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Oregon timber counties to get $1.4 million in federal payments


ROSEBURG, Ore. (AP) – Western Oregon counties that rely on logging revenue will receive nearly $1.4 million that has been withheld by the federal government due to sequestration.

The Association of O&C Counties — commonly called the “timber counties” — said Thursday the counties will see the funds soon.

The 18 counties have received a share of timber receipts from logging on 2.1 million acres to compensate them for the loss of revenue when the U.S. Bureau of Land Management took over the acreage.

But nearly 7 percent of those timber receipts were withheld in 2016 because of a government-wide mandate to cut federal spending.

The cuts — called sequestration — happen when U.S. government spending exceeds certain caps.

The counties have struggled from a sharp decline in logging over the past several decades.

News release from the Interior Department:

Secretary Zinke Sends Nearly $20 Million in Timber Dollars to Rural Oregon, Doubles Down on Commitment to Future Harvests

WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced today that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will issue payments totaling $19.5 million to 18 counties in western Oregon, which includes $1.4 million previously sequestered funds. Under the previous administration, the sequestered funds were not scheduled to be disbursed to the counties however after working with the counties and the Office of Management and Budget, the Secretary was able to deliver the full funding.

“O&C lands were specifically set aside for sustainable timber harvests and they are an important part of the economic foundation of western Oregon,” said Secretary Zinke. “Working with the county officials we were able to get these much-needed funds to the local communities, but my next priority is ensuring that these lands continue to provide sustainable timber harvests that support the community and strengthen the health of the forest.”

“We are happy to report the 18 O&C Counties will receive these disbursements, including those withheld payments, very soon,” said Commissioner Tim Freeman of Douglas County, the Association of O&C Counties’ President. “We give full credit to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke​ for his willingness to work with us to persuade OMB to release these sequestered funds. We are also grateful to Congressman Walden for his assistance in facilitating communications between the Association and the Department of the Interior. Every County will use these much-needed funds for vital services according to their local priorities, from public safety and juvenile programs to elections departments and infrastructure maintenance, and everything in between.”

“The announcement that our communities will receive the full timber receipts payments they are owed under the law is great news​,” said Chairman Greg Walden. “​These resources will be critical to funding essential county services from law enforcement and emergency operations to schools and infrastructure projects. I want to especially thank Secretary Zinke and his team for working so closely with the O&C counties to ensure these funds are disbursed, and for their continued commitment to improving forest management and supporting our local communities in southern Oregon.”

Located in 18 counties of western Oregon, the Oregon and California Railroad Lands comprise nearly 2.6 million acres of forests that is managed by the BLM. The 18 O&C counties receive yearly payments under the O&C Act equal to 50 percent of receipts from timber harvested on public lands in these counties. These payments follow a formula established in the 1937 Oregon and California Lands Act, which authorizes timber receipt-based payments to western Oregon counties, and which remains in effect following the expiration of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act.

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