Logging Road Dispute: The BLM Is Protecting (?) Your Land

John and Betsy Morris thought they'd found paradise in the Pacific Northwest until Bureau of Land Management plans for a logging road across their property came to light.

| January/February 1972

  • logging road dispute - barn
    Closer view of the Thornfield Farm barn.
  • logging road dispute
    John and Betsy Morris with their son on Thornfield Farm.
  • logging road dispute - creek bed
    The logging road would have passed over this creek, the farm's water supply.

  • logging road dispute - barn
  • logging road dispute
  • logging road dispute - creek bed

The federal government owns over 765 million acres, or one-third the total area (2.3 billion acres) of the United States. About 500 million acres of this federally owned land is classified as "forest and wildlife" and approximately 100 million acres of the land so classified is listed by the government as "commercial forest".

The Bureau of Land Management — a division of the Department of the Interior roughly parallel to the Forest Service in the Department of Agriculture — has exclusive responsibility for the 60% (460 million acres) of the federally owned land. While over half of the BLM's domain is in Alaska and — like much of the rest — contains little or no timber, the Bureau of Land Management does control several million acres of prime forest in the Pacific Northwest.

According to a Department of the Interior organization chart, BLM land is managed for these multiple uses:

1) Fish and wildlife development
2) Domestic livestock grazing
3) Outdoor recreation
4) Occupancy
5) Mineral production
6) Timber production
7) Watershed protection
8) Preservation of public values on public land

Notice anything wrong with this description? But never mind the contradictions. If strictly adhered to, a logging road shouldn't have priority over the interests of homesteaders. And yet ....

The spring of 1970 was a good time for John and Betsy Morris. They'd just bought a sprawling 761 acres in the the Windy Peak region of Oregon's Coastal Range, only 40 miles' drive from Eugene.

The young couple's new farm was uncommonly beautiful — wooded ridges rose steeply from pastures watered by two forks of a clear, mountain stream — and much of it was inaccessible except by foot or horseback.

John and Betsy had chosen Thornfield Farm partly because of its seclusion. Refugees from the city — John had been a department manager for Montgomery Wards — they'd searched the pacific Northwest for a quiet, natural setting in which to raise their small children and launch an organic beef farm. Thornfield's narrow, Y-shaped valley at the end of the county road was ideal for both purposes.

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