'Don't cut the trees."

That's what conservationists said when some Oregon members of Congress proposed increasing timber harvests. The conservationists effectively killed the proposal.

Now Gov. John Kitzhaber is trying to put together a group to craft a bill that will pass. The original proposal was to change how timberlands andndash; known as the Oregon and California Railroad timberlands andndash; are managed. The idea was to allow more logging on 2.6 million acres of the federal land and ensure some of the land is conserved.

Kitzhaber, a passionate conservationist, has taken the admirable stand of seeking a balance.

Conservationists say don't cut the trees, though new trees can grow.

They say don't cut the trees and recommend raising taxes, instead.

They say don't cut the trees, though the federal government owns 60 percent of the forestland in Oregon but provides only 12 percent of the annual harvest.

They say don't cut the trees, though the timber revenue to counties has fallen off a cliff.

They say don't cut the trees, though Congress is winding down the federal payments to replace timber revenue.

They say don't cut the trees, though those replacement payments provided more than 60 percent of the operating budgets of some counties.

They say don't cut the trees, though mills and mill workers need work, if Oregon wants thinning rather than intense wildfires.

They say don't cut the trees, even as Kitzhaber said: "We can't ignore what's going on out there in our rural communities. They want the dignity of being able to bring home a paycheck and take care of their families."

Yes, conservationists are right that watersheds and wildlife need to be protected. Harvests should also be done to promote regeneration of the forest. Doing those things does not have to lead to a tyranny of "don't cut the tree."

andndash;Wescom News Service (Bend Bulletin)