Land board votes to sell Elliott State Forest, but decision not final

The Oregon State Land Board voted to move forward with the sale of Elliott State Forest to a Roseburg timber company on Tuesday, but the decision isn't final.

The board voted 2-1 to proceed with the sale to a partnership of Lone Rock Timber Company and the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians.

Oregon State Treasurer Tobias Read and Secretary of State Dennis Richardson voted to move forward with the sale, with Oregon Gov. Kate Brown opposed.

However, the sale of the 80,000-acre forest near Coos Bay won’t be finalized until a meeting on April 4. Brown directed the state land board to come up with an option to keep forest publicly owned.

Environmental groups denounced the decision.

"At the end of the day, this privatization of the Elliott will result in more clear-cuts, more muddy streams and it shortchanges every Oregonian's future," said Josh Laughlin with Cascadia Wildlands.

Read defended his decision in a statement issued after the meeting.

“The decision ... to move forward with the sale of the Elliott was not easy," Read said in a statement. "For far too long we have struggled to adequately fund our schools and give our children the world class education they deserve."

The forest was created in 1930 to provide funding for the Common School Fund, but recently has lost money as timber harvests have declined.

In August 2015, Oregon’s State Land Board voted to sell the property as one piece to a single party. It set a sale price of $220 million and Lone Rock submitted the only bid.

Read offered what he called "conservation enhancements," including a stipulation allowing the state to "repurchase up to $25 million worth of acreage that provides key conservation habitat, allowing for continued recreational, hunting, and angling access." He suggested that land should be turned into a state park.

This story will be updated.

(© 2017 KGW)


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