Big donations come from companies that stand to benefit from Bush administration’s pro-logging policies.

Salem, OR — The timber industry in Oregon has been contributing steadily to the Bush-Cheney presidential campaign and the Republican Party since 2000, and stands to profit from the Bush administration’s rollbacks of federal forest protections and the resulting increased logging on federal forests in the state, according to a recent report released by Common Cause Oregon.

“Oregon’s timber industry has used substantial campaign contributions to influence public policy on federal forests in the state,” said Andi Miller, executive director of Common Cause Oregon. “Essentially, the Bush administration is being paid by the timber industry to deliver our national forests to the saw mills.”

The report documents several meetings between Oregon timber company executives and President George W. Bush, Vice President Richard Cheney and members of the White House staff. It also itemizes campaign contributions made by timber companies and their executives or related family members.

The report finds:

The forest products industry gave 10 times more money to the Bush campaign than any other presidential candidate.

In Oregon, 14 timber companies donated more than $670,000 to President Bush and the Republican Party during the 2000, 2002, and 2004 election cycles. Additionally, the Oregon timber industry gave hundreds of thousands of dollars in soft money to other Republican candidates.

In May 2000, President Bush met with a group of timber executives in Portland. Each attendee contributed $100,000 to the Republican Party in exchange for a 45-minute meeting with the President.

The report also finds that the Bush administration has delivered for the industry, with the following policy changes:

Repeal of the roadless rule, which protected 1.9 million acres of roadless federal forests in Oregon.

Enactment of the Healthy Forests Initiative, which allows logging of large healthy trees in the backcountry under the guise of fire protection.

Repeal of old growth habitat protection rules in the Northwest Forest Plan.

Rollback of stream and watershed protections in the Northwest Forest Plan.

Advancement of one of the largest federal timber sales in modern history, the Biscuit Fire Recovery Project in the Siskiyou Wild Rivers area of southwest Oregon.

Timber industry Makes Connection Between Contributions and Forest Policy

The report cites an August 2003 Timber West Journal interview with Max Merlich, vice president of Logging Operations of Columbia Helicopters, who acknowledges the link between campaign contributions and forest policy. The company, which has given at least $118,750 in hard and soft money to President Bush and the GOP since 2000, stands to gain from helicopter logging, the primary way to extract timber from roadless areas.

“Columbia put a lot of time and money into getting Bush elected and we are trying to get this Bush Healthy Forest Initiative rammed through so we can get to work and get the job done,” Merlich said in the article.

Timber Sale in Siskiyous Demonstrates Industry Clout

The report documents the Biscuit Fire Recovery Project on the Siskiyou National Forest as another compelling case of the timber industry’s influence over the Bush administration’s forest policies. In 2003, after input from OSU Forestry Engineer John Sessions and pressure from the timber industry, the Bush administration dramatically increased the size of the timber sale to include heavy logging in roadless areas and old growth reserves.

The sale is now one of the largest federal timber sales in modern history. More than 90 percent of the public comments received on the proposal were against it, but the Forest Service is still proceeding with it.

“Who was the administration listening to — the public or Oregon timber companies that gave hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions?” said Common Cause Oregon’s Miller. “Campaign contributions shouldn’t guide public policy in our national forests, or anywhere else. Unfortunately, when we see this kind of money thrown around, public policy too often shifts away from the public interest.”

The report is attached, or it can be viewed by clicking here.