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Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Oregon & California Railroad Trust Lands (O&C Lands): Issues for Congress

Katie Hoover
Analyst in Natural Resources Policy

The O&C (Oregon & California) lands consist of 2.6 million acres of timberland in western Oregon (see Figure 1). The majority of these lands (2.5 million acres) were originally granted to the Oregon & California Railroad Company in 1866 for constructing approximately 300 miles of the Oregon portion of a railroad from Portland, OR, to Sacramento, CA.1 The railroad received alternating sections of land for an average of 20 miles on each side of the proposed railroad, resulting in a checkerboard ownership pattern with private, state, local and federal ownership. As part of the grant, Congress directed the Oregon & California Railroad Company to encourage settlement and development by selling parcels no larger than 160 acres at a maximum price of $2.50 per acre.2 However, the railroad violated the grant by selling larger tracts above the designated price. In 1908, the Department of Justice filed suit against the railroad company, and the case eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court, where the Court ruled that the lands granted to the railroad should be returned to federal ownership.3 The disposition of these lands was eventually resolved with the O&C Act of 1937.4 This act directed that administration of the lands would be by the Department of the Interior (DOI) for permanent forest production. The lands initially were managed by the DOI General Land Office. In 1946, the General Land Office was merged with the U.S. Grazing Service to create the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which continues to administer the O&C lands.

The O&C lands also commonly include 75,000 acres of the reconveyed Coos Bay Wagon Road (CBWR) lands. These lands—also in western Oregon—were returned to federal ownership in 1919 for failure of a company to fulfill the terms of a grant to construct a military road between Coos Bay and Roseburg. The CBWR lands have been included with the O&C lands for various legislative and management purposes.

This report provides background information about the O&C lands and discusses federal payments made to the 18 counties in Oregon to compensate for the tax-exempt status of these federal lands.

Date of Report: February 6, 2013
Number of Pages: 9
Order Number: R42951
Price: $19.95

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R42951.pdf  to use the SECURE SHOPPING CART


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