The State Land Board claims their mandate is to extract the maximum money possible from the Elliott, in spite of environmental problems.
October 11, 2011
Associated Press by Jeff Barnard
Top state officials voted in Salem on Tuesday to approve a new way of protecting threatened species such as salmon and spotted owls on the Elliott State Forest so that they can increase timber harvests and provide a little more money to schools.
The State Land Board, made up of the governor, state treasurer and secretary of state, unanimously adopted the new management plan that has been a decade in the making.
The idea of changing the management plan for the forest goes back about 10 years, when forest managers could not get federal approval for proposed changes to a system of protecting habitat for fish and wildlife that would include marbled murrelets, a threatened sea bird that nests in old growth forests. The old plan set aside fish and wildlife habitat from logging. The new plan adopts a system known as take avoidance, used by private timberland owners, which calls for two years of surveys for threatened species before a piece of land can be logged.
Bob Ragon of the Douglas Timber Operators said they were happy with the decision, which he estimated would generate about 120 new timber jobs, as well as more money for schools.
"We still think this is a very conservative harvest level in the new plan," Ragon said. "We are pleased the Land Board is supporting it. It has been a long time bird-dogging this thing. Now we can get on with managing the forests for a while."
Kate Ritley of Cascadia Wildlands stood outside the meeting with about 150 protesters. She said the conservation group will be filing a lawsuit and organizing protests to block the logging.
"It's a huge step backwards for Oregon, a state that claims to be green, and claims to be taking steps to confront the climate crisis," she said. "This means up to 1,000 acres of virgin rainforest in the state of Oregon is going to be razed every year."
The plan developed by the Oregon Department of Forestry allows the timber harvest to go from an average of 25 million board feet a year to about 40 million, said board spokeswoman Julie Curtis.
Log prices and lumber production have plummeted since the housing crash drastically reduced demand. Meanwhile, exports of logs from private lands in the Northwest to Asia have risen dramatically.
The new management plan is projected to generate from $2 million to $5.6 million more annually for the fund, depending on log prices, Curtis said.
The forest currently generates about $7.5 million a year for the school fund, which is managed as a trust, paying out about $50 million a year from investments on a principal of about $1 billion to Oregon's 197 school districts.
Overall, public schools spend about $6 billion a year.
In approving the plan, the board directed the Department of Forestry and Department of State Lands to review the plan each year, implement a 10-year research and monitoring program. The board also called for staff to keep looking for buyers of carbon credits, which reward forest owners for storing carbon by leaving trees standing, and to continue consideration of a formal plan to conserve habitat for endangered species.