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Whitsett files for second term
  by LACEY JARRELL, Herald and News 11/28/13

   H&N photo by Lacey Jarrell - On behalf of the Burlington Northing Railroad Company Foundation, Senator Doug Whitsett and Representative Gail Whitsett presented a $4,000 donation to Klamath Crisis directors, Carolyn Acevedo and Wanda Powless. Left to right: Gail Whitsett, Acevedo, Powless, Doug Whitsett.

State Rep. Gail Whitsett, R-Klamath Falls, has filed for a second term representing District 56 in the Oregon House of Representatives, according to a news release.

   District 56 represents portions of Klamath and Lake counties. Whitsett was first elected to the House in 2012.

   “It has been a productive and successful two years, and I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish together, but unfinished business remains. I’m looking forward to continuing the conversation with voters,” Whitsett said in a prepared statement.  

   If elected, Whitsett said she will continue working to improve the district’s economic outlook through employment and business tax reductions that encourage economic growth. She promoted her economic platform during by taking a bipartisan approach.

   “I worked with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to stimulate economic growth,” she said.

   Whitsett, a strong proponent for education, also said she would like to see graduation rates improve to 90 percent and will work to facilitate the increase.  

   Whitsett plans to reintroduce her “Meth Testing bill,” in February. The legislation is a consumer protection bill that would require banks and mortgage holders to test for contamination from methamphetamine before selling homes in foreclosure “as is” at auction. Whitsett said the bill will help prevent home purchasers from becoming saddled with houses with unhealthy living conditions.

   ODF funding for fire season

   The Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) has requested an additional $40 million from the Oregon Legislature to cover costs of the 2013 wildfire season. More than 100,000 state-protected acres burned, and the department spent $122 million fighting the fires this year.  

   “It was the largest acreage that has burned on ODF jurisdiction since 1951,” said Rod Nichols, an ODF information officer.

   According to an ODF report, Oregon experienced about 150,000 lightning strikes in 2013, which is more than double the amount in 2012.  

   “The Department of Forestry was successful in keeping 90 percent of fires under 10 acres, but some of them got away,” said Sen. Doug Whitsett, R-Klamath Falls.

   Timber losses during the 2013 fire season are estimated to total about $370 million, according to the ODF report.

   Whitsett pointed out unrealized costs often exceed fire suppression efforts.

   “The big cost is the increased loss of forest and watershed health,” Whitsett said.  

   Money to fund fire suppression comes from the state’s general fund, a $25 million state wildfire insurance policy and through the legislative process.

   The next legislative session begins in February. Whitsett said he is confident the ODF will receive its requested funds.

   Whitsetts present check to shelter

   On behalf of Burlington Northern Railroad Co. Foundations, Wednesday state Sen. Doug Whitsett and House Rep. Gail Whitsett presented a $4,000 check to the Klamath Crisis Center.  

   The donation from the Texas-based company is part of a foundation program that gives to organizations surrounding its rail lines, according to Gail Whitsett.

   “It’s a very large donation for us,” said Wanda Powless, co-director of the Klamath Crisis Center.

   In 2012, the center served more than 2,500 individuals with aid including shelter services, meals, household items and employment assistance.

   Powless said the donation will be allocated for direct support services, such as replacing drivers’ licenses, providing fuel to travel to and from work or maintaining a month of vehicle insurance.  

   Gail Whitsett also was appointed recently to the Domestic Violence Prevention and Response Task Force, which will identify issues and priorities to deal with and eradicate domestic violence in Oregon.

   Wyden timber sale bill

   Klamath County commissioner and O&C board member Dennis Linthicum said he is reviewing a bill introduced this week by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., that would designate 87,000 acres for wilderness and double timber harvest in O&C land.  

   The bill, called the Oregon and California Land Grant Act of 2013, amends the original Oregon and California Lands Act passed in 1937, according to a news release.

   Linthicum is analyzing the proposal to determine if its framework for preservation and increased harvest is a sustainable model for Klamath forests.

   “They may or may not be at odds with each other,” he said.

   According to the news release, environmental protections in the proposal include protecting oldgrowth stands more than 120 years old in temperate forests and individual trees more than 150 years old, and creating 165 miles of wild and scenic rivers.  

   The proposal also eliminates environmental impact statements for individual timber projects, and instead calls for two broad regional statements to be conducted that will cover 10 years.

   Linthicum said Klamath County accounts for 2.34 percent of O&C total acreage and is the only county east of the Cascades that contains O&C land. Wyden estimates the proposal will create 1,650 jobs in timber related industries.

   “That would be good in terms of local jobs,” Linthicum said.

    ljarrell@heraldandnews.com  ; @LMJatHandN



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