Lane County the next Harney County?

Lane County, Oregon commissioners are planning to sue the BLM when it releases its revised plan for western Oregon lands.  One of them couldn’t help bringing up the Malheur occupation, but I’m not sure what exactly his point was in doing that:

Leiken mentioned the ongoing occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Eastern Oregon by armed protesters, saying federal land policies are hurting rural workers and could drive them to extreme measures such as the refuge takeover.

“The last thing we need happening is another incident like they had in Harney County,” Leiken said.

I have a little trouble with fear being a reason for logging.  Maybe it’s a good reason for the justice system to fully prosecute this kind of crime.

16 Comments

  1. I’m scratching my head to think of any successful litigation that required federal agencies to increase logging over planned levels. It’s a pretty difficult case to make. Plenty of success at reducing or stopping logging, though.

      • Yes, the counties (and their allies in the timber industry) have been trying to increase logging for a long time and it has never worked. Even after the Bush administration was installed by the Supreme Court, they entered into a “global settlement” of some old industry litigation filed during the Clinton administration. Bush quickly agreed to a long list of demands from industry but the subsequent policy initiatives went no where. They failed to get rid of the survey and manage program. They failed to get the BLM Western Oregon Plan Revision through ESA consultation. I wish these loser litigants would stop wasting everyone’s time.

    • It kinda sounds like a SUWA v. Norton type challenge. In which case, good luck compelling a federal agency to act absent a statutory duty. If anything is left to agency discretion the plaintiff is out of luck. The Court ruled that the APA only allows courts to examine government agencies’ failures to meet specific statutory requirements. A general complaint based on policy differences – like SUWA’s view that the off- road vehicles made the Wilderness Study Areas unsuitable for preservation as wilderness – could not be heard under the APA. The late (it so pains me to write) Justice Scalia wrote, “If courts were empowered to enter general orders compelling compliance with broad statutory mandates … it would ultimately become the task of the supervising court, rather than the agency, to work out compliance with the broad statutory mandate, injecting the judge into day-to-day agency management.

  2. I suppose the debate over ownership of our public lands will continue well into the future. I have major concerns as to the potential transfer of any public lands to the States or local governments. We now can see the limits of our natural resources and question how long before our planet will no longer support human life. We have lost slightly over 50% of the planets forest cover and our population is 7.5 billion people. Our population will continue to increase, currently by 75 million per year, and increased demands will result in continued deforestation. Unless someone discovers a new planet to provide for our species, we are faced with only two alternatives. First and foremost, we must develop new and better management strategies for the management of our remaining public lands and second, we must find ways to live in balance with earth.
    Transferring ownership to smaller government organizations would be disastrous for the human population. The past 20 years has provided numerous examples of what States are being forced to do to meet financial obligations. When the federal Congress elected to reduce taxes, the States lost the Federal Grant monies for schools, highways, natural resource management and more. Many states decided to sell off their assets such as lands, tollways and other holdings to balance their budgets. Transferring federal public lands to states will definitely add monies to the state treasury and destroy your children’s and grand children’s future survival.
    The solution will be found in intensive management of our forested lands to keep them healthy, diverse and productive, and the resulting by-products will be the natural resources required to support our affluent life style. OUR PUBLIC LANDS ARE THE FUTURE OF OUR OWN SPECIES AND MUST BE PROPERLY MANAGED FOR ALL CITIZENS! WE CAN ACCEPT NOTHING LESS!

  3. I’m assuming the idea behind the possible suit is that the county feels the BLM is not providing the revenues the county expected.

    The O&C lands were once privately owned and on the property tax rolls. However, when the lands reverted to federal ownership, the lands left the property tax rolls and left the county holding an empty bag. That being the case, the agreement was that a half of any harvest receipts would go to the county in lieu of those foregone property tax revenues. With the decline in federal harvesting, the county is again holding an empty bag and probably feeling as though the federal government is not holding up its end of the bargain.

    Similarly, most of Oregon’s state-owned forest lands had been privately-owned and on the property tax rolls. When these lands went back to the counties after the Tillamook Burns and the cut-n-run logging of bygone days, the counties simply did not have the resources to manage these lands and to reforest them. An agreement was made whereby the state assumed ownership, reforested the land, and 75% of any harvest revenues would be returned to the counties in lieu of those foregone property tax revenues. Similar to federal lands, there has been a reduction in harvesting and the counties are back to holding an empty bag. Notice has been filed by one county of a class-action suit to manage the lands and to produce full timber harvest/revenues at some level closer to their potential.

    The Elliott State Forest is a little different in that they are dedicated school lands and are mandated to provide school revenues. However, so many restrictions have been placed on it that it not only is not providing revenues, it is operating at a deficit! Some scattered parcels have been sold and there is some talk about selling the remainder of that forest. [That has created quite a stir among some groups!]

    It seems odd that the state can manage their lands by keeping 25% of harvest revenues while the BLM needs to retain 50% and the Forest Service needs to keep 75%. Federal lands seem to have more inefficiencies.

    A recent Oregon Office of Economic Analysis had some interesting figures. At the bottom of the recent recession (2010), both urban and rural employment had dropped about 8.5% from 2008 pre-recession levels. Since then, urban employment has regained all of that 8.5% and is actually about 2% better than pre-recession!

    Rural employment is quite another story. Post-recession, the rural communities have recovered about 3.5% which means it is still about 5% below its pre-recession levels – that is about a 7% difference between urban and rural! It seems to me that federal lands, being in the rural communities (and being 60% of Oregon’s forests), are obliged to support rural communities. Urbanites (i.e., most of the voters and the politicians all across the US) don’t seem to realize these rural communities exist and that these folks are essential to everyone’s well-being. Virtually everything people use (food, fiber, water, energy, etc.) can be traced back to the rural community. These people and our natural resources are critical to everyone’s well-being.

    • You seem to assume that federal land conservation is a drain on rural economics, when in reality the opposite is true. The presence of federal land in a county is associated with greater economic performance, and it’s even better of those public lands are “protected” versus unprotected. People need to understand the commodity production is a net negative for rural economic stability.
      https://www.hcn.org/articles/four-charts-that-show-protected-land-is-good-for-rural-economies

      • I hope you read the whole article. Yes things are better if you are somewhere where you are allowed to develop a ski resort or like. I can tell you 10 truckloads of logs create more economy than a 1,000 mountain cyclist. But the real point is we should have and need both.

      • This seems to suggest that we should set farm land aside for “conservation” values because commodity production (food!) is a net negative. Is this suggesting our farm land should be turned over to federal ownership/control for protection? Yes, when I can count at least 15 small, local, family-owned mills (all either wholly or mostly dependent on available logs) in just my home county (there are only three left), or count a dozen or less mills left in ALL of central and eastern Oregon, or the closing (for the second or third time) of a long-time family-owned mill in southwest Oregon that recently re-tooled so they could handle small logs, etc., then I’d have to think federal land “conservation” is a drain on local communities.

        People use things (commodities) and these have to come from somewhere. I suppose we could protect all of our lands and, to get the things we use, just stick our head in the sand and import everything. And that, it seems to me, is a problem of ethics that we conveniently ignore.

  4. As to comment about timber production “mandated by O&C Act”… that provision is subject to interpretation. “Shall be managed… for permanent forest production, and the timber thereon shall be sold, cut, and removed in conformity with the principal of sustained yield for the purpose of providing a permanent source of timber supply, protecting watersheds, regulating streamflow, and contributing to the economic stability of the local Communities and industries, and providing recreational facilities.” There’s a lot in there in addition to timber. The act doesn’t say how much, and it certainly doesn’t say that timber can come at the expense of other values. BLM has chosen a particular interpretation, but that is not the only one. I agree that timber will be cut on O&C lands, but how and how much is another issue. And I don’t think BLM can be successfully sued for not cutting “enough.”

    • Jim, the O&C Act of 1937, which is still the law of the land, does indeed address the annual cut:

      “The annual productive capacity for such lands shall be determined and declared as promptly as possible after the passage of this Act, but until such determination and declaration are made the average annual cut therefrom shall not exceed one-half billion feet board measure: Provided, That timber from said lands in an amount not less than one-half billion feet board measure, or not less than the annual sustained yield capacity when the same has been determined and declared, shall be sold annually, or so much thereof as can be sold at reasonable prices on a normal market.”

      That’s crystal clear, and the “shall” says to the O&C’s managers, as a famous caption of the USS Enterprise said, “make it so.”

  5. Then I’d have to ask, what is “sustained yield”? Harvesting a small portion of the annual growth is certainly sustainable for the long-term. But, when one considers that Oregon’s federal forests are harvesting 8% of its annual growth, that is easily sustainable for the long-term.

    Another 19% of that annual growth is lost to mortality and the remaining 73% is left as live, green growing stock. That 73% (2.11 billion board feet) could potentially employ an additional 22,000 Oregonians (10.8 people per million board feet)! Note: this is just the ANNUAL GROWTH. And that, I suspect, is a major part of the motivation behind the potential suit. Just think what the addition of all those people to the workplace could do for local governments and local communities.

    Now consider the biology. The concept of carrying capacity says that any given unit of land has a finite source of rainfall, soil nutrients, etc. It follows that the amount of life that unit of land can support is also finite. Therefore, can we reasonably expect to add 73% of that growing stock year after year without eventually exceeding the land’s carrying capacity? When the carrying capacity has been exceeded, drought, insects, disease, fire, etc. will work its magic. Considering the lack of timber harvesting, fires we’ve been putting out for decades, etc., could that account for the forest health problems we’re seeing all across the American West? The biology is pretty simple.

    I’m NOT suggesting old trees, water, wildlife, etc. have no value. I am suggesting that some far-sighted, long-range forest management could do wonders for the forest and for local communities.

    In the early 90’s, I was talking to a woman from the Ore. Dep. of Education; this was right after a recession and the implementation of the NW Forest Plan. She had a graph that showed how, pre-recession, the Oregonian’s income levels closely paralleled the rest of the US. Afterwards, there was a gap in income levels and the gap was widening – I asked her why. She said that flipping burgers and selling souvenirs along the coast do not come close to what a forest worker could earn.

  6. OK — I see that; set harvest at no more than 0.5 billion bf, until addl analysis yielded a specific amount. Then appears to say long-term amount will be no less than 0.5 bill, no matter what analysis yields. Hypothetically, if analysis shows 750 sell that; if it shows 350, sell 500. Correct? Issue is whether analysis can take other factors into consideration. But it appears, no less than 0.5 bill, no matter what?

    • Jim,

      The act says “timber from said lands in an amount not less than one-half billion feet board measure” -OR- “not less than the annual sustained yield capacity when the same has been determined and declared.”

      So, the BLM is obligated to sell an amount “not less than the annual sustained yield capacity.” If that were determined to be 350 mmbf, that’s what they’d have to sell.

      Sources at BLM have told me that the annual sustained yield capacity is 700 mmbf+.

  7. How does the BLM define “sustained yield capacity?” NFMA defines it as the “quantity which can be removed from such forest annually in perpetuity on a sustained-yield basis.” What “can” be removed has historically meant to the Forest Service that all competing uses must be taken into account in deciding what lands are suitable for timber production and estimating realistic yields from those lands. It’s hard to imagine that wouldn’t be the case here, if the sustained yield capacity is not only a ceiling but a required target that the BLM is accountable to Congress for. There should have been a lot of scrutiny of the 700 mmbf figure when it was “determined and declared.”

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