Andy Kerr

Conservationist, Writer, Analyst, Operative, Agitator, Strategist, Tactitian, Schmoozer, Raconteur

Western Oregon BLM Federal Public Forestlands:

A Clearcutting Frenzy

Beginning in the 1950s, clearcutting of old-growth forest was rampant on Western Oregon BLM lands. The extremely high levels of cutting (at its peak in the late 1980s and early 1990s, over two square miles of Oregon forest was being clearcut each week) were not sustainable and were driving species toward extinction and watersheds to collapse.

High levels of logging combined with high log prices to give the O&C and CBWR counties a windfall of receipts. When the northern spotted owl hit the fan in the early 1990s, Congress stepped in with several stop-gap supposedly transition funding measures to wean the O&C and CBWR counties off the federal timber tit. These emergency stop-gap measures are getting harder to renew. These timber-addicted counties (TACs) now seek a permanant and very high level of federal funding. These counties have some of the lowest property tax rates in the nation.

To answer the question on the table of how much, if any, do the O&C (and CBWR) counties deserve to be paid by the federal government in lieu of taxes, it is important to know how much they received during the highs and lows of the clearcutting frenzy, as well as under special congressional stop-gap funding. Today, the 18 O&C (and 2 CBWR) counties are demanding $110 million annually. Had these now federal public forestlands remained in private ownership and on the counties' property tax rolls, the counties would be receiving $8 million annually (a testament to Oregon's extremely perverse property tax system!). For the details download a 2-page memorandum (with sources) that I prepared on the subject entitled Federal Payments to the O&C Counties, 1960-2012.

The O&C counties are demanding $110 million annually from the federal government as payment in lieu of taxes for the O&C lands, which were once in private ownership and on the counties' property tax rolls. By federal law, the O&C counties are due 75% of gross receipts from federal timber sales from these lands. If the federal public forestlands were still in private ownership and taxed as private timberlands, the counties would be receiving $8 million annually. See County Revenues if Western Oregon BLM lands Were Still in Private Ownership.