Andy Kerr

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

Western Oregon BLM Federal Public Forestlands:


1866 Congress offered to grant alternate sections (one square mile each) land (resulting in a "checkerboard" land ownership pattern) extending 30 miles east and west of a proposed nortth-south railroad from Portland to the California border. The Oregon and California (O&C) Railroad (there are no California lands in the picture). The lands were to be sold to "actual settlers in quantities not greater than 160 acres (a quarter-square mile) and for a price not to exceed $2.50/acre (see historical/conceptual map)

1869 Congress made a similar checkerboard land grant to foster completion of the Coos Bay Wagon Road from Roseburg to Coos Bay in Douglas and Coos Counties. 

1887 The Southern Pacific Railroad acquires the O&C Railroad.

1903 The SP said it would no longer sell the O&C lands, which were intended by Congress to be farmed by settlers (most were not suitable for agriculture), as they were timberlands worth far more than $2.50/acre.

1907 The Oregon Legislature petitions Congress to reclaim the lands still held by the SP.

1908 Congress authorized the US Attorney General to sue SP to get the lands back.

1916 After a Supreme Court ruling that said yes the SP violated the land grant terms, Congress enacted the Chamerlain-Ferris Act which took back 2.8 million O&C (and CWBR) acres. Some later land sales and land exchanges reduced the acreage to 2.2 million acres. As the lands once again became federal lands, they were dropped from the county property tax rolls.

1937 Congress enacted the O&C Lands Act, which provided for their management and specified that 75% of gross timber receipts would be given to the affected 18 counties. The revenue sharing was to compensate the counties for lost property tax revenues from 1916 and the forward.

1939 Congress enacted a separate revenue-sharing formula for the CBWR lands, the first and only time it provided for true payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (no where near 75%).

1954 Congress resolved management conflicts on over 400,000 acres of O&C lands (once owned by the railroad) that were also within the boundaries of several National Forests managed by the Forest Service. Congress said they were national forest lands in every way, save that the O&C revenue-sharing formula would prevail over the normal Forest Service revenue-sharing formula of 25%.

1990 The northern spotted owl is listed under the Endangered Species Act. Timber cutting levels that had reached 1.1 billion board feet annually plummeted.

1993 Congress enacts the first "transition funding" bridge (the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act Safety Net).

1993 The White House imposes the Northwest Forest Plan on western Oregon BLM and National Forest lands in western Washington, western Oregon and northwestern California.

2000 Congress enacts the second bridge (2000 Safety Net).

2008 Congress enacts the third bridge (2008 Secure Rural Schools Act

2012 Congress enacts the fourth bridge by extending Secure Rural Schools one year.

The PD acres are those that never left the public domain (the lands no one wanted).

(There are also 0.4 million acres of “O&C” lands in the National Forest System managed by the Forest Service.)

The term “O&C lands” is commonly—but inaccurately—applied to all BLM lands in western Oregon irrespective of their history. When O&C lands are distinguished from PD lands, often CBWR lands are lumped with O&C lands.