Oregon and California (“O&C”) Lands

Oregon and California Lands infographic

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The future of 2.6 million acres of high value public forest lands is at risk. Managed mainly by the Bureau of Land Management in Oregon known as Oregon and California (“O&C”) lands [PDF], these forests are home to perhaps the highest concentrations of pristine wild rivers in the United States. Watersheds such as the Rogue, Illinois, Umpqua, and McKenzie support abundant fish and wildlife, including elk, black-tail deer, back bear and the healthiest wild salmon and steelhead runs south of Canada. These lands are also home to a unique biological diversity in its forests –temperate rain forests, ancient conifer forests, oak forests and savannas—including more than 300 plant species found nowhere else on Earth. The forests on these lands also provide outstanding recreation and timber for harvest.

The history of the O&C lands dates back to the late 19th Century when Congress provided land to incentivize construction of a railroad between Oregon and California. After the railroad reneged on the agreement and the lands reverted back to federal ownership. In 1937 Congress gave these lands special status and decreed that they should be managed to provide permanent timber supply, support local communities and protect watersheds.

Most importantly, these lands play a critical role in providing clean drinking water for roughly 40 percent of Oregonians downstream. A total of 1.8 million Oregonians receive their clean drinking water from O&C lands and 73 percent of the O&C lands are located in areas identified by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality as Surface Water Source Drinking Water Areas.

American Rivers supports a balanced solution that preserves key watersheds and protective streamside buffers and retains protections for Endangered Species, while providing a predictable, sustainable supply of timber off of O&C lands. Source drinking water areas, areas with high erosion or runoff potential such as steep slopes or erodible soils, areas that are historically or currently prone to landslides should receive special consideration for conservation as well. After all, clean drinking water is our most valuable natural resource.

Information & Resources:

For more information, contact: David Moryc, Senior Director River Protection, (503) 827-8648.