Posts Tagged ‘Elliott State Forest’

Feb15

Conservation Groups Decry Vote by State Treasurer, Secretary of State to Sell Elliott State Forest

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
Contact:
Bob Sallinger, 503.380.9728 or bsallinger@audubonportland.org 
Josh Laughlin, 541.844.8182 or jlaughlin@cascwild.org 
Doug Moore, 503.729.5175 or dmoore@olcv.org 
 
Conservation groups decry vote by State Treasurer,
Secretary of State to Sell Elliott State Forest 
Governor puts forward solid plan to keep 83,000-acre forest public.
 
Salem, Oregon—February 15, 2017 – A broad coalition of conservation, hunting, and fishing groups across Oregon decried a state land board vote pushing the Elliott State Forest to brink of privatization yesterday. 
 
Democratic State Treasurer Tobias Read and Republican Secretary of State Dennis Richardson both voted to continue with the sale of the forest to a timber firm, Lone Rock Resources. 
 
Governor Kate Brown opposed the sale and promoted a framework to keep the forest in public ownership, saying, “It's in the best interest of Oregonians that the forest stays in public hands for future generations.” 
 
The conservation community has been working on several proposals that fit within Governor Brown’s vision to keep the land publicly accessible, protect older forests and critical salmon and wildlife habitat, safeguard streams and incorporate tribal ownership, while fulfilling the state’s obligation to fund public schools. 
 
As the sale negotiations continue, Governor Brown directed the Department of State Lands to continue to explore options to keep the land public. That direction leaves open the possibility that Oregon Legislature and other parties can craft a viable public option. 
 
Earlier in the meeting, Senate President Peter Courtney expressed his personal support for public ownership, pledging his help in the current session to secure bonding for the proposal. 
 
Said Doug Moore, “We thank the Governor for continuing to work on a proposal that meets the many important public interests in this forest. What’s disappointing is the lack of vision from Treasurer Read and Secretary of State Richardson in failing to help her craft a long term solution that Oregonians will be proud of.” 
 
Treasurer Read motioned to amend the Lone Rock proposal with modest conservation and recreation provisions. These are unlikely to meet the broad conservation and public access goals outlined by the Governor and the conservation community. 
 
"On the anniversary of the State’s birth, we should be honoring Oregon and all the values public lands offer Oregonians," said Josh Laughlin with Cascadia Wildlands. "Instead, Treasurer Read and Secretary Richardson voted to privatize the Elliott State Forest, which means more clear cuts, muddy water and locked gates in our great state." 
 
"Public lands are under unprecedented attack across Oregon and the rest of the country. At a time when we need our public officials to stand up for public lands, Governor Brown is stepping up and Treasurer Read appears to be stepping aside," said Bob Sallinger, Conservation Director with the Audubon Society of Portland. 
 
The Lone Rock proposal to protect streams has standards far below the protections under the current Elliott State Forest plan. Meanwhile, thousands of acres of 100-year-old forest will be open to clearcutting. 
 
“Our coastal salmon runs depend on public lands, and this sale sets a terrible precedent for other public lands in Oregon and across the West,” said Bob Van Dyk, Oregon and California policy director at the Wild Salmon Center.
 
Conservation groups will now turn to the legislature and other stakeholders to advance a public ownership option. The next State Land Board meeting will be April 11th. 
 
Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands 
Doug Moore, Oregon League of Conservation Voters 
Tom Wolf, Oregon Council Trout Unlimited 
Bob Van Dyk, Wild Salmon Center 
Bob Sallinger, Portland Audubon 
Cameron La Follette, Oregon Coast Alliance 
Max Beeken, Coast Range Forest Watch 
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity 
Feb13

Response to Governor Brown’s Plan for the Elliott State Forest

Just days before the quarterly meeting of the State Land Board, Governor Brown released a framework for her plan for the Elliott State Forest. Though not an action item on the agenda for the Tuesday, February 14, 2017 Land Board meeting, the Board is set to hear an update on the potential sale of the forest from the Department of State Lands. The DSL staff report on the issue again asks the Board for direction on whether and how to proceed with privatizing the Elliott State Forest as described in a proposal submitted by Lone Rock Timber in December 2016. 

61316-6937-copy-2The Governor's plan would (1) keep the Elliott State Forest in public ownership, with either the state or tribes owning the land; (2) pursue $100 million in bonding to "immediately decouple a portion of the forest from Common School Fund trust lands," focusing on high value habitat, including riparian areas, steep slopes, and old growth stands; (3) pursue a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) with the Federal Services "that would allow for sustainable timber harvest while protecting endangered species," expecting to harvest an average of about 20 million board feet per year; and (4) "work with the tribes to regain ownership of their ancestral lands while protecting the Common School Fund."

Cascadia Wildlands is encourged by the Governor's leadership toward finding a lasting solution for the Elliott State Forest that maintains the forest in public ownership. There are still a number of details that need to be worked out and elaborated on, and we look forward to continuing to work toward a solution that safeguards all the public values of the forest, including protecting old growth and mature stands, wildlife habitat, clean air and water, and recreation. 

Aug25

Press Release: Lawsuit Filed to Protect Threatened Marbled Murrelet from Logging on Former Elliott State Forest

For Immediate Release, August 25, 2016
 
Contact:         Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746
                       Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495
                       Bob Sallinger, Portland Audubon, (503) 380-9728
 
Lawsuit Filed to Protect Threatened Marbled Murrelet from Logging on Former Elliott State Forest
Logging Highlights Controversy Over Ongoing Privatization of Public Forest
 
EUGENE, Ore.— Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity and Portland Audubon filed a lawsuit in federal court today seeking to block Scott Timber Company from logging a portion of a 355-acre parcel of land that until 2014 was part of the 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest and provides habitat for the threatened marbled murrelet. The Endangered Species Act strictly prohibits “take” (harm, harassment or killing) of threatened species like the murrelet, which, unlike any other seabird, nests on the wide branches of large, old trees, making a daily trip of up to 35 miles inland to bring fish to its young.
 
The groups are seeking emergency relief to stop logging that under state law could begin as soon as Sunday.
 
“It was illegal for the state of Oregon to log the marbled murrelet’s habitat and it is illegal for Scott Timber Company to do the same,” said Nick Cady, legal director at Cascadia Wildlands. “We intend to hold the landowner accountable to the law to ensure this imperiled species receives the protections it needs.”
 
In 2012 the three groups sued the state of Oregon for illegally logging marbled murrelet habitat on the Elliott and other state forests. The state settled the suit in 2014, agreeing to drop 26 timber sales and stop logging in occupied murrelet habitat. But following the loss, the state sold three parcels totaling 1,453 acres, even though they contained mature and old-growth forests that are occupied by the murrelet, including the 355-acre Benson Ridge parcel.
 
“By trying to log, then sell occupied marbled murrelet habitat, the state of Oregon has completely disregarded its duty to protect these unique birds and the remaining old-forest they need to survive,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center. “This shortsighted action on the part of the state not only endangers the survival of the birds, but shortchanges Oregonians who’re counting on the state to protect our natural heritage.”  
 
At the time of the sale, the groups notified Scott Timber and other buyers that in purchasing the land, they were taking over the responsibility of ensuring the survival of the murrelet, and that logging of its habitat would violate the Endangered Species Act. Scott Timber responded that it had no immediate plans to log the Benson Ridge parcel it had purchased, but has now proposed a timber sale in habitat where murrelets have been documented in recent years.
 
“The marbled murrelet has lost most of the old-growth habitat it needs to survive in the Oregon Coast Range and is facing degraded ocean conditions due to climate change and other factors,” said Bob Sallinger, conservation director at the Audubon Society of Portland. “Flagrant violations of the Endangered Species Act in addition to these factors are a recipe for disaster for these birds.”
 
The controversy over the Benson Ridge parcel exemplifies why the public is so outraged about the privatization of public lands. Currently Oregon’s State Land Board, made up of the governor, treasurer and secretary of state, is in the process of disposing of the rest of the Elliott State Forest.
 
“This unfortunate situation should send a clear message to Governor Kate Brown, Treasurer Ted Wheeler and Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins that further privatization of the Elliott will directly threaten imperiled salmon and wildlife, old-growth forests, recreation opportunities and other values that Oregonians hold dear,” said Cady. “Our leaders in Salem must stand up for Oregonians, and halt the ongoing privatization of the Elliott State Forest.”
 
In June the groups sent a petition to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife requesting uplisting of the murrelet from “threatened” to “endangered” under the state Endangered Species Act, and to the Board of Forestry requesting that it identify and protect important forest sites critical to the murrelet’s survival — a requirement of the state's endangered species law that has never been met.
                                                                    
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Cascadia Wildlands represents approximately 10,000 members and supporters and has a mission to educate, agitate and inspire a movement to protect and restore Cascadia’s wild ecosystems.
 
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
 
Audubon Society of Portland was founded in 1902 to promote the understanding, enjoyment and protection of native birds, other wildlife and their habitats. Today it represents over 16,000 members in Oregon.
Jul27

Blog: Summer Interning with Cascadia Wildlands

by Legal Intern Kat Fiedler
 
This week I am wrapping up my legal internship with Cascadia Wildlands. I have spent my summer conducting legal research and drafting memos and litigation documents across the scope of Cascadia’s work. While much of my time was spent in the legal weeds, the breadth of issues left me with a snapshot of the threats that the wild places and wildlife face throughout Cascadia and a better understanding of the legal tools we have to stop them. My work has included challenging timber sales that threaten wildlife, water quality, and general ecosystem health, strengthening or preserving wildlife protections for both marbled murrelets and wolves, and strategizing over the faulty legal structure governing suction dredge mining in the state of Washington. I was also able to observe many of the administrative procedures that underlie much of the decision making surrounding our wild places.
 
Elliott-Tim G 61316-6820[11]Exploring these places was, of course, a highlight of the summer. In June, I joined Cascadia Wildlands’ Executive Director Josh Laughlin, Wildlands Campaign Director Robin Meacher, and a number of Cascadia members on a hike into the 30,500-acre proposed Devils Staircase wilderness down to the namesake waterfall in the Oregon Coast Range. The experience was incredible. Having to navigate and bushwhack through such an untouched place provides a much different experience. It’s hard, and it’s worth it. Nothing can be taken for granted. It is impossible to ignore the thickets of underbrush that grab at your ankles, or the call of an owl when you stop to catch your breath, or the sunlight punching through the canopy illuminating a pink rhododendron. We reached the Devils Staircase bruised, sweaty, and happy – ready for the refreshing water. And it was all ours for the afternoon. The forest gifted us salmonberries on the final stretch home.
 
But even our forests marred by a matrix of ownership and scars of our state’s timber history somehow feel equally alive. That’s the beauty of Oregon, of Cascadia. I explored the Elliott State Forest, located just south of Devil’s Staircase, and learned about its imperfect history, but also the current threat of privatization. This place, too, was rich. In just a few hours, hiking along an elk trail, we spotted a bear, heard the call of owls, stepped over cougar scat, and gazed up into the canopies of legacy Douglas firs. The Elliott is not disposable.
 
This place is what I call home, and it has been an enormous privilege to work to protect it alongside the amazing folks at Cascadia Wildlands. I will finish up my studies at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University and the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies this next year, and look forward to returning home to start my career continuing this work protecting our wild and public lands.
 
(Elliott State Forest photo by Tim Giraudier)
 
Jun07

Op-Ed: State Should Scrap Elliott Forest Privatization

by Rod Sando for The Register-Guard
June 5, 2016
 
Defying the will of most Oregonians, our elected leaders in Salem are deep into a process to privatize the 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest northeast of Coos Bay.
More than likely, this treasured rain forest will be snatched up by equity investors looking to maximize revenue, which will mean more clear-cuts, muddied rivers and “private property” signs, and less access to some of the finest public lands in Western Oregon. The disposal process should be jettisoned immediately and replaced by one that embraces values Oregonians hold closely.
 
The State Land Board, made up of Gov. Kate Brown, Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins and Treasurer Ted Wheeler, needs a fresh approach that recognizes the many important public values Elliott supports while generating income for the school trust fund.
 
The State Land Board should also be reminded of the passion many Oregonians hold for public lands, as evidenced by the reaction to the armed takeover earlier this year of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
 
While school trust lands help support kindergarten through 12th grade education in Oregon, these lands also support many values enjoyed by the public.
 
The Elliott State Forest is a place where fish and wildlife reside, where families go elk hunting every fall, and where anglers wet their lines in search of salmon and steelhead. The old forests of the Elliott store incredible amounts of carbon, thereby mitigating climate change at no cost, and provide clean water to communities downstream.
 
Even though Elliott is made up of school trust lands, logging is not an exclusive mandate for the forest.
 
Oregon’s attorney general issued an opinion in 1992 that said the management of these lands must abide by the provisions of the state and federal endangered species laws while also generating revenue. In its quest to ramp up the cut in Elliott in 2012, the state of Oregon ignored the Endangered Species Act, which resulted in reduced timber payments to the school fund.
 
In response, the state proposed to dump the forest, and now we are embroiled in this privatization scheme.
 
The future management of Elliott needs to be sensitive to the wide range of benefits that this public forest provides while continuing to produce revenue for schools. This is entirely possible, and simply requires that forest plans and management methods are revised to do just that. It is appropriate to manage for revenues, but operations need to avoid long-term damage to the productivity of the forest and its myriad other benefits, and needless management costs need to be reduced.
 
It makes sense to negotiate a Habitat Conservation Plan that would keep the forest in public ownership, provide protection to imperiled salmon and wildlife, allow restoration-based thinning in Elliott’s plantation forests that could generate local jobs and timber products, and contribute revenue to the school fund. Ultimately, it would provide certainty and balance into the future.
 
In 1968, the people of Oregon amended the state Constitution to require that school trust lands, like those found in Elliott, be managed by using sound management methods that do not impair the many beneficial uses of the forest lands while also generating revenue. This clear legal direction is possible to achieve by using sustainable management practices while keeping the forest in public ownership.
 
It is time for Gov. Brown, Secretary of State Atkins and Treasurer Wheeler to ditch this privatization plan and show leadership around this issue, especially since the forest will only become more valuable to our society and the school trust as time goes on.
 
Removing Elliott from public ownership will remain controversial and will preclude future generations from enjoying substantial benefits from this unique and valuable resource.
 
Our leaders need to get it right before it is too late.
 
Rod Sando of Woodburn is a past director of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, where he oversaw management of trust lands.
Apr27

Explore the Elliott State Forest with Cascadia Wildlands

IMG_2035We'll be offering a couple of public hikes into the Elliott State Forest the spring/summer of 2016. The Elliott State Forest is between Reedsport and Coos Bay, and goes as far east as Loon Lake. About half of the Elliott has never been logged before, with big trees that grew back from an 1868 fire, providing valuable habitat for old-growth dependent wildlife.

The Oregon State Land Board moves ahead with the decision to sell the Elliott to a buyer, public or private, that will agree to conservation and job creation mandates. The goal of the sale is to sever the ties between the forest and the Common School Fund, which provides money for K-12 school children. While any potential new owner of the Elliott must show that it will maintain 50% of the forest open for public access, there is no guarantee of what that will entail. 

Cascadia Wildlands continues to look for a creative solution that fulfills the Common School Fund obligations and maintains this magical coastal rainforest in public ownership and open to all to enjoy.  

In the meantime, we want to get you out to explore the Elliott with us. Stay tuned for more details, but be sure to put June 18, 2016 on your calendar to join us in the Elliott State Forest.

Apr11

Letter Sent to Prospectors Interested in Acquiring Elliott State Forest

by Robin Meacher, Cascadia Wildlands' Wildlands Campaign Director
 
The Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL) continues to forge ahead with the sale of the 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest located east of Coos Bay. While conservation groups, school children, recreationists and hunters and anglers continue to enjoy the Elliott for the host of opportunities it offers, Cascadia Wildlands continues to see Big Timber and equity investors show increased interest in becoming the new owner of this incredible coastal forest. 
 
IMG_2039The potential transfer of ownership raises red flags for both conservation and public access. The Elliott provides some of the highest quality habitat remaining in the Oregon Coast Range for the imperiled marbled murrelet and endangered salmon. The murrelet is a coastal sea bird that nests exclusively in old-growth forest and its presence on the forest has greatly reduced the amount of logging that can take place in the Elliott. 
 
The previous sale of three parcels of the Elliott resulted in immediate closure with "No Trespassing" signs posted to keep the public out. The sale of the entire Elliott to timber interests will likely result in similar access being restricted thereby blocking the public from visiting a substantial portion of this coastal gem. 
 
Cascadia Wildlands' Endangered Species Act lawsuit on the Elliott in 2012 and our current lawsuit challenging the the disposal of the 788-acre East Hakki parcel have legal implications that are being downplayed by the DSL throughout the current ownership transfer process. We recently submitted a letter to interested parties in the Elliott sale process to explain the complex legal issues and to augment the lack of information on the legal history provided by DSL. With ESA protections for the murrelet on the forest and our alleged illegality of selling the majority of the Elliott, the sale process designed by DSL likely creates uncertainty for investors. Cascadia Wildlands and partners continue to engage the State in this process and advocate for protection of the outstanding public and conservation values on the forest. We've crafted a petition to Governor Kate Brown asking her to ensure the forest stays in public ownership. As a member of the State Land Board, the body that gave the green light to the sale process, the Governor can stand up for Oregon's public lands and keep the Elliott in public hands. Stay tuned as well for two public hikes hosted by Cascadia Wildlands this spring. 
 
(Elliott State Forest photo by Cascadia Wildlands)
 
 
Aug14

Land Board Moves Ahead on Elliott Sale

Capitol Bureau by Hillary Borrud
August 13, 2015
 
SALEM — The Oregon State Land Board voted unanimously Thursday to move ahead with a plan to sell the Elliott State Forest to a buyer who will agree to conservation and job creation mandates.
 
The goal is to sever the connection between the forest and a state trust fund that provides money for K-12 public education. Currently, the state has a mandate to raise revenue from timber sales from the forest for schools. However, the listing of endangered species in the forest and subsequent environmental lawsuits forced the state to scale back timber harvests in recent years, to the point where the state lost money on the operation.
 
Under the plan the State Land Board approved Thursday, the state could select a buyer by December 2016 and close on the sale by DecemberElliott rainforest (photo by Cascadia Wildlands) 2017.
 
Department of State Lands director Mary Abrams during the State Land Board meeting Thursday in Salem that the new plan has the potential to resolve in 26 months an issue “that has frustrated the board, as trustees, for almost two decades.” The state could extend the deadline by one more year if necessary to finalize financing for a deal, Abrams said.
 
The land board is composed of the governor, secretary of state and state treasurer.
 
The state lost approximately $5 million on the Elliott State Forest over the last two years, and state officials expect the forest will continue to operate with an annual deficit of $500,000 to $1 million indefinitely under the status quo.
 
Environmental groups and individuals said during testimony Thursday they want the Elliott State Forest to remain in public ownership, whether that means the federal government or a state agency. The state faces the challenge of finding a buyer who can pay fair market value for the 84,000 acres in the Elliott forest, which is required because of the connection to the state school fund.
 
“We’re actually going to be asking for three appraisals and then a review appraisal to ensure we come up with a number that is truly defensible,” Abrams said of the property value.
 
Jim Green, deputy executive director of the Oregon School Boards Association, told the State Land Board members they were “actually in violation of your fiduciary responsibility” because the forest is currently losing money from the school fund. “You have a role as the trustees of the common school fund to ensure you get the highest value for the common school fund going forward.”
 
The protocol the land board approved on Thursday will require any buyer of the forest to purchase the entire property and allow public access for hiking, fishing, hunting and other recreation on at least 50 percent of the land. The buyer will also have to protect older timber stands in 25 percent of the forestland from harvest, and ensure at least 40 direct and indirect jobs are created annually over the next decade from logging, reforestation, recreation or other activities.
 
Finally, the buyer must maintain 120-foot stream buffers in all areas with salmon, steelhead or bull trout and areas upstream.
 
Potential buyers now have 14 months to formulate proposals, although they must notify the state of their interest by Dec. 15. Environmental groups said during testimony Thursday they hope to raise money from a combination of private and public sources to purchase the forest, then possibly transfer it to a public owner. A bill that would have established a state system to protect trust land such as the Elliott State Forest, House Bill 3474, died in committee earlier this year but some people said they hope lawmakers to revive the proposal in 2016.
 
Seth Barnes, director of forest policy for the Oregon Forest Industries Council, said the land board should consider that the timber industry remains an important part of the economy in the southwest region of the state.
 
“I was just encouraging them to keep in mind the timber revenue jobs that come off these properties are incredibly important to Oregon,” Barnes said after the meeting. Barnes said the plan approved Thursday could reduce annual timber harvests on the Elliott State Forest from 40 million board feet down to 20 million, and each 1 million board feet of timber harvested directly creates approximately 11 jobs.
 
Josh Laughlin, interim executive director of Eugene-based Cascadia Wildlands, said the group wants the state to require that any buyer allow public access to the entire forestland.
 
“We support you working with land trust organizations and other organizations to make the common school fund whole,” Laughlin said, but he added that Oregonians want to keep the forest in public ownership. Specifically, Laughlin said the state should transfer the Elliott State Forest to the Siuslaw National Forest and pay for the deal with a combination of federal, state and private money.
 
Christy Splitt, coordinator for the Oregon Conservation Network, said state officials should provide “bold leadership” to coordinate efforts to decouple the Elliott State Forest from the school fund in a way that preserves the forest for the public. Conservationists are “reaching out to people with capital, in the Silicon Valley” and across the country in an effort to line up money to purchase the Elliott State Forest. Splitt said the state’s time line might be too short for a trust land proposal to succeed, if lawmakers reboot the idea.
 
Abrams said the state plan allows time for a trust land plan, if one moves forward, and she said it is now time “to stop debating and get to work.”
“There has to be a little pressure put on the people who are interested in the future of the Elliott,” Abrams said.
 
(School kids in the Elliott State Forest, photo by Cascadia Wildlands)
Aug10

Oregon Land Board May Seek Buyer for Elliott State Forest

The Associated Press by Jeff Barnard
August 7, 2015
 
GRANTS PASS — The Oregon State Land Board is scheduled to vote on a plan to find an unusual buyer for the Elliott State Forest: one that will pay a fair market price, conserve older trees, protect threatened fish and wildlife, produce logs for local mills, and leave it open to the public.
 
The board, made up of the governor, the secretary of state, and the state treasurer, meets Thursday in Salem to consider the 315-page proposal.
 
The 140-square-mile forest in the Coast Range north of Coos Bay was created in 1930 and 90 percent of it generates money for schools. It once produced $8 million a year but lately has been running $1 million a year in the red. Attempts to ramp up logging to produce $13 million annually for schools failed. Lawsuits continually blocked timber sales on grounds they failed to maintain habitat for federally protected coho salmon and IMG_4527the marbled murrelet, a seabird that nests in big old trees.
 
Department of State lands spokeswoman Julie Curtis acknowledges that finding such a buyer is a tall order, but a series of hearings identified all those elements as priorities for Oregon residents. The board rejected two other alternatives, to find a new manager for the forest, and to develop a new plan for protecting threatened salmon and wildlife that would produce more timber.
 
Curtis said the department has been meeting with representatives of local governments and agencies, timber companies and conservation groups, but so far all are keeping their intentions to themselves. If no buyers emerge, the department goes back to the board in December 2016. Two options would be to retain the forest while accepting losses of $1 million a year, or selling it without the conservation and public access restrictions.
 
Josh Laughlin of the conservation group Cascadia Wildlands said it would favor a public land trust buying the forest and selling it back to the federal government, so it could be returned to the Siuslaw National Forest. That would retain public access and conservation protections, particularly on the half of the forest that has never been logged.
 
Bob Ragon, director of Douglas Timber Operators, said he could not imagine a private timber company being interested in buying the forest, because of all the conditions being imposed.
 
"I think (the board has) struggled so hard trying to find a happy ground that would meet everybody's interest, that the simplest solution would be to sell it to the highest bidder, and put restrictions on it like no log exports, which would keep the highest return for the School Fund," he said.
 
(Rally to save the Elliott State Forest. Photo by Cascadia Wildlands.)
 
 
Jun04

Bills Easing State Land Sales Worry Environmentalists

Capital Bureau by Hillary Borrud
May 31, 2015
 
SALEM — Environmental groups that pushed for legislation to protect Oregon’s Elliott State Forest from commercial logging had little success in Salem this year.
 
A bill that would have established a system to protect state trust land such as the Elliott State Forest, House Bill 3474, died in committee earlier this year. Now, conservationists are worried about a different bill that would make it easier for the state to sell land in the forest, which is near the southwest Oregon coast. House Bill 3533 would allow Oregon to sell state forest land, if the State Land Board — composed of the governor, secretary of state and state treasurer — passes a resolution to do so.Elliott rainforest (photo by Cascadia Wildlands)
 
“The last thing Oregonians want to see is a privatization of the Elliot, … particularly areas that are treasured for hunting, fishing, back country excursions and so forth,” said Josh Laughlin, interim executive director of Cascadia Wildlands.
 
Oregon law prohibits the sale of state forest land that was transferred from the U.S. Forest Service since 1913, which covers the Elliott State Forest. But the State Land Board says it has authority under the state constitution to sell the land, trumping statute.
 
The state lost $3 million on the forest in fiscal year 2013 and nearly $392,000 in 2014, because management costs exceeded revenue. That prompted Oregon to auction off three parcels of land in the forest in 2014, before the State Land Board decided to halt any additional auctions.
 
Environmental groups are lobbying lawmakers to oppose the bill, and Laughlin said there is also a chance the bill could be amended to allow for sale of the Elliott State Forest only if the sale maintains public access.
 
Julie Curtis, a spokeswoman for the Department of State Lands, said the goal of the bill is to clarify the land board’s constitutional and fiduciary responsibility to generate revenue from state lands to fund public schools.
 
“What this bill would do is really eliminate lawsuits and expense related to lawsuits if the land board were to get sued for exchanging or selling or trading lands within the Elliott, whether it was to a timber company or to an environmental group,” Curtis said.
 
The State Land Board is expected to discuss the Elliott State Forest at its June 9 meeting in Salem, where Department of State Lands employees will also present information about proposals from groups interested in managing or purchasing the forest. The agency issued a request for information earlier this year, so the board could learn more about potential options for the future of the forest. Curtis said the agency received five proposals, and there is not currently any deadline for the board to decide what to do with the Elliott State Forest.
 
(Photo of community members in the Elliott State Forest by J. Laughlin)
 
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