Andy Kerr

Conservationist, Writer, Analyst, Operative, Agitator, Strategist, Tactitian, Schmoozer, Raconteur

U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio

It was with a heavy heart that I produced this webpage and the pages linked below. I’ve known Peter since the early 1980s and have supported him every time he sought elective office, from Lane County Commissioner to Member of Congress.

Yet, in regard to the management of federal public forestlands in western Oregon managed by the Bureau of Land Management (and increasingly other environmental matters), DeFazio is proposing a truly radical and awful piece of legislation. He is, along with his Republican allies, seeking to effectively privatize 1.7 million acres of public forests for the benefit of the timber industry and certain Oregon counties that have historically received a huge windfall in the form of a huge fraction of federal timber sale receipts, based on a time when over two square miles of old-growth forest was being logged each week in Oregon. This has allowed these counties to assess very low property taxes.

Pandering to a few counties in his district that refuse to levy adequate taxes—as other counties in Oregon and the nation must do—DeFazio is proposing the truly radical step of effectively transferring federal public forestlands, worth on the order of $8-10 billion dollars and owned by the United States, to a logging trust that would manage the lands for intensive timber production. The environmental consequences will be dirtier water, less salmon, more roads, extinct species, rampant clearcutting and more.

As I am charging that a Member of Congress who has long been (and in generally still is) a progressive on most issues has—at least on one vital issue—gone over to the dark side, I feel the need to document how and why I’ve reached that conclusion. Toward that end:

DeFazio’s Devolution. In this op-ed that appeared in Eugene Weekly, I summarize my case against DeFazio. The links below document the basis of this case.

A Conservationist’s Critique of Representative DeFazio’s Defense of his “O&C Trust, Conservation and Jobs Act”. In a side-by-side showdown, I critique DeFazio’s defense of his legislation that he has emailed to critics.

Rep. DeFazio’s Logging Trust Legislation a Collection of Crimes Against Nature, Good Government, Public Interest and/or the Federal Taxpayers. In September 2013, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-4th-OR) persuaded the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives to pass his “O&C Trust, Conservation and Jobs Act.” His legislation is part of H.R. 1526 (113th Congress), which is the most anti-public lands, anti-conservation, anti-wildlife, anti-water quality legislation to ever be considered by Congress. Even at the height of the Pacific Northwest timber wars, even the most pro-timber federal Oregon politicians who had sawdust coursing through their veins—introduced nothing as horrible.

The Conservation Record of Representative Peter DeFazio (D-4th-OR): 1987-2013. The issue that has long separated the adults from the children in Oregon electoral politics has been logging on the ~16 million acres of federal public forestlands in Oregon. During the late 1980s (Representative Peter DeFazio was first elected to the House in 1986), two square miles of ancient forest were being clear-cut every week on Oregon’s federal public forestlands. The bad news for the conservation of nature—especially that of federal public forestlands—is that DeFazio is now the Ranking Member of the Committee on Natural Resources of the U.S. House of Representatives. While DeFazio’s overall voting record for conservation is generally very good, since he first took office in  1987 his record pertaining to the conservation of federal public forestlands in his own congressional district has devolved from leadership to opportunism and now to general hostility.