Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The battle over a state-owned forest

...In December, the Oregon State Land Board will meet to announce the fate of the Elliott State Forest after public testimony. Last year, the board decided to sell off 82,500 acres that belong to the Common School Fund because it was hemorrhaging money. After several lawsuits, one over violations of the Endangered Species Act, the state began looking for a way to compensate for the $4 million loss that state land director Jim Paul said the school fund has incurred since 2013. The state is between a rock and a hard place, because it needs to make money for the school fund and has reached a point where the Elliott costs more to maintain than it makes. So, it decided to sell off the land for $220.8 million — no more, no less. Backlash over the sale has caused many outspoken advocates of the state forestland to come out of the woodwork. Right now, the forest is logging 11.2 million board feet that were approved last year, generating $3.5 million. That number is relatively low. In the past, the forest was producing more than 25 million board feet a year. But in recent years the state has been rocked with lawsuits, causing them to sell off three parcels to recoup their losses to the Common School fund. A lawsuit surfaced over the $4.2 million sale in 2014, citing a 1957 law that prohibits the sale of lands in the forest that were formerly national forestland. According to the case, the land in question was transferred from the U.S. Forest Service to the state in 1913. Before that, the state was sued for allegedly violating the Endangered Species Act by clear-cutting old growth forest that houses the endangered seabird the marbled murrelet. The suit was settled out of court and the state dropped 900 acres worth of timber sales...more

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