Responses to Questions Asked
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Several comments received during the scoping process asked specific questions about the planning process or resource issues. Some statements were made that seemed to be based on only partial information. The following questions, answers, or statements are added to this report for clarification purposes.
Numerous questions were raised about BLM’s interpretation of the O&C Lands Act of 1937. Several public comments suggested differing interpretation of the O&C Act.
In 1937, Congress passed the Oregon and California Revested Lands Sustained Yield Management Act (the O&C Act), Public Law 75-405, putting the revested O&C lands and the Coos Bay Wagon Road lands under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of the Interior. The O&C Act embraced the new principles of sustained-yield requiring that harvested areas be reforested and a sustained annual harvest be declared. One goal of the O&C Act was to provide a future source and sustained flow of timber that would contribute to local economic stability.
As the statutory act for management of these lands, the O&C Act requires that the O&C lands and Coos Bay Wagon Road lands "classified as timberlands shall be managed for permanent forest production, and the timber thereon shall be sold, cut, and removed in conformity with the principal [sic] of sustained yield for the purpose of providing a permanent source of timber supply, protecting watersheds, regulating stream flow, and contributing to the economic stability of local communities and industries, and providing recreational facilities." (43 U.S.C. §1181a)
Based on interpreting the language of the O&C Act, its legislative history, and the court cases cited below, it is the BLM’s position that management of timber (including cut and removal) is the dominant use of the O&C and Coos Bay Wagon Road lands in western Oregon. That dominant use must be implemented in full compliance with not only the O&C Act, but also a number of subsequent laws that direct how BLM accomplishes that goal.
National policies, such as the Special Status Species Policy BLM Manual 6840, will apply to the extent they are consistent with the O&C Act. The prescription, timing, and methods of timber harvest can be adjusted, but lands cannot be removed from the harvest land base solely to protect species not provided protection by another law.
Areas of Critical Environmental Concern will be managed to protect their relevant and important features to the extent this does not conflict with the O&C Act. Lands cannot be removed from the harvest land base solely to protect relevant and important features. Timber management in this designation is an allowable use, but the cutting intensity, frequency, prescription, and method may be adjusted to protect relevant and important features. Such adjustment may result in lower timber outputs.
The O&C lands cannot be designated a Wilderness Study Area under the current laws and regulations. The prescribed 15-year time period to identify areas with Wilderness characteristics, provided for in the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, is expired.
Visual resource management must be consistent with the O&C Act, unless the O&C Act is superseded by another act (such as a Wild and Scenic River designation) that did not specifically exempt O&C lands. Timber management in this designation is an allowable use, but the cutting intensity, frequency, prescription, and method may be adjusted to protect visual features. Such adjustment may result in lower timber outputs.
The management of developed recreation facilities on O&C lands is consistent with, and in fact is specifically mentioned, in the O&C Act. Management of recreation sites (other than facilities) and areas such as Special Recreation Management Areas (SRMAs) must be consistent with the O&C Act. These lands cannot be removed from the timber base solely to maintain recreation values. Timber management in this designation is an allowable use, but the cutting intensity, frequency, prescription, and method may be adjusted to maintain the recreation experience and visitor safety in these areas. Such adjustment may result in lower timber outputs.more>>>