- The forests of the Oregon Coast Range have been both the principal
natural resource, and for many years, the primary economic base of the region. In the past thirty years, changing social and economic factors have created new visions for these forests, leading to conflict over the appropriate management of both public and private forest lands. Initially the conflict played out in escalating disputes over the management of public lands. Most recently, the recognition that the boundaries of ecosystem interactions, water quality, wildlife habitat, and even public safety do not fit into a public/private classification, has led to increased conflict over the management of private forest lands. This study examines the political patterns and dynamics of the Oregon Coast Range region as a forum for exploring how the institutional realities of political influence have shaped forest policy formation for private lands. Key political actors were influential in formulating and promoting the 1971 Oregon Forest Practices Act and Rules, the primary regulatory policy for
private forest lands, and they were active participants in the evolution of three subsequent policy areas: the composition of the Oregon Board of Forestry, the rules for riparian areas, and the regulation of logging on steep slopes and unstable soils. Through an analysis of patterns of influence and procedure; resources, representation, and access; and regulatory outcomes
with respect to the protection of public goods such as water and wildlife, the study focuses both on institutional capacity to respond to change and issues of process in regional policymaking. Results indicate that historically, the forest products industry significantly influenced early policy formation for private
forest lands, and industry continues to maintain a proactive role today. Environmental groups emerged as a force in the 1980s, but focused primarily on public land policy. However, their successful use of the media to raise public awareness served to gradually connect public land issues to private policy. Other agencies played a role in policy formation but only when representatives of these groups chose to become involved (or were put under pressure through litigation by environmental groups). The scientific community contributed important information, but their work was affected by the political climate and by the maneuvering of interest groups. Since the 1980s, the policymaking process has included a larger and more diverse group of political interests, but despite a shift to a more open and inclusive process of public consultation, the Oregon Department of Forestry (the key regulatory agency for private forest lands) continues to interact more often with industry representatives in crafting policy, and when other stakeholders are not present, industry goals dominate agency decisions. Forty percent of the Oregon Department of Forestry's Forest Practices Division budget, as
mandated by 1973 state legislation, comes from the timber harvest tax. Theory proposes that this budget dependency could influence the choice of policy and management options that prioritize continued and increased timber harvest over the protection of public goods such as water and wildlife. Regulations and rules protecting public resources have increased since the inception of the 1971 Act, but have been criticized as still minimal in addressing the protection of the forest ecosystem as a whole and the cumulative effects of harvest practices.