Note: Guest Opinions are added to this page on an intermittent basis. —
Diverting timber relief funds to Portland, suburbs is wrong
A plan to distribute to all Oregon schools money that was intended to help schools in timber-dependent areas is an affront to rural communities and an embarrassment to the governor who apparently supports it.
Earlier this week we were told that federal timber bailout money would be distributed more or less equally throughout the state. That flies counter to the intent of the federal legislation that set aside the money and to any sense of fair play in education budgeting.
About $28 million was intended for Oregon schools as part of a federal bailout payment to rural counties and schools that had seen big drops in recent years in timber harvest receipts. Jackson County schools expected to divvy up about $1.3 million, but now are being told the total will be $638,000.
State education officials say the money will be put into the statewide pool of education funds and distributed as part of the state's regular payments to schools, once the Legislature determines what that amount will be.
One statewide school official said the rural schools should recognize that efforts to equalize payments over recent years have pushed more money into rural schools and that now those schools may feel the downside of that equalization. No schools, the state says, should benefit from a windfall unless everyone benefits.
That's just baloney. In the last biennium, many rural school districts were stunned to find that the amount of money promised by the Legislature proved to less than they thought. That's because urban schools were given more money to deal with problems that were more prevalent in big cities, including dealing with larger non-English speaking populations.
This money set aside in the federal legislation was intended to deal with problems that are more prevalent in rural districts — specifically the fallout from the decline in timber harvests. That decline has resulted in fewer jobs and more family dysfunction and, at the same time, fewer students, but more students with problems related to that dysfunction.
The federal money was not intended to help the state of Oregon balance its budget. It was very tightly targeted to help communities that have lost timber jobs. Those communities are places like Butte Falls, Elkton, Roseburg and even Medford. They are not places like Beaverton or Portland.
Hijacking that money into the general school fund is just wrong. Our legislators in Salem should not stand for it. The governor and others supporting this theft should be ashamed.
- Guest Opinion -
What roadless plan means
On Jan. 5, the administration announced its final plan to protect roadless areas in our national forests. This culminates 15 months of proposals, draft and final environmental impact statements, and hundreds of public meetings across the country. We held two sets of hearings in Gold Beach, Medford and Grants Pass. The first set was designed to help explain where roadless areas are and why they are important. The second set sought comments on the proposed protection plan.
We heard lots from the public. The overwhelming majority of folks in attendance at the Gold Beach, Medford, and Grants Pass meetings favored protection of roadless areas although there were strong feelings on both sides of the issue. Nationally, most comments favored more protection than was initially proposed in the draft environmental impact statement. The U.S. Forest Service received more than 1.6 million comments on the roadless area proposal, more than any other proposal in the 105-year history of the agency.
So, what does all this mean? As forest supervisor for the Rogue River and Siskiyou national forests, I would like to explain what is and what is not included and how management may or may not change as a result of the final protection plan.
What exactly is protected? All Inventoried Roadless Areas on national forests across the nation now have limits on road construction and certain timber harvests. On the Rogue River National Forest, there are nine roadless areas totaling 81,417 acres. On the Siskiyou, there are 18 areas totaling 287,063 acres. Most of these roadless areas are adjacent to existing wilderness areas or are otherwise in rather remote country. No private lands are affected.
Basically, the protection plan prohibits new roads in these areas (there can be exceptions under a few emergency situations) and timber harvest except where needed to meet forest health objectives. Perhaps the main point relative to overall forest resources is that we need to concentrate on sound management of the 5,379-mile road network that we have now on the Rogue River and Siskiyou national forests rather than spending our few dollars on building new roads into roadless areas.
What about forest management and timber sales? The roadless protection plan tells us that vegetation management in roadless areas must focus on improving the condition or health of the forest and maintaining roadless values rather than establishing projects solely for getting the cut out. Focusing our projects to improve the condition or health of the forest seems to me like a prudent approach for all national forest lands.
Some of our forest land needs attention. Because of wildfire suppression and past timber cutting practices, we have an abundance of small-diameter trees in some areas and we have reduced the complexity and diversity of our forests. Ironically, these changes mean that our forests now are threatened by even bigger and potentially uncontrollable wildfires.
We need to actively manage the portions of our forests that are near communities and/or provide critical municipal water supplies. In some cases this means commercial harvest and logging trucks; in other places this means crews clearing small-diameter material by hand. Maybe in some areas we need to cut trees from the slopes and put them into streams to restore fish habitat. We should not focus on how much wood is removed, but rather, on the condition of the forest and watershed after we are through. I think people can look to the recently-released Ashland watershed proposal on the Rogue River National Forest as an example of how this can and should work.
Fire will be reintroduced; these forests will burn. The question is: will fire occur in a way that sustains the vigor and diversity of the forest, or will the fire be widespread and burn everything in sight? Perhaps the main point regarding roadless areas is that these are seldom the highest priority areas relative to urban wildland interface fire problems. If conditions in roadless areas allow us to reintroduce fire without removing trees first, then fine. In other areas, we may need to conduct some thinning first. The roadless plan doesn't say hands off, but it does point out the many values of roadless areas that need to be considered before conducting vegetation management.
What about recreation? The roadless protection plan didn't specifically address motorized or nonmotorized recreation. These decisions are left to local Forest Service managers. Most roadless areas already have at least some local provisions regarding recreational uses. Many roadless areas provide good buffers of light motorized trail use between wilderness and more roaded portions of the forest. We have plans on the Rogue River and Siskiyou for more discussions and public meetings about access and analysis of our road networks. So, stay tuned.
I know that a majority of citizens in southwest Oregon are concerned about management of our national forests. That is great news for us all and bodes well for the future of our forests. I urge everyone that is interested to study the maps, walk the woods, learn more about their local ecology and about ecological science, work with local Forest Service managers, and make suggestions on proposals. Increased community participation in Forest Service management will benefit us all in the long run.
Jack E. Williams is forest supervisor for the Rogue River and Siskiyou national forests in Medford.
- Guest Opinion -
No apologies, just conservative perspective
Janice England Watson
For the good folk who have disagreed with my opinions about wilderness set-asides and environmental protection issues, my political assessment of people and events, my opinions on Christ and pilgrims, Christ and Santa, moms and leadership, friends and fruitcake, veterans — and who think I am just misinformed or mistaken, take heart. Wait till you read this one. It?ll clear that right up.
Essays are an old-fashioned term for saying what you think in writing. They are by nature one-way opinions. Changes in communication and entertainment technology and industries have people talking again, sometimes chatting and sometimes arguing, but talking. That's good for our personal and our society's disposition.
I thank you for your opinions in reply, but you must understand that it is not lack of information that makes up my mind about the things I discuss. I garner my information the same way you do: news media, conversations with friends, reading and reflection. I have intended to take this course. I mean very much to be a conservative. Splitting hairs over the specifics details, like exactly how many miles of private and public property in America should be preserved by whom and for what use, is a waste of time. Making argument about the road signs along the route does not improve either of our understanding.
So, although we may never agree on directions or how to proceed, because our maps and compasses are truly different, it is not lack of information (or calling me misinformed) that leads us to disagreement. It is not the knowledge that is different, but the perspective.
There is a certain level of news knowledge that we all live with now, much like white noise. Sometimes I think that the news is like statistics or Scripture, that it can be manipulated to seem to say anything you have in mind. So, it is my intention here that I discuss things from a reasoning conservative perspective — the other perspective having been well represented in the recent past. It's my version of the Goldilocks rule: Try them all and make up your mind. Of course, I would have chosen red-hot rather than lukewarm porridge.
Even taking into account my distrust of statistics, responses tell me that there are a great many folk who have a similar point of view as I do, and wish it to be heard. These are not closet conservatives; they are just discouraged into muteness by a long-term, left-leaning slant to commentators and judgments on public issues.
Which leads me to these articles. I am not announcing news, nor have I ever claimed to be a reporter or a journalist or an expert in any way on anything — except maybe a few things not to do — I am a fellow traveler with an opinion. I write about issues and events in essays that express a decidedly conservative point of view. I write about things that make it past my two-year rule (is this really going to amount to a hill of beans two years from now and/or eternity?) and about issues that put voice to a certain way of looking at things that I value. I am a very average person, curious about how things work and about people and ideas. I try to discover the right and the truthful thing, and do it the best I can.
It is this understanding, together with my experiences and some amazing direct interventions of God, that forged in me very passionately held convictions and opinions. I earned these opinions. I didn't get born into them or talked into them. I share them in the hope that we can share intentions of doing the best, the good, the right thing for our public and personal relationships, and that they will intersect in a few areas of common good and a fellowship of understanding.
It has been said that two are better than one. Many aspects of that wisdom strengthen understanding and the possibility of unity; both sides listen, then commit and share the burden and benefits. Listening doesn't mean bailing out on conflicting convictions or rolling over the top of one another; it means hearing both sides and making a choice to travel in the same direction. But when two roads converge and you can't possibly take them both, you decide your direction and move on.
Unlike Goldilocks, we do not decide in a vacuum. If the decision diminishes personal or public rights, then in America at least we have a rule of law and procedures of justice that help us to sort out those decisions of direction and unity. That is where argument is worthwhile. Or we can just be friends and discuss the scenery.
Janice England Watson is a marketing consultant who has been active in numerous political and civic groups in the Rogue Valley. She lives in Central Point. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Note: Guest Opinions are added to this page on an intermittent basis. —