Text Size:   A+ A- A   •   Text Only
Site Image
Criterion 7 Indicator 48
The Extent to Which the Legal Framework Clarifies Property Rights, Provides for Appropriate Land Tenure Arrangements, Recognizes Customary and Traditional Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and Provides Means of Resolving Property Disputes by Due Process
The four components of Indicator #48 are based on a set of assumptions: stable property rights are essential for sustainable forest management; property rights reflect a society’s values; property rights are evolutionary; and property rights are determined by means of due process.

For the sustainability of forests and other natural resources, the relevant property rights include the ability to: exclude or control access to land; dispose, alienate, or transfer title to the land; manage or manipulate the land and its resources; use, withdraw, consume, or transform the resources on the land; and enjoy the land. In the United States, property rights are protected by due process (the administration of law in the courts of justice) and restricted by the state’s police powers. Each level of government also maintains powers of taxation, eminent domain, and escheat. Judicial case law and its interpretation are the most important legal sources on property rights, land tenure arrangements, and methods for resolving property disputes.
The private property rights of forest landowners reside with the corporations, individuals, or local governments that own the forests. The Oregon Forest Practices Act (FPA), a set of state rules and regulations administered by the Oregon Department of Forestry, regulates commercial forest activities such as timber harvesting and road building on these lands, in order to protect resources and long-term site productivity.
Oregon’s land use laws regulate changes in land use on forest lands. These laws are administered by the Department of Land Conservation and Development, which is a state agency, and also by local governments. The land use laws, which directly affect property rights, aim to achieve sustainable development through a system of 19 statewide planning goals. These goals include one for forest lands. Goal 4 is: "To conserve forest lands by maintaining the forest land base and to protect the state´s forest economy by making possible economically efficient forest practices that assure the continuous growing and harvesting of forest tree species as the leading use on forest land consistent with sound management of soil, air, water, and fish and wildlife resources and to provide for recreational opportunities and agriculture." State law requires each county to have a comprehensive land use plan and zoning ordinances that implement the goals, as well as administrative rules that further define how to achieve the goals.
Legal framework for non-federal forest lands — rights of indigenous peoples
Some tribal lands are held in trust by the federal government for the tribe. In Oregon, the tribal lands held in trust are exempt from state regulation, and the Forest Practices Act and state land use laws do not apply to these trust lands. Other tribal lands, which are not held in trust by the federal government, may or may not be exempt from the Forest Practices Act.
In some cases, there are privately owned forest lands contained within a reservation. The Forest Practices Act may or may not apply to these private lands, depending on whether the reservation is considered to be "open" or "closed." Several factors determine this status, including the degree to which non-members of the tribe are excluded from the reservation. If the reservation is closed, the Forest Practices Act does not apply to private lands within the reservation. If the reservation is open, the Forest Practices Act very likely applies to the private lands.
Legal framework for federally managed forests — property rights
The federal government holds the property rights for federally managed forests, and acts in the interest of all citizens of the United States in managing these forests. These property rights are significantly modified by a number of rights and privileges granted by the Constitution and federal law. For example, the states have the right to manage game animals and fish on the federal forest lands, including the right to enforce state laws on hunting, fishing, and trapping, on federal lands.
The Clean Water Act, the Coastal Zone Management Act, and some other federal laws require compliance and/or coordination with standards and programs established by states. Other federal laws ensure reasonable citizen use and access to mineral resources on federal land. The federal land management agencies use a variety of long-term and short-term contracts and permits to sell timber and other forest resources, when these sales are consistent with land management plans
Legal framework for federally managed forests — land tenure arrangements
The federally managed forests have a secure, stable land tenure. In other words, these forests are fairly certain to remain under federal ownership and management in the foreseeable future. Some land exchanges are made with other landowners for resource or management reasons, but the exchanges are for land of equal or greater value. Some purchases are also made, but these have been rare in recent years. In the 1980s, proposals surfaced for the large-scale transfer of federal lands to private ownership, but a transfer is not considered likely now.
Legal framework for federally managed forests — rights of indigenous people
In Oregon, the Native American tribes signed treaties with the federal government at different times in the last half of the nineteenth century. In exchange for their lands, the tribes were guaranteed many rights of access and use on federally managed lands, and some rights of access and use on state and private lands. These rights, particularly rights related to fishing, have been upheld by the courts and federal policies in recent years.
Some of the Native American tribes in Oregon own forest lands. The Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs and the Umatilla Tribe have reservations with large areas of forests. Other tribes, including the Siletz and Grande Ronde, own smaller forested areas. There are currently several proposals, some formal and some draft, to re-establish forested reservations for other tribes, including the Coquille and the Klamath. The property rights on reservations are comparable to private land property rights, not to rights on federal or state lands.