We're glad to see the 110th Congress is moving to correct one of the many oversights of the 109th Do-Nothing session: Reauthorizing a spending bill so more than $2.5 million of federal aid flows to Del Norte County governments.
The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000 languished through the 109th despite that its lawmakers found billions of pork projects in their home districts to spend dollars on. Fortunately, Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Peter DeFazio reintroduced the act a few days ago.
The act provides money to local governments who used to receive a share of the payments for timber harvested from federal land. When the federal government virtually ended that logging during the late 1990s, rural counties dominated by federally owned land such as Del Norte County found themselves short millions of dollars in revenue for police protection, road maintenance and schools.
We're all for preserving ecosystems through national parks and forests. But the federal government can not coldly set aside land with no concern for who is affected. Squeezing the logging industry also means squeezing the ability to protect ourselves through law enforcement and deprives our children of the ability to receive a quality education. A reasonable compromise to ensure protection of both the environment and our communities is federal assistance to make up for the lost logging revenue.
Don't get the idea that we want a handout forever. Clearly our economy needs to transition to other industries so we can operate our county services and school system with our own dollars. But such transitions take time often a couple of decades or more. Only a few short years have passed, however, since the federal timber payments ended. Fortunately, our community is beginning to make that transition by expanding tourism and improving our infrastructure to handle new businesses. Until that transition is much farther along, though, we need the federal assistance.
We urge our lawmakers and the president to quickly reauthorize the act. Meanwhile, local officials must continue to work diligently toward transitioning our economy just in the case a future Congress also adopts a do-nothing approach to the nation's problems.
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