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Private vs. Public: Different Lands, Different Laws

Posted by Chandra LeGue at Feb 24, 2012 03:00 PM |

Chandra LeGue highlights the rather stark difference between how private forestlands and public forests are managed in Oregon.

Private vs. Public: Different Lands, Different Laws

A clear-cut on private timber land. Not exactly what drives tourists to come Oregon, is it? (photo by Chandra LeGue).

by Chandra LeGue

In light of the release of Reps. DeFazio, Schrader and Walden's draft legislation to create a 1.5 million acre "timber trust" out of public O&C lands, to be managed under private timber land laws, I thought it would be helpful to explore the differences between environmental safeguards on federal public lands and private timber lands.

As you may guess, there are significant differences between both the laws and practices applied to these lands.  Of course, private timber lands are generally managed for timber production, with short rotation clear-cutting the dominant practice. Public lands are managed to provide clean water, fish and wildlife habitat, recreation, as well as timber production – mostly through selective thinning practices.


Federal environmental laws that apply to BLM and Forest Service lands require analysis of environmental impacts, public input, rigorous stream protections, and protection and restoration of endangered species habitat. 

Private and state-owned forest lands in Oregon are managed according to the Oregon Forest Practices Act (OFPA). This allows for clear-cutting, minimal stream buffers, aerial spraying of herbicides, and no public involvement in planned activities.

Federal laws like the Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act apply to both public and private land, though differently. The burden of environmental protection is generally much higher on public land so that private land can be more intensively managed.

See a complete comparison of private and public land management.

In other words, private timber land generally looks like this:

 aerial private lands_Giraudier

And federal public forest lands generally look like this:

aerial private lands_Giraudier

Under the O&C Trust Act, an additional 1.5 million acres in western Oregon will be managed like private lands to maximize revenues for counties. More than 350,000 acres of old forests would be opened up to intensive logging. And 3,000 miles of streams would lose existing protections. Ouch.


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