The Elliott State Forest has been a losing proposition for the state of Oregon. Annual management costs are about $3 million dollars more than what it brings in by selling timber for logging companies to cut.
One option being considered to make money off the Elliott is to sell all 93,000 acres of the forest -- including old-growth tracts -- on the south Oregon coast to private timber companies. The proceeds of such a sale would go into the state's Common School Fund, which supports public education.
Three parcels were recently sold for logging.
Cameron La Follette of the Oregon Coast Alliance says private timber companies can’t be counted on to uphold environmental laws like the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act.
“Their management trajectory is usually not towards protection of habitat for old-growth dependent species,” La Follette said.
Julie Curtis, communications director with the Department of State Lands, disagrees.
“Any buyer, whether it’s a timber company or a conservation land trust, has to comply with all state and federal laws,” she said.
Curtis said a range of options will still be considered for the Elliott State Forest. She says the options include conservation easements, transfer to another state agency, purchase by conservation groups, or public auctions.
The state is accepting comments on the proposal — and a series of public meetings will take place in the fall.