By MITCH LIES
Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber has convened a group of conservationists, county officials and forest product industry representatives to develop recommendations for managing the so-called O&C lands within the state.
Oregon and California Railroad Revested Lands, known as O&C Lands, include 2.6 million acres of forested lands in 18 Western Oregon counties.
Kitzhaber asked the group to build on existing proposals and develop recommendations that help counties improve financial stability, ensure adequate sources of timber for local mills and jobs, and meet Oregon's water and land conservation goals.
"We're not under any illusion that this will be easy," Kitzhaber said. "But the human and environmental costs of the status quo are unacceptable, and Oregonians have shown time and again their ability to come together to solve difficult problems."
Earlier this year, Reps. Kurt Schrader and Peter DeFazio, both D-Ore., and Greg Walden, R-Ore., floated a proposal to set aside a little over 1 million acres of O&C Lands for conservation and set up a trust to manage the remaining acreage for timber production.
The proposal has yet to come before a committee.
The governor-convened group includes four county commissioners, four forest products industry representatives and six members identified as conservationists. Environmental activist Andy Kerr refused to join the group, saying the starting point was unacceptable because it allowed clear cutting on federal forests.
Kitzhaber said he expects the group to craft a proposal to take to Oregon's congressional delegation in early 2013.
Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., in a press release, applauded Kitzhaber's efforts.
"I applaud the governor's effort to bring together Oregonians to help find a way to preserve our rural communities, get people back to work sustainably harvesting and milling timber, and protect Oregon's forests for future generations," Merkley said.