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An update from Bob Z.
Elliot State Forest Sale Closes Amid ControversyThe 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.”