KEIZER, Ore. – Oregon’s top elected state leaders have postponed a decision on the fate of the Elliott State Forest after a public hearing in which the vast majority of people spoke out against a proposed sale to a timber company.
Gov. Kate Brown, one of three members of the State Land Board, encouraged those attending the Tuesday meeting in Keizer to help come up with alternate proposals that would maintain public ownership of the 82,500-acre forest.
Revenue from timber harvests from the forest goes into a state fund for schools. But the forest has been operating at a loss for years.
A Roseburg timber company has proposed purchasing the forest. But concern was voiced during the Tuesday hearing about turning the forest over to a private company.
Besides Brown, also on the State Land Board are the state treasurer and secretary of state.
Proponents of the sale plan, including some school board members from around the state, said on Tuesday they supported it because the forest has been operating at a loss in timber sales, causing the Common School Fund to take financial hits.
State officials have been unable to harvest much timber from the forest in recent years because of environmental protections and lawsuits.
Several speakers recommended that if the sale does not go forward, that the forest be removed from the Common School Fund portfolio.
The meeting was held by the State Land Board, whose membership consists of the governor, secretary of state and state treasurer.
One speaker, John Peterson, of Portland, said a sale to private interests would embolden people like Ammon Bundy and his brother Ryan, who led the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon last winter.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.