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2 commissioners to visit D.C. for O&C forest plan

Two Jackson County commissioners will travel to Washington, D.C., today to meet with U.S. lawmakers and lobby on behalf of the O&C forest lands proposal they say could create thousands of jobs in 18 Oregon counties.

Commissioners John Rachor and C.W. Smith will make a weeklong trip. It will cost $5,948 for airfare, lodging, meals and registration fees for a National Association of Counties conference the commissioners also will attend.

"The main goals are to meet with our legislators one on one," Rachor said.

The commissioners' local public meetings and work sessions, held Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, have been canceled for this week and next.

Rachor said a key meeting will be with congressmen Peter DeFazio of Springfield and Kurt Schrader of Canby regarding the draft plan intended to manage around 2.5 million acres of O&C lands in 18 counties across Western Oregon that rely on federal timber receipts.

The plan, called the O&C Trust, Conservation and Jobs Plan, proposes splitting the lands in two. One half would continue to be under the Bureau of Land Management, while the other half would be set aside for timber production and managed by a board of trustees appointed by the governor.

The commissioners support the plan and hope to continue working with legislators on the bill.

"We're going to be doing everything we can to help the bill along," said Smith, adding that he thinks the bill has a 50-50 chance of passing.

"There are a lot of things that are very beneficial to Southern Oregon. This is as close and as big of a potential resolution of the problem as we've had in a long, long time."

Both commissioners will attend meetings at the NACo conference. Smith also will attend a White House Council conference focusing on outdoor heritage and the economy, which will be attended by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at rpfeil@mailtribune.com