News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Forestry reform bill dies in committee

Reporter for The Canyon Weekly

A bill that would have allowed state forest lands to be managed by county authorities has died in committee, despite strong support from local officials.

Senate Bill 795 would have allowed counties to request control over state forest lands that once belonged to counties, allowing them to set policies related to logging and conservation.     

This would include Santiam State Forest, which comprises more than 47,000 acres in Marion, Linn and Clackamas counties.

In order to progress to the next stage of the current legislative cycle, the bill needed to be scheduled for a future committee work session by March 17. The Senate Committee On Natural Resources, which was assigned SB 795 on Feb. 7, did not schedule a work session by that date and the bill will not leave committee.

The Canyon Weekly has reached out to bill co-sponsor Sen. Fred Girod (R-Stayton) for comment.

SB 795 was proposed in response to concerns over a Habitat Conservation Plan currently in development by the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF). The plan would emphasize sustainability, climate action, adaptive management and social equity.

The Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) published a draft of the proposed plan March 18 and will hold a series of meetings throughout the state to gather public comment and generate support. A final draft of the plan is expected in July, and ODF’s Board of Forestry intends to vote on a finalized plan in September.

Critics of the plan are worried it would reduce the amount of logging allowed in state forests, further diminishing the timber revenue available to local governments. They are also worried a reduction in logging would intensify wildfires, such as the devastating Santiam Fire in 2020.

The Linn County and Marion County boards of commissioners echoed these concerns when testifying in favor of SB 795 as part of a Feb. 27 public hearing. They sent letters to the committee arguing local authorities should have the ultimate say in how to manage the natural resources that impact them most directly.

Opponents of SB 795 said they were concerned counties struggling financially would place revenue above conservation, and would not take appropriate action to reduce climate pollution. Opponents included Southern Oregon Climate Action Now, Oregon Conservation Network, and the State Forest Coalition.

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