The Key to Rural Recovery Is in Forest Management

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), February 9, 2014 | Go to article overview

The Key to Rural Recovery Is in Forest Management


Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Bill Kluting

If his Feb. 2 guest viewpoint is any indication, Ernie Niemi has exhausted his remaining arguments against Oregon's forest sector economy.

Niemi has been a vocal opponent of bipartisan efforts to create more rural jobs in the woods, in the mills and in many small businesses that benefit from a healthy forest products industry. With his environmental and economic research largely refuted, it's unfortunate to see his Occupy-style rhetoric against those who continue to offer well-paying jobs in Oregon's rural, forested communities.

Many of Oregon's rural communities have higher rates of unemployment compared to urban centers such as Portland and Eugene.

With fewer economic opportunities available, state economists find that more families are leaving rural communities for the cities. As a result, the rural population is aging and the rural economy is more dependent on transfer payments and service-based industries.

The Oregon Business Plan points out that the state's underperformance on jobs and income also shows up in an elevated poverty rate. At 17.2 percent, Oregon's rate is above the U.S. average and well above the goal of reducing poverty to 10 percent. In Eastern Oregon, one in five people live in poverty.

Are we satisfied with a rural Oregon where families are leaving and not coming back? Are we satisfied with an economy that produces only low-paying, seasonal jobs? Do we want a rural population that lives in poverty?

Oregon's rural communities need economic opportunity to recover and thrive. Fortunately, most Oregonians understand that sustainably increasing federal timber harvests is a major solution to creating jobs, restoring healthy and fire-resilient forests, and breaking the cycle of rural poverty.

The decline of forest sector businesses and jobs is a direct result of the dramatic decline of timber harvests where the federal government is the predominant landowner. …

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