REMARKS AS PREPARED
January 23, 2017
Good afternoon. It is my pleasure to welcome you all to the City of Bend, here in Deschutes County, Oregon. Thank you to Mayor Casey Roats for hosting us.
Bend is where the high desert, the Cascades Mountains, and the Great Basin converge—which means great skiing, mountain biking, and plenty of sunshine.
And thank you to Jim and the entire Western Governor’s Association team for organizing today’s workshop.
Through the WGA, we are working in partnership and tackling on the most significant issues facing the West.
Thanks to Governor Bullock’s vision and leadership, the Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative stands as a forum for greater collaboration between our states.
This initiative gives all of us the platform to share best practices and policy options for forest and rangeland management.
As Oregon’s Governor, I am focused on creating jobs in our timber and rural communities. In Oregon we continue to pursue strategies to accelerate the pace, scale, and quality of restoration on our federal forests.
As Oregon’s Governor, I want to bring opportunity to all Oregonians, especially those who haven’t had a fair shot or who have been left behind.
While our economy is strong in urban Oregon, I am focused on creating jobs in our timber and rural communities.
We’ve invested in programs that help rural entrepreneurs get the capital and expertise they need to build their small businesses into thriving economic engines.
We’re also investing in technologies that inspire new generations of entrepreneurs. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and cross-laminated timber aren’t just the hot tech trends of the moment. They are brilliant innovations that can’t grow without space or trees — two items that rural Oregon has in abundance.
Given that federal public lands account for 60% of the total forest lands in Oregon, it is key we foster strong partnerships with the U.S. Forest Service, local and tribal communities, the forest products industry, and conservation interests.
Our rural communities are changing, and many already are seeing the impacts of climate change.
The latest data released last week by NOAA confirms three consecutive years of record warmth for the globe. And we know the past recent of years have been some of the hottest on record in the Pacific Northwest.
Drought and wildfire increasingly threaten family incomes and local economies. Today, wildfires, on average, burn twice as much land every year now as they did 40 years ago.
Words cannot describe the loss I saw in eastern Oregon's Grant County from the the 2015 Canyon Creek Complex fire. In total, the fire burned 10,000 acres alone, and cost more than $240 million.
We gain valuable understandings after every fire season, and I’m proud of the hard work of Oregonians put in to collaborate and restore our federal forests and rangelands.
To better coordinate restoration efforts, I signed a Good Neighbor Authority Agreement with the U.S. Forest Service earlier last year. The Agreement builds on the State's existing investments to improve federal forest health, support collaboration, and promote rural jobs and economies.
In signing the agreement, I considered what I have heard and seen across rural Oregon. So often families describe a hometown they love, and hope that their children have the choice to return some day.
It’s amazing to see the difference even a single opportunity makes in a rural community. Consider Zach Williams.
Zach Williams is a fifth generation resident in Grant County. Zach grew up helping his dad run cattle on his family’s ranch — part of which is now the Strawberry Mountains Wilderness area.
He spent his summers working in the mill in the families’ rough-cut sawmill, and went on to earn an Environmental Economics Policy Management degree and studied Natural Resource and Environmental Law in Corvallis.
Like most 24 year olds, Zach had choices, but decided to come back home to Grant County.
In 2006, the timber sale program on the Malheur National Forest was effectively zero, and disagreement over forest management entangled the US Forest Service.
Grant County Commissioner Boyd Britton knew there had to be a different way. He invited environmental attorney Susan Jane Brown—no relation— out to spend a day in the woods and even promised “to bring her back to town!”
Eventually, the Blue Mountain Forest Partners was formed – a local forest collaborative that has built trust and social agreement to reinstate active management on the Malheur National Forest.
Zach Williams is now both a board member of the Blue Mountain Forest Partners and a contractor for Iron Triangle Logging LLC.
Iron Triangle received the 10-year stewardship contract on the Malheur National Forest in 2003. After the contract, housing sales increased 200%, school enrollment increased, and unemployment rates were declined.
Because of the sustainable supply of wood on the Malheur National Forest, Iron Triangle is now in the process of reopening and upgrading a Post and Pole mill in Seneca, Oregon that has been sitting idle for years.
The renewed focus and increased restoration work allows Zach and his wife, Marissa, to raise their two daughters and son in the community they grew up in, and allows Zach to provide critical leadership in the community as Vice-Chair of the Grant School School Board and Chairman of the John Day Parks and Rec board.
A single opportunity changed the civic infrastructure of the community. Thanks to partnerships like this, we have seen a 14 percent increase in timber harvests, and a 16 percent increase in timber-related jobs. We must continue to search for similar innovative programs that are good for both the economy and the environment.
We cannot talk about forest and rangeland health and growing our rural economies without acknowledging the crucial role water plays in our quality of life and our livelihoods.
Addressing the possibility of water shortages has been front and center in my administration since Day One.
In Oregon, we are taking steps to mitigate drought, prevent wildfire, and better prepare to combat wildfire.
That’s why my budget includes $32 million in bond grant funding for local water projects, which will help meet the needs of rural communities, agriculture, and the environment.
I truly believe that by working together, we are better positioned to rise and meet these needs, and in the process improve environment health and species recovery.
The sage grouse agreements prove this is possible. For over a year Oregon’s sage grouse plan held together without litigation, and we hope to be able to say that again.
And it is not just in eastern Oregon. Oregon chub proves this is possible; the first fish in United States history to be removed from the endangered species list.
And the fact that, for the first time in thirty years, the snowy plover is once again nesting on the Nehalem Spit on the Oregon Coast.
The recovery of the sage grouse, the Oregon Chub and the snowy plover are not accidents. We've found it is what happens when Oregonians work together, when we reject the notion of choosing sides. This is the Oregon Way.
And together, as proud members of the WGA, representing diverse communities across the west, we know we accomplish more working together.
We have benefited tremendously from this collaboration in Oregon. I am very happy to say we have three National Forests that are 10-years removed from litigation of forest management projects. That's a pretty strong record.
It takes a constellation of approaches and the work of all of us to ensure our entire economy continues to thrive.
By taking an “all-lands, all-hands” approach and committing to working together across jurisdictional boundaries, we can sustain robust rural economies and preserve our natural resources for future generations.
This work is not easy.
Our challenges are great, but I am confident our resolve is greater.
This is the west, after all, and we are rugged and resolved.
We must make sure the opportunities Zach took advantage of as a fifth generation Oregon are available for his children and future generations of Oregonians.