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Brown unveils $100 million bond proposal for Elliott forest

Gov. Kate Brown added another twist Feb. 10 to the torturous path of what to do with the Elliott State Forest.

Brown has proposed keeping the forest in public ownership using up to $100 million in state bonding capacity to protect habitat and old growth stands. The money would go into the $1.4 billion Common School Fund, a trust fund for K-12 education, while decoupling a portion of the forest from the fund. The rest of the land would be managed for timber harvests.  

School advocates have questioned all through the process whether schools would be getting full value from the forest’s sale. It’s unclear whether Brown’s plan will meet that goal, and schools advocates such as OSBA said they had not been consulted for input on her proposal.

“This may be a violation of the State Land Board’s fiduciary duty,” said Jim Green, OSBA executive director. “We are left with few options other than to potentially bring litigation against the Land Board to uphold their fiduciary duty related to this issue.”

The Elliott State Forest was created in 1930 to produce revenue to support Oregon schools. Environmental regulations have limited logging in recent years, and since 2013, the forest has been costing the fund money.

The forest was appraised at $221 million and put up for sale to benefit the fund, with stipulations that require 40 jobs per year and some land protections. School advocates felt the requirements reduces the value of the property for the school fund.

The property got only one bid, a joint offer from the Lone Rock Timber Management Co. and the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians, with support from the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians.

The Department of State Lands is scheduled to update the State Land Board on the status of the Elliott Property Ownership Transfer on Tuesday morning. The board consists of Gov. Kate Brown, Secretary of State Dennis Richardson and State Treasurer Tobias Read.

By Jake  Arnold, OSBA