In the ongoing saga of the State Land Board’s decision to sell off portions of the Elliott State Forest to meet its mandates under the Common School Fund, Seneca Jones Timber Company received an early Earth Day present earlier this week. As reported in the Oregonian, Seneca Jones submitted the winning bid on the 788-acre East Hakki Ridge tract, getting the parcel for pennies on the dollar: $1.9 million for timber valued by the State of Oregon at more than $5.5 million.
Luckily, our coalition partners at Cascadia Wildlands, Portland Audubon, and the Center for Biological Diversity have stepped in to file suit to prevent what is likely an illegal sale of this tract. As the Court decides on the request for a preliminary injunction to stop the sale, the State Department of Justice has agreed to hold off on closing the sale until after May 1.
Meanwhile, the Sierra Club and our coalition partners continue to urge the State Land Board — made up of Gov. John Kitzhaber, Secretary of State Kate Brown, and Treasurer Ted Wheeler — and other state leaders in Salem to pursue a solution for the Elliott that protects the unique forest and keeps it in public ownership, while also satisfying the school fund mandate required by these lands. The bright side of the low monetary value for the three parcels that were sold is that it helps us to make the case that it’s even more affordable than we might have thought for the State to buy out the Elliott from its Common School Fund burdens and transfer the land to Oregon State Parks, for instance.
Clearly, the drama at the Elliott State Forest is about to get a lot more interesting, so stay tuned!