The Oregon Senate and the Oregon Legislature are petitioning Congress to return control of the O & C lands to the State of Oregon.
O & C lands were originally private land deeded to railroad companies to build railroads to serve the state. Management of those lands later reverted to the federal government to be managed for the benefit of the citizens of the State of Oregon. Senate Joint Memorial 10, now before the legislature would return control of the lands to the state while maintaining ownership by the federal government. The bill before the legislature would allow the governor to appoint a nine-member board designated as the O & C Trust Board of Trustees.
This board would be charged with managing 1.6 million acres of forests for sustainable forest commodity production at a quantity not less than 500 million board feet per year as established in the Oregon and California Revested Lands Sustained Yield Management Act of 1937.
In short, this means that those 1.6 million acres would return to productive use and another 1.1 million acres would be reserved for natural succession and recreation. The total lands now under the O & C control is 2.7 million acres within the state of Oregon.
As most know, when the forests were shut down, payments dwindled to the counties, meaning that schools suffered, causing county budget woes and layoffs.
Jackson County Commissioner, John Rachor, representing the Board of Commissioners, and Josephine County Commissioners Hare, Walker and Heck, wrote letters to the legislature in support of SJM 10. Rachor’s letter says in part, “the sustainable sources of revenue derived from these revested grant lands, as recommended by this memorial, will not only put Oregonians back to work by creating hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs across the state, but it will also be instrumental in increasing our local economy and helping preserve the future of our neighboring counties.”
Josephine County Commissioners said, “Unnecessary impediments to achieving the goals of the 1937 O & C Act have led to an overstocked unhealthy forest, loss of valuable timber jobs and degradation of many rural Oregon communities and economy. Through shared receipts from timber harvests and meeting the minimum harvest level provided for in the ACT, these communities can move forward toward self-sustainability and off the unreliable Federal dole while also providing more resilient and sustainable forests.”
The measure is in Senate committee now, to be voted on later this week.