Many of Oregon's small towns are cash-strapped and struggling. Some blame this on a decline ‎in revenue from logging, due to environmental protections. But despite conservation efforts, ‎timber harvests on state and federal land have remained about the same for the past 25 years. ‎So why aren't communities benefiting?‎

The answer is that timber companies have finagled outrageously preferential tax treatment for ‎themselves, allowing them to wring money from our forests without putting much back into the ‎communities where they operate.

In the 1990s, logging industry representatives successfully ‎lobbied Oregon politicians to eliminate the severance tax. This tax was a major funding source ‎for schools and local governments.

Washington state, California and Idaho still have this tax, and ‎the money it generates helps fund schools, sheriff's offices and public libraries. The tax breaks ‎we've doled out to timber companies have cost counties approximately $3 billion over the past ‎‎30 years.‎

Communities are suffering another blow, as logging practices contaminate their drinking water, ‎damage their water systems and threaten their water sources altogether, leading to tax and ‎water rate increases for residents and small businesses.‎

Some claim that bringing back the severance tax would lead to job losses. But the timber ‎industry has been slashing jobs for decades, replacing workers with machines and closing mills ‎to export logs overseas.‎

Why should Oregonians subsidize an industry that exploits our land and cripples our ‎communities? It's time for lawmakers to put small towns ahead of corporate interests and ‎reinstate the severance tax.‎

REGAN FISHER

Portland