“Any sale of forest land affects the communities and counties in which those forests are located,” Taylor said. “You cannot put out a plan to sell off this much land, all across the nation, without first sitting down with each of those local communities and talking about their priorities and their goals. They cannot be cut out of the process.”
Following the announcement, candidate Heath Shuler, D-Waynesville, welcomed Taylor’s opposition to the sale.
“I am glad that after weeks of public outcry over the proposal to sell off our national forests Charles Taylor has decided to listen and join me and so many other North Carolinians in opposing this plan,” Shuler said.
Shuler made the land sale into a campaign issue by taking an active role in opposing the sale and educating the public on the issue since the proposal was issued in early February. He held a press conference in Macon County, where more than 3,000 acres are on the chopping block, condemning the land sale and calling on Taylor to do the same. Shuler criticized Taylor for speaking vaguely about the sale and his position. John Armor, a Republican from Highlands challenging Taylor in the May primary, has also come out against the sale and did so early on in the issue. Michael Morgan, a Democrat from Asheville challenging Shuler in the primary, is also against the sale.
The proposal to sell of the national forest land — generated by the Bush administration — was intended to generate revenues to pay for reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000. Under this program, counties that had historically received 25 percent of the Forest Service’s timber harvest revenues were compensated for the enormous declines in harvests under the Clinton Administration. The program is set to expire at the end of September of 2006.
In his remarks during the Forest Services’ budget hearing, Rep. Taylor further noted that the Bush administration’s proposal would send a disproportionate amount of land sale revenues to school districts in the Pacific Northwest. While more than a third of all the acreage to be sold lies in the South and Midwest regions, their school districts would receive only 10 percent of the revenues.