Fight for timber funds continues, Merkley tells crowd at town hall

Getting timber payments into President Barack Obama’s proposed budget is a good first step, but the fight’s not over, Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., told people who gathered Saturday at North Bend City Hall.

Obama’s inclusion of $328 million for the first five years is a ‘small step,” Merkley said.
The fight to keep the payments in the budget will not be easy, he said, and all of Oregon’s congressional delegation must work together.

Besides pushing for the timber payments, Merkley said Congress must examine options to create a sustainable payment base.

‘We’ve got to look at all options on that front.”

Some options include creating a trust for the environmentally more sensitive lands and then creating a system to manage the rest, he said.

Biomass benefits

Merkley also said he’s working to change the way people view biomass.

‘I’m a huge advocate of biomass,” he said.

Progress is being made to change how it is viewed, he said.

Merkley said he hopes to decrease dependence on foreign oil, but he opposes drilling off the Oregon Coast. The small amount of oil located there isn’t worth the risk to fisheries and the tourism industry, he said.

However, biomass could be part of the solution, he said.

Also, the creating a market for biomass would help forest health, he said. People could afford thinning second-growth timber if it were profitable, he said.

To spur growth in the housing sector also would help the timber industry, he said.

Creating programs to help homeowners make energy-efficient renovations will create jobs, Merkley said. Such work can’t be shipped overseas, he added.