January 14, 2021 3:30 a.m. 

The Association of O&C Counties has expressed strong support for the recently announced decision of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to exclude all O&C lands from the 9.5 million acres previously designated by that agency as critical habitat for the Northern Spotted Owl.

AOCC President Tim Freeman, a Douglas County Commissioner, said “This is the result AOCC has been seeking for a long time and we are pleased the agency finally agreed with us”.

The AOCC release said O&C lands are required by federal law to be managed by the Bureau of Land Management for sustained yield timber production. The 18 counties with O&C lands in them are entitled to 50 percent of the proceeds from the sale of timber from the lands, with the remaining 50 percent returned to the federal treasury. The release said counties have relied on their share of harvest receipts to provide essential public services since 1937. AOCC has argued since 2012 that the designation as critical habitat interferes with sustained yield management as required by law.

AOCC Executive Director Rocky McVay said that NSO habitat will be maintained and even increased through sustained yield management on the O&C lands. McVay said a new management plan will be prepared in the near future and will serve as a fresh model for how to support the needs of the NSO. He said the decision is an opportunity to demonstrate sustained yield management can provide both economic and environmental benefits.

McVay said a new plan from the Bureau of Land Management offers an opportunity to go beyond “inflexible land use designations” to recognize how sustained yield management can simultaneously improve habitat levels at the landscape scale and reduce losses from wildfire. McVay said that can be done while providing timber and revenue needed by communities and the nation.

Douglas County Commissioner Tim Freeman will talk more about the decision on Friday’s Morning Conversation on News Radio 1240 KQEN.