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BLM Unveils Options for Managing O-and-C Forestlands

PHOTO: Oregon's densely forested O-and-C lands encompass slightly more than 2.6 million acres, and the Bureau of Land Management wants more public input as it updates the master plan to manage them. Photo credit: Chris Thomas
PHOTO: Oregon's densely forested O-and-C lands encompass slightly more than 2.6 million acres, and the Bureau of Land Management wants more public input as it updates the master plan to manage them. Photo credit: Chris Thomas
April 29, 2015

PORTLAND, Ore. - Groups are lining up for and against five possible alternatives for managing 2.6 million acres of Western Oregon forests known as the O&C lands.

The Bureau of Land Management is updating the 20-year-old Northwest Forest Plan. To timber industry groups, the complex options boil down to one key point - how much timber can be harvested? But BLM project manager Mark Brown said most of the public comments received so far have focused on the need to keep the lands accessible for recreation, so the agency is trying to accommodate both.

"It used to be the mentality was that they're mutually incompatible, or that they would be in conflict with each other," he said. "But the types of recreation that the public demands now are a lot different than they did 25 years ago."

Conservation groups also are concerned about maintaining protections for fish and wildlife. Brown said the agency knows a lot more now than it did 20 years ago about endangered species and climate change, and is incorporating the new information into the Resource Management Plan.

These former railroad lands - officially "Oregon and California Revested Grantlands" - were given back to Oregon in the early 1900s, and a 1930s law required part of their logging proceeds be used to benefit the 18 counties where the land is located. As head of the Association of O&C Counties, Columbia County Commissioner Tony Hyde said his group isn't pleased with any of the plan alternatives - but would choose the one that allows the highest timber harvest.

"We don't want to clear-cut the world, and we've never said that," he said. "We want responsible management. I love hiking and fishing as much as the next person. But I also love being able to know that we're going to have a sheriff and a jail, and public services that are basic requirements for government."

Hyde said he isn't convinced recreation is making a significant difference in some counties' coffers, but others say the counties need to do more to diversify their economies. Of the five alternatives laid out by the BLM, one would keep the status quo. Four others would allow logging ranging from 120 million to 486 million board feet per year.

Public meetings about the alternatives will be held from mid-May through June.

The plan is online at blm.gov, and the meeting schedule is here.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR