Governor Kotek Withdraws Forestry Board Nominations After Outcry

Oregon Governor Tina Kotek withdraws her nominations of Bob Van Dyk and Heath Curtiss to the state Board of Forestry after environmental groups object to Curtiss's ties to the timber industry. The withdrawal leaves the future composition of the board uncertain, with no new nominees announced.

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Nitish Verma
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Governor Kotek Withdraws Forestry Board Nominations After Outcry

Governor Kotek Withdraws Forestry Board Nominations After Outcry

Oregon Governor Tina Kotek has withdrawn her nominations of Bob Van Dyk and Heath Curtiss to the state Board of Forestry after environmental groups objected to Curtiss's ties to the timber industry. Kotek had planned to appoint Van Dyk, a conservationist, and Curtiss, vice president of government affairs for Hampton Lumber, to the seven-member board.

Why this matters: The controversy surrounding the Board of Forestry nominations highlights the ongoing struggle to balance environmental conservation with economic interests, a challenge that resonates beyond Oregon's borders. The outcome will have significant implications for the state's forestry practices, rural communities, and the environment, making it a crucial issue to watch.

The dual appointment would have left the balance of the board unchanged, with three members having financial interests in the timber industry. Environmental groups, including Oregon Wild and the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, sent a letter to Kotek's office on Tuesday opposing Curtiss's nomination, citing his "extreme positions" on forest issues.

The groups argued that Curtiss's appointment would "lock in the troubling notion that the Board of Forestry must always have three members who derive income from forest practices." Kotek's office scrapped both nominations, citing no reason for the decision.

"I am not sure what happened. Heard things were on track, then a decision yesterday not to move forward," said Bob Van Dyk, the conservationist and withdrawn nominee. Heath Curtiss, the other withdrawn nominee and vice president at Hampton Lumber, stated, "As a representative of a large rural employer, I thought the nomination signaled the Governor's interest in soliciting perspectives from Oregon's forest sector workers and rural communities."

The Board of Forestry is closely scrutinized for its stance on forest issues, with environmental groups and timber interests often at odds. The board's recent 4-3 vote to scale back logging in state-owned forests to protect endangered species has drawn criticism from timber interests and rural counties.

Governor Kotek's office has faced criticism from both environmental groups and rural communities, with some accusing her of prioritizing urban interests over rural concerns. Steve Pedery, conservation director at Oregon Wild, said, "My experience with Gov. Kotek is she ignores environmental concerns until it becomes embarrassing to her."

The withdrawal of the nominations leaves the future composition of the Board of Forestry uncertain. Governor Kotek's office has not announced any new nominees or indicated when the positions may be filled. The controversy highlights the ongoing tensions between conservation efforts and the economic interests of Oregon's timber industry and rural communities.