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Eastern rangelands benefit K-12 schools
For immediate release                                                        10-17
More information:   Lanny Quackenbush – 541-388-6355; lanny.r.quackenbush@state.or.us (Bend)
                                Randy Wiest – 541-388-6456; randy.wiest@state.or.us (Bend)
                                Julie Curtis – 503-986-5298; julie.curtis@state.or.us (Salem)
State lands are inventoried each year to ensure long-term stewardship
Bend - With more than 630,000 acres of open rangeland under its purview, the Department of State Lands' eastern region staff has been steadily chipping away at the goal of inventorying 30,000 acres a year since 2002. To date, rangeland crews have completed inventories on 321,402 acres out of 525,000 acres of large - or "blocked" - state-owned rangelands in southeast Oregon.
The fieldwork is done annually in June and July to provide baseline data on rangeland health, wildlife habitat, vegetative species, soils, and the overall condition of the land. Data from the inventories is used to create site-specific management plans that guide how the land is used.
"The land is leased to ranchers, and revenue from these lands is deposited into the state's Common School Fund," said DSL's eastern region manager Lanny Quackenbush. "Since statehood, our department has been charged with providing public school funds so that Oregon schoolchildren will benefit from state lands forever." The department has about 145 active rangeland leases which generate more than half a million dollars per year.
This year's rangeland inventory focused on the Wagontire Allotment, and covered the 29,546-acre Little Juniper Pasture and 2,047-acre West Highway Pasture, located southwest of Burns. Of interest this year was the dramatic increase in native grasses and vegetation in areas where juniper reduction projects have been completed in the last two years.
After inventory data is collected, rangeland staff develop management plans for the areas surveyed, collaborating with lessees and other interested parties such as the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Department of Agriculture and the Oregon Natural Desert Association. All plans are circulated for public comment.
At statehood in 1859, the federal government granted Oregon two square miles out of each township (a 36-square-mile parcel), or approximately 3.4 million acres of land, to finance public schools. In the early years of statehood, public officials felt that selling state lands would yield more for schools through property taxes and other economic benefits.
Today, the State Land Board manages remaining state lands for long-term income to the Common School Fund, a trust fund for schools that now has a market value of just under $1 billion. The State Land Board distributes earnings from the fund twice a year to Oregon's 197 K-12 public school districts. The two distributions in 2010 (January and July) totaled $50.4 million.
"Our goal as a department is to significantly increase revenue into the Common School Fund over the next decade and beyond," said Quackenbush. "In order to make this happen, we must invest in our lands, and manage them well to help fulfill our multi-generational promise to Oregon schools." All trust lands overseen by the State Land Board are governed by the 2006 – 2016 Asset Management Plan.
More information on the Common School Fund:
More information on rangelands:
The State Land Board consists of Governor Theodore Kulongoski, Secretary of State Kate Brown and State Treasurer Ted Wheeler.  The Department of State Lands administers diverse natural and fiscal resources. Many of the resources generate revenue for the Common School Fund, such as state-owned rangelands and timberlands, waterway leases, estates for which no will or heirs exist, and unclaimed property. Twice a year, the agency distributes fund investment earnings to support K-12 public schools. The agency also administers Oregon’s Removal-Fill Law, which requires people removing or filling certain amounts of material in waters of the state to obtain a permit.