The owls and the tree huggers weren’t to blame after all (surprise, surprise):
“Big Money Bought Oregon’s Forests. Small Timber Communities Are Paying The Price,” by Tony Schick, The Oregonian and Lylla Younes, ProPublica, and OPB, June 11, 2020:
“…. For decades, politicians, suit-and-tie timber executives and caulk-booted tree fallers alike have blamed the federal government and urban environmental advocates for kneecapping the state’s most important industry.
Timber sales plummeted in the 1990s after the federal government dramatically reduced logging in national forests in response to protests and lawsuits to protect the northern spotted owl under the Endangered Species Act and other conservation laws. The drop left thousands of Oregonians without jobs, and counties lost hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue.
But the singularly focused narrative, the only one most Oregonians know, masked another devastating shift for towns like Falls City.
Wall Street real estate trusts and investment funds began gaining control over the state’s private forestlands. They profited at the expense of rural communities by logging more aggressively with fewer environmental protections than in neighboring states, while reaping the benefits of timber tax cuts that have cost counties at least $3 billion in the past three decades, an investigation by OPB, The Oregonian/OregonLive and ProPublica found….
Half of the 18 counties in Oregon’s timber-dominant region lost more money from tax cuts on private forests than from the reduction of logging on federal lands, the investigation shows.
Private timber owners used to pay what was known as a severance tax, which was based on the value of the trees they logged. But the tax, which helped fund schools and local governments, was eliminated for all but the smallest timber owners, who can choose to pay it as a means to further reduce annual property taxes….” [Link to full article at OPB.]