WHEREAS, the Elliott State Forest is comprised of over 83,000 acres of productive coastal forestland in southwest Oregon that has traditionally been managed by the Oregon Department of Forestry to produce a sustainable volume of timber at the discretion of the State Land Board (land board), and
WHEREAS, the forest land is designated as “Common School Fund” land and is statutorily required to be managed to benefit the state’s Common School Fund to advance the education of school children in Oregon, and
WHEREAS, while the land is capable of supporting a sustainable annual harvest of some 80 million board feet per year, lawsuits associated with the Endangered Species Act and political pressure from environmental interests drove timber sale levels down to less than one tenth of this biological potential leaving an unfunded liability for the land board to fund the Common School Fund, and
WHEREAS, the land board ended its agreement with the Oregon Department of Forestry to manage the Elliott State Forest, and subsequently discontinued all timber harvest revenue and, since 2016, the forest asset has become a financial liability for the Common School Fund, and
WHEREAS, the land board reacted by asking the Legislature for bonding authority to buy down its obligation to the school fund by some $100 million, less than half of the appraised value of the forest, and to sell the forest for the $121 million balance effectively disconnecting itself from any future responsibility to the Common School Fund and Oregon School Children, and
WHEREAS, the land board solicited requests for proposals to purchase the forest with the most qualified bidder being a partnership between a private forest products company and a Native American Tribe, and
WHEREAS, under political pressure from environmental groups, the land board rejected the proposal, reversed its decision to sell the forest to private interests and decided to keep the forest in public ownership, and
WHEREAS, on December 18, 2018 the land board heard presentations from several county, tribal and state agency interests before deciding to initiate a year long process to explore the option of creating the Elliott State Research Forest to be owned and managed by Oregon State University and its College of Forestry, and
WHEREAS, while no explanation was given on how the acquisition would be funded, the university was instructed to provide a vision statement for the research mission of the forest, a draft Habitat Conservation Plan, an examination of the financial aspects of the venture, and to address key issues such as recreational use, hunting access, species conservation and economic contribution to local communities.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Oregon Logging Conference (OLC) urge the land board to be responsive and sensitive to its obligation to the Common School Fund and the impact this proposal will have on the region’s struggling rural economies as this process proceeds during the coming year by giving due consideration to the timber production potential of this forest.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that OLC urge a proposal for the Elliott State Research Forest that produces not less than 40 million board feet of timber per year to compensate the Common School Fund, pay its management costs and support a financially sustainable research program.