On Tuesday Oregon officials voted to stop the sale of the Elliott State Forest, keeping the 82,500-acre parcel of public land in state control. The forest was almost sold to Lone Rock Timber Management and the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Indians for $221 million, which would have restricted public access to the tract.
Oregon is legally bound to use revenue from state-held land to fund education, for it is held in a public trust. If a piece of public-trust land cannot generate revenue, however, the state is often forced to liquidate the property—which was the case with the Elliott State Forest. A three-member board, composed of the governor, secretary of state, and state treasurer, voted against the transaction after a heated debate.
“[The] decision by the state land board is a huge win for public-land owners and public-land critters, but the hard work has just begun,” said Ian Isaacson, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers Oregon chair, in a statement. “In order for the Elliott to remain the biological jewel it is and has always been, all sides must work together to formulate a management strategy that will ensure its health for years to come.”
The next hurdle is figuring out how to manage the recreation-rich, but non-revenue-generating forest. According to The Oregonian, bonds and logging could be part of the management plan, but that remains to be seen. Alternatively, Oregon’s S.B. 847, a bill proposing the transfer of state-owned public land, like the Elliott, from the school trust to a state agency, could offer another option. The measure has not yet been voted on, however.