The Bureau of Land Management has released its environmental assessment for the reclassification of more than 30,000 acres of public domain lands, including acreage in Douglas County, as part of the implementation of the Western Oregon Tribal Fairness Act.

The public now has until Nov. 12 to comment on the assessment.

President Trump signed the Act into law in January 2018. It directed the BLM to transfer 17,812 acres of public lands to be held in trust for the benefit of the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians, and 14,708 acres of public lands to be held in trust for the benefit of the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians.

The Act also requires the BLM to identify and convert about 32,500 acres of public domain lands to be managed under the Oregon and California Lands (O&C lands) Act of 1937. Reclassifying these lands as O&C lands will allow 18 western Oregon counties, including Douglas County, to share in a portion of receipts from timber sales on these lands.

The Act requires that the lands be reclassified about equal in acreage and condition as the Oregon and California grant lands that were conveyed to and are now held in trust for the tribes. The reclassification of these lands to O&C lands will not change the management of the land.

Matt Hill, Executive Director of Douglas Timber Operators, said the reclassification of the acreage shouldn’t have much of an impact on how the lands are managed in Douglas County or statewide and DTO does not plan to formally comment on the assessment.

“I assume they’re going to be managed virtually the same as before,” Hill said. He also said DTO supported the Western Oregon Tribal Fairness Act and wants to see the process move forward.

Timber sales on public domain lands do not result in any direct payments to counties, whereas the O & C Lands Act provides that 50 percent of receipts from the sale of timber on O&C lands be distributed annually among the 18 western Oregon counties. The allocation formula is based on each county’s proportion of the 1915 assessed value of the O & C lands and will not be affected by this effort. This effort will examine which lands will be reclassified under the O & c Lands Act to best meet the statutory intent of the Act.

The reclassified lands may be within any of the following counties: Benton, Clackamas, Columbia, Coos, Curry, Douglas, Jackson, Josephine, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Marion, Multnomah, Polk, Tillamook, Washington and Yamhill. The BLM will be accepting public comment on the environmental assessment until Nov. 12. A copy of the environmental assessment and information about submitting comments is available at: https://bit.ly/32YeWDD

An interactive map that details the location of the public domain lands that are being examined for reclassification, along with other planning materials, is available online at: www.blm.gov/oregon-washington/serving-america/western-oregon-tribal-fairness-act

Before including personal identifying information in your comment, know that that the entire comment — including personal identifying information — may be made public. While those commenting can ask the Bureau to withhold information from the public, the BLM said it cannot guarantee that.

Scott Carroll can be reached at scarroll@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4204. Or follow him on Twitter

@scottcarroll15.

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