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Elliott State Forest

Issue

In the Southern Oregon Coast Range northeast of Coos Bay lie 93,000 acres of state-owned forestland. The Elliott State Forest contains more than 41,000 acres of untouched mature native forest and some of the most productive and pristine streams for Coho and Chinook Salmon in the Coast Range. The forest provides a stronghold of critical habitat for federally threatened Marbled Murrelets and Northern Spotted Owls. And in the next several months, this amazing public forest could be sold off to private industrial interests. We need your help to send a strong message to the State Land Board—Governor Kate Brown, Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins, and Treasurer (and soon to be mayor of Portland) Ted Wheeler—that we will not accept privatization of our public lands. We want a solution for the Elliott State Forest that protects its remarkable wildlife habitat and keeps it in public ownership.

Background

The forest was created in 1930 to provide long-term funding for Oregon’s public schools and is managed by the Oregon Department of Forestry. Decades of unsustainable logging, and shift in social acceptance of clearcutting old growth forests, the Elliott is now caught up in a conflict between its historic and out-of-date tie to the Oregon Common School Fund and logging proceeds, and the Oregon public’s desire to protect our remaining old growth forests, wild salmon, and wildlife. 

Despite this new reality, state officials adopted a Forest Management Plan at the end of 2011 that increased clearcutting and nearly doubled the annual harvest rate within the Elliott State Forest. In 2012, Audubon Society of Portland, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Cascadia Wildlands, represented by Crag Law Center, sued the state of Oregon for logging occupied Marbled Murrelet nesting habitat in violation of the Endangered Species Act. In 2014, after the federal court indicated a strong likelihood that it would rule in our favor, the State settled the case and cancelled 28 timber sales, agreeing to new logging protocols and reducing its projected annual timber harvest from over 40 million board feet per year to approximately 15 million. The scale of change reflects the degree to which the State was illegally harvesting this incredible forest. 

The settlement should have resulted in a more sustainable approach to managing the Elliott Forest. Instead, the State Land Board rashly sold off more than 1,000 acres of these public lands later in 2014, triggering another lawsuit from Portland Audubon, Cascadia Wildlands, and the CBD that is still making its way through the courts. Worse yet, the State announced plans that would potentially liquidate the rest of this public forest. The State is currently accepting bids for upwards of 82,000 acres for a price tag of $220.8 million and will make a preliminary decision on who it will divest this public forest to in December 2016. Four dozen groups, including large timber companies, have submitted letters of interest in acquiring the Elliott.

Click here for more information and background on the Elliott.

Three Ways to Take Action

1. Call these important elected officials today. Below their names, see important talking points for each official. 

State Treasurer Tobias Read: (503) 378-4329 
Urge him to pull his support for selling off the Elliott and that instead he should join the Governor and other stakeholders on working on a public solution for the Elliott that will benefit Oregonians now and into the future. Additional talking points below.

Governor Kate Brown: (503) 378-4582
Thank her, and ask her to continue showing leadership by promoting a public solution for the Elliott. Additional talking points below.

House Speaker Tina Kotek: (503) 986-1200
Politely ask the House Speaker to join with the Governor to work on supporting a public solution with public funding in the current legislative session. Additional talking points below.

Senate President Peter Courtney: (503) 986-1600
Thank him for showing personal support for the Governor’s proposal for the Elliott and ask him to help support a public solution with public funding in the current legislative session. Additional talking points below.

Secretary of State Dennis Richardson: (503) 986-1523
Express to him the importance public lands have for all Oregonians and that the prudent fiscal decision would be to keep the Elliott in public ownership. Additional talking points below.

Contact your representatives and tell them action is needed NOW to keep the Elliott State Forest public.

Key Talking Points to Legislators: Keep the Elliott State Forest Public
Contact your representative and tell them action is needed NOW to keep the Elliott State Forest public. When speaking to your elected officials, speak from the heart, personalize your concerns, and be polite. If you can’t reach anyone in your representative's office, leave a message with your contact information. 

  • Keep it public
  • The forest needs protection
  • There are other viable options
  • Action is needed now - Support a public solution and urge State Treasurer Tobias Read to do the same

Keep it Public
Keeping public lands in public ownership is a foundational issue for the conservation community, one whose importance cannot be overstated. Additionally, hunters and anglers rely on access to public lands, especially on the central coast where private land dominates the landscape and is often off-limits.

The Forest Needs Protection
The Elliott is home to numerous imperiled species of birds, salmonids, and other wildlife. It contains some of the last remaining old growth in the Oregon coast range and is a massive carbon sink. Clean water, rare habitat, and aquatic ecosystems are reliant on a protected, intact forest. The sale of the forest to a private timber company could seriously threaten these values. 

There Are Other Viable Options
Other options are on the table, including the governor’s public ownership framework, and a Trust Lands Transfer Bill introduced by Senator Arnie Roblan earlier this session, SB 847. It is important to support these and other efforts in the legislature in order to decouple old growth logging from funding our kids’ education and keep the Elliott in public ownership.

Action is Needed Now: Support a public solution and urge State Treasurer Tobias Read to do the same
Protection of Public Lands is a critical issue for conservationists and those who enjoy outdoor recreation throughout Oregon. While our Federal Lands in the West are increasingly under threat from a nationwide movement to privatize, it is unacceptable for our local leaders to consider selling off the Elliott. Instead, the time is NOW for the State Land Board and the legislature to take the lead this session to find a solution that keeps the Elliott public.   

2. Then Write to the State Land Board

Click here to tell Governor Kate Brown, Treasurer Tobias Read, and Secretary of State Dennis Richardson that we will not accept the privatization of our public lands.

3. Attend Upcoming State Land Board Meeting on April 11

Attend the upcoming State Land Board meeting for the Elliott State Forest to let Governor Kate Brown, Treasurer Tobias Read, and Secretary of State Dennis Richardson know that the public wants a real solution for the Elliott that keeps it in public ownership, decouples school funding from forest management, and permanently protects the mature forests of the Elliott and the Spotted Owls, Marbled Murrelets, Coho Salmon, and other wildlife who depend on them.

When: April 11, 2017 at 10 a.m.
Where: Department of State Lands 775 Summer St. NE Salem, OR 97301
Transportation provided. Please RSVP to reserve a seat: staylor@audubonportland.org

Opportunity for public testimony is likely, but it is also important to attend to show support for potential alternative plans that may be presented. Please wear green to show solidarity for a conservation solution. 

Located in the Southern Oregon Coast Range, the Elliott is an 88,000-acre state owned forestland. It contains more than 41,000 acres of mature native forest and some of the most productive and pristine streams for Coho and Chinook Salmon. The forest provides a stronghold of critical habitat for federally threatened Marbled Murrelets and Northern Spotted Owls, especially among the fragmented private forests of the Oregon coast range.

We need you to contact our state leaders right away and urge them not to tarnish their legacy and to find a solution for the Elliott that keeps it permanently in public ownership and protects its natural resources. Urge them to go back to the drawing board and, through the legislature, transfer the Elliott into a Trust Land, keeping the forest in state ownership.

Click here to learn more about the history of the Elliott and the importance of its habitat for imperiled species.

Updates


December 20, 2016: A U.S. District Court in Eugene has issued a preliminary ruling preventing Scott Timber from clearcutting a parcel of the Elliott State Forest purchased from the state of Oregon.

December 13, 2016: After more than 200 state forest supporters and conservation groups rallied at the State Land Board hearing to oppose the proposed sale of the Elliott State Forest, Governor Brown temporarily removed the Elliott from the chopping block. While the Land Board did not outright reject the Lone Rock Timber Company Privatization Proposal, they did take a significant step in the right direction by directing the Department of State Lands to develop a counter proposal working with conservation groups and tribes.

September 30, 2016 - Portland Audubon and co-litigants sue Oregon Board of Forestry for failure to protect Marbled Murrelet habitat on state forest lands 

August 25, 2016 – Audubon and co-litigants file lawsuit to protect threatened Marbled Murrelet from logging on Former Elliott State Forest lands. 

April 4, 2016 – Letter from Audubon and co-litigants providing legal context of the Elliott State Forest to interested parties in the States Elliott State Forest Alternatives Process.

Conservation groups seek greater protections for threatened Marbled Murrelets in Oregon. 

Oregon Appeals Court set to rule on plan to sell off Elliott State Forest.

June 3, 2014 – Lawsuit launched to protect threatened Marbled Murrelets from clearcutting on liquidated Oregon State Forests.

April 21, 2014 – Lawsuit challenges sale of Elliott State Forest

February 5, 2014 – Settlement protects Marbled Murrelet on Oregon State Forests, cancels 28 timber sales. 

Elliott State Forest - Tim Giraudier
Elliott State Forest - Tim Giraudier
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