The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday passed a bill that would boost logging on some federal lands in the Northwest in exchange for protecting other lands for fish and wildlife habitat — despite the Obama administration's veto threat.
The bill, HR 1526, includes the O&C Trust, Conservation and Jobs Act, which would open logging on U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands and increase timber receipts to Jackson and other counties.
Friday's vote was 244-173, with 15 representatives not voting. The action came two days after the Obama administration threatened to veto it because of potential threats to endangered species and an increased chance of lawsuits.
Oregon Congressman Greg Walden, who spoke on the House floor in favor of the bill just before the vote, told the Mail Tribune on Friday that he had no intention of backing down in his push for the House vote after the Obama administration's veto threat.
"Why should I?" Walden said. "That doesn't mean you raise the red flag and say, 'game over.' "
Walden, a Republican who represents Oregon's 2nd Congressional District, pointed to the 17 Democrats who voted for the bill as a show of bipartisan support. Only one Republican representative — New York's Chris Gibson — voted against it.
Walden said he does not believe Wednesday's veto threat altered the vote.
"Frankly, this administration doesn't have a lot of throw-weight up here," Walden said.
Steve Pedery, conservation director for Oregon Wild, one of several environmental groups that oppose the bill, said Walden's push for Friday's vote — while knowing the bill effectively is dead — was a case of political pandering to conservatives in his vast district.
"It makes a lot of sense in southwest Oregon. It plays well in some of those communities," Pedery said. "But as a matter of national policy and whether it's useful, it makes no sense at all. This doesn't actually help get anything done."
The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.
"I actually think it's a pretty good day," Walden said. "It's up to the Senate to work on it.
"It's a long way to the president's desk," he said. "I hope it's not a long time to the president's desk."
The O&C Trust act, co-written by Walden, U.S. Reps. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., and Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., would place the roughly 2.6 million acres of O&C land on U.S. Bureau of Land Management forests in Western Oregon into two trusts.
The bill calls for slightly more than half of the O&C lands — 1.47 million acres of previously managed timberlands — to be sustainably managed for timber production, with a portion of the revenues going to the 18 O&C counties in Western Oregon, including Jackson and Josephine counties.
The remainder of the O&C lands would be managed by the U.S. Forest Service as old-growth forest preserves, including tracts of land with trees that are more than 120 years old.
It also would add 58,100 acres to the Rogue Wilderness Area in the Lower Rogue River drainage. The proposal designates 93 miles of 35 tributaries of the Rogue as either "wild," "scenic" or "recreational" under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
It also would ban mining on 19 tributaries on the Rogue and 11 miles on the Chetco River.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.