Trump’s attack on spotted owl habitat destabilizes the rural economy and breeds far right extremism.

Portland, OR – Two Pacific Northwest economists today released a socioeconomic analysis condemning the Trump Administration’s last-minute decision to exclude 3.5 million acres of northern spotted owl habitat from critical habitat designation under the Endangered Species Act. The socioeconomic analysis was completed by Ernie Niemi of Natural Resource Economics in Eugene and Dr. John Talberth of the Portland-based Center for Sustainable Economy (CSE).

Simultaneously, CSE, the Coast Range Association and Lincoln County Community Rights – all organizations with memberships in the rural areas now threatened by more logging –provided notice to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that they intend to sue to force reinstatement of that protection on the grounds that the consideration of benefits and costs was grossly negligent and runs afoul of Section 4(b)2 of the Act and its implementing regulations. In particular, contrary to facts on the ground, the Service nonetheless concluded that more logging is necessary to protect community stability, the local tax base, and the customs and culture of rural towns.

According to Dr. John Talberth, “The Fish and Wildlife Service’s reasoning was untethered from reality, like so many other Trump era decisions. Logging, as with all economic activity, faces diminishing returns meaning with too much of it local economies suffer more costs than benefits in the form of community instability, chronic poverty, erosion of the local tax base, costly environmental damages and vulnerability to right wing extremism. Tragically, this is the case in rural Northwest communities.”

Key findings from the analysis and sixty-day notice:

  • Opening up owl habitat to more logging will increase rather than decrease community instability because the timber industry is far more volatile and anti-labor than businesses that benefit from owl habitat protection.
  • In Oregon and other forested states, more logging is correlated with a higher incidence of rural poverty and associated ills including unemployment, low birth rates, higher infant mortality, fewer churches, lower income, less education, higher death rates, poorer health care and more arrests.
  • Oregon towns destabilized by too much corporate logging are breeding grounds for far-right extremism, including groups that helped lead the insurrection on Capitol Hill.
  • Opening up more areas to logging will drive up carbon emissions, climate damages, and vulnerability to climate change. Additional economic damages from climate change could top $3.2 billion per year.
  • The timber industry destabilizes the local tax base because Wall Street and foreign logging corporations pay no income taxes, are exempt from most property taxes, and receive hefty subsidies that prioritize corporate profits at the expense of workers, schools, libraries, and social services.
  • Multiple studies have found that Americans place far greater economic value on owl habitat protection on federal lands than they do logging.
  • Communities in close proximity to protected owl habitat experience higher growth in community wealth than those dependent on logging.
  • Former Secretary’s Bernhardt’s decision to exclude 3.5 million acres of land from spotted owl critical habitat violates provisions of the Endangered Species Act permitting such exclusions only in the event that benefits exceed costs based on the best scientific and commercial data available.

According to Ernie Niemi, “None of this is a surprise. Here, as in so many places around the world, international corporations have, for decades, been sucking profits from rural areas by degrading the environment, impoverishing communities, and eliminating jobs for workers.”

Last week, 8 members of Congress, including Senators Murray (D-WA), Cantwell (D-WA), Wyden (D-OR), and Merkley (D-OR) and Representatives Blumenauer (D-OR), Grijalva (D-AZ) and Huffman (D-CA) called for an inspector general investigation of the decision to “determine whether or not the Trump Administration contradicted or ignored scientific recommendations by career staff.”

In a letter sent today, CSE and its partners praised the Democrats for their efforts but also asked them to consider legislation to revamp US forest policy to get at the root of the problem – lax laws and environmentally harmful subsidies that have let Wall Street, foreign and other big logging corporations colonize far too much of America’s prime forests and corrupt local politics in their quest for power and profit.

Contact: John Talberth, Ph.D., Center for Sustainable Economy (510) 384-5724
Ernie Niemi, Natural Resource Economics (541) 505-2704

READ: Socioeconomic analysis

READ: Sixty-day ESA notice

READ: Letter to Congress

About Center for Sustainable Economy

Center for Sustainable Economy works with partners to accelerate the transition to a sustainable and just society. We believe that an economy based on renewable energy, public transit, thriving native ecosystems, local business and cultural diversity is one that delivers genuine progress for all. Visit CSE at www.sustainable-economy.org.

About Natural Resource Economics

NRE uses rigorous analysis and clear communication to help clients, decision-makers, stakeholders, and the public understand all the many ways in which ecosystems contribute to the economic well-being of workers, families, businesses, and communities. Visit NRE at: www.nreconomics.com.

About Coast Range Association

CRA is a 501c(3) nonprofit that has been working since 1991 to find just protections for Western Oregon’s forests while supporting a vibrant rural economy. The CRA’s work looks to address the underlying causes of social and environmental problems and seeks to instill common understanding, foster social unity, and provide practical solutions. Visit CRA at:  https://coastrange.org.

About Lincoln County Community Rights

Lincoln County Community Rights (LCCR) is a public benefit organization that seeks to empower people to exercise their right to local community self-government in matters that pertain to their fundamental rights, their natural environment, their quality of life, their health and their safety. Visit LCCR at: http://www.lincolncountycommunityrights.org.

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