Yesterday, Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan released an audit investigating the Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI). Her report confirms what we already knew–OFRI has been using tax dollars to fund timber industry lobbying and propaganda. “OFRI presents itself as an independent, objective, and strictly educational entity,” the report states. “Yet the agency’s messaging efforts — such as advertisements — favor industry interests.” [Audit Pg. 9]
And not only does OFRI try to sway the public with pro-industry propaganda: they also work to suppress scientific studies that cast the timber industry in a negative light [Audit Pg. 20]. (This isn’t much of a surprise, considering that most of OFRI’s board members are timber industry advocates and executives themselves. [Audit Pg. 9])
“Public money should not be used to mislead the public,” Secretary Shemia Fagan said in her press release on the subject. “Especially on a topic as complex and important as our state’s natural resources.” Her thorough audit makes it clear that OFRI has overstepped its original mission, and is using tax dollars not to benefit the public, but to benefit the timber industry.
OFRI needs to be held accountable. Last session, Oregon almost passed HB 2357, an OLCV priority bill that would have moved tax dollars away from OFRI. Unfortunately, it died in the state senate, leaving OFRI’s fate as unfinished business. Their public funding could be used for so much more, like investing in sustainable, climate-smart forestry, funding new research, and assisting small woodland owners.
Oregon’s forests–and Oregon’s people–deserve much better than OFRI’s misuse of tax dollars. It’s time for them to be held accountable. Please email your lawmakers today, and make sure they read the audit and prepare to act in the next legislative session.