Legal wins for Oregon timber, rural communities

Federal Court Decisions on O&C Lands Deliver Major Victories for Rural Oregon
Travis Joseph
AFRC President,

A federal court issued two major decisions relating to the management of Western Oregon O&C lands. In one decision Judge Richard Leon invalidated President Barack Obama’s proclamation expanding the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument on O&C lands, finding no President has the unilateral authority to override Federal law and an Act of Congress. Specifically, the court found that the O&C Act mandate to manage the lands for permanent forest production “cannot be rescinded by Presidential Proclamation.”

Judge Leon also invalidated the Bureau of Land Management’s 2016 Western Oregon Resource Management plans (RMPs) because the plans fail to meet the clear mandate of the O&C Act. That law requires the BLM to manage the O&C Lands, more than two million acres of highly productive forestlands in Western Oregon, on the basis of sustained yield forestry – meaning harvesting a consistent amount in perpetuity that will not exceed harvesting more timber than what is grown by the forest every year. Revenues from the O&C lands are shared with Oregon counties to support essential public services including law enforcement, search and rescue, public health, and youth and senior services.

The American Forest Resource Council (AFRC) brought lawsuits against both the expansion of the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument and the 2016 Western Oregon Resource Management plans.

AFRC President Travis Joseph hailed both decisions as important legal victories for rural communities, Oregon workers, and federal forest management precedent moving forward: “Forest policy in the Pacific Northwest is complex. But these important legal decisions are crystal clear. In both cases, Judge Leon rightfully and unambiguously found that the federal O&C Act means exactly what it says, the management plans for these unique Oregon forestlands are illegal, and the expansion of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument exceeds any president’s unilateral authority. These are major wins for the rule of law and rational, science-based forest management.”

AFRC’s General Counsel, Lawson Fite, added: “These decisions reaffirm the O&C Act’s vision of sustainable and responsible management, and that Congress has the final word on management of public lands. We look forward to opening a new chapter in forest management in the Pacific Northwest.”

Travis Joseph

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