Later in the day, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 1546 and allocated $121 million to create the Elliott State Research Forest with strong new protections for the Elliott’s old growth forests, imperiled species, and water quality. The 82,000-acre Elliott State Forest is one of the crown jewels of the Oregon Coast Range and stronghold for federally listed Marbled Murrelets, Northern Spotted Owls and coho.
For decades, it has also been one of Oregon’s most conflicted landscapes. Over the past decade, Portland Audubon along with Cascadia Wildlands and Center for Biological Diversity have brought three lawsuits to prevent illegal clearcutting and liquidation of the Elliott. Portland Audubon and a coalition of conservation groups also successfully fought an effort by the State to sell the Elliott to private timber interests circa 2016/17.
For the past three years we have been part of a stakeholder advisory group that included conservation groups, tribes, timber interests, recreational interests, rural counties, the Oregon School Board, the State of Oregon, and OSU that have been working intensively to develop a new collaborative path forward for the Elliott.
The Elliott State Research Forest locks in strong protections for the Elliott’s older forests, streams, and imperiled species. It creates the largest reserve in the Oregon Coast Range at 34,000+ acres plus smaller reserves throughout the rest of the forest. The legislation advanced with unanimous support from the stakeholder advisory committee (something that seemed virtually impossible three years ago), strong support from more than 25 conservation groups, and bipartisan support in the legislature on a 22-4 vote in the Senate and 50-9 vote in the House. You can see the legislation here and learn more about the process here.
There is still much work ahead on both the Elliott and OFPA, and much work still to be done to protect Oregon’s forests in general. However, this week, in a time of extreme polarization, we transcended decades of conflict and advanced the Elliott and the OFPA riparian management into a new era of conservation, collaboration and science-based management.
Thanks for all that you do to protect Oregon’s forests and the wildlife that depends on them!