In its recently revised resource management plans for western Oregon, the Bureau of Land Management has identified 290 parcels of federal public lands, ranging in size from 0.01 to 440.2 acres and totaling 18,458.95 acres, as suitable for disposal. Although disposing of 0.7 percent of the approximately 2,600,000 acres of western Oregon BLM public lands may not seem like a big deal, many of these parcels have high public values.
Under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, the BLM has classified its western Oregon lands into three zones:
• Zone 1 – Lands Suitable for Retention (219,953 acres)
• Zone 2 – Lands Suitable for Exchange (2,255,243 acres)
• Zone 3 – Lands Suitable for Disposal (18,459 acres)
Zone 1 includes designated and suitable wild and scenic rivers, wilderness areas, wilderness study areas, lands with wilderness characteristics, national trail corridors, areas of critical environmental concern (including research natural areas), any lands acquired using money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area.
Zone 3 lands are those that the BLM believes “are either not practical to manage or are uneconomical to manage because of their intermingled location and nonsuitability for management by another federal agency.” They may also be “survey hiatuses” (tiny wedges of land remaining in federal ownership due to survey errors when all the lands around them have gone out of the federal estate) or “unintentional encroachments” (unintended but unlawful intrusion on BLM land by a private landowner who thought the land was owned by her). The BLM prepared a Zone 3 map for western Oregon at the request of Senator Ron Wyden in 2013.
Zone 2 lands are all the parcels that are not in Zone 1 or Zone 3 and are “available for exchange to enhance public resource values, improve management capabilities, or reduce the potential for land use conflict.” Most, but not all, BLM lands in western Oregon are in a checkerboard ownership pattern where every other square mile or 640-acre section is public or private.
In many cases, Zone 3 lands have no significant public value. These parcels should be sold to the highest bidder, and the proceeds should be dedicated to the acquisition of high-public-value parcels to include in the federal estate in the same state.
In many other cases, Zone 3 lands have high public value and should continue in public ownership. The BLM should either retain ownership of these lands by reclassifying them as Zone 1 or transfer the parcels to other federal, state, or local land management agencies, with the condition that the lands be perpetually kept public and managed in the public interest.
Following are seven examples of high-public-value BLM Zone 3 lands in western Oregon that should be reclassified or transferred. The parcels in question are shown on the map segments to the left of their descriptions. I’m confident that a similar analysis of BLM eastern Oregon lands will yield similar examples.