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Oregon Forest Resources Institute Sees Major Changes
More “Environmental Justice“

Passed out of committee on party lines, HB 2357 will strip the budget authority of Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI) to 33 percent and silence them from using funds to educate the public related to forest practices, including the adequacy or effectiveness of any particular forest practice. They also cannot expend funds on educational materials, trainings, tours or other outreach that does not include an environmental conservation perspective, or to influence legislation or rule-making. So, regardless of the science or best practices, if it doesn’t support the Governor’s climate change conservation perspective, OFRI shall remain silent.

The Oregon Forest Resources Institute was created in 1991 to advance public understanding of forests, forest management and forest products and to encourage sound forestry through landowner education. Intended as an advocate for the timber industry, HB 2357A removes OFRI board’s representation of the timber industry as the authority that establishes the privilege tax rate and replaces it with the State Board of Forestry. The decisions for the timber industry moves from a 13-member board of stakeholders to a seven-member citizen board of which three must have income from forest products.

Oregon’s timber industry took a big hit in 2009 that took four years to peak just short of 2004 harvest levels. However, the number of wood processing facilities continue to decline. OFRI identifies as a centralized gateway of shared ideas and collaborative dialogue regarding the delicate balance between the environmental, social and economic values provided by our forests. However, last year the Oregonian/OregonLive, OPB and ProPublica Local Reporting Network reported that OFRI was in opposition to the university climate research and questioned relationships with lobbying groups. The Governor requested an audit pointing to public records and media reports that “allege a variety of statutory and ethical concerns.”

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

Erin Isselmann, OFRI’s executive director, responded in an email that the institute welcomes the audit from the secretary of state. “We look forward to working with the audit team and learning from their analysis and recommendations.” She has previously said that, under her leadership, the institute has operated “under the highest ethical standards.”

Not wanting to wait for an audit, Representative Andrea Salinas (D-Lake Oswego), Representative Paul Holvey (D-Eugene) and Senator Jeff Golden (D-Ashland) introduced HB 2357A, which puts Oregon Forest Resources Institute under a magnifying glass requiring they record all interactions with elected officials, boards and commissions and agencies, and report a summary to the Governor posting it on their website.

And what happens to the other 66 percent of the privilege tax? HB 2357A establishes the Sound Forestry Practices Sub-account assigned to promote forest health, and the Family Forest-lands Sub-account to provide community support for small forest owners. The allocation of revenue from privilege tax will deposit 50% to Sound Forestry Practices Sub-account, 17% to Family Forest-lands Sub-account, and the 33% to OFRI Fund.

The question remains as to where this will leave our struggling timber industry when their own stakeholder board can’t advocate for them and their best practices?


--Donna Bleiler

Post Date: 2021-05-08 04:40:30Last Update: 2021-05-08 05:27:26



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