On December 10th the State Land Board (SLB) is going to decide whether or not to sell off a portion of the 93,000 acre Elliott State Forest in coastal Oregon. Many Elliott watchers consider this the opening of the door to sell most or all of this state forest. The land board is ostensibly considering this action because compliance with federal laws involving endangered species is blocking a revised state plan to accelerate timber harvesting by forty percent and therefore increase revenues for schools. Although the SLB is seeing these lands as non-productive, sustainable and responsible timber harvest opportunities remain. The former timber harvest plan that was driven in part by conservation agreements allowed for about 15 million board feet to be cut annually—much of this being restoration thinning that provides jobs, revenue and wildlife benefit.
From conservation, biodiversity and environmental perspectives these potential sales raise four main issues: 1) protection of populations of marbled murrelets and spotted owls; 2) maintenance of productive runs of Coho salmon; 3) management of elk and black-tailed deer populations as well as hunting; and 4) public access. In regards to number 2 above, we understand that one of the tracts being discussed for sale on the 10th contains one of the most productive Coho runs on the Oregon coast.
And from a potential sale perspective there are four basic outcomes: 1) no sale; 2) sale to a land trust; 3) purchase and conversion to other public ownership such as state park, wildlife management area or wildlife refuge; or 4) sale to a private timber interest.
|Likely Scenarios and Impacts||Murrelets and Spotted Owls||Coho salmon||Elk and Deer management and hunting||Public Access|
|No Sale||Continued stewardship of listed bird habitat||Riparian corridors left intact.||Existing conditions||Open|
|Land Trust||Habitats preserved and managed for these species.||Riparian corridors left intact.||Habitat managed for these species and hunting likely.||Generally allow for access|
|Other Public Ownership||Habitats preserved and managed for these species.||Riparian corridors left intact.||Habitat managed for these species and hunting likely.||Open|
|Timber Company||Accelerated timber harvests||Riparian corridors reduced and water quality compromised by siltation and herbicides allowed under state regulations for private forest lands.||Elk, deer and bear viewed as pests and managed to reflect this view.||Varies depending upon site and company, but access is often closed or restricted.|
From the collective wildlife community—including hunters and anglers—the least favorable scenario by far is selling these lands to a private timber company (please see red highlighted sections above). So we are left with two options: Blocking the sale or promoting a conservation sale to either a land trust or pubic land management agency. In our view, the conservation community’s strategy should be to pursue both these preferred options simultaneously. And we are.
On December 10th we are planning a rally in Salem that will demonstrate strong public opposition to sale of these important public lands. The details of this event are as follows:
On December 10 at 9:30 am, citizens from across western Oregon will descend on the State Land Board meeting in Salem (775 Summer St. NE) and hold a rally encouraging Governor John Kitzhaber, Secretary of State Kate Brown, and Treasurer Ted Wheeler to protect critical forestlands on the Elliott State Forest that are being considered for disposal. Speakers will discuss the pressing issues facing our coastal state forests, and members of the Brazilian-inspired percussion group, Samba Ja, will be on hand creating infectious musical rhythms. Rallygoers are encouraged to present oral testimony to the State Land Board, bring signs and make noise about the dire need to safeguard the at-risk primary rainforest on the Elliott. Please RSVP for the event on facebook and share this event with your friends—there will be buses leaving from Portland and Eugene.
At the same time we have laid out some potential conservation options in two similar white papers on innovative, integrated purchase/use options while burning up the phone lines trying to get the stars aligned to facilitate a conservation purchase should a sale option be adopted by the State Lands Board. We are pulling out all the stops on this rally and burning the midnight oil on conservation options because we cannot envision a scenario where allowing this critical piece of coastal habitat to be clearcut and managed as a timber plantation is in the interest of any element of the broader conservation community. Please get educated on this issue, get involved and if you cannot attend to the rally on the 10th send a message to the Land Board with the button on the left.