Today Judge Richard Leon of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia issued decisions in two cases filed by the Association of O&C Counties (AOCC) in 2016 and 2017, granting AOCC a complete victory in both cases. “We are very pleased with these results,” said Commissioner Tim Freeman of Douglas County, who serves as the President of AOCC’s Board of Directors. “This decision has been a long time coming but it has been worth waiting for—-the Court agreed with all of AOCC’s arguments,” added Freeman. “We are not fond of litigation but sometimes it is necessary, and AOCC’s decision to pursue these two cases has been fully vindicated.” O&C lands have historically been managed to produce revenue that is shared with Counties to pay for a broad range of public services, from public health and safety to libraries and youth and senior services.
In one of the cases AOCC argued that the 1937 O&C Act requires all 2.1 million acres of O&C timberlands under jurisdiction of the BLM to be be managed for sustained yield timber production. The Court agreed, summarizing the 18 page decision as follows: “Of this there can be no doubt: the 2016 RMPs [BLM Resource Management Plans] violate the O&C Act. When a statute’s language is plain, courts must enforce it according to its terms.” (Citations omitted).
In its second case, AOCC argued that O&C lands cannot be included by presidential declaration in a national monument in which sustained yield management is forbidden. The Court agreed with that as well. “This is a clean sweep for the Counties” said Rocky McVay, AOCC’s Executive Director. “This litigation is not over by any means, but this is a huge step forward for Counties in Western Oregon that have historically relied on shared timber receipts from O&C lands to support essential public services.”
Judge Leon ordered the parties to submit additional briefs regarding the path forward in implementing the Court’s decisions. This “remedies” phase will address the process for replacing the BLM management plans that were declared to be illegal, and for removing more than 40,000 acres of O&C lands from the national monument in which they were illegally included. The remedies briefing will be completed by mid-January.