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Feds Strip $1.2 Million in Grant Funding From Oregon, Citing Failure to Protect Forests From Logging

Environmental regulators cite state's lack of progress in addressing forestry practices.

The state of Oregon's failure to address federal concerns about coastal logging practices is having consequences—the loss of $1.2 million in grant funds.

On March 9, officials from the federal Environmental Protection Agency and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration wrote to Richard Whitman, the natural resources adviser to Gov. Kate Brown, breaking the bad news.

The feds acknowledged Oregon had begun to address concerns raised in a lawsuit filed by Portland-based Northwest Environmental Associates in 2009 and settled last year.

"Notwithstanding the State's progress, NOAA and EPA have determined that this progress is not sufficiently definite or advanced to release the withheld portions of the FY 2015 grant funds," the letter says. "Therefore, NOAA and EPA will be redistributing the withheld portions of grant funding."

In a statement, Nina Bell, the director of Northwest Environmental Associates, said that the feds have found Oregon's regulation of logging practices in coastal watersheds insufficient for 18 years. The consequences include polluted water and damaged fish habitat.

Bell warned the financial price of the state's inaction will worsen.

"The cuts in EPA grants will become deeper in each future year," she said.

Nick Hennemann, a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Forestry says the agency is working on the fixes the feds want.

"The state submitted a plan outlining the basic elements of the program Oregon is prepared to implement to address the deficiencies identified by EPA and NOAA," Hennemann told WW in a statement.

"In November, the Board of Forestry voted to increase stream-side buffers through administrative rulemaking. These rules are a significant change in protecting small and medium streams in the coastal zone against temperature changes, addressing one of the deficiencies identified by the federal agencies. The agency expects the rulemaking will be complete by the end of 2016."