Environmentalists gathered in Salem Tuesday to protest Oregon’s decision to sell off state forest land. The governor and other top state officials approved a plan to auction off about 3 percent of the Elliott State Forest. It’s their latest attempt to make the forest produce revenue for schools. Any prospective buyers will have to deal with an endangered sea bird.
Protesters in Salem wore bird masks and carried signs that said “Marbled murrelet forever.” That threatened seabird likes to nest in old trees near the coast and the Elliott has plenty. The birds have been found on one of the parcels the state plans to sell. Francis Eatherington, with the group Cascadia Wildlands, is concerned that a timber company will buy the land. And log it.
Eatherington: “These lands obviously need to be transferred to the state park system to be saved for recreation and conservation. Those values will never be able to compete financially with the timber industry.”
The presence of the protected bird means any attempt to log will face court challenges. That’s helped to drive the starting price of the parcels down. From about 22 million dollars to just 3.6 million. Governor Kitzhaber says the sales will help determine the fair market value of the entire Elliott State Forest. Which could help broker a deal with a land trust or conservation group.
Copyright 2013 Oregon Public Broadcasting