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Natural Resources and Rural Development

Natural Resources and Rural Development

The Beaver State was built by Americans who relied on the land for their livelihood. Natural resource industries like farming, forestry, and salmon fishing remain integral to Oregon’s economy today.  Our state has also long been a destination for Americans looking to experience the great outdoors.  Oregon’s protected public lands provide valuable habitats, supply clean water, and generate jobs through sustainable harvests, recreation, and tourism. Preserving our natural resources and making smart decisions about economic development will help spur rural growth and ensure that future generations can enjoy Oregon’s wild places and public lands while putting people to work.

Protecting Oregon’s Natural Treasures

Oregon is known for its long history of conserving the natural resources that are the foundation of our economy.  From the historic land-use measures led by Governor Tom McCall to the public lands protections championed by Senator Mark Hatfield, the state has preserved our natural treasures and kept much of its land in working farms and forestry. 

Jeff has long been a leader in the conservation and preservation of Oregon’s natural areas.  As a U.S. Senator, Jeff’s very first vote was in favor of a public lands bill that creates new wilderness, wild and scenic rivers, and national recreation areas across Oregon. 

The 2009 public lands bill was historic in its scope: it provides protection for approximately 2 million acres across the country as wilderness, including nearly 200,000 acres in Oregon. The bill protects:

  • 127,000 acres on and around Mount Hood with wilderness designation and 34,000 acres as National Recreation Areas
  • 23,000 acres in the backcountry of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument with creation of the Soda Mountain Wilderness
  • 13,800 acres around the headwaters of the Elk River, known as the Copper Salmon Wilderness, where some of Oregon’s most plentiful coastal salmon runs occur
  • 8,600 acres near the John Day River as the Spring Basin Wilderness
  • 30,000 acres in the amazing Badlands recreational area just outside of Bend

Jeff believes we need to continue to protect the most pristine parts of our state. Unfortunately only 3.7 percent of our state is protected as wilderness, compared to 10 percent in Washington and 13 percent in California.  In addition, we need to protect the last remaining stands of old-growth forest in the state. These unique and amazing symbols of our state’s natural heritage are important to the state’s tourism and recreation industries and provide habitat for wildlife.

Jeff has cosponsored legislation to provide full and permanent appropriations for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), and he has championed the LWCF as a member of the powerful Appropriations Committee.  The LWCF has been the main source of funding for federal land and water acquisitions by federal agencies primarily for outdoor recreation, as well as for similar state-level programs.  Jeff knows that protecting and maintaining our public lands not only provides environmental and recreational benefits, but also creates jobs in the tourism, recreation, timber, fishing, and other natural resource sectors.

Oregon’s Natural Resource Economy

Jeff grew up the son of a sawmill worker in Myrtle Creek and Roseburg, Oregon, communities supported by Oregon’s natural resources. 

Oregon’s forests provide jobs in the state’s important timber and forestry products industries, and Oregon also gains jobs and economic value from protected areas of our forests. 

Jeff believes that we need to keep creating jobs in Oregon’s forests and has worked to create healthy forest-based economies at the same time we work to create healthy forests. Jeff believes that the key to moving beyond divisive natural resources debates of the past lies in seeing economic development and sustainability as goals that can mutually reinforce each other and in bringing community stakeholders together to collaborate on sustainable economic development. There are opportunities to create jobs sustainably harvesting forest products, jobs thinning forests to reduce dangerous build-up of small brush that puts communities at risk of forest fire, and jobs harvesting and processing waste material from forestry and thinning operations for conversion to biomass energy.

Communities across the state are employing the Oregon tradition of working together to come up with collaborative solutions, and they are putting together economic development projects and strategies that create jobs in the woods, create benefits for the community and the environment, and keep natural resource management out of the courts.

Many rural areas have historically depended on federal timber payments as a source of revenue to fund schools and local services and Jeff is dedicated to finding sustainable long-term solutions for these communities. 

Jeff believes that greater use of biomass energy can be one strategy for sustainable economic development in forest communities.  As Oregon’s Senator, Jeff has led efforts to open new opportunities to expand biomass as a renewable energy source. Jeff has proposed legislation to allow biomass from public lands to qualify for the current Renewable Fuels program and make sure that biomass is eligible for renewable electricity and climate change programs. 

Jeff also wants to help ensure a vital future for Oregon’s historic fishing industry. He supports science-based efforts to restore Oregon’s wild salmon runs, particularly in the Klamath and Columbia-Snake river systems. He also supports making sure Oregon fishermen get the disaster assistance they need when poor runs from rivers like the Sacramento mean there are not enough fish off the Oregon coast to be fished sustainably.

Collaborative Solutions

Jeff believes that tough natural resources issues can be solved by bringing people together to find a common solution.

For decades, tribes, farmers, ranchers, fishermen, conservationists, and state and federal agencies have struggled to resolve conflicts over water and natural resources in the Klamath Basin. These parties have moved beyond their long-standing disputes and worked together to develop solutions that will provide a sustainable agriculture economy and restore one of the most important ecosystems on the West Coast.  Jeff has continually worked to bring people together on this issue and has traveled throughout the Klamath Basin listening to stakeholders on all sides.   Jeff was the first federal official to endorse the Klamath Basin restoration agreements and is committed to working with the stakeholders in the basin and the regional delegation to advance legislation implementing these historic agreements.  The agreements seek to advance and restore populations of salmon and other fish; establish reliable water and power supplies to sustain the area’s farmers and ranchers, as well as local economies and the Klamath National Wildlife Refuge; and give the Klamath Tribes the means to achieve economic viability.

Jeff also worked extensively with a broad coalition of stakeholders in Central Oregon to reach an agreement on a decades-long dispute over how to manage the Bowman Dam.  After years of negotiations, the stakeholders came to an agreement to support the Crooked River Collaborative Water Security Act, which Jeff introduced and is now working to get passed through Congress.   This legislation would provide a framework for improving the management of water in the Crooked River while creating opportunities for economic growth and new jobs in central Oregon.  

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