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Wyden’s proposal fails to address fundamental issues

Letter to the Editor, Ontario Argus Observer MAY 13, 2009

I recently spent a week in our nation’s capital with 13 other women from seven states urging the Congress to provide the tools to restore forest health and put people back to work in our nation’s forested counties.

I came home eight days later to discover the company I work for, Boise Cascade, would be indefinitely curtailing two of its mills, one here in Union County and the other in Kettle Falls, Wash. These mills currently employ 140 people, 120 good-paying jobs here in Union County.

According to the regional economist for the Oregon Employment Division, one job in rural Oregon equals the economic impact of 125 jobs in the Portland metropolitan area. Economically, closing this mill in Union County will be like the Portland area losing 15,000 jobs (like closing Intel).

On top of this news, I was informed Sen. Ron Wyden had recently released another forest bill.

On the surface, Sen.Wyden’s ideas sound like they will address several federal forest issues, but the proposal fails to address the fundamental issue facing Oregon’s rural forest communities — the desperate need for federal wood supply now!

I appreciate the need to address debate over long-running forest management issues like old growth, but let’s have that discussion without jeopardizing the economic stability of our rural forested communities.

Without biomass or timber supply certainty during the next couple of years, our communities and forest stewardship infrastructure will not survive. For more than two-and-half years now, Sen. Wyden has been the chairman of the Senate committee with direct control over the Forest Service.

As the forest committee chairman, I implore him to request the White House provide authorities to the Forest Service, before fire season, enabling them to quickly address catastrophic fuel loads (condition class II and III areas) in our federal lands.

These authorities can be granted now by the administration and, with Sen. Wyden’s backing, empower forest supervisors to take quick forest management action throughout the next several years.

These authorities will take prioritizing federal funding at the necessary level to address catastrophic fuel loads.

Forest management authorities and funding will provide biomass and timber supply certainty to the forests economies of our rural forested communities and, consequently, improve the health of our federal lands.

Sen. Wyden made, and has followed though on, a campaign promise to visit every county in Oregon, and I am sure he knows nearly all of the forested counties in Oregon have unemployment rates greater than 10 percent and some more than 20 percent.

I and the 140 families that will soon be out of work ask that Sen. Wyden call on that same passion for visiting our rural forested communities to lead a genuine effort for action now to put people back to work in our federal forests.

Melissa Fullerton




Colby Marshall

Eastern Oregon Office Director

Congressman Greg Walden (OR-02)

1211 Washington Avenue

La Grande, OR 97850  

541-624-2400 (phone)

541-624-2402 (fax)



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