Future Management of Federal Lands Under Oregon & California Lands Act

In late 2012, Governor John Kitzhaber invited a group of conservation leaders, county officials and timber company executives to seek common ground on the future of over 2.5 million acres of federal lands currently managed under the Oregon and California Lands Act (O&C). PRC accepted the Governor’s invitation to participate and has been deeply involved in this process to help reconcile competing visions of natural resource management in this region. Read the joint editorial by PRC Executive Director John Kober and other conservation participants in the Governor’s task force

While a final compromise could not be reached in the Governor’s process, PRC is committed to working with Senators Wyden and Merkley, the other members of Oregon’s congressional delegation, industry representatives, county officials and others to forge a legislative solution. Read the joint press statement by participating conservation leaders

Enacted in 1937 the O&C Lands Act was designed, in part, to generate revenue for rural county governments. These lands and waters were subjected to industrial logging practices until 1990, when the northern spotted owl and coho salmon required federal protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) due to their precipitous declines. These ESA listings prompted the creation of the Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP), which shifted the management emphasis from timber volume to environmental sustainability and restoration. From a conservation perspective, the NWFP has been an overwhelming success. Policies within the NWFP such as the Aquatic Conservation Strategy (ACS), which PRC had a major role in creating, have been pivotal to restoring rivers and their watersheds.

In attempt to replace the funds that county governments received prior to the NWFP, Senator Wyden created the Secure Rural Schools Act (SRS). SRS was intended to aid rural communities and county governments with large percentages of their land base in federal ownership.  Many communities in the western United States have had some success in diversifying their economies and balancing tax revenues. Unfortunately, many of Oregon’s O&C counties have not made this transition. To complicate matters, federal appropriations for SRS have markedly declined since the economic crisis that began in 2008. Thus, O&C counties are looking back to the 1937 O&C Lands Act in an attempt to return to the industrial forest practices of the past.

PRC believes that it's possible to find solutions that provide funding for local governments while also supplying timber for local mills and protecting the environment for all Oregonians. O&C lands comprise significant portions of some of Oregon’s best remaining rivers and watersheds, such as the Umpqua, Rogue, and Siuslaw. What happens to these lands will have a substantial effect on the health of our rivers and fisheries.

We must pair appropriate future timber production, as a source of revenue, with conservation for important watersheds and habitat for fish and wildlife -- on and off public lands.

The following documents were made available by the Governor’s office at the conclusion of the task force:

•    O&C Land Report - Provides a summary of the work completed by the Governor’s staff and a modeling team that was retained and managed by the Governor’s staff.
•    Press Statement by Governor Kitzhaber on O&C Panel
•    Governor’s Letter to Oregon Congressional Delegation on O&C Panel

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