Oregon is considering selling private timber companies the public’s 86,000-acre Elliott State Forest. Public schools net about $12 million each year from logging on the Elliott. But proponents of privatization want a fat one-time cash payment. In fact, one leading proponent was quoted today as saying, “We have a bottom-line goal, and we’re willing to support anything that achieves that bottom-line goal.”
Faster clearcut logging is not a good option in a region that’s already experienced very high rates of clearcutting. Over the past 30 years, private landowners in Southern Oregon clearcut 35 percent of their forests, about twice as fast as the state cut its forests. (For an eye-popping visual depiction of clearcutting in Southern Oregon, check out the Cascadia Scorecard’s animated forest maps–the Elliott State Forest is roughly in the center of the map’s Coast Range).
Selling the Elliott is economically shortsighted; it robs future generations of their heritage as well as a steady source of school financing. And private ownership would likely put the forest off-limits to Oregonians who have long enjoyed public access for hunting, fishing, and hiking. The move is reminiscent of the Biblical tale of Esau, who traded away his birthright for a bowl of soup when he was hungry.
A smarter move would be to consider Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification for the Elliott. Not only does FSC certification weigh factors like timber workers and environmental protection, but also it may even generate more revenue in the long run.