Volunteer surveyors in Elliott State Forest recently discovered nesting behavior by the marbled murrelet, a sea bird protected under the Endangered Species Act, on one of three parcels of land being assessed for sale by the State Land Board.
The sale would ultimately be for logging purposes. Last year, Cascadia Wildlands and two other conservation groups filed a lawsuit against the board — including Gov. John Kitzhaber — as well as the Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL) and Department of Forestry, which oversee the Elliott. The result was a U.S. District Court injunction on “further logging activities in known occupied marbled murrelet sites in the … Elliott State Forest.”
A land board meeting in June deemed the parcels of the Elliott, where logging feeds Oregon’s Common School Fund, qualified for sale due to non-profitability. Nick Cady, an attorney with Cascadia Wildlands, calls that solution a “petulant, short-term money grab” that is “definitely not in the interest of the Oregon public or its school children.” Divesting assets also doesn’t address the origins of the revenue failure. “It’s time for [the state] to take responsibility for their core management practices. This privatization plan is just another way to evade reality,” says Erin Grady of Cascadia Forest Defenders. “The way they clearcut in the Elliott is still the way they did it in the ’70s.”
“We believe they’re going to try to sell the entire [85,000 acres] of the Elliott,” Cady says. “This is a test run to see if they can get away with it.” The board and DSL continue to push sales and, according to conservationists, deflect habitat concerns. The largest parcel in question, Adams Ridge — roughly 1,600 of the total 2,700 acres — is where Coast Range Forest Watch surveyors documented areas occupied by the murrelet, which nests in old-growth forests. The surveyors will submit their findings before a comment period ends Sept. 3.
Even though the court case will not be settled federally until next year, the 2,700 acres would go to auction, pending a State Land Board meeting on Dec. 10 to review public comments. “Supposedly green politicians that Oregon has elected will decide to privatize this land unless we can stop it,” Grady says.
The comment period has been extended until Nov. 11.