AP NEWS

Timber interests propose pro-logging initiatives

November 8, 2019 GMT

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A group of retired foresters backed by the timber industry filed three initiative petitions this week looking to counter what they say are “radical anti-forestry ballot initiatives being pursued by environmental extremists.”

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports the measures would give Oregon counties and the wood products industry more control over how members on the state Board of Forestry are selected.

They would amend the state constitution, requiring the state to fully compensate woodland owners for any new regulations that limited their ability to log, such as expanded stream buffers. And they would require that the forestry board use “non-biased” and “peer reviewed science” to come up with consensus-based policies.

Jim James, a forestry consultant and executive director of the Oregon Small Woodlands Association, is one of the chief petitioners. He said he was not acting on behalf of the association, though it is mentioned in the initiative petitions. The Oregon Forest Industries Council, a timber industry trade group, is serving as treasurer of the campaigns.

Environmental groups filed three ballot measures earlier this year to tighten aerial herbicide spraying rules, increase forest stream buffers, prohibit logging in steep, landslide-prone areas, and prohibit conflicts of interest for state forestry board appointees.

Secretary of State Bev Clarno rejected all three petitions, saying they violated rules that prohibit measures that address more than a single policy topic. Environmental groups are taking her to court over that decision, but have since filed new versions of the petitions that they claim address Clarno’s concerns.

Now the forestry groups have filed their own countermeasures.

The dueling ballot measures go the heart of the timber tug of war that has been playing out in Oregon for four decades. Once centered on the shutdown of federal forests over endangered species concerns, the divide over policies also spread to private and state forests. Indeed, that partisan divide could become a deciding factor in how the legislative session plays out next year, with likely battles over climate change policies and wildfire funding.