PORTLAND -- The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced late last week that it will begin to prepare an environmental assessment for the reclassification of public domain lands as part of the implementation of the Western Oregon Tribal Fairness Act.
The Act, signed into law by President Trump on January 8, 2018, directed the BLM to transfer 14,742 acres of public lands to be managed in trust to benefit the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians, and 17,519 acres to be managed on behalf of the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians.
In addition to transferring these lands into trust for the Tribes, the law also requires the BLM to identify and convert approximately 32,000 acres of public domain lands to be managed under the Oregon and California Lands (O&C lands) Act of 1937. Reclassifying these lands as O&C lands will allow 18 western Oregon counties to share in a portion of receipts from timber sales on these lands, which directly benefit local communities that depend on timber for jobs and economic development.
“BLM, Tribes, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs will continue to work as a team to accomplish these goals and collectively meet all identified benchmarks. We’ve made great progress so far and the reclassification of these lands is the next step in the process. We are confident that by working together we will meet our shared commitments to support economic growth for the Tribes and local communities, and fulfill our obligations under the Western Oregon Tribal Fairness Act,” said Theresa Hanley, Acting Oregon State Director.
According to Dan Courtney, Chair of the Cow Creek Umpqua Tribe, “This forest will sustain and protect drinking water, wildlife, and local mills benefiting the health of a community we share with many. Additionally, we all benefit as Tribal management practices have long demonstrated increased timber yields, suppressed fire dangers, and maintained biodiversity, providing a national model for sustainable forest management.”
Confederated Tribes Chief Warren Brainard shared “After the Tribes restoration, in 1986 I began to work with Council on the first forest plan. This is a lifetime accomplishment that I feel privileged to be a part of. We did this for our people, for the success of seven generations and beyond.”
The law requires that these public domain lands be approximately equal in acreage and condition as the Oregon and California grant lands that are being held in trust for the Tribes. The reclassification of public domain lands to O&C lands will not change the management of the land, which is governed by the 2016 Northwestern and Coastal Oregon Resource Management Plan and the Southwestern Oregon Resource Management Plan. Timber sales on public domain lands do not result in any direct payments to counties, whereas, the Oregon and California Lands Act of 1937 provides that 50 percent of receipts from the sale of timber are allocated annually among the 18 western Oregon counties. The allocation formula is based on each county's proportion of the 1915 assessed value of the O&C lands and will not be affected by this effort. This effort will examine which of the approximately 32,000 acres of public domain lands will be reclassified under the Oregon and California Lands Act of 1937.
The reclassified lands may be within any of the following Oregon and California grant land counties: Benton, Coos, Clackamas, Columbia, Curry, Douglas, Jackson, Josephine, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Marion, Multnomah, Polk, Tillamook, Washington, and Yamhill Counties.
The BLM is beginning to prepare an environmental assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act to facilitate public involvement and assist in agency decision-making. The environmental assessment will consider alternative selections of PD lands to reclassify as O&C lands.
The beginning of this process, also known as scoping, is an opportunity for the public to identify issues to be considered within this reclassification process. An interactive map that details the location of the public domain lands that are being examined for reclassification, along with other planning materials, is available online at: https://www.blm.gov/oregon-washington/serving-america/western-oregon-tribal-fairness-act.