The Oregon and California Railroad Grant Lands’ Sordid Past, Contentious Present, and Uncertain Future: A Century of Conflict
76 Pages Posted: 17 Apr 2012 Last revised: 10 Feb 2013
Date Written: April 13, 2012
This article examines the long, contentious history of the Oregon & California Land Grant that produced federal forest lands now managed by the Bureau of Land Management (“O&C lands”), including an analysis of how these lands re-vested to the federal government following decades of corruption and scandal, and the resulting congressional effort that created a management structure supporting local county governments through overharvesting the lands for a half-century. The article proceeds to trace the fate of O&C lands through the “spotted owl wars” of the 1990s, the ensuing Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP), the timber salvage rider of 1995, and the George W. Bush Administration’s unsuccessful attempts to change the compromise reached in the NWFP. The article then explains how decreases in timber harvesting and declines in federal payments have brought the counties reliant on these lands to the brink of bankruptcy, and analyzes two current legislative proposals aimed at increasing harvests on the O&C lands in order to bolster flagging county economies. The article concludes by identifying significant economic and environmental flaws in these proposals and suggests several alternative revenue-producing options that could provide economic security and diversity to the counties without eviscerating the key environmental protections provided by the NWFP and other federal environmental protection statutes.
Keywords: public lands law, environmental law, endangered species, legal history, land use, environmental assessment
JEL Classification: H41, H77, K11, K32, L32, L73, L98, N51, N52, O13, Q23, Q28
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation