A Sustainable, Science-Based Solution for Oregon’s O&C Lands

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The O&C Act of 2014 will chart a new course for Oregon’s approximately 2.8 million acres of O&C and Coos Bay Wagon Road lands, ending decades of uncertainty and broken forest policy. The bill will increase harvests and provide a steady supply of trees from federal O&C lands that will mean more jobs and new certainty for the mills and timber companies that rely on federal forests. At the same time, it will provide permanent protections across that landscape, providing jobs and investment from recreation, and security for hunting and fishing guides and outfitters who can count on the preservation of our wild treasures.

O&C IntroSenator Wyden introduces the O&C Act of 2013 with a broad coalition of support.

When introduced in 2013 Senator Wyden’s O&C Act covered 2.1 million acres.  Today, in 2014, the version of the bill marked-up by the Committee has broader environmental support and covers 2.8 million acres.  Additional U.S. Forest Service lands were included in the bill to begin to address the checkerboard land management of this area that has made a great deal of active forest management, both for timber and conservation, difficult.

The bill sets aside 1.6 million of those acres as conservation areas, while maintaining 1.2 million acres as  as forestry emphasis areas, which focus on producing sustainable timber harvests.  The bill permanently protects 87,000 acres of wilderness and 252 miles of wild and scenic rivers. Creating a clear division in O&C lands between what is loggable and what is not will end the uncertainty and conflicting priorities that have contributed to federal management failure on these lands and produce wins for both sides of the historic timber war conflict. There are also special areas protected for recreation, which is an increasingly important part of our rural economies, and is responsible for 141,000 jobs in Oregon alone.

It uses proven forestry science to produce sustainable harvests. The forestry principles used in this bill are based on the work of Drs. Norm Johnson and Jerry Franklin, two respected Northwest forestry scientists. Their principles, known as “ecological forestry” and built on forestry approaches used around the globe, will generate higher timber volumes and prevent industrial clearcuts. The bill treats the O&C’s moist forests, generally in western Oregon, differently from the O&C’s dry forests, mainly located in the southern part of the O&C lands.

This bill will more than double the harvest on O&C lands compared to the last 10 years. Right now, the average cut over the last 10 years on federal O&C lands has been 150 million board feet per year. Under current policy that number will continue to go down. The BLM’s models confirm this legislation would boost harvests sustainably to 400 million board feet per year for the next 50 years.

The legislation provides expedited procedures and strict timelines for legal and environmental reviews, to ensure certainty and predictability in producing sustainable timber harvests and revenues from these lands. While upholding federal environmental laws, the bill would provide for a streamlined approach to undertaking environmental analysis, providing for two large scale environmental impact statements – one each for moist and dry forests – that will study 5 years of work in the woods, rather than a single project, as is the case now. Preparation of those documents requires upfront consultation among federal agencies.

After the initial analysis, subsequent projects that are consistent with the 5-year environmental review will not require further analysis, and suits over individual projects will be limited. The legislation also eliminates the time-consuming and costly “survey and manage” requirements for O&C lands.

This strategy takes the most controversial harvests off the table. Late successional and old growth stands currently 85 years old or older in moist forests can never be cut.  There is also protection for trees over 150 years of age.

This legislation contains a host of provisions to ensure that water stays clean for Oregon families, endangered fish and businesses:

  • The Northwest Forest Plan Aquatic Conservation Strategy is legislated and its stream protections are extended to key watersheds and four drinking water emphasis areas, with additional lands designated for conservation, to protect drinking water.
  • Science guides how the agency can treat trees nears streams and a scientific committee will provide advice regarding stream buffers and reserves in areas dedicated to timber harvests, with the Secretary increasing or decreasing the boundaries as needed to address the ecological importance of streams. This acknowledges that one size does not fit all.
  • It requires reductions in the miles of roads and includes watershed restoration initiatives such as a million dollars annually for tree tipping into streams.

It improves fire resiliency in the dry forests of Southern Oregon. In areas that have grown prone to catastrophic fires, this bill reduces tree density and provides new tools for treating forest lands near residences.  Private landowners can more easily protect against fire by being allowed to treat forests within 100 feet of their homes.

Nothing in the bill is intended to affect private forestry owners access to or work on private forest land adjacent to public lands covered by this bill.  

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