Type size - +
Personal tools
You are here: Home Pressroom Press Clips Time for leadership on the Elliott State Forest

Time for leadership on the Elliott State Forest

By Bob Sallinger
Statesman Journal

This week Gov. Kate Brown and the State Land Board have an important choice. They can set in motion a process to ensure that the Elliott State Forest is protected in perpetuity as public land for the benefit of the people, fish and wildlife of Oregon, or they can sell these public lands off to a private timber company that intends to return the forest to logging levels that flagrantly violate the federal law and puts species such as spotted owls, marbled murrelets and Coho salmon at direct risk.

This week Gov. Kate Brown and the State Land Board have an important choice. They can set in motion a process to ensure that the Elliott State Forest is protected in perpetuity as public land for the benefit of the people, fish and wildlife of Oregon, or they can sell these public lands off to a private timber company that intends to return the forest to logging levels that flagrantly violate the federal law and puts species such as spotted owls, marbled murrelets and Coho salmon at direct risk.

The choice is stark. Protecting the Elliott would give the governor one of the most significant environmental victories to emerge from Mahonia Hall in recent memory and would demonstrate that the governor was serious when she talked on the campaign trail about protecting Oregon’s natural wonders for future generations. Selling off the Elliott to a private timber company would send a message that Oregon’s natural treasures can be put up for sale to the highest bidder at a time when our public lands are under unprecedented attack.

Why is the 82,500-acre Elliott State Forest even being considered for sale? Revenue from the Elliott State Forest goes to support the Common School Fund. Even at its peak, the revenue generated by the forest represented a tiny fraction of the Common School Fund and it was artificially inflated because the state engaged in flagrantly illegal logging practices. In 2014, the state of Oregon finally agreed to stop this illegal harvest after conservation groups brought a lawsuit. However, rather than explore strategies to legally and sustainably manage these public lands, instead the State Land Board put the forest up for sale.

It is not too late to correct this mistake; the state only received one bid from the Lone Rock Timber Management Company. The proposal put forward would permanently privatize these public lands and Lone Rock has been clear that it intends to return to timber harvest levels that the state recognized were illegal in 2014. It would be a remarkably cynical step for the state to agree to stop its own illegal logging practices, only to turn around and sell off the Elliott to a private timber company so that it could reinstate those same practices.

There is a better way forward, but it will require leadership from Gov. Brown, Treasurer Ted Wheeler and Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins. The state has a billion dollars in bonding authority during the next biennium. The state should use a portion of that authority to serve as the core of a strategy to decouple the Elliott State Forest from the Common School Fund. This funding should be used to set up a trust fund to provide a permanent revenue source for the Common School Fund while the state retains the Elliott in public ownership to protect its incredible natural resources.

We don’t need to liquidate our public lands to pay for our children’s education. There are other paths forward that can move the state beyond an era of illegal logging while also making the Common School Fund whole and protecting the Elliott in public ownership for future generations. The time for real leadership on the Elliott has arrived.

Bob Sallinger is the Conservation Director for the Audubon Society of Portland. Audubon Society of Portland, Cascadia Wildlands and Center for Biological Diversity were the groups that sued the State of Oregon to stop illegal logging.

 
Read the original story
Document Actions
powered by Plone | site by Groundwire Consulting and served with clean energy