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O&C Lands
In 1905 the US Forest Service (USFS) was
established after the national forest system
tripled in size across the nation. This was
required because fledgling local governments
that were granted the forests in their jurisdiction
didn’t have the abilities to manage such vast
tracts of land. To compensate said counties for
potential losses of tax revenues given to the
USFS, Congress approved the Act of May 23,
1908. This Act allowed the USFS to use these
taxes for management, recreation, fire
prevention, facility costs and forest maintenance.
A portion of surplus funds from timber sales,
mineral leases, grazing, and more were for
redistribution back to the counties containing
these national run forests and grasslands. Later
in 1946 the newly formed Bureau of Land
Management (BLM) was set up similarly.

Distribution of timber receipts was fixed in 1937,
by the US congress and the Supreme Court to
equalize revenue earned by board feet produced,
based on sustainable limits, but without any
percent given to the state, as they taxed
everything after timber hit the mills. In the late
1970s the state strong armed counties into giving
up a third of that revenue in exchange of a

promise to reciprocate funds if and when timber
receipts fell below levels needed to run local
governments. Enter the 1980s, the non-native
spotted owl, the spotted tree frog, the marbled
Murrelet, timber sales down to 1/500 of the
sustainable yield and hard times for southern

Even with severely trimmed down budgets O&C
counties were on a path to bankruptcy without
receiving the full tax base granted to them by
law. In 2000 the State Congress and senate
grudgingly pass legislation for help, so in came
Democrat created programs like the Secure Rural
Schools (SRS) and Payments in Lieu of Taxes
(PILT), to keep up basic level budgets, even
though eastern and southern counties still
continue bearing the responsibility of non-
taxable federal lands.

Sadly these program payments only represent a
fraction of what would be collected from
property taxes and timber receipts, but they are
now critical for local governments to meet their
governing missions such as infrastructure,
education, conservation projects, law
enforcement, search and rescue missions, and
wildfire prevention programs

SRS lapsed in Fiscal Year 2016, counties then saw
an instant 80 percent decrease in needed federal
forest payments. SRS was reinstated in 2017 and
grudgingly each year after until 2020. In 2021,
the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law authorized SRS
payments through Fiscal Year 2023, but refused
to reverse the timber tax revenue loss still being
diverted to Salem coffers.

On April 14 this year, the USFS announced the
release of $228 million for the Secure Rural
Schools (SRS) payments, with $45.6 million
coming to Oregon counties. A few days after, the
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced
$25.6 million in payments to Oregon counties
under the Secure Rural Schools and Community
Self-Determination Act. This means over $70
million will be coming back to Oregon to replace
timber tax loss.

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