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Legal and Economic Issues

In the United States, forest owners have both private property rights and responsibilities towards the rest of society. This sustainability criterion examines the laws and policies regarding these rights and responsibilities.

Having many different forest owners complicates things. The federal government, the state, American Indian tribes, counties, the forest products industry, and thousands of individual families all own large pieces of Oregon's forests.


map of forest ownerships within the Northern Coast Range Adaptive Management Area (Click to enlarge)
Map courtesy of the Northern Coast Range Adaptive Management Area

For example, this map shows the patchwork pattern of ownerships in Oregon's Northern Coast Range Adaptive Management Area.

Basically, one set of rules and policies govern most federal lands (national forests, Bureau of Land management, lands, national parks, wildlife refuges) and some tribal forests. The Northwest Forest Plan, adopted in 1994, currently emphasizes a decrease in timber harvests and establishment of "late-successional reserves" (these are areas where conditions similar to old-growth forests would be encouraged and maintained).

Other types of ownerships (state, county, corporate, private, and some tribal forests) are governed by the Oregon Forest Practices Act. Oregon was the first state to establish forest practice rules in 1971. The rules are frequently updated as scientists make new discoveries about how forests function.

Oregon's land use laws help conserve forest lands and prevent them from being converted to other uses.