Wallowa County Commissioners have unanimously approved a resolution laying the blame for “the deplorable conditions for restoration or sustainability of the forest” on the President and Congress. Natural Resources Advisory Committee (NRAC) president Bruce Dunn presented the resolution for approval at the commissioners’ Sept. 21 regular meeting.
The document states that although the Wallowa County Commissioners and NRAC had “engaged in collaboration, cooperation and coordination with Federal Agencies concerning forest health,” those processes had “not brought resolution to the deplorable conditions.” It identified “administrative rules and policies as the root cause of the agencies’ inability to create practical and cost effective management” and blamed current law for “allowing small incidents to become catastrophic events.”
The resolution stated that the Board of Commissioners would “no longer place blame for failed National Laws and Agency policies on the environmental community, the US Forest Service or any other Federal Agency.”
As a result, “Wallowa County will make it known to all that the responsibility for the current conditions of our National Forests lies solely with each member of the United States House of Representatives, each member of the United States Senate and the President of the United States.”
“I was upset about the fires and I proposed we lay the blame where it really belongs,” Dunn said. “We all have complained about enviro groups and agencies, but the root cause is we have unreasonable laws. The administration, the House, the Senate, these people have a responsibility to protect the national treasures of this county.”
Dunn said current laws were poorly written or interpreted, and changes to policy and procedures should be taken up by individuals in a position to effect that change.
U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley were contacted with regard to this resolution but were unable to issue a response by press time. Rep. Greg Walden’s office issued the following response: “Greg understands why people are frustrated — he’s very frustrated too. Three times in the past three years, he has helped pass bipartisan legislation in the U.S. House to reform broken federal forest policy and bring back active forest management. Yet, the Senate has not taken action on any of these bills, and the President has threatened to veto them. It’s time for the U.S. Senate to get serious and finally pass meaningful forestry reform legislation.”
Wyden, Merkley and Walden have all been working to make changes to the laws that dictate the way in which the forests are managed. As was reported in the Sept. 23 Chieftain (see article titled, “Enviros worsen wildfire problems, Walden says”), Walden has been championing HR2647, which in addition to other changes, reforms the National Environmental Policies Act and streamlines the process to begin logging and thinning federal lands.
Wyden and Merkley introduced a revised O&C Lands Act in Jan. 2015. The original Act, covering 2.1 million acres of timberland, was introduced in 2013. O&C lands are The Oregon and California Railroad Revested Lands; approximately 2.6 million acres of land located in 18 counties of western Oregon. The Wyden/Merkley Act of 2015 covered 2.8 million acres without waiving environmental law or giving away public lands — two approaches the president promised to veto. The O&C Lands Act of 2015 would more than double the timber harvest on Oregon’s O&C Lands over the next 50 years. Wyden’s bill passed the Energy Committee on a bipartisan 15-7 vote last year, but House Republican leaders blocked it from being included in an end-of-the-year package of natural resources bills.