Congress is moving with possibly extending federal payments to rural timber counties – including those in Oregon, Idaho and Washington – but even if the money comes, it would fall far short of what’s needed to stave off cuts at the local level.
The House last week passed a short-term extension of transportation funding, raising the possibility it could be melded with a Senate version that has an amendment extending hundreds of millions of dollars to timber counties for one more year. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden’s office said as long as no one in the House actively opposes it, county payments should be in the final bill.
Timber counties across the country have been getting a subsidy since 2000 to make up for reductions in their share of federal timber revenues that plummeted when logging on national forests was cut more than 80 percent to protect habitat for fish and wildlife. The subsidies have now run out.
The Senate measure would distribute $346 million to 700 counties in 41 states. It represents a 5 percent reduction in the 2011 payments under the Secure Rural Schools Act and the Payment In Lieu of Taxes program. (AP)