One word sums up the reaction across Oregon to the news that funding for the timber counties was dropped from a federal spending bill: frustration.

“I’m very disappointed,” House Republican Leader Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte, said. “It seems quite disingenuous that the federal government, which is an absentee landlord, would add insult to injury by denying us the income our counties depend on.”

Since its passage in 2000, the Secure Rural Schools Act has compensated Oregon’s timber dependent counties for environmental regulations that severely restrict logging on federal forestlands. However, support appears to have dwindled. The payments given to rural counties have dwindled, and Congress has repeatedly struggled to renew the program.

“For many counties it’s devastating, understandably, because it makes up a significant part of their general fund budget,” said Doug Robertson, a former Douglas County Commissioner and spokesman for the Association of O&C Counties. “It’s a critical issue for us.”

In Josephine County, the situation is far more dire. “We may have to shut our jail down in July,” Sen. Herman Baertschiger, R-Grants Pass, said. “We are a natural resource community, and our ability to have an economy based on that has been curtailed based on bad policy.” About 78 percent of Josephine County is forestland, and about 70 percent of those forests are federally owned, Baertschiger said. Stumpage fees, which are the price timber companies paid for trees, used to cover the costs for many of Josephine County’s public services.

From the Salem Statesman Journal: