O&C Lands are the 2.6 million acres of public forest that blanket much of Western Oregon, stretching from outside Portland south through the Willamette valley, and down to the California border. Called O&C because of their ties to the Oregon and California Railroad Company, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is the managing agency for the vast majority of O&C Land. O&C Lands form a checkerboard pattern, and are often interspersed with private timber land and other private land ownership. There is a small amount of O&C Land within the boundaries of Mt. Hood National Forest, and nearly all adjacent BLM land near Mt. Hood is O&C.
What makes O&C land different than other public forest land? The O&C Lands Act of 1937 established a special management status for these forests in the early twentieth century (read an in depth history here) that created the legacy which has followed these forests into the twenty-first. The Act tied logging revenue on O&C lands to the budgets of the 18 so-called O&C Counties in which these forests are situated. Decades of unsustainable logging, couple with increased environmental awareness led to reductions on O&C logging in the nineties, and the resulting reduction in timber receipts for O&C counties has caused the fate of these forests to become a subject of hot debate among politicians, environmental advocates, and the timber industry.
Representative Peter DeFazio introduced a controversial O&C management bill this past summer, and Bark and allies have been awaiting similar legislation by Senator Ron Wyden. Wyden’s draft O&C Lands Trust Act was released in November, and as feared it is another band-aid fix: heavy on clearcuts and rollbacks to environmental protections, and light on lasting solutions to boost and sustain rural Oregon county governments. The good news? Wyden’s bill is still a draft and has yet to be introduced to the Senate. We are working to influence Wyden and keep our public forests protected. Contact Meredith @ bark-out.org for more info on O&C Lands, Wyden’s O&C Lands Trust Act of 2013, and ways to get involved.