EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) - With Lane County struggling to develop a sustainable budget, along with dozens of others across Oregon, Senator Ron Wyden spoke Thursday about what his short-term and long-term plans look like for the Beaver state.
Senator Wyden wrote the "Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act" in 2002. He has also reauthorized it multiple times over the years. The act guaranteed funds to rural counties that used to benefit from logging on federal land. The bill expired, however, as did the timber payments, leaving those rural counties in a crunch.
Senator Wyden told NewsSource 16 it's obvious now in 2012 that there needs to be an entirely new plan of action.
"One, we need to get people back into the woods," he explained. "I'm going to keep pushing the natural resource agencies to let us get back in the woods and expedite some of these sales. Also, Oregon has to be in a position to build alliances with other parts of the country."
Senator Wyden said such alliances would help him get such a hands-on plan through the senate and quickly.
In 2012, a majority of Oregon counties received about 95% of the funding they did in 2011. However, because of a hurting economy, there is a higher demand for more. Lane County, for example, had to cut around $15 million dollars from its general fund budget. It left the county with significant cuts across the board in law enforcement, jail beds and more. Douglas, Josephine and a number of other Oregon counties are in the same boat, asking for help with a long-term solution.
Senator Wyden said the short-term plan would be to push the idea that a healthy forest is a healthy economy. Because the Pacific Northwest is one of the few thus far without destructive wildfires blazing about, he believes the timber load needs to be taken advantage of and soon.
"We need to get in there and take opportunity of the overstock stands," he said.
Furthermore, doing so would likely help decrease the chances for a worse situation later.
Senator Wyden explained when he returns to Washington, he will encourage others to help stand up for Oregon and get people back to work in the timber lands.