The committee has been exploring a plan to turn the Elliott into a publicly owned research forest run by Oregon State University after the State Land Board scrapped a 2017 sale of the land. The Elliott was created to support public education, but falling timber sales have wiped out most revenue.
The State Lands Department recently sent out an email summarizing feedback in 2019 to the plan. In general, people seem to support a publicly accessible forest that mixes conservation and harvest goals while providing education and recreation opportunities.
Predictably, the widest divergence of opinions tends to be on harvest amounts. People are also concerned about the ownership and management structure with OSU.
The committee, convened by the State Lands Department, brings together industry, environmental, public agency, tribal and education representatives. OSBA Deputy Executive Director Mary Paulson and former Reedsport School Board member Jen Clark are among the 16 committee members.
The group has reached a consensus on backing the plan, but details are still being worked out about the finances and management.
The forest was valued at $221 million in 2017. The state has issued $100 million in bonds to partially compensate the Common School Fund, and OSBA has emphasized that the State Land Board’s fiduciary duty requires supplying the fund with the maximum value of the forest.
The State Lands Department expects a full plan in fall 2020 that details the forest’s management and how it can be decoupled from the Common School Fund.