Editorial: Time again to renew county timber money

July 20, 2011

Below you can read Congressman Greg Walden's arguments - fortunately - in support of what have become known as "county payments." Those are the millions of dollars the federal government allocates to Oregon counties - as well as others across the nation - as compensation, in part, for drops in the federal timber harvest resulting from environmental restrictions.

The payments are part of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act, established in 2000 to help fund counties in the West (though the payments extend east of the Mississippi River) whose revenue was cut by the inability to collect taxes on timber harvests on nontaxable public lands. That's a mouthful, but essentially the money helps pay for county services.

The support is set to expire Sept. 30, so last week a House subcommittee pondered possible solutions to local governments - like Hood River County's - which are surrounded by federal forests. Those solutions ideally won't add to the nation's growing deficit.

A few Republicans have two easy fixes: soften environmental protections and increase the amount of timber harvested from federal forests. Both solutions have plenty of baggage and that's why Walden is proposing other ideas, some of which are listed below.

Walden's critics say he's playing both sides in calling for the shrinking of the federal government, while at the same time asking for "handouts." Walden knows many people in his district would love to be weaned off the federal trough. He also knows that's easier said than done, for example, when the government controls most of the land. That's why, as he argues below, some long-term, innovative solutions are in order.

Safety first

Temporary solution buys some time

As of Monday, Cascade Locks had one applicant interested in leading its volunteer fire fighters. As we argued in this space on Saturday, the city needs to appoint that applicant, Jeff Pricher, to head its fire department - if for the only reason to add some stability to its volunteer fire fighting force.

In the meantime, the city services committee, city council and recently hired city administrator can continue to map out a plan for the future of emergency services in the community. Most importantly, they can do so without unnecessary pressure from citizens worried about their safety.

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