Over 100 Illinois Valley residents packed the Cave Junction Community Building on September 24th to hear Congressman Peter DeFazio explain the O&C Trust, Conservation and Jobs Act. Protestors waved signs and giant tree puppets provided levity to the otherwise serious mood of the crowd. Known as the O&C Trust Act, the bill is co-authored by Representatives Greg Walden (R-OR), Kurt Schraeder (D-OR) and Peter DeFazio (D-OR).
The Act was folded into an even worse piece of forest legislation—H.R. 1526. They passed the House of Representatives handily on September 20th. President Obama opposes the bill and said he will veto it.
Polite, but often critical, residents of this rural community had come to hear how the O&C Trust Act would affect where they live, work and play. Watch Chanel 5 coverage. The BLM lands of the Illinois River Valley are closely intertwined with people’s homes, farms and businesses. Many attendees were concerned about the spraying of herbicides, clearcutting in their watersheds, destruction of trails, impacts on tourism and on attempts to diversify the local economy. They wanted details.
What they got were generalities. On the surface it sounded good. But the real numbers tell a different story. For example, according to a recent analysis, the O&C Trust Act would protect 102,000 acres of Wilderness and Wild and Scenic River 102,000 acres. However, it would effectively privatize 1.6 million acres of federal public forest land by placing them in a logging trust. Many thousands of acres of both National Forest and BLM lands in the Illinois River Basin, a wild salmon and steelhead stronghold, would be transferred to the timber trust.
Selecting out 1.6 million acres of federal forests for the O&C timber trust by age—125 years old or younger—would also result in the severe fragmentation of 2.6 million acres of BLM and National Forest O&C lands in Western Oregon. The land would be carved up into bits and pieces depending on the determined age of its forest. On the National Forests, the formation of the trust would fragment now contiguous National Forest land including in Oregon’s largest Inventoried Roadless Areas, the North and South Kalmiopsis.
Contrary to what proponents of the O&C Trust Act often claim, it’s not just existing tree plantations that would be placed in the timber trust. The Act requires that all forests on BLM and National Forest O&C land, which are 125 years of age or younger (unless exempt), to be placed in the timber trust and managed for maximum sustained yield. This includes native/virgin forest such as those found in the Shasta Costa Roadless Area and Northwest Forest Plan Key Watershed.
The O&C Trust Act will degrade millions of acres of federal public forests and watersheds. It would especially be destructive for the Illinois River Valley, the upper Illinois River Basin and the watershed of the National Wild and Scenic Illinois River. Learn the specifics in coming posts.
The O&C Trust Act is a gift to the timber industry and a recipe for the exploitation of our natural heritage and the further impoverishment of communities like the Illinois Valley. As Bob Doppelt recently wrote in the Eugene Register-Guard providing for the future of Oregon’s rural communities is a complex problem that won’t be solved by a simple solution like the O&C Trust Act.
 Representative DeFazio objects to the use of the term “privatize” to describe the transfer of National Forest and BLM lands to the O&C Trust. However, according to Senator Wyden it is a form of privatization. Senator Ron Wyden in interview with the Salem Statesman Journal on August 21st.
I believe that looking at history, you can’t get passed and enacted into law (and failure is unacceptable) if you try to privatize vast swaths of federal land. The house wishes to pursue that route…The trust—and we’ve spent a lot of time studying this—in the house bill is a unique kind of entity but it functions as a private body under state law and thereby doesn’t comply with NEPA and the ESA …
 The authors of the O&C Trust Act have provided maps of BLM O&C land that would be transferred to the timber trust. However, as of yet there are no maps of BLM Public Domain lands and National Forest O&C lands that would be included in the timber trust. According to one analysis approximately 250,000 of National Forest O&C land would be transferred to the timber trust, where it would be clearcut, sprayed with chemicals and for the most part managed as private forest land. Because of its more frequent fire history, the 170,000 acres National Forest O&C land in the Siskiyou National Forest is particularly at risk. There are many thousands of acres of young native (virgin) fire placement stands on the forests, including in large Inventoried Roadless Areas.