Del Norte County supervisors have backed a bill that, if passed, would allow timber harvests on National Forest land, which would provide a source of revenue to rural communities.
House Resolution 1526, the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act, directs the secretary of agriculture to establish at least one "forest reserve revenue area" within each unit of the National Forest System, according to the Library of Congress.
The forest reserve area would be managed for timber harvesting, generating revenue to provide 25 percent payments and economic activity for counties hosting a National Forest. The revenue would benefit public schools and public roads, according to the Library of Congress.
HR 1526 was sponsored by Rep. Doc Hastings, a Republican from Washington state. Hastings introduced the bill in April with other representatives, including Del Norte County's former state senator, Rep. Doug LaMalfa.
The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted 4-0-1 in favor of sending a letter of support for HR 1526. District 5 Supervisor David Finigan was absent.
The bill is designed to offset the loss of funding connected with the Secure Rural Schools program, County Administrative Officer Jay Sarina told supervisors. Secure Rural Schools was created to offset the financial impact to rural communities from government limits placed on timber harvesting.
"This is in addition to the SRS continuing at some level," he said. "It appears they're attempting to get more active management on the forests to allow some of the more rural communities to see timber harvests. I do believe this is the start of the discussion."
Del Norte receives roughly $2.5 million a year in Secure Rural School funding with $1 million going toward road maintenance, District 3 Supervisor Mike Sullivan said in April. Because of the sequester - $85 billion in federal spending cuts that took effect in March - the federal government asked the county to pay 10 percent, or $37,000, back from its October allotment, according to Sarina.
Sullivan, Finigan and Sarina visited Washington, D.C., to meet with lawmakers to discuss the Secure Rural Schools program. Last week, Sullivan said he remembered a hearing held regarding how Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell was managing the forests.
"I think the forest fires we're dealing with right now are a perfect example of why they need to do something different than what is being done right now," Sullivan said. "And then you bring up the finances. We in this rural county, with this much timberland in it, to be in this kind of financial bind ... Things have to change."
HR 1526 is currently in front of the House of Representatives for consideration, according towww.govtrack.us.
The resolution coincides with another bill sponsored by Oregon Reps. Greg Walden, a Republican, and Democrats Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader. Their bill would put 1.6 million acres of forest land in Oregon into a trust managed by a state board aimed at producing higher timber harvests, according to the Associated Press.
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