Losing the Elliott State Forest

In the midst of the turmoil and fervor over the Federal government the State of Oregon is locked in a battle over an 83,000-acre forest in the southwestern corner of the state that provides essential habitat for endangered Coho salmon and the infamous Spotted Owl and revenue for the state’s beleaguered school system. This odd arrangement, the funding of schools directly via timber sales rather than, say, a sales tax, did not result from careful consideration or planning. It was the easy solution to school funding from a state with too much money and whole bunch of down trees. Timber from the Elliott State Forest began being harvested after the Columbus Day storm of 1962 knocked down an appreciable portion of trees on the forests over-steepened hillsides. Once roads were put in to gain access to harvest the down logs, no one seemed to question their continued use for logging, not for nearly thirty years, until the price of timber dropped and the Spotted Owl gained protection. Now, with dwindling budgets and even more strikingly dwindling forests, lawmakers are looking for revenue, and timber companies are looking for harvests. The Elliott State Forest became an easy target. Can the forest remain in state hands and be utilized for recreation and sustainable logging in a way that makes it profitable? Yes. Will future revenue exceed the estimated $221 million expected from the sale? Yes. Are we able to accurately monetize the impact of natural areas and resources over timescales of decades? No.
Do we only get one shot? Yes.