- Many counties in Oregon were historically dependent on federal timber harvests and
associated revenue sharing programs. However, since federal policy changes in the late 1980s
and early 1990s, federal timber harvests have decreased. These decreases in federal timber
harvests translated to decreases in county revenue from the federal government, which in some
counties had been a key source of revenue. As revenue from the federal government decreased,
counties had to adapt in order to overcome these changes. Counties in Oregon exhibit large
amounts of diversity, whether measured by demographics, ecosystem, or resources, resulting in
many unique responses to these decreases in federal receipts. These county-level changes remain
largely undocumented, with current research predominantly focusing on industry and
socioeconomic responses to changes in federal timber harvests. This research aims to fill this
gap, providing perspectives and information to county officials, state executives, and federal
lawmakers, showing the unique stories of counties and how they responded to decreases in
receipts from federal timber harvests.
To assess how counties in Oregon responded to decreases in federal receipts, a case study
approach was used. Federal receipts over time were compared to each county’s total budgets, as
well as breakouts of each county’s revenue and expense budgets, thus providing perspectives on
how county budgets were impacted by changes in federal receipts and how they responded to
these changes. Utilizing a case study approach preserved the individuality and unique factors of
each county. This approach acknowledged that there is no “right” response to changes in federal
receipts, but rather highlights a series of different approaches that fit the unique nature of each
county. These approaches, conveyed through case studies, can allow for other counties to learn
from each other and provide clarity to lawmakers, adding depth and context to the implications
of changing funding to counties in Oregon.
In each of the counties analyzed through these case studies, total budgets either remained
constant or saw growth as federal receipts decreased. Some counties overcame decreases in
federal receipts by shifting the allocation of their revenues and expenses, while other counties
unlocked new growth by capitalizing on assets such as natural amenities. These findings show
that counties may be resilient to decreases in federal receipts, with some counties thriving in the
face of these decreasing receipts and others effectively maintaining the status quo.
Understanding the similarities and differences between these counties and how they respond is
essential for local, state, and federal stakeholders and officials, and will be a key topic of
discussion as counties face continued financial uncertainty.