Editorial: Schools lose in latest forest flap

Published Nov 20, 2012 at 04:00AM

Money for schools and jobs in the forest have once again taken a blow as environmentalists use the courts to block the new Elliott State Forest management plan.

In response to a federal lawsuit filed in May, the state has decided to withdraw more than 900 acres of planned timber sales and to open a different 465 acres not covered by the lawsuit.

The resulting loss to the Common School Fund is estimated at $9.85 million next year. The beneficiary, according to environmentalists, is the marbled murrelet seabird.

The state is constitutionally required to manage the Elliott forest, located near Coos Bay, for the maximum benefit of the school fund, and it approved a new management plan in October 2011 that would increase logging to bring revenue to $13 million from the previous $8 million.

The new plan was approved by the State Land Board, made up of Gov. John Kitzhaber, Secretary of State Kate Brown and Treasurer Ted Wheeler, after extensive study and public comment. While they were deliberating, protesters chanted “Kitzhaber lies, forests die,” as well as “Sellout, sellout” and “liar,” according to a report in The Oregonian.

Cascadia Wildlands and other environmental groups then sued, claiming the plan violates the Endangered Species Act. Sometime next year, the case will go before a federal judge.

Kitzhaber, Brown and Wheeler can hardly be considered extremists. The plan they approved requires surveys for Northern spotted owls and marbled murrelets, and it sets aside 28,000 acres as off limits for logging, compared with the previous 22,370. And they expressed a desire to review the plan on a yearly basis. These are not the clear-cutting logging barons of old, unconcerned with environmental impacts.

Their opponents, however, are adept at using the courts to stall any action that doesn’t meet their narrow definition of acceptability. It’s an attitude that blocks progress in solving the serious problems of our fire fuel-loaded forests and loss of income from natural resources.

And in this case, the biggest loss is much-needed money for schools.

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