Oregon Environmental Legislation

Early Legislation

A lake with a mix of deciduous and evergreen trees along the bank. The trees are thick and there is no evidence of humans.
Lost Lake in the Cascade Mountains. From the Oregon Scenic Images collection.
Oregon draws national attention for its environmental legislation. Forest management practices are key. Four significant pieces of Oregon legislation impacted the forest industry.


The 1929 Oregon Reforestation Law was considered one of the most progressive pieces of forest legislation for its time. The law provided for the forestation and reforestation of Oregon lands; provided a classification system for these lands; created an annual forest fee and yield tax on forest lands and the crops yielded by these lands; and penalized violators of this law. The act triggered a great deal of interest in the region: 


In 1940, Gov. Charles Sprague "set in motion a movement to develop a well coordinated program of forestry and land use." The Governor's program was enacted by the Legislative Assembly and included measures to strengthen the fire protection system, improve forest land acquisition laws, establish a research division to promote the use of wood wastes, and set minimum standards for cutting timber for commercial purposes. The 1941 Forest Conservation Act built on the last of the Governor's recommendations by recognizing the impact that the forest products industry had on the state. Provisions were included in the Act to "encourage forest practices that maintain and enhance such benefits and such resources, and that recognize varying forest conditions."


Thirty years later the 1971 Oregon Forest Practices Act became the first law of its kind in the United States to allow and regulate forest operations while protecting the environment. After considerable debate, the Legislative Assembly passed this act established rules for timber harvesting, the use of chemicals, slash disposal, reforestation, road construction and maintenance, and other activities impacting the forest environment. The State Forester could issue citations to violators who could then appeal to the Board of Forestry or a local circuit court. A primary goal was to reduce incidents of pollution.
1971 Flow Chart showing the State Forester could issue citations (1971 Legislative Exhibits, Natural Resources Committee, HB 1624, 1/29/71)


Oregon's evolving environmental legislation continued in 1987 when after numerous committee public hearings and work sessions the Legislative Assembly passed HB 3396. This latest Oregon Forest Practices Act was amended to include all regulation of forest and land use practices.

Forest practices have not been the only area of innovation by the Legislative Assembly. Other notable environmental bills passed in Oregon include:
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