The Ripon Forum

Volume 52, No. 6

December 2018

Empower, Don’t Impede, the Pioneering Spirit of the States

By on December 17, 2018

by JACKIE WINTERS

Oregon has long been known for her pioneering spirit. In fact, the Golden Pioneer sits atop our capitol building, symbolizing our ever forward mentality and paying homage to those who braved the long trek on the Oregon Trail to settle this great state so many years ago. But today, Oregon is often held back by federal policies that don’t allow us to move forward to do what is best for our state.

One such policy decision that greatly hindered Oregon was the decision to list the Northern Spotted Owl as a threatened species in the 1990’s. Since then, Oregon’s once thriving timber industry has been struggling. Communities that were once booming have deteriorated, and thousands of good paying jobs have been lost and not replaced. The decision made on a federal level had huge implications for Oregon’s economy, and promised assistance with job retraining and employment opportunities were never delivered. Oregon has struggled for years to recover from the impacts of one decision made thousands of miles from home.

Forest management has long been a topic of great debate, both on the state and federal levels. Over half of Oregon is owned by the federal government and, therefore, managed by the federal government. However, when fires spark on those lands and threaten our communities and wilderness, Oregon sends firefighters and equipment to battle the blazes. This comes with significant cost and requires Oregon to use resources that might be needed elsewhere in the state to fight fire on state lands. Because the Bureau of Land Management and other federal agencies have different forest management practices than Oregon, we cannot make progress towards curbing these fires.

Oregon has struggled for years to recover from the impacts of one decision made thousands of miles from home.

Every year the West burns, lives and natural resources are lost, and the beauty of our landscape changes. Effective forest management is a must-have discussion if we ever hope to stop these massive wildfires. If done correctly, forest management policies could also create good paying jobs for the thousands of Oregonians that have lost jobs due to the decline of the timber industry. This needs to be an equal partnership between state and federal agencies to ensure tangible outcomes, save lives, and preserve our lands.

States used to have more flexibility and were able to govern in a way that was appropriate for each unique state. Now, nothing is given without strings attached, and the guidelines and regulations that come along with federal grants hinder progress. What works for Salem, Massachusetts may not work for Salem, Oregon.

Now, nothing is given without strings attached, and the guidelines and regulations that come along with federal grants hinder progress.

What we need from Congress is less rhetoric and more results-driven conversation. Less partisan politics, and more working across the aisle to develop policy that truly benefits all. We need Congress to follow through on the promises it makes and support the communities that have been devastated due to federal policy change.

I have always believed that we do our best work when we care more about good outcomes than who gets the credit at the end of the day. It is time for Congress to allow states to let their pioneering spirits show.

Jackie Winters serves as Republican Leader of the Oregon State Senate.

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