A majority of Oregon voters favor protections for the so-called O & C forest lands in Western Oregon. That’s according to a new poll commissioned by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
The O & C is a patchwork of federal forest land in Western Oregon, named for the Oregon & California Railroad that once owned it. Today the land is composed of a broad range of forest types, from third-growth tree plantations to a stand with the tallest Douglas fir tree in the world. The lands have become a focus of the debate over federal forest management in Oregon.
Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber has called for increased logging on the O&C lands to generate revenue for depressed timber counties, and U.S. Reps. Peter DeFazio, Greg Walden, and Kurt Schrader have introduced a bill that would place some of the O&C lands in a trust managed for timber harvest to produce revenue for counties.
The poll asked 500 likely voters which of two plans for the O & C forests they preferred. The first plan limited logging to 20 percent of the forest and raised $40 million for counties. It was modeled after an ecological timber sale approach developed by professors Jerry Franklin and Norm Johnson, and promoted by former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
The second plan allowed logging on 60 percent of the forest and raised 165 million dollars, similar to the O & C timber trust bill.
By a 2-to-1 margin, Oregonians preferred the plan with less logging.
“You see it across almost all the demographics. Men, women, all of our congressional districts, self identified party affiliations,” said Nicole Cordan a U.S. public lands officer with the Pew Charitable Trusts Environmental Initiatives.
The Pew poll also found that voters’ top management priority for the O&C forests was protecting old-growth forests, bodies of water, and the wildlife that live there.