Bids are due next month for Southwestern Oregon’s Elliott State Forest (ESF). The Common School Fund forest will be given to a new entity for $220.8 million and promises to keep the forest open for recreation, provide wide stream buffers, preserve the oldest forests and provide 40 jobs per year.
The unique process was set in place by the State Land Board (SLB) over two years ago following millions of dollars in losses the State incurred trying to manage the ESF in the face of a lawsuit over protection for the Marbled Murrelet. John Charles, president and CEO of the Portland-based Cascade Policy Institute, has maintained for over a decade that the ESF should be sold to the highest bidder.
The price for the ESF is set in stone after the SLB spent over $1 million on determining the value of the ESF. Timber experts were shocked at the low $220.8 million value. Others had previously pegged the ESF’s value at over $800 million.
NW Oregon Forests
Things may not be any better for the State Forests in Northwest Oregon. Linn County has filed a $1.4 billion lawsuit against Oregon for breach of contract after timber revenues have dwindled over the past 15 years. The Class Action suit heads to trial in 2017.
In the 1930s the Counties deeded the forests to the State following massive tax delinquencies. In exchange, the State was to share the revenue from the management of the very productive forests.
The arrangement worked well until the Department of Forestry came up with new plans that reduced timber revenues for the Counties. The combination of declining receipts from federal and state forests have put rural counties in an economic crisis. Linn County felt they had no choice but to turn to the courts. The timber industry, troubled by declining timber sales, has provided early funding for Linn County’s suit.
Proposals are due for the Elliott State Forest by November 15th, the State Land Board will choose a successful owner in December. However, it will be sometime in 2017 before there is certainty over the future for the NW Oregon State Forests.