County commissioners: No to habitat conservation plan

Linn County commissioners Roger Nyquist, Sherrie Sprenger and Will Tucker agreed Tuesday morning, April 11, to express concerns via letter to the Oregon Board of Forestry regarding a proposed habitat conservation plan.

According to the Tucker-drafted document, the proposed plan would “significantly reduce the volume of timber harvested on state lands, which will result in a reduction in jobs and timber harvest revenue in our community.”

The letter also indicated that Oregon counties in the 1930s and ’40s turned over nearly 700,000 acres of lands to be aggregated into what is called the state forest lands, with the intent that they be managed for the “greatest permanent value” of those properties. That meant sustainable timber sale programs.

“If implemented, this habitat conservation plan will reduce log supply, which jeopardizes entire communities and not just those which work directly in the forest sector,” Tucker wrote. “The cost associated with public services, education, housing, etc., will most likely increase during the 70-year HCP permit period. Reducing revenue that supports these services will greatly impact our life and the ability to deliver services.”

The letter also notes:

— The ODF used inaccurate numbers to project job losses in the environmental impact statement. It projected three job losses per million board feet not harvested, while private industry projected 11 to 12 jobs per million board feet.

— The Board of Forestry and Oregon Department of Forestry would be in direct conflict with the goal of forest management for the “greatest permanent value.”

— The Board of Forestry did not obtain input or approval from the Council of Forest Trust Land Counties.

— Wildfires are considered a “disturbance” in the environmental impact statement, but they are most severe in passively managed forests. Wildfires consume forests, kill wildlife, pollute the air and damage waterways.

— The northern spotted owl population has continued to decline since the 1990s, despite government agencies’ attempts to re-create their preferred habitat. The species cannot compete with the more aggressive barred owl.

In other business, the commissioners:

♦ Approved a $30,000 payment to the Regional Accelerator & Innovation Network (RAIN) after considerable discussion regarding its outreach and whether it has a significant effect on helping new businesses succeed or established businesses grow. Commissioner Nyquist wondered if potential start-up businesses truly understood the difficulty of creating small businesses in Oregon. Commissioners Sprenger and Tucker agreed, but added that the potential for local-job creation, especially in rural communities, outweighed some of the risk in funding their efforts.

♦ Were informed by Planning & Building Director Steve Wills that 62 land use permits and 261 total permits were issued in March. There were permits for eight single-family and one manufactured dwellings. Seven permits were issued within contract cities.

♦ Were told by Accounting Officer Bill Palmer that department heads and elected officials have been watching spending diligently, despite the county’s significant fund carryover from COVID-19 payments. Fund balances, he said, were “in very good shape.” Although the county is at 75% of the fiscal year, only 62% of the general fund has been expended; 36% of the road fund; 57% of the law enforcement levy; and 47% of the health fund. Personal services is at 67%, materials and supplies, 37% and capital outlay, almost 31%. As the county begins budget hearings for the 2023-24 fiscal year next month, the board agreed that the county was in a “glide pattern” as it developed budgets weaning off the state and federal COVID-19 monies.

– Alex Paul, Linn County Communications Officer