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Other Views: Help for Oregon's forests

Not enough restoration gets done on Oregon's federal forests. Oregonians pay the price in increased wildfires, destruction of habitat and loss of clean water, recreation and income.

One 2012 report estimated that restoration work needs to double on U.S. Forest Service-managed land in eastern and south central Oregon or we will never catch up. That means going from about 129,000 acres a year now to 258,000 acres a year.

A few years ago, Gov. John Kitzhaber tried something different. Rather than waiting for the Forest Service to do more, he helped it do more. He included $2.88 million in the 2013-15 budget to accelerate the work.

The money went to support forest collaboratives, which bring together the timber industry, conservationists and others to find projects they can agree on. Collaboratives don't make all the disagreements go away. But they have helped move projects forward.

Some of the money went to research projects to better resolve scientific questions that might help prioritize areas for treatment. And the state used some of the money for state employees to work on federal timber sales.

The Oregon Department of Forestry is proposing to increase the contribution from $2.88 million to $6.5 million for the 2015-17 budget. 

Is that going to double the restoration work needed on Oregon's federal forests? No, it's not. That might cost another $40 million.

But if Oregon can afford to increase its contribution to $6.5 million, it's a great investment in improving clean air, clean water, habitat, recreation and income for rural communities.