A federal judge's rulings and a Linn County court decision concerning timber harvesting are victories for Curry and other Oregon counties, according to Curry County Commissioner Court Boice.
U.S. District Judge Richard Leon of the United States issued decisions in two cases filed by the Association of O&C Counties (AOCC) in 2016 and 2017, granting AOCC a complete victory in both cases.
"We are not fond of litigation but sometimes it is necessary, and our decision to pursue these two cases has been fully vindicated." AOCC Board Member and Curry Commissioner Court Boice said. “This is wonderful news for us."
Boice said his grandfather, along with three other AOCC county commissioners worked tirelessly to move forward their efforts of the O&C Act that ultimately became Federal Law in the late 30’s.
The law required the Bureau of Land Management to harvest 500 million board feet of timber annually.
"The high quality timber in our O&C Lands grows over 1 billion board feet each year,” Boice said. "These lands have historically been managed to produce revenue that is shared with counties to pay for a broad range of public services, from public health and safety, to libraries and youth and senior services."
In the first case, AOCC argued that the 1937 O&C Act require all 2.1 million acres of O&C timberlands under jurisdiction of the BLM to be managed for that sustained yield requirement. Boice said in the ruling, the federal court agreed, summarizing the 18 page decision, stating,
"Of this there can be no doubt; the 2016 RMPs [BLM Resource Management Plans] violate the O&C Act. When a statute's language is plain, courts must enforce it according to its terms."
In its second case, AOCC argued that O&C lands cannot be included by presidential declaration in a national monument in which sustained yield management is forbidden. Boice said the court agreed with that as well.
"This is a clean sweep for the counties" AOCC's Executive Director Rocky McVay said. "This litigation is not over by any means, but this is a huge step forward for Western Oregon counties that have historically relied on shared timber receipts from O&C lands to support essential public services."
Judge Leon ordered the parties to submit additional briefs regarding the path forward in implementing the Court's decisions. The "remedies" phase will address the process for replacing the BLM management plans that were declared to be illegal, and for removing more than 40,000 acres of O&C lands from the national monument in which they were illegally included. The remedies briefing will be completed by mid-January.
Boice said Curry County did not participate in the third court case at Linn County.
"Within the Curry boundaries, we actually have very little state owned land or state owned forests," he said. "This is the primary reason we’re not an Oregon Forest Trust Land County.
In that case, a Linn County Court jury determined that the state of Oregon breached its contract with the 13 rural counties and 151 local taxing districts by failing to maximize timber harvests on state forests and resulting payments to those counties during the last two decades.