Earlier this month, the Oregon State Land Board voted to transfer ownership of the Elliott State Forest to a single buyer. This marks the conclusion of the Elliott Alternatives Project, an eight-month assessment of possible management options for the Elliott during which hundreds of concerned Oregonians asked the State Land Board to keep the forest public and fully available to hunting, camping, hiking, and other recreation activities.
Potential buyers have just over a year to formulate proposals, although they must notify the state of their interest by Dec. 15. Environmental groups said they hope to raise money from a combination of private and public sources to purchase the forest, then possibly transfer it to a public owner.
THE GOOD: Since the 1930s, timber harvest in the Elliott has been funneled into the Common School Fund, and transferring the forest to a new ownership equals an end to the outdated and ridiculous practice of supporting public schools by logging ancient trees. The Land Board also agreed that potential buyers must a) keep the forest open to public access b) protect older stands in 25% of the forest from timber harvest c) maintain 120-foot buffers around fish-bearing streams and c) sustain 40 full-time jobs per year.
THE BAD: At present, 35% of the Elliott is designated as protected Marbled Murrelet habitat. It is concerning that the Land Board is requiring new owners to conserve just 25% of the forest. Oregonians have made it overwhelmingly clear that they want to maintain collective ownership of the forest, and selling it to a private buyer – whether or not that buyer agrees to allow public access – ignores their wishes.
After years of fighting to save the Elliott from the timber industry’s nefarious clutches, we are slowly but undeniably winning. The prospect of losing the forest to a private owner, someone unaccountable to the people of Oregon, is terrifying – but if we continue to stand together and pressure Oregon lawmakers to opt for a buyer who will transfer ownership to a public agency, we can ensure that the Elliott will grow old indefinitely.
CFD will not stop fighting for the Elliott until we know for certain that it will remain within public ownership and that it will not be logged. Stay tuned for updates!