Elliott State Forest Comment Deadline
Three years ago, Oregon Shores joined dozens of other conservation and community groups in successfully opposing sale of the Elliott State Forest to private timber interests. The State Land Board (consisting of the governor, secretary of state, and treasurer) was considering sale of this public resource to replenish the Common School Fund, but widespread opposition caused a cancellation of the sale. The Elliott, just south of the Umpqua River, is home to the only significant old-growth forest remaining on state-owned lands.
Now the state is planning for the Elliott State Forest’s future, and the public has an opportunity to weigh in. The principal intention was to decouple the forest from the Common School Fund and turn management over to Oregon State University as a "research forest.” Over the past two years, an advisory committee including tribes, timber interests, forest users, and conservationists have been working with state government and OSU to craft a draft management plan for the proposed research forest, and the process is now nearing an end. On December 8, the State Land Board will decide whether to move forward with this proposal. For more on the proposal, see the Department of State Lands website.
You will find a link to the online form for submitting comments on the website. You can also submit comments via e-mail to Ali.R.Hansen@dsl.state.or.us.
The draft plan includes some major conservation gains for this vitally important forest, the streams that flow through it, and the fish and wildlife that depend on it. For example:
- It protects most mature and old growth forests.
- It improves on the Oregon Forest Practices Act by creating bigger streamside buffers, lengthening the rotation age for logging, and limiting the use of aerial spray and other pesticides.
- It creates a 30,000-acre block of forest reserved from most logging (plantations would be thinned once, after which they would be off-limits to additional logging)
- It maintains public access and could improve recreation opportunities.
However, the plan also includes trade-offs that make it problematic - allowing logging of some mature forests, and continued clear-cutting across a significant landscape. It also doesn't fully contemplate the important role the forest could play in storing and sequestering carbon.
In addition, there are concerns about how the OSU Research Forest will be governed and accountable to the public. Given its history of violating their own management plans to log old-growth trees on one of its research forests outside Corvallis and other breaches of public trust, governance of this forest should go beyond OSU's norms to be independent, transparent, and include public participation.
Finally, there also needs to be a Habitat Conservation Plan developed that the research forest plan aligns with - complying with federal Endangered Species Act requirements to ensure that salmon, spotted owls, and marbled murrelets can survive and thrive in the Elliott.
The draft plan is still a work in progress and public input provided now will help inform the presentation of a final plan at the Dec. 8 State Land Board meeting. To be a conservation success, the plan must ensure the greatest possible protections for all the mature and old-growth forests in the Elliott, ensure at-risk wildlife are fully protected, and ensure high levels of public accountability in the governance structure.
Thanks to Oregon Wild for these talking points.