Text Size:   A+ A- A   •   Text Only
Find     
Site Image
History and Legal Mandates of Oregon State Forests
What are State Forests?
State forestlands in Oregon were acquired in different ways, and the two types are owned by different entities – the Board of Forestry and the State Land Board. 
 
Board of Forestry lands (657,000 acres) comprise 84 percent of state forestland, and Common School Lands (124,000) total 16 percent.
 
Board of Forestry lands comprise most of the Tillamook, Clatsop, Santiam, Sun Pass and Gilchrist state forests. The state acquired these lands primarily in the 1940s from counties that had received the cut-over or burned lands from private owners in lieu of back taxes.
 
Counties transferred deeds to the state to manage, rehabilitate and reforest the lands. In return, counties receive a share of the revenues from the harvest of forest products. The revenue distribution formula is fixed in statute (63.75 percent to counties; 36.25 percent to state for management of the lands).
 
Common School Lands are primarily in the Elliott State Forest. The federal government granted these lands to the state in 1859 when Oregon became a state. The Oregon Department of Forestry manages the forests for the State Land Board through an agreement with the Department of State Lands.
 
Revenue generated from these lands goes to the Common School Fund, which helps fund public education in Oregon. The Oregon Department of Forestry’s cost for managing the land is billed to the Common School Fund.
 

History
 
Francis Elliott, the first Oregon State Forester, promoted the doctrine that the State of Oregon should manage forests on the public’s behalf and worked during the 1920’s to create the Millicoma Tract, a land exchange between the federal government and the state. The 93,000-acre forest became the first of six State Forests in 1930, when scattered tracts of Common School Land within national forest boundaries owned by the State were traded for one contiguous block of national forest land. Common School Lands were granted to Oregon by Congress in 1859 through the Oregon Admissions Act to support public education. The State Land Board is the trustee of these land assets. The Millicoma Tract was renamed the Elliott State Forest following the State Forester’s death just months after the forest was created.
 
The 1920’s saw extensive logging of lands in western Oregon, and by the late 1930’s many cut-over lands were deeded to counties for unpaid property taxes. Legislative action in 1939 and 1941 encouraged counties to turn over management of these lands to the Board of Forestry, and by 1947, about 520,000 acres had been transferred to Board of Forestry ownership – with the counties receiving a majority of proposed income from the forests.
 
The State Forestry Department began active management of state-owned forestland in the 1950’s.
 
In 1973, Governor Tom McCall dedicated the rejuvenated and thriving Tillamook State Forest, forever reclaiming the area known by many Oregonians as the ‘Tillamook Burn’. In 1974, the 48,000-acre Santiam State Forest east of Salem is dedicated. For the next 35 years, Oregonians began to experience more recreational opportunities in five state forests – Tillamook, Clatsop and Santiam in northern Oregon, the Elliott State Forest near Reedsport and the 20,000 acre Sun Pass State Forest just south of Crater Lake in Klamath County.
 
The state forest system grew by 43,000 acres in June 2010 with the dedication of the Gilchrist State Forest south of La Pine, becoming central and eastern Oregon’s largest state forest.
 

Legal Mandates
 
The two different types of state forests are owned by different entities – the Board of Forestry and the State Land Board – and each has its own set of legal mandates. 
 
Board of Forestry lands are managed achieve the greatest permanent value to the state (for definitions see Oregon Administrative Rules 629-035-000 through 629-035-0110 ). This means to provide healthy, productive and sustainable forest ecosystems that over time and across the landscape provide a full range of social, economic and environmental benefits.
 
Oregon Revised Statutes 530.010 through 530.170 guide the acquisition, management and development of Board of Forestry lands.
 
The legal mandates for managing Board of Forestry lands include the dual obligations of sharing income with the counties and conserving, protecting and using a variety of natural resources.
 
The counties have a protected and recognizable interest in receiving revenue from these forestlands; however, the Board and the State Forester are not required to maximize revenues, exclude non-revenue uses, or produce revenue from every acre.
 
Common School Lands are managed to “obtain the greatest benefit for the people of this state, consistent with the conservation of this resource under sound techniques of land management” (Oregon Constitution, Article VIII, Section 5 ).
 
This responsibility was clarified in a 1992 opinion of state Attorney General Charles S. Crookham: The “greatest benefit for the people” standard requires the State Land Board to maximize long-term revenue to the Common School Fund, within the context of environmentally sound management.
 
Statutes concerning Common School Lands are found in ORS 530.450 though 530.520.