By Carl Segerstrom
– The Elliott State Forest is a public trust area home to numerous populations of endangered species
Salem, Ore.– On Oct. 11 over 100 people demonstrated against the pending sale of the Elliott State Forest at the Oregon Department of State Lands meeting.
The event was organized by Oregon environmental groups to show the State Land Board that citizens throughout the state oppose the sale of the Elliott to private interests.
On July 27 the Department of State Lands announced the “fair market value” of the 82,500-acre common school fund lands in the Elliott at $220.8 million. According to their website, the Department of State Lands will be accepting acquisition plans until Nov. 11 of this year. Representatives of environmental organizations from Coos Bay to Portland teamed up with the Save the Elliott campaign to rally support. Demonstrators gathered and gave speeches outside the State Land Board building in Salem before the meeting and offered over an hour of input during the public comment period.
Supporters of keeping the Elliott public cited recreational opportunities, carbon sequestration potential and endangered species habitat as some of the public goods that would be lost if the State sold the Elliott. The Elliott State Forest is home to federally endangered species including northern spotted owls, marbled murrelets and coho salmon.
Max Beeken, the Co-Director of Coastal Range Forest Watch, said the event and public meeting were an important part of his organization’s work to stop the sale of the Elliott. “This is the last State Land Board meeting before they make their decision,” Beeken said. “It is a critical time for us to make our point with a bunch of people here.”
Demonstrators came from all over the state, including as far away as Ashland. A group of over 30 from Coos Bay, which neighbors the Elliott, arrived in a school bus.
Conservation field coordinator for the Audubon Society of Portland Micah Meskel said the expectations for the event and public hearing were to show the State Land Board, “…that Oregonians do not accept the privatization of public lands.”
“We expect the state and state leaders to really take a hard look at what they are doing,” Meskel said, “and instruct the Department of State Lands to really find a real solution for the Elliott that keeps it in state ownership.”
The State Land Board is comprised of Governor Kate Brown, State Treasurer and Portland mayoral candidate Ted Wheeler, Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins and three appointed land board assistants. Of the more than 30 speakers during the public comment period, only one supported selling the Elliott.
The next State Land Board meeting, when the sales announcement is scheduled to be made, is Dec. 13.