Gov. John Kitzhaber says he's glad Congress is moving forward with a long-term solution for Oregon's cash-strapped timber-dependent counties. Wednesday, the House Natural Resources Committee approved a bill that would increase logging on certain federal forests in Southern Oregon.
Kitzhaber convened a panel in 2012 that at looked at the barriers to increased timber harvests, as well as environmental concerns about stepped up logging, and the dire state of the O&C Counties. Some counties have been on the brink of fiscal emergency.
The House bill would set up a trust to manage some of the land for harvest, to benefit the counties. Other forest lands would be saved for conservation.
Kitzhaber says he's delighted Congressmen Peter Defazio, Greg Walden, and Kurt Schrader were able to get the bill through committee.
Kitzhaber said, "There are some elements the Congressmen added that I think came out of our group, the aquatic protections, which are very important, and land to the two tribes in the area."
Sen. Ron Wyden has been working on a similar measure. The bills would need to be reconciled to move forward.
Kitzhaber says he has some concerns about the governance structure set up in the House version.
"I'm also concerned about a clause that essentially says we're going to make statement that activities on these lands meet our environmental laws. It needs some work ... Hopefully something comes out of Senator Wyden's committee, and we'll get those into conference committee and figure this out," he said.
At that point, Kitzhaber would like to see his panel involved in working out the details.
This story originally appeared on Oregon Public Broadcasting.