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Hugo Neighborhood Association & Historical Society

What Are Resource Lands?
Woodlot Resource To Non-Resource Lands
Evaluation: Internal Rate of Return - IRR
Top IRR Rated Agricultural Lands
Non-rated Soils & IRR System
Quasi-Judicial Plan Amendments
Compliance With Goal 3 -- Agricultural Lands
Compliance With Goal 4 - Forest Lands
Brown Report: IRR Zoning
Composite IRR



Brochure 5 in IRR Series

December 22, 2003
January 14, 2004 (updated)
March 8, 2004 (updated)
Land Use Committee
Hugo Neighborhood Association & Historical Society
Member of the CACNA Coalition


Non-Rated Soils

The Brown Report1 rated 56 soils of the county’s 111 soils defined by the Soil Survey2 (pages 178 - 181). The internal rate of return (IRR) system for analyzing soils is part of the Josephine County Comprehensive Plan and code.3 Twenty-six (26) (57%) of the 46 farm soils and 11 (16%) of the 67 forestry soils were not assigned an IRR rating by Brown. Forty-four (44) (40%) of the county’s 111 soils were not assigned a forest productivity rating by the Soil Survey.

The Hugo Neighborhood Association has concerns with the application of the IRR system.4

LUBA Opinions On Non-Rated Soils

LUBA ruled that designation of land as agricultural land does not, of itself, mean the land is not also suited to protection as forest land. Westfair Associates Partnership v. Lane County, 25 Or LUBA 729, 737 (1993).

LUBA has held that the county can not assume that soils that had not been assigned internal rates of return are non-forest soils. Doob vs. Josephine County, 31 Or LUBA 275 (1996). The county cannot exempt from the required soils evaluation all soils in the county which have not been rated. See ODF’s Technical Bulletin No. 3 X5.

LUBA ruled that a Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) non-rating provides no information, quantitative or otherwise, pertinent to the statutory test of whether a soil is capable of producing defined levels of wood fiber [ORS 215.750; OAR 660-006-005(2); Carlson v. Benton County, 34 Or LUBA 140, 149 (1998)].

James Hecker, NRCS Resource Conservationist, commented that "There is a misunderstanding when soils are not rated for forest production. It does not mean these soils are ‘non-productive,’ but rather are ‘typically’ used for agriculture and have been rated for that use with predicted yields and given a Capability Class Rating for crop production."

Thor Thorson, NRCS Soil Data Quality Specialist, provided the following response to a question posed by petitioner: "Does the lack of [NRCS] data on site productivity indicate a soil is unsuitable for timber production? No; only that suitable timber sites were not measured at the time the survey was conducted, or since the survey was completed. The soils therefore may or may not be capable of timber production at some level."

James Johnson, Farm/Forest Coordinator with the Department of Land Conservation and Development, stated that for the purposes of OAR 660-006-005(2): "The applicants cannot simply depend on a ‘nonrating’ to make a case that soils located on a site are not productive. OAR 660-006-005(2) * * * requires the applicants to provide other methods, with equivalent data, to show the productivity of the subject soils. A statement that the soils are unrated does not provide a method with data equivalent to NRCS data used to determine productivity."

JCCP Goal 11, Policy 3(B)(2), by its terms, applies where "a determination cannot be made using the internal rate of return system" under JCCP Goal 11, Policy 3(B)(1). If that language does not mean that JCCP Goal 11, Policy 3(B)(2) applies in cases where the soils have not been assigned an internal rate of return, it is difficult to imagine when JCCP Goal 11, Policy 3(B)(2) would ever apply. Doob vs. Josephine County, (2002).

Josephine County Workshop on the Soil Survey - October 27, 2003. NRCS representatives informed the public at the workshop that the Soil Survey was completed over 20 years ago. A non-rating in the Soil Survey does not mean the soil does not have any forest productivity, only that for some reason it was not rated.

Steve Campbell, Soil Scientist, NRCS, in a letter to Wayne McKy, Chair, Hugo Neighborhood Association, January 14, 2004, wrote the following. " . . . In these cases there will not be any forest productivity data in the database, but this does not mean the component is not capable of supporting commercial forest stands."

More Information. Would you like to learn more about citizen involvement in land use planning? Contact a member of the Land Use Committee of the Hugo Neighborhood.

Disclaimer. This brochure is as much about providing information and provoking questions as it is about opinions concerning the adequacy of findings of fact and land use decisions. It does not provide recommendations to citizens and it is not legal advice. It does not take the place of a lawyer. If citizens use information contained in this paper, its their personal responsibility to make sure that the facts and general information contained in it are applicable to their situation. (Link)

1. Lawrence F. Brown. 1985. Using The Internal Rate Of Return To Rate Forest Soils For Applications In Land Use Planning. Grants Pass, OR.; Michael Snider. 1999. Locational Factors Affecting Woodlot Resource Lands. Josephine County Planning Office. Grants Pass, OR.

2. United States Department of Agriculture. Soil Conservation Service. December 1983. Soil Survey of Josephine County, Oregon. Presently the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

3. Goal 11. Josephine County. October 2000. The Comprehensive Plan For Josephine County. Grants Pass, OR; Article 46. Josephine County. Revised October 2001. Josephine County Rural Land Development Code. Grants Pass, OR.

4. Hugo Neighborhood Association & Historical Society. IRR Series, brochures 1 - 10. 2003 - 2004.

5. Oregon Department of Forestry. Land Use Planning Notes. Technical Bulletin Number 3 X. April 1998. This bulletin was developed to help landowners and local governments when they must use an alternative to USDA’s soil surveys under OAR 660-006-005(2) where NRCS data are not available or inaccurate.

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2012 Hugo Neighborhood Association & Historical Society