COQUILLE, Ore. -- 18 counties in Oregon plan to challenge the Bureau of Land Management's proposed Resource Management Plan in federal court.
The BLM released the proposal last week.
Leaders in Coos County are speaking out about their decision to support the lawsuit, which will determine whether or not the Oregon & California Lands Act of 1937 takes precedence over the BLM's recent proposal.
The Act provides timber harvest revenue to 18 OO&C counties.
It mandates a minimum harvest of 500 million board feet per year. BLM's proposal would yield about half that amount annually.
Under the plan, 75 percent of the 5.5 million acres would be reserved for wildlife and resource protection.
Coos County Commissioner Bob Main says the proposal would devastate an already dwindling timber industry in rural Oregon.
"50 percent reduction of the already greatly reduced timber harvest in Coos County after 35 years of county jobs going down and down and down unfortunately, we have about 50 percent of the children below the poverty line. Over 30 percent of our entire population is on assisted healthcare," Main says.
"We're one of the highest [counties] in unemployment, [one of the] highest in child abuse; we're at extreme poverty level a lot of which is the restriction on our federal lands."
Main says the proposal would not only cut jobs; it would also reduce funding for already struggling counties.
He says Coos County's General Fund is currently facing a $1.8 million dollar deficit.
Emergency services like law enforcement and the county jail are some of the first to see cuts.
Curry County already can't afford to have officers on duty after midnight.
The Coos County Sheriff says less law enforcement leads to more crime.
"Crime creeps in and it becomes worse because it's unchecked; people aren't safe in their homes, they're not safe to go out, and what you have basically is a loss in ... a breakdown of civilization," Coos County Sheriff Craig Zanni says.
Main says if changes are not made the OO&C counties plan to file the lawsuit after a public comment period.
"It's going to continue to spiral down unless we fix this," Zanni adds.
BLM extended the comment period by 30 days.
You have until May 24 to submit your comments to their office in Washington, DC.
Conservation groups are also weighing in on the BLM proposal. We will examine that side of the issue later this week.