Forest Activists Urge Public Ownership for the Elliott

A scene from the Elliott State Forest.  Photo courtesy of Coast Range Forest Watch.
A scene from the Elliott State Forest. Photo courtesy of Coast Range Forest Watch.

The Oregon Department of State Lands is considering sale of the Elliott State Forest near Coos Bay.  The state has received a single offer to buy the 82,000 acre tract, from a consortium of Lone Rock Timber and the Cow Creek tribe.  The proposal, in the view of Oregon Shores and a wide range of conservation groups, does not adequately protect old growth, streams, recreational opportunities, or endangered species such as the marbled murrelet.

You can attend the February State Land Board (SLB) February 14 meeting in Salem and make your voice heard: 10 a.m., SLB offices, 775 Summer St. N.E. in Salem.   You can also call or e-mail comments to:

An Elliott State Forest Lobby Day is also being planned for February 23 at the State Capitol.

The Elliott is largely made up of Common School Fund lands that due to historical oddities are supposed to generate money for Oregon schools. According to the Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL), “Since 2013, because of harvest limitations prompted by a lawsuit over federal protected species and the ongoing costs of maintaining the land in compliance with state and federal laws, owning the Elliott has meant a net loss to the Common School Fund of more than $4 million.” 

The question is whether that long-ago commitment to sell timber from the forest to support schools budgets outweighs everything that has been learned in the past century about forest ecology and endangered species such as the Marbled Murrelet, and about the role of forests in providing harvestable fish and game, non-timber forest products, and recreational opportunities.  It is estimated that the Elliott currently generates $1.3 million in economic activity for the area, mostly by drawing recreationists, an amount which could be increased if the forest were managed actively for that purpose.

Concerned citizens believe that Oregon’s state government has not really worked diligently to develop a public option to keep these productive and ecologically valuable lands in the public domain. As Ecotrust points out (November 22, 2016), the 3.5 months allowed to develop “public proposals” was too short to secure all the elements for a true public option that would protect the Elliott, keep it in public ownership, and provide for a boost to the local economy.   

If you wish to contact the state on this issue suggested talking points revolve around the importance of maintaining public ownership. Ask the State Land Board and the Department of State Lands to put the current offer on hold for at least one year until other options, including legislative approaches, can be explored, and ask that all future management of the Elliot be done in accordance with Oregon carbon reduction goals, i.e. net long-term gain in carbon sequestration.