Oregon candidate exposes social, economic catastrophe caused by federal control in Josephine County
February 26, 2016
An Open Letter to Presidential Candidates from Josephine County, Oregon
By Toni Webb, candidate for Commissioner of Josephine County
TO: Candidates running for President of the United States
This letter is to inform you of the struggles faced by the people of Josephine County, Oregon, due to ongoing problems with the federal government’s control of our public land, including our once-productive forests. Bad policies and misguided management by federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, have left our rural county economically and socially devastated. I hope that you, as candidates for President of the United States, will seriously consider why the effort to transfer the ownership and control of public lands back to western states, like Oregon, is so critical to our survival.
I am from Josephine County, Oregon.
Because of federal land-taking, we now have a broken county with a median household income less than the State of Mississippi. My father owned a sawmill here in the 1940’s; anyone who wanted to work could easily find a job. In the 1960’s, Josephine County had 53 sawmills; the revenue for Public Safety was around $18 million per year. Josephine County, Oregon, has relied on the use of our natural resources for Public Safety, Education, and necessary Public Projects. We now live under the constant threat of having to close the jail; and this July we will receive our last congressional subsidy of $4.3 million. Use of our resources has declined to the point that we are now an impoverished county largely dependent on welfare and government social services.
Earlier this month—the last remaining sawmill in our county closed indefinitely because they could not get enough logs to fill orders. We’ve gone from 19 sheriff’s patrols to a budget for only three patrols by this summer. Our County government laid off 127 people in 2012; 90 of those people were in the Sheriff’s Department.
All promises from the Federal government to Josephine County have been broken. The government has not honored its commitment in the1937 O&C Act, and the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service have incrementally reduced the timber harvests for two decades.
The BLM and Forest Service close vital roads throughout the county, so that we can’t put out forest fires. Those agencies then refuse to let us log the burnt areas and derive some income from the catastrophe. Management of our lands by Washington, DC, has proved to be a disaster to our county, both in terms of revenue for necessary services and in terms of modern forest management practices for sustainability.
The EPA runs roughshod over our private and public lands; overly-zealous environmental activists derive much of their income from government grants. Environmental groups consistently portray logging as environmentally-destructive “clear-cutting”, when in fact, timber companies in Oregon are well-known for responsible, sustainable forest management.
With this loss of use of our land to generate revenue and provide jobs, come many of the predictable social problems, as indicated below: drug abuse, health problems, rise in student dropout rates, children living in poverty, increased homelessness, and reliance on welfare subsidies. This is the result of not having control and benefit of our county land.
Poverty in Josephine County has reached the point that we cannot pass a property tax levy to fund public safety. Having barebones public safety negatively impacts our ability to retain and attract businesses and qualified workers.
We would appreciate having the support of our presidential candidates for the transfer of our lands from federal mismanagement. We need your help to prevent further loss and to reverse the losses that have plunged our county into poverty. No matter which candidate emerges from the Presidential race, we will be looking to support the candidate who will be in favor of transferring the control of public lands to the states. If you want to restore the promise of America, start with Josephine County and help us help ourselves.
Thank you and Best Wishes,
Josephine County, Oregon, population: 84,000 Area: 1,642 sq. miles
68% of Public Land is controlled by the Federal Government
–Outmigration of younger population, who cannot find work.
–Influx of seniors, largely from out-of-state, attracted by the low property tax ($.58 per thousand in the county, outside the City of Grants Pass).
-24% of the county population is over 65 years old.
-30% of children in Josephine County live in poverty; 20% of adults 18-64 live below the poverty line.
-65% of the children eligible for free/reduced cost lunches.
-Increased homelessness and reliance on welfare subsidies.
Drug abuse – #1 in Oregon for Rx drug abuse (seniors selling Opioids to supplement income). Rampant heroin, methamphetamine drug use. Approximately 125 babies born each year at hospital with drug addiction.
High school dropouts – 30-36% dropout rate throughout county. Misuse of funds allocated to school district. Dropout rate has not changed in 30 years.
Unemployment – 11%, estimated to be 20% in 18-30 age group. Rise in young people working part-time and growing marijuana.
Largest % employers: schools, health care, and social assistance.
County Health Ranking: 29th out of 33 counties in Oregon. High level of obesity-44% of adult population has chronic high blood cholesterol. 23% of children, grades 1-3, have rampant tooth decay; 62% of lower income children have at least one cavity.
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