Loss of timber revenue cited for resolution against the 'Tillamook 50/50 Plan'The Clatsop County Board of Commissioners has come out in opposition to a ballot measure limiting logging in the Clatsop and Tillamook state forests.
The board voted Wednesday to support a resolution opposing ballot Measure 34, the "Tillamook 50/50 Plan," which is on the November election ballot.
Commissioners Lylla Gaebel, Richard Lee and Sam Patrick supported the resolution. Commission Chairwoman Helen Westbrook and Commissioner Patricia Roberts, newly appointed that night, opposed it.
VOTESResolution against 'Tillamook 50/50 Plan'
FOR: Lylla Gaebel, Richard Lee, Sam Patrick
AGAINST: Helen Westbrook, Patricia RobertsSupporters of the resolution pointed to the heavy loss of money the ballot measure could mean for Clatsop, Tillamook and other counties that depend on the revenue from timber harvesting in the state forests.
"We have to look at the financial impact," Gaebel said.
But Westbrook said the potential effects aren't clear, and said she still has many concerns with the current state forest plan and its reliance on a new management technique.
The resolution, drafted by Tillamook County Commissioner Tim Josi, calls the Measure 34 an "ill-conceived approach" that "ignores social and economic needs" and will cost Tillamook, Clatsop and other counties millions of dollars in revenue.
Measure 34 would replace the existing forest management plan adopted by the Oregon Department of Forestry in 2001 with a new strategy dedicating half of the forest lands for restoration and the protection of water quality, fish and wildlife habitat.
Supporters of the measure, including the Tillamook Rainforest Coalition, argue that the "structure-based management" model of the current plan is untried and based on flawed science.
Several audience members urged the board to reject the resolution, arguing that the 50/50 plan provides a better approach to management of the state forests than the state's current plan.
Jeremy Rogers of Oregonians for a Balanced Tillamook criticized the claims in the resolution that Measure 34's management plan has no scientific basis. The 50/50 plan calls for the formation of an independent scientific panel to make recommendations to the state board of forestry on setting aside reserve areas and setting harvest levels. The state plan, he said, ignored scientific input on a number of issues, including no-logging areas.
"The claims in the resolution about science are absolutely false," he said
Pam Birmingham of Elsie said Measure 34 grew out of public frustration over the crafting of the forest management plan, which does not allow for the creation of reserve areas where the forest can return to its natural state without logging.
"It's like money in the bank to have these areas set aside," she said.
But Knappa resident Ben Bartlett said 50/50 plan would cut timber harvest levels in half, which would have a devastating financial impact on local services.
"I hope you stand together in opposition to this," he said.
The Oregon Secretary of State's office has projected that local governments, including Clatsop County, could lose between $17.2 million and $19.4 million a year in revenue due to the drop in timber harvests resulting from the 50/50 plan.
Westbrook said she disliked the resolution's stark language. "It absolutely condemns Measure 34 and lauds structure-based management," she said.
Recommendations made by two scientific teams that reserve areas be included in the state management plan were ignored, she said. The structure-based model, which calls for recreating multi-age timber stands through selective thinning, isn't yet proven, she said.
"There are no forest scientists who do not say that structure-based management is a big experiment," she said.
But Gaebel said the controversy over the state forests stems in large part from the Oregon Legislature's decision last year to unilaterally boost harvest levels, a move the board of commissioners opposed. The management plan itself, however, "as it was intended, is the right thing," she said.
Gaebel pointed to the financial impact, noting that the county relies on state timber revenue to subsidize the county's general fund budget to the tune of $668,000 each year, as well as to operate the juvenile detention facility center at the North Coast Youth Correctional Facility in Warrenton. Other local entities like the Port of Astoria and Sunset Empire Transit District also rely on state timber dollars, she said.
Patrick said the state management plan is flexible and allows timber harvest levels to be increased or decreased as information about the impacts of logging is collected. It also includes an aggressive re-forestation program that is moving away from the traditional single-species focus, he said.