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MailTribune.com
  • Residents tapped to tackle O&C issues

    Gov. Kitzhaber seeks ideas on how to boost funding, timber production
  • Three local residents have been appointed by Gov. John Kitzhaber to a statewide panel charged with finding a solution for the financially struggling O&C counties.
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  • Three local residents have been appointed by Gov. John Kitzhaber to a statewide panel charged with finding a solution for the financially struggling O&C counties.
    Medford resident Jack Williams, the senior scientist for Trout Unlimited, is one of six conservation representatives on the 14-member panel.
    Representing one of four county boards of commissioners is Simon Hare, a member of the Josephine County board. Jennifer Phillipi of Rough and Ready Lumber Co. in the Illinois Valley is one of four timber industry representatives on the panel.
    Kitzhaber has asked the group appointed on Thursday to come up with a proposal by early next year that will boost funding for counties and timber production while not harming habitat for salmon, northern spotted owls and other wildlife.
    "It is a tall order," said Williams, a former supervisor of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. "We definitely need to find a solution."
    Members of the panel have been cautioned not to talk publicly about specifics, Williams said, noting the discussions need to be kept confidential in the interest of working together to find a solution. The group has yet to meet.
    Jackson and Josephine counties are among the 18 Western Oregon counties that receive timber receipts in lieu of taxes from former Oregon & California Railroad Co. lands now under U.S. Bureau of Land Management jurisdiction.
    Because of reduced harvests, the 18 counties had drastically reduced incomes from the timberlands in recent years. The end of a federal safety net for timber counties has helped push several counties, including Josephine, Curry and Lane, into financially precarious positions.
    The governor has asked the panel to build on existing proposals and develop recommendations that help Oregon counties improve financial stability, ensure adequate sources of timber to support local mills and jobs, and meet Oregon's water and land conservation goals.
    "We're not under any illusion that this will be easy," Kitzhaber said in a prepared statement. "But the human and environmental costs of the status quo are unacceptable, and Oregonians have shown time and again their ability to come together to solve difficult problems.
    "An Oregon solution that protects the environment, creates jobs in rural communities, and helps restore funding for critical services is our best hope for O&C counties," he added. "We have the right people at the table to get it done."
    Other panelists include Douglas County Commissioner Doug Robertson, Allyn Ford of Roseburg Forest Products, Greg Block of the Wild Salmon Center and Bob Davison of Defenders of Wildlife.
    The panel, whose deliberations will be facilitated by John Ehrmann of the Meridian Institute, is expected to ultimately submit its proposal to Congress.
    Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or email him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.
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