Andy Kerr

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

Western Oregon BLM Federal Public Forestlands:

Senator Wyden's O&C Principles

Principles for an O&C Solution

A Roadmap for Federal Legislation to Navigate Both the House and the Senate

1. STABLE FUNDING FOR COUNTIES: Oregon rural counties must be assured a stable level of funding from the Federal government due to the large extend of public lands they contain. Those funds can come through public lands receipts of through another mechanism created by this, or other, legislation. In the current fiscal climate that funding will not be able to replace historical levels of receipts, nor will timber receipts be able to fully provide for all funding needs. Recognizing that Oregon's rural communities are suffering with high unemployment and unique economic challenges, they also need to do their part in reducing disparities in tax rates and developing a reasonable level of revenue from local activities. However, the Federal government must do its share to compensate counties for the impact of federal lands and the policies governing those lands.

2. SUSTAINABILITY: Timber harvest must be economically and environmentally sustainable. Timber harvests must produce more commercial product from O&C lands than is currently being produced and harvest should be guided by a scientifically-based, sustainable management regime that will meet or exceed the stated goals of the relevant federal and state environmental laws. Opportunities for active and adaptive management could included a variety  of examples, such as the ecological forestry principles promoted by Norm Johnson and Jerry Franklin, as well as the pilot projects being currently promoted by various collaborative groups in Southern Oregon.

3. CONSERVATION: In addition to increasing timber harvesting, this legislation must result in wilderness and other permanently conserved lands proportional to the lands designated for harvest. These should include protection of both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, including large blocks of Bureau of Land Management lands and old-growth forests.

4. MANAGING LANDS MORE EFFICIENTLY: The legislation should seek opportunities to consolidate O&C and non-O&C lands. This will include addressing the checkerboard pattern of the O&C ownership and exchanging lands according to their best use whenever possible. It must develop an approach to rationalize land management between the O&C lands and adjoining private and public lands, both for timber and conservation values. The legislation should consider setting in motion a process to seek greater consolidation and management efficiencies on federal lands going forward.

Any consolidation or exchange should take into account concerns of neighboring private landowners, including access, rights of way and wildfire. The discussion should also address opportunities to finally honor unrealized treaty obligations to the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians, and the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians, understanding that some lands considered for their reservations may not be O&C lands. Both tribes have treaties pre-dating the O&C Lands Act.

5. LEGAL REQUIREMENT FOR TIMBER MANAGEMENT: Management of these lands must comply with all applicable Federal laws. Development of the plan should include open discussions on how to better implement the National Environmental Policy Act. There should be particular focus on streamlining the objection processes (for example, as included in the Healthy Forests Restoration Act and Senator Wyden's Eastside Forestry legislation), and categorical exclusions for timber projects and other defined situations.

6. CHANGING RESPONSIBILITIES FOR LAND MANAGEMENT: Due consideration should be given to proposals for non-Federal entities managing lands designated for conservation or active management as long as their is broad support for the proposal among stakeholders. Negotiations must take into account the failures of other private management efforts and the general opposition to private management of federal lands in Congress.

7. SAFEGUARDING OLD GROWTH: Oregon's old growth must be protected. Old growth should generally be defined as 120 years of age or older, with exceptions made for significant ecological reasons.

As I work to resolve the O&C lands management crisis, I'm going to give the most weight to the Senator's principles. After all, Senator Wyden is the senior senator from Oregon and the US Constitution grants Congress the authority over federal public lands. Senator Wyden is also the presumptive new chair of the the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee of the US Senate, the committee with jurisdiction over the O&C lands. As one tries to the Wyden O&C Principles as the process moves forward, it is worth also reading the email from Jeff Michels, Senator Wyden's Chief of Staff to Tom Tuchmann, Governor Kitzhaber's Forestry and Conservation Financial Advisor:

From: Jeff Michels

Subject: Senator Wyden's Principles on O&C Legislation

Date: October 9, 2012 1:33:50 PM PDT

To: Tom Tuchman, Forestry and Conservation Financial Advisor to Governor John Kitzhaber

Sent Electronically

Dear Tom,

I understand from my staff that you wanted to see a current copy of the Senator’s O&C principles. These build on the document which staff had shared with the Governor’s office and the Congressional delegation over a year ago, and are focused on developing a realistic solution that can actually pass both houses of Congress. Please find the document attached to this note.

I commend you and the Governor for continuing to work to bring folks together on this issue. Finding a solution to the almost century-long problem posed by the checkerboard of O&C lands should be a top priority of everyone representing the people of Oregon.

As you know, Senator Wyden shares the Governor’s desire to find common ground on an approach for management of O&C lands that achieves both timber harvest and conservation goals. Creating a consensus process is a critical first step to start identifying solutions, but much more will be needed for O&C legislation to be enacted into law.

As noted in the attached principles, the Senator has long believed that there is only one way to come up with a solution that works for all of Oregon and can also pass both houses of Congress.  That is to bring in the broadest possible range of stakeholders and insist that everyone compromise and work toward a common goal. Ron has had success using this approach for his Eastside Forestry bill, Mt. Hood Wilderness and other public lands efforts, Secure Rural Schools, and other legislation.

If, as is widely expected, the Senator takes over the senior Democratic spot on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, he will be well-positioned to move this issue forward. It is Ron’s intention to bring together all of the relevant stakeholders and build a consensus on legislation that has the greatest likelihood of becoming law. The Senator will be eager to consider any ideas and compromises you are able to develop over the next few months to the extent that they work within these principles.

I look forward to the results of your efforts and hope to stay in close communication as you work through your process.


Jeff Michels, Chief of Staff, Senator Ron Wyden, Oregon