Elliot State Forest Parcels Are Sold

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An update from Bob Z.

Elliot State Forest Sale Closes Amid Controversy

Elliott State Forest Sale

Statesman Journal 
The Oregon Department of State Lands has completed the controversial sale of three parcels of Elliott State Forest totaling 1,453 acres to Seneca Jones Timber and Scott Timber Co.
The Wednesday sale fetched $4.2 million despite the promise from environmental groups to file a lawsuit to halt logging over the alleged existence of federally protected marbled murrelets in the parcels.
The East Hakki Ridge parcel was purchased by Seneca Jones Timber for $1.89 million, while Adams Ridge 1 was purchased by Scott Timber for $1.87 million. Benson Ridge was purchased for $787,000.
In December 2013, the State Land Board approved selling about 2,700 acres within the Elliott. Managing the Common School Fund land within this forest —which in recent years generated annual net revenues in the $8 million to $11 million range — cost the fund about $3 million in fiscal year 2013.
Losses are projected to continue in fiscal year 2014 and beyond, due to reduced timber harvest levels as a result of litigation over threatened and endangered species protection.
“The Land Board realizes the Common School Fund cannot continue to have a net deficit from managing these Trust lands,” DSL director Mary Abrams said in a press release. “This first effort to sell three small parcels was to gauge interest in these properties, as well as determine the market value of land within the forest.”
The sale, which will benefit the Common School Fund, represents less than two percent of the 93,000-acre forest near Reedsport.
Even so, the sales have become a flashpoint in the lingering dispute between environmentalists and timber companies.
“These parcels, which once belonged to all Oregonians, should never have been sold in the first place,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity in Portland, in a press release announcing the notice to initiate a lawsuit. “Now that they’ve been sold, we’re not going to allow them to be clear-cut and contribute to the extinction of the unique marbled murrelet.”

4 Comments

  1. Too bad our elected officials, hired foresters and appointed forestry board members take such a short view of the public land issues. We could blame it on the environmental community and they certainly should be aware of the results of their actions.
    But I still believe that public lands can be managed for the public good without having to sell them. Timber can be harvested in a sustainable fashion and profits can go to help cover the cost of education in our state. These lands belong to the people and the benefits from these lands should benefit the people for as long as the land is there.
    I don’t really go along with it reasoning cost to much to manage them so it is in the best interests of the people to sell them.
    This is really just the tip of the iceberg, there will be more pressure to privatize our public lands or to turn them into no management parks. Which I think will just continue the decline of social and economic opportunity in rural America. It will also lead to the eventual degradations of our forests.
    It is very productive land and grows beautiful timber.

    • BobS

      Agree “I still believe that public lands can be managed for the public good without having to sell them. Timber can be harvested in a sustainable fashion and profits can go to help cover the cost of education in our state. These lands belong to the people and the benefits from these lands should benefit the people for as long as the land is there.”

      Re: “We could blame it on the environmental community and they certainly should be aware of the results of their actions”
      –> Yes, we could and Yes, they should. Maybe if enough of this happens, they will come to their senses and try to come to a middle ground which recognizes the role of sound forest management in sustaining these Natural Wonders/Resources. I still can’t call them “environmentalists” since their elimination of sound forest management from any part of the equation is environmentally unsound.

  2. Government is not free. In Oregon, there is a continuing deficiency in investment returns of the public employee retirement fund, and that exacerbates employment costs per public job. Add the ever growing burden of health insurance, and all that down time from the job at hand to attend to touchy-feely seminars on how to talk to each other in state employment, and of course, myriad holidays, budget driven furlough days, and it costs way too much to manage this 90 plus thousand acres of Common School Lands the State was given at Statehood to be used or sold for creating a sinking fund for education. Only the earnings in the Fund may be used for education. So when the State Dept of Forestry sends the State Land Board (they are the constitutional managers of the Common School Fund and its assets—the Gov, Sec of State, and State Treasurer) a bill for over $3 million for services rendered, it has to be paid.

    Litigation and the ESA issues with marbled murrelets, NSO, and red tree voles and a host of other charismatic “keystone” species, all vaguely defined in a now poorly written ESA law, prevented the State from selling timber. Also, the green lobby supports the Progressive Liberal Democrat majority that rules Oregon: unions, public employees, all those on the dole or retired from unions and public employment, and the other hangers on. The State Land Board, all of one party affiliation, walked a thin line between logging and satisfying voters. Mostly they just didn’t log or attempt to log. Push came to shove. So this land is now being sold for a dime on the real value dollar. The risk/reward deal is managed. If the purchasers can only log 20% of their purchase, they are way ahead of the game monetarily. And they will probably be able to do that. The counties are happy as hell, as they now get severance taxes on cut timber, and the property taxes on now private land. Any economic activity those lands create is more than under the State’s “Do Nothing” approach. And, the 2% number for the acres sold. You can rest assured that the land will need management and they annual bill will only grow beyond the $3 million of the present. In 50 years, the goose that was to lay the golden eggs will have been parceled out, and no longer there to put money in the Common School Fun forever, into eternity. The NGOs of the environment and the professional litigators of the wild will have their work cut out for them. Only they won’t be able to negotiate with a compliant Oregon Attorney General or Governor. It will be hardball law. The greenies don’t always win. We will be living in interesting times. Unintended consequences are real. And they dependably show up just when you think you have all the bases covered.

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