greg Walden, a Republican, and Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader, both Democrats. Their proposal would transfer into a state-owned trust roughly 1 million acres of forestland currently owned by the Bureau of Land Management. These forestlands are called the O&C lands, named for the Oregon & California Railroad, which originally owned the checkerboard of parcels in Western Oregon.
The land signed over to the trust would be limited to forest stands less than 125 years old. Forests in the trust would be logged to provide revenue to Western Oregon counties.
In a policy brief posted on the website of the Office of Management and Budget, the White House detailed numerous objections to the bill.
“The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 1526, which includes numerous harmful provisions that impair Federal management of federally owned lands and undermine many important existing public land and environmental laws, rules, and processes.The bill would significantly harm sound long term management of these Federal lands for continued productivity and economic benefit as well as for the long term health of the wildlife and ecological values sustained by these holdings.
H.R. 1526, which includes unreasonable restrictions on certain Federal agency actions, would negatively impact the effective U.S. stewardship of Federal lands and natural resources, undertaken on behalf of all Americans.”
Walden called the veto threat very disappointing, adding that it “shows a clear disconnect from reality. The White House fails to understand what’s happening in rural communities in Oregon and throughout the West. Mills are closing, counties are literally going broke, and wildfire season seems to get worse and worse every year.”
DeFazio said he understood where the White House was coming from.
“If I were president, I would threaten to veto the underlying bill too,” he said.
DeFazio said it would be better to strip portions out of the bill because, even before the Obama Administration spoke out, it was clear the Democratically-controlled Senate wouldn’t consider them.
“My goal is to move this bipartisan O&C solution forward to the Senate where I expect Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) will make changes so the bill can pass,” he said.
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