Kitzhaber appoints panel on timber counties funding

Salem, Ore. (AP) Gov. John Kitzhaber has appointed a panel to propose a way forward for struggling timber counties in western Oregon.

The panel named Thursday includes representatives of timber counties, conservation groups and the timber industry.

The governor asked them to come up with a proposal by next year to send to Congress that will improve funding for counties and boost timber production, without harming habitat for salmon and other wildlife.

Protections for the spotted owl and salmon bit into logging on national forests, which then cut federal logging receipts shared with counties.

That left them struggling to pay for essential services like law enforcement. When a federal safety net for timber counties expired for lack of support in Congress, voters refused to raise their taxes to make up the difference.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.