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Environment, Energy and Transportation

Bill Would Bar Lobbying With Funds Meant To Help Timber Counties

douglas_county_courthouse__douglas_county__oregon_scenic_images___douda0055_.jpg
Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives via Wikimedia Commons
The Douglas County Courthouse in Roseburg, OR., which houses the offices of the Board of County Commissioners.

Douglas County commissioners have been flying to Washington D.C. to push for more logging on federal lands in the county. They’ve been paying for those trips with federal funds meant to help replace county revenue that once came from timber sales. Now, Oregon’s senators have introduced a bill that would curb that practice. 

As federal timber sales have dwindled in recent years, counties containing a lot of non-taxable federal land have struggled to provide schools, roads and other basic public services. The federal funding known as Secure Rural Schools is meant to replace some of the money those counties used to get from timber sales.

In Douglas County, more than half of which is federal land, commissioners have been taking trips to lobby top federal officials for increased timber harvests. The Oregonian reports they’ve so far spent at least $43,000 of Secure Rural Schools money on that effort.

Now, Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley want to prohibit using that funding for lobbying. They say it’s misuse of a vital economic lifeline for hard-hit rural counties.

The Douglas County Commissioners did not return calls for comment. In the past they’ve defended using those funds as “educational” spending, which is allowed.