Elliott State Forest To Stay Public, Oregon Board Decides

THE FOLLOWING ARE PRESS RELEASES FROM GOVERNOR KATE BROWN’S OFFICE AND BACKCOUNTRY HUNTERS AND ANGLERS

In an unanimous decision, the State Land Board today agreed to proceed with a plan to maintain the Elliott State Forest in public ownership. Governor Brown reiterated her commitment to keep the Elliott in public hands and acknowledged Legislative support for leveraging the State’s bond capacity to fulfill the fiduciary obligations to the Common School Fund, while also protecting diverse habitats and ensuring public access to the lands.

RUFFED GROUSE ON THE ELLIOTT STATE FOREST. (OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FORESTRY)

“We must change the way we own and manage the forest to fulfill our fiduciary obligation to the Common School Fund, and to protect the Elliott’s diverse habitats and guarantee long-term public access to the lands,” said Governor Brown. “This can be achieved while creating jobs by supporting the sustainable harvest of timber. I appreciate the shared vision of Land Board members and unwavering commitment to honor the Common School Fund, as well as Treasurer Read’s innovative proposal to involve Oregon State University in an adaptive habitat management plan and future research focus of the forest lands.”

Following today’s vote, Land Board members directed Department of State Lands (DSL) to continue developing plans for a public option and consider Treasurer Read’s recommended research partnership with Oregon State University. Additional direction given to DSL include:

• A bond proposal will be developed to include up to $100 million in state bonding capacity to protect high value habitat, including riparian areas, steep slopes, and old growth stands.

• The Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) framework developed in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service establishes conservation and mitigation measures that meet the biological needs for the Elliott’s native and endangered species.

• Collaboration with the Oregon State University College of Forestry to establish the Elliott as a research forest to study the relationship between active forest management and the conservation of the forest’s diverse species and habitats.

• Continue working with sovereign tribal governments to explore ownership or additional forest management opportunities.

Details of the plan to keep the Elliott State Forest in public ownership are available here.

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A victory for public access and hunting and fishing opportunity was achieved this afternoon when the Oregon state land board voted unanimously to keep the Elliott State Forest under state ownership, rejecting earlier proposals to sell Oregon’s oldest state forest and supporting an outcome that Backcountry Hunters & Anglers had been strongly advocating.

Jesse Salsberry, BHA Northwest outreach coordinator, provided testimony at the land board meeting today and applauded the vote by the three-member board, including efforts by Gov. Kate Brown and Treasurer Tobias Read to keep the Elliott publicly accessible and a decision by Secretary of State Dennis Richardson to support continued public opportunities to access the Elliott.

“Hats off to the members of the land board for their commitment to working with sportsmen and the conservation community and building a future for the Elliott that will uphold public access and hunting and fishing opportunities – permanently,” Salsberry said. “Oregon sportsmen look forward to helping formulate a plan that will maintain the incredible hunting, fishing and recreational access that the Elliott has provided for generations.”

BHA has been a leading voice in the push by Beaver State sportsmen to keep the Elliott State Forest under state ownership and open to the public. Established in 1930, the Elliott was given to Oregon by the federal government to provide a sustainable source of school funding through timber harvest. Over time, divergent public interests led to a net loss of revenue on the land and resulted in the state proposing its sale. Today’s vote directs the Department of State Lands to explore the many potential resolutions for the Elliott advanced by land board members.

BHA Oregon Chair Ian Isaacson noted that BHA members support a number of the possible ways forward. He also stressed the importance of continued collaboration by stakeholders in charting a path for the Elliott’s future.

“Today’s decision by the state land board is a huge win for public land owners and public land critters, but the hard work has just begun,” said Isaacson, who lives in Bend. “In order for the Elliott to remain the biological jewel it is and has always been, all sides must work together to formulate a management strategy that will ensure its health for years to come.”

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