Budget crunch plays into forester resignation
Brown leaves after seven years; board looks for replacement
By MITCH LIES
Oregon logging interests believe the Oregon Board of Forestry's decision last month to ask for the resignation of State Forester Marvin Brown was based in large part on the economy.
"I think he was collateral damage from the budget crunch the agency has been under," said Jim Geisinger, executive vice president of Associated Oregon Loggers.
"You can argue whether he advocated strongly enough for general fund dollars," Geisinger said, "but the fact is, the Legislature has been cutting the budget for the Oregon Department of Forestry the past few sessions."
Brown resigned Oct. 19 after seven years as state forester. The board appointed long-time agency official Nancy Hirsch as acting state forester. Hirsch most recently served as state forests division chief.
The Forestry Board in a statement explaining its decision, cited "a need for new leadership in addressing challenging issues, and in maintaining working relationships and seeking common ground among groups with historically competing interests."
As agencies compete for a shrinking pool of general fund dollars, getting environmentalists and the logging industry on the same page would be a big step toward generating legislative support for budget requests, said Ray Wilkeson, president of the Oregon Forest Industries Council.
But given the differences between the two camps, Wilkeson doubts that can happen any time soon.
"I think Marvin Brown tried to make that happen," Wilkeson said. "It didn't, and I don't think it is going to happen."
Wilkeson said forest landowners have and will continue "to do everything we can to get the best out of the budget."
But, he said, forest landowners will oppose any efforts to increase their taxes.
"We pay 40 percent (of the costs to administer Forest Practices Act) already," Wilkeson said. "We will continue to pay 40 percent without squawking."
When asked what he was looking for in the next state forester, Wilkeson said someone who focuses on the three major functions of the department: Managing state forests, putting out forest fires and administering the Oregon Forest Practices Act.
"All three are important, not only to the forest industry but to the state as a whole," Wilkeson said.
"I think we need someone who advocates for the practice of forestry in Oregon," Geisinger said. "Sixty percent of the forests in Oregon are owned by the federal government and the state has felt like it can't influence policy on that land."
"I think they can with the right leader," he said.
The board hopes to have a new state forester in place early in 2011, agency spokesman Dan Postrel said.