By Andrew Kaza of Manzanita, Oregon. Andrew Kaza is a homeowner and resident in Manzanita, near the Tillamook & Clatsop county lines, and ran for US Congress as a progressive challenger to Congresswoman Darlene Hooley in the May 2004 Democratic primary.
Progressives flocking to support Measure 34, the so-called "50-50" plan to save the Tillamook Forest, should have another look.
While well intentioned, Measure 34 is highly flawed. Its passage would gut funding for local schools and government in some of Oregon's most impoverished communities.
No, not Seaside, Cannon Beach or Manzanita where I live. But rural burgs like Cloverdale, Hebo and Garibaldi will be hardest hit. Maybe that’s why measure 34 is one of the first issues I’ve seen in years that has united Democrats and Republicans across Clatsop and Tillamook Counties. County commissioners, state legislators and candidates alike are lining up in clear opposition
Yes, 34 will save the forest...but at what price? It imposes a "solution by ballot box" that is a violation of a decades-old agreement by which the counties (Tillamook and Clatsop) originally deeded these lands to the state as a "public trust." Before tearing up that contract, supporters should think long and hard about the havoc that may be wrought.
I confess to being an original fan of the plan to "save the Tillamook rain forest". But that was before I knew all the facts.
The additional "facts" are plain: the 50/50 plan does not dedicate funding to the local schools in Clatsop and Tillamook Counties (it doesn't even define the word "local"). What it will do is increase funding to the Oregon Common School Fund...and the "estimate of financial impact" in the Voters Pamphlet makes it clear that local governments can expect a decrease of $17-19 million a year!
Maybe that's why, with the exception of a small band of sport fishermen, Measure 34 is almost universally reviled in Clatsop and Tillamook counties (and probably most other rural Oregon counties). Despite my constant pleas to the backers of the measure from over a year ago, serious attempts to win support here on the coast have been sorely lacking (likewise, with organized labor, as one of your other posters pointed out).
Environmentalists have reason to be concerned. But instead of passing 34, the Green community should press the Governor for a full-scale replacement of the state Forestry Board. Its seeming neglect of current sensitivities and possible abuses of the current forest management plan are serious issues.
But the current management plan is one of those rare documents that was five years in the making, included nearly every important stakeholder and ultimately pleased nobody (typically a sign of good, reasonable legislation). It should be given some time to work.
However, time is the most precious commodity that will be lost to the rural counties most affected by 34. If it passes, timber sales will be frozen, the legality of the measure no doubt tied up in knots in the legal system for years; meanwhile, county budgets will be gutted. No amount of increase in tourism or sport fishing in the next several years can begin to make up this shortfall.
Until backers have come up with a reasonable plan to replace these revenues, with buy-in from the entire state, it is not prudent to scrap the current management of these forests. Whether one agrees with the legacy or not, one has to respect its impact. For many years now, Tillamook and Clatsop counties have depended on the forests for jobs and tax revenues.
To go "cold turkey" now would have devastating effects.
It’s plain that passage of measure 34 turns the rural and urban divide into an absolute chasm. It's time for metro-area progressives to listen to their rural brethren and foster solutions that are less divisive.
The Tillamook and Clatsop state forests are ancient forest systems (with next to no "old growth") and have survived thousands of years. They can survive the failure of Measure 34. But coastal communities and fellow progressives in them may not survive its passage.