O & C Timber Debate Dates Back to 1937

Sep 16, 2013

  Today’s debate over how much timber to harvest on land formerly held by the Oregon and California Railroad dates back to 1937 when the federal government reclaimed 2.6 million acres of forest land it had given railroads 71 years earlier. 

 Seeking to spur Western development, the government had granted 3.7 million acres of land in 1866 to railroads in exchange for building a line between Portland and California. The companies, in theory, would sell the land for funding. As Americans began to perceive the nation’s vast natural resources were limited, interest in conservation grew, as did concern over heavily subsidizing railroad companies. The federal government reacted in 1937 by reclaiming the 2.6 million acres to be managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Reflecting the political climate of the Great Depression, the government stipulated that the BLM assured “permanent forest production…with the principle of sustained yield,” and share triple the standard timber-sale receipts with counties containing the land.  Reduced federal harvests and receipts in recent years have challenged communities in O&C counties accustomed to large federal payments.  Timber interests and conservationists differ today on how to simultaneously protect the forests and bolster the economies of the O&C counties.   Sources: “O&C Sustained Yield Act: The Land, The Law, The Legacy 1937 – 1987.” US Department of the Interior - Bureau of Land Management, 1987. Print; Rice, Nathan. "Seeking balance in Oregon's Timber Country." High Country News . Web. 12 Aug. 2013. <http://www.hcn.org/issues/45.7/seeking-balance-in-oregons-timber-country/article_view?b_start:int=1>.