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Only one bidder for Elliott Forest by state deadline

The Department of State Lands received a single bid for acquisition of the Elliott State Forest by the Nov. 15 filing deadline, potentially closing the deal on the state’s sale of the 82,500-acre Common School Fund property for $220.8 million.

The Lone Rock Timber Management Company, in an investment partnership with The Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians, submitted the plan. It calls for the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw to hold a proposed conservation easement to ensure that public benefits required by the state are met.

This is an image of Elliott State Forest   
The Lone Rock Timber Management Company submitted the only bid for the acquisition of the Elliott State Forest.  

The Conservation Fund would advise the purchasers on how to develop a  conservation easement. Other advisors would include Dr. John Gordon; Oregon State University’s College of Forestry; the Oregon Department of Forestry; The Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians; and The Confederated Tribes of the Grande Ronde.

“Lone Rock has worked in and around the Elliott State forest for a half-century,” the Roseburg-headquartered company said in a news release. “Together with our tribal partners and conservationists, we are committed to sustainability and managing the forest for its environmental, recreational and economic benefits.”

Under the State Land Board’s protocol for the property sale, the Department of State Lands is authorized to offer a direct sale to a bidder at fair market if it receives a single “responsive” bid. The department will review the proposal and post its response no later than Nov. 22.

Regardless of the department’s next steps, the State Land Board – composed of Oregon’s governor, secretary of state and state treasurer – will discuss the Elliott ownership transfer and take public comments at its Dec. 13 meeting, said department spokeswoman Julie Curtis.

The move to sell the Elliott State Forest began in 2014 when the Division of State Lands launched a review of the forest’s role as a Common School Fund property. Environmental restrictions on logging to protect endangered habitat and low timber prices reduced the state’s revenue from the property and prospects for revenue growth didn’t look good. Although the forest, located in Coos and Douglas counties, has generated $400 million in revenue overall for Oregon schools, it recorded losses in 2013 and 2014, with only modest revenue in 2015 and this year.

The land board set a base sale price of $220.8 million based on private property appraisals, and money from the sale is to be invested in the Common School Fund. The Lone Rock bid offers that price.

The state’s deal would require the new owner to protect endangered species habitat and allow public access to 50 percent of the forest. But environmental and recreation advocates have nevertheless protested the sale, saying the Coast Range forest should remain in public hands.

Also, a national advocacy organization for preserving Common School Fund properties in public ownership and a small number of Coos County residents have argued that the state should keep the forest and find ways to increase its income potential.

A  long-established timeline had called for the State Land Board – Gov. Kate Brown, Treasurer Ted Wheeler and Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins – to take action at its Dec. 13 meeting if necessary. It will be the final meeting before the board takes on two new members with the recent election of Dennis Richardson as secretary of state and Tobias Read as state treasurer.

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