Land board OKs Elliott plan amid protests

Mitch Lies/Capital Press<br /> Protestors against a plan to increase logging on the Elliott State Forest rally outside a State Land Board meeting Oct. 11 in Salem. The Land Board approved the plan with the caveat that it be revisited annually.

No old growth trees will be logged, foresters say

By MITCH LIES

Capital Press

SALEM -- The Oregon State Land Board, amid a protest rally that escalated to heckling, approved a new plan Oct. 11 for the Elliott State Forest that calls for increased logging.

The plan boosts logging on the forest from the current level of 25 million board-feet a year to 40 million board-feet. It also sets aside about 28,000 acres for conservation, and includes protections for threatened and endangered species, including the marbled murrelet, the spotted owl and salmon.

"I'm willing to support this with the caveat that we revisit the plan on an annual basis ... and that we continue to have a conversation about the habitat conservation option going forward," Gov. John Kitzhaber said.

A heckler immediately responded, saying to Kitzhaber: "Sell out. Sell out."

Secretary of State Kate Brown and State Treasurer Ted Wheeler echoed Kitzhaber's concerns, but also backed the plan.

The plan now moves to the Oregon Board of Forestry, which is expected to take it up at a Nov. 3 meeting in Forest Grove.

The Oregon Department of Forestry manages the 93,000-acre forest for the Department of State Lands.

The new plan includes a change in how the state addresses threatened and endangered species, moving from a habitat conservation plan it currently uses for protecting the spotted owl to a "take avoidance" strategy.

The state opted to shift strategies after failing to gain approval for its conservation plan from the federal agencies in charge of protecting the threatened and endangered species.

Under take avoidance, foresters survey for the presence of endangered species and avoid harvesting areas where they are found.

The new forest plan includes measures to protect riparian areas around salmon-bearing streams, in some cases eliminating all logging within 100 feet on both sides of streams.

The state also intends to promote stand diversity, a measure of forest health.

No old growth trees will be logged under the plan, foresters told the board.

The Land Board said it was constitutionally obligated to try and generate revenue from the forest. About 90 percent of the revenue generated from the Elliott State Forest goes to schools.

"It is not an option to simply walk away from the revenue from these common school fund lands," Kitzhaber said. "There will be harvest on these lands."

Kitzhaber said he wanted to ensure the plan included "adaptive management" and extensive monitoring to ensure the state adjusts logging and conservation practices in response to scientific findings. He was told the plan does just that.

Also, he was told by regional forester Jim Young that less than 1 percent of the forest will be cut in any given year.

None of this served to quell the protesters who carried signs stating: "Kitzhaber: Don't Break Your Promises" and "Save the Elliott."

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