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State reviews forest bid

By GORDON OLIVER

The Department of State Lands is moving forward in its review of a single purchase bid for the Elliott State Forest, a Common School Fund property near Reedsport that in recent years has turned into a money loser for the fund.

The department said in a Tuesday statement that the bid it received from a partnership of a timber company and Indian tribe “was timely submitted and has been deemed responsive for the purpose of constructing an offer of direct sale.”

The department’s one-paragraph statement noted that some details in the plan “are not fully developed and will need to be worked out” in the next phase of discussion. It said it would update State Land Board on the status of its review at the board’s Dec. 13 meeting “prior to taking any action on the proposal.”

It remains unclear whether the three-member State Land Board will weigh in on the deal at the Dec. 13 meeting, which will be open to public testimony, or whether the Department of State Lands will ultimately close the deal.

Roseburg-based Lone Rock Timber Management Partners and the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians have offered to purchase the forestland for the state’s asking price of $220.8 million. Lone Rock will contribute about 87 percent of the equity, while Cow Creek will contribute about 13 percent. Proceeds from the sale are to be invested in the Common School Fund.

The state set a condition for public access on 50 percent of the land and is prohibiting logging on 25 percent of the property. Environmental groups have strenuously opposed the sale, arguing that the land should remain in public ownership.

The State Land Board, which oversees the Common School Fund, initiated a process to sell the land after the Elliott State Forest turned from money maker to money loser in recent years due to environmental restrictions on logging and low timber prices.

The Department of State Lands will provide a more complete staff report to the State Land Board – comprised of the Governor, Secretary of State, State Treasurer - on Dec. 6, said department spokeswoman Julie Curtis.  Because the state received a single bid, the department has the authority under its sale protocol to approve a qualified sale without State Land Board action, she said.

The State Land Board’s Dec. 13 meeting will be its last before Treasurer Ted Wheeler is replaced by Treasurer-elect Tobias Reed and Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins is replaced by Secretary of State-elect Dennis Richardson.

A link to the acquisition plan can be found here: http://bit.ly/2fFwhZN