The Curry County Board of Commissioners decided Wednesday to join the Association of O&C Counties (AOCC) and pay its share of a lawsuit challenging the Bureau of Land Management’s forest plan and allow timber companies to cut more trees than the agency has proposed.

The amount Curry County will pay into the estimated $530,000 suit is almost $20,000, based on the acreage of its 93,416 O&C acreage in the county. That money was budgeted in this fiscal year’s budget.

The suit, represented by the Portland law firm of Stoel Rives, would likely take two years, barring any appeals.

The decision was among many facing commissioners in their first meeting of the year. And the board has two new faces: Court Boice of Agness, a jetboat operator and rancher, and Sue Gold, a port commissioner in Brookings-Harbor and math professor at College of the Redwoods in Del Norte County. They joined Commissioner and Chairman Tom Huxley after they were sworn in Dec. 30.

Money on trees

The decision to participate in the AOCC lawsuit was one of a handful of financial decisions the new board will make as it enters what some have forecast will be a fiscal disaster of a year. Because the federal government discontinued the Secure Rural Schools program that provided timber revenue to county coffers, Curry County will see its general fund cut in half, to about $1.5 million, to operate all its departments.

The program helped pay for schools and roads in Oregon’s 18 O&C counties. The federal government has gradually decreased the amount of federal timber funds that have gone to the counties, leaving most of them in dire fiscal straits.