ROSEBURG — Financially strapped counties in Western Oregon that rely on logging revenue will receive nearly $1.4 million that had been withheld by the federal government due to budget caps, authorities said Thursday.
The Association of O&C Counties — commonly called the “timber counties” — said Thursday the counties will see the funds soon.
The 18 counties customarily receive a share of timber receipts from logging on 2.1 million acres to compensate them for the loss of revenue when the U.S. Bureau of Land Management took over the acreage. But nearly 7 percent was withheld in 2016 because of a government-wide mandate to cut federal spending by 6.9 percent.
“When we received our timber payments in January for fiscal year 2016, we were shocked to find they were short by 6.9 percent,” said Douglas County Commissioner Tim Freeman. “Our budgets are already under terrible pressure, and the sequestration made a bad situation even worse.”
The cuts happen when U.S. government spending exceeds certain budget caps.
The counties have struggled from a sharp decline in logging over the past several decades. Douglas County was even forced to close its libraries this year because of lack of public funds.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Thursday the BLM will issue payments totaling $19.5 million to the 18 counties, including the $1.4 million.
“My next priority is ensuring that these lands continue to provide sustainable timber harvests that support the community and strengthen the health of the forest,” Zinke said.
Freeman, who is president of the Association of O&C Counties, credited Zinke for working with the association to persuade the Office of Management and Budget to release the sequestered funds.
U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, said the money “will be critical to funding essential county services from law enforcement and emergency operations to schools and infrastructure projects.”