Forestry budget 'exceeds our expectations,' official says
Industry, ODF officials tout stewardship program
By MITCH LIES
SALEM -- Private foresters will have more access to stewardship advice under an Oregon Department of Forestry budget adopted by a legislative committee.
The budget, which the joint Ways and Means Committee moved June 3 to the House floor, adds 21 positions in the department's private forest program.
The department currently has 80 in the program.
It also maintains the department's 30 stewardship foresters, who work with landowners to ensure compliance with Oregon's Forest Practices Act.
The budget was warmly received by the Oregon Small Woodlands Association, whose members rely heavily on the department to help in forest management decisions.
"It appears really good," said Roger Beyer, who lobbies for the association.
Large, commercial foresters also spoke highly of the legislative decision to boost the department's private forest program.
"I think it is a benefit to not just the industry, but to the state in general," said Jake Gibbs, director of external affairs for Lone Rock Timber Management Co. in Roseburg, Ore. "It is in everyone's best interest to have those professionals out there ensuring the rules are being enforced and interpreted correctly."
The $292 million Forestry Department budget includes a provision maintaining the existing 50-50 split between private forest owners and the state in funding based firefighting costs.
Gov. John Kitzhaber earlier proposed changing the formula to 55-45, with landowners responsible for 55 percent of the costs.
And the budget includes a note directing the department to monitor private foresters compliance in meeting the conservation goals of the Oregon Forest Practices Act.
In all, lawmakers put just under $48 million in general funds into the budget and nearly $200 million in "other funds." Other funds include revenue generated primarily from timber sales and the forest products harvest tax.
The budget eliminates 56 currently vacant positions, and is $36 million below the $328 million lawmakers approved for the agency at the start of the 2009-11 biennium.
But department officials said they are pleased.
"I'm simultaneously humbled and elated," said Doug Decker, director of the department.