Merkley Joins Effort to Restore Forest Health and Create Jobs in Rural Oregon

– Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley announced today that he is co-sponsoring Senator Wyden’s Oregon Forest Restoration and Old Growth Protection Act of 2009.  The legislation, forged by Senator Wyden, representatives from Oregon’s timber industry and conservation groups, will promote sustainable forest thinning practices in Central and Eastern Oregon while protecting old growth.

“We must move forward on the agreement made to end the longstanding dispute between Oregon’s timber industry and conservation advocates,” said Merkley.  “Senator Wyden deserves enormous credit for pulling together a consensus approach that will put folks to work in our forests using responsible thinning practices.  This bill will help bring jobs to rural Oregonians and protect local communities from the threat of wildfire while also safeguarding Oregon’s treasured old growth forests.”

The legislation would require the Forest Service to work at landscape scales and identify areas that are in need of restoration and develop a responsible harvest plan to support local mills and create jobs.  The plan would be developed over three years, in collaboration with the timber industry, conservation representatives and a scientific panel.  The bill also establishes protections for large trees and in addition, directs the Forest Service to develop experimental projects to protect trees above 150 years of age.