EDITOR’S NOTE: This letter to the editor is referring to the Oregon Supreme Court’s decision to not hear an appeal for the Linn County case (and 12 other counties, including Tillamook that “signed on” to the lawsuit) against the Oregon Dept. of Forestry; Oregon Supreme Court won’t hear appeal of $1B timber verdict – The denial affirms a lower court decision saying the “greatest permanent value” of Oregon forests is more than just timber revenue. Here is OPB’s article that provides more details. https://www.opb.org/article/2022/09/16/linn-county-timber-oregon-supreme-court/
For years, Tillamook County Commissioners and timber companies opined about the existence of a contract between the county and the state to maximize timber revenue on state forest lands to the exclusion of other permanent values such as water, animals, and recreation. The Oregon Court of Appeals ruled recently that no such contract exits, never has, and directed the county’s case to be dismissed. When the counties appealed, the Oregon Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal, making it clear that once the case got before legal scholars, there was no case.
This puts to rest this effort by timber profiteers, and it shows the hypocrisy and greed by which they operate. David Yamamoto and timber advocates lament that the decision will have devastating economic effects on rural communities. So why don’t they support restoring the timber severance tax so rural counties can address the devastating impacts of timber harvesting? Why not tax timber profits so those that bear the costs of logging in our communities are compensated? We used to!
Blaming the decision on liberal judges, Salem and a rural/urban divide is false. The divides are actually between those who profit from more and more timber cutting, and those who want and need state forest lands for other things. Urban areas are not part of this except to the extent they know that community resources like water, air and public lands need to be managed for everyone, not one industry. Thank goodness, we have laws on the books, and judges able to apply them regardless of political deceptions. Maybe a public trust doctrine is coming to life to help us protect our living essentials.
I’m sorry that county taxpayers spent money on this far-fetched lawsuit, and that Tillamook County Commissioners went along with it. It was always a loser, legally and economically. It does show that if we want to protect our drinking water, air, and places of recreation, we can’t count on our current county commissioners. Given existing political gridlocks, our only hope is for the court of public opinion to issue common sense ballot measures to address our water and air, and our right to tax timber profits to help offset the devastation caused by today’s industrial logging practices in our coastal communities.
Let the People vote!
Ron Byers Tillamook