Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Small-town government run amok (Part V): Douglas County, Oregon can't afford a single library site but spends federal dollars to lobby for timber interests

story in today's Oregonian newspaper is headlined:  "Struggling Oregon county spent safety net money on pro-timber video, animal trapping."  The story is about Douglas County, Oregon, the fiscal travails of which I the New York Times wrote about here.  (I've written about the economic travails of rural Oregon here, here, here, and here, and wrote a travelogue that passed through Douglas County here).  The consequences of fiscal trauma in Douglas County include, most recently, the closure of all of the county's library branches.  Now, the Oregonian reveals, the Douglas County Commissioners have spent $250,000 in federal "Secure Rural Schools" money (meant to compensate counties for the loss of revenue from timber harvesting) over the past two years to make pro-timber industry videos, and they've spent an addition $240,000 to support the organization that made the videos, the opaquely named "Communities for Healthy Forests."  Here's an excerpt from the story by Rob Davis.
The Douglas County commission's spending raises questions about a federal program called Secure Rural Schools, which has suffered from a lack of oversight since it was co-authored in 2000 by Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat. 
The program gives counties part of what they once earned from logging on federal land before endangered species listings curtailed the harvest. Oregon has received $3 billion, more than any other state. 
Most of the federal money goes to roads and schools. But counties have wider leeway over a portion known as Title III, which was funded at $14.3 million nationally in 2015.
Don't miss the full story, which also includes this nugget.
[Douglas County] gave $71,000 to Wildlife Services, a federal animal trapping agency, for work that included killing bears and porcupines on public and private timber land. The animals eat the inner bark of Douglas fir, damaging timber crops.

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