Threats from environmental groups over the fate of a U.S. House of Representatives bill that would expand logging on some of Oregon’s 2.4 million acres of former Oregon & California Railroad Company lands now held by the federal government were bad enough. Now the Obama administration has poured metaphorical salt in that wound by threatening to veto the bill in its current form.
The president’s Office of Management and Budget argues that passage of the bill, which covers timberland across the federal system, would result in an unacceptable loss of federal control over its own property. Too, the OMB says, the measure would undermine some environmental laws.
But that cannot be the end of the matter. Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat, is working to create a somewhat different Senate version of the House bill, and he hopes to come up with one that can make it through both houses of Congress. Doing so will require compromise both from the Democratically controlled Senate and from Republican members of the House.
That compromise needs to happen. The hardest hit of the O&C counties are in such dire financial straits that the Oregon Legislature approved a bailout plan for them earlier this year. Meanwhile, unemployment rates in O&C counties Curry, Klamath and Josephine, are among the state’s highest — all over 10 percent as compared with a national rate of 7.3 percent.
The administration must not ignore those facts, and Congress must assure that it needn’t do so.