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Court: Oregon Should Not Have Sold Elliott State Forest Land

The Oregon Court of Appeals has ruled the state should not have sold off a piece of the Elliott State Forest to a Eugene-based timber company four years ago. The state sold the land in 2014 after environmental groups successfully sued to halt several timber sales on the forest.

“It’s our understanding that this will revert back into public ownership like it should be,” said Josh Laughlin of Cascadia Wildlands, one of several groups challenging the sale.

The Elliott State Forest in southwestern Oregon was initially set aside to generate money for schools as part of the Common Schools Fund, but federal endangered species protections also apply. After timber sales were halted, the Oregon State Land Board decided to generate that money instead by selling an 800-acre parcel to Seneca Jones Timber Company.

Seneca did not immediately return a request for comment.

The East Hakki Ridge parcel sold to Seneca Jones Timber Company was one of two parcels of forestland sold at the time.  The second sale is tied up in court as well, but being challenged on different grounds.

Oregon had planned to sell the entire Elliott State Forest after management costs began to outpace timber revenues. But the decision was reversed, and last year the Legislature passed a fix that relieved the forests of its mandate to generate funds for schools.  

The Oregon Department of State Lands says it is currently considering the ruling. 

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Jes Burns is a reporter for OPB's Science & Environment unit. Jes has a degree in English literature from Duke University and a master's degree from the University of Oregon's School of Journalism and Communications.