United States District Court, D. Oregon
OPINION AND ORDER
Michael J. McShane United States District Judge
Coos County of Oregon brings this action for declaratory and
injunctive relief under the Administrative Procedure Act, 5
U.S.C. § 706(1). Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated
the Coos Bay Wagon Roads Act (“CBWR Act”), 43
U.S.C. §§ 2621 and 2622, by repeatedly refusing to
conduct an appraisal of the Coos Bay Wagon Road Grant Lands
(“CBWR lands”). Pl.'s Compl. ¶¶
1-2, ECF No. 1. Plaintiff alleges that an appropriate
appraisal of the CBWR lands would result in more federal
revenue being allotted to the county. See Id. ¶
23. Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's claims for
lack of subject matter jurisdiction, arguing that Plaintiff
cannot meet the redressability prong of Article III
standing. Defs.' Mot. 1, ECF No. 11. Because
Plaintiff has alleged a procedural injury and demonstrated a
possibility of redress sufficient to establish procedural
standing, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 11) is
CBWR lands are federal lands within the Oregon counties of
Coos and Douglas. Pl.'s Compl. ¶ 1. Defendants
oversee the management of these lands as proscribed by the
CBWR Act and Oregon & California Railroad Lands Act
(“O&C Act”), 43 U.S.C. § 2601.
Defs.' Mot. 2-3. The O&C Act provides that a
percentage of the revenue from O&C lands shall go to the
counties where the lands are located, but a similar provision
does not exist for the CBWR lands. Id. at 3.
Therefore, Congress enacted the CBWR Act to allow for
payments in lieu of taxes to counties where the CBWR lands
are located. Id. The CBWR Act requires a committee
to appraise and assess the lands as it would “other
similar properties” within the counties. 43 U.S.C.
§ 2621. The appraisal committee consists of one person
representing the Secretary of the Interior, one person
representing the two counties, and a third person
satisfactory to the Secretary of the Interior and the
counties. Id. Payments are to be based on the
“same rates of taxation as are applied to privately
owned property of similar character” within the
counties. Id. An appraisal is required at least once
every ten years. 43 U.S.C. § 2622.
State of Oregon created the Oregon Forestland Program in
2003, which assigns Forest Land Classifications to privately
owned forestlands in Western Oregon and, in turn, dictates
the tax rate for forestlands. Defs.' Mot. 3; see
ORS §§ 321.207, 321.210.
“Forestland” means land in western Oregon that is
being held or used for the predominant purpose of growing and
harvesting trees of a marketable species and has been
designated as forestland or land in western Oregon, the
highest and best use of which is the growing and harvesting
of such trees.
ORS § 321.257(2). Eight land classifications qualify for
specially assessed values. ORS § 321.210(2). The Oregon
Department of Revenue assigns the classifications. ORS §
CBWR lands have not been appraised in the last ten years.
Pl.'s Compl. ¶ 15. Plaintiff has repeatedly
attempted to convene an appraisal committee with Defendants.
Id. ¶ 16. Defendants continue to maintain that
under the Oregon Forestland Program, the CBWR lands meet the
criteria for specially assessed forestlands and therefore an
appraisal is no longer necessary. Id. ¶ 17. In
2008, the Oregon Department of Revenue weighed in on this
issue, telling Defendants that because federal lands are
exempt from ad valorem taxation it is the
Department's position that the CBWR lands are not
entitled to forestland special assessment under state tax
laws. Pl.'s Compl. Ex. 4, at 4. Despite this guidance,
Defendants determined that the CBWR lands qualified as
forestlands under the Oregon Forestland Program and made
payments based on specially assessed values. Pl.'s Compl.
¶¶ 17, 23. In 2017, Coos County Assessor Steve
Jansen notified Defendants that the Coos County
Assessor's Office disqualified the CBWR lands as
forestlands. Pl.'s Compl. Ex. 3, at 1. Mr. Jansen
explained that the CBWR lands no longer qualified for special
assessment under the Oregon Forestland Program because the
federal government managed large portions of the lands in
ways that did not meet the criteria for forestland
classification. Id. at 3.
argue that state laws regarding land classifications do not
apply to the CBWR lands. Defs.' Reply 2, ECF No. 17.
Rather, they assert that the O&C Act classifies the CBWR
lands as “timberlands, ” qualifying the lands for
forestland special assessment in the same manner that private
properties of similar character would be taxed. Id.
at 2-3. Defendants also argue that the CBWR lands meet the
statutory definition of “forestland” under ORS
§ 321.257(2): “land in western Oregon, the highest
and best use of which is the growing and harvesting of such
trees.” Id. at 3-4. Defendants conclude that
the rate for payments is certain and no appraisal is
necessary. Id. at 2.
motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) challenges the
subject matter jurisdiction of a federal court. A federal
court has no jurisdiction to resolve any claim for which a
plaintiff lacks standing. Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S.
490, 498 (1975); Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504
U.S. 555, 560 (1992). Standing requires a plaintiff to show
she has “suffered some actual or threatened injury as a
result of the putatively illegal conduct of the defendant,
and that the injury ‘fairly can be traced to the
challenged action' and ‘is likely to be redressed
by a favorable decision.'” Valley Forge
Christian Coll. v. Ams. United for Separation of Church and
State, Inc., 454 U.S. 464, 472 (1982) (citations
omitted). “The party invoking federal jurisdiction
bears the burden of establishing these elements.”
Lujan, 504 U.S. at 561.
is, however, a lower bar where procedural rights are
concerned. “[A] person who has been accorded a
procedural right to protect his concrete interests can assert
that right without meeting all the normal standards for
redressability and immediacy.” Lujan, 504 U.S.
at 572 n.7. To satisfy the injury-in-fact requirement for
procedural standing, a plaintiff must allege that (1) the
defendant violated certain procedural rules; (2) these rules
protect plaintiff's concrete interests; and (3) it is
reasonably probable that the challenged action will threaten
her concrete interests. Nuclear Info. and Res. Serv. v.
Nuclear Regulatory Com'n, 457 F.3d 941, 949 (9th
plaintiff has shown a procedural injury, she has a lesser
burden regarding the causation and redressability prongs of
Article III standing. Salmon Spawning & Recovery All.
v. Gutierrez, 545 F.3d 1220, 1226 (9th Cir. 2008)
(citing Lujan, 504 U.S. at 572 n.7). A plaintiff
asserting procedural standing “need not demonstrate
that the ultimate outcome following proper procedures will
benefit [her]” to satisfy redressability. Cantrell
v. City of Long Beach, 241 F.3d 674, 682 (9th Cir.
2001). Rather, a plaintiff need only show that “the
relief requested-that the agency follow the correct
procedures-may influence the agency's ultimate decision
of whether to take or refrain from taking a certain action.
This is not a high bar to ...