The saga of the Elliott State Forest continues. In Oregon, a state with 30 million acres of forestland — almost half of its total landmass — the state’s three top officials have decided not to sell a forest whose sole purpose is to help fund the state’s schools through the Common School Fund.

How this became so complicated is one of those Oregon things.

First the State Land Board — Gov. Kate Brown, Treasurer Tobias Read and Secretary of State Dennis Richardson — decided to sell the forest because it wasn’t generating enough money.

Then, after winning bidders were identified and negotiating the purchase contract, the Land Board backed out of the $220.8 million deal, because, well, that’s where it gets complicated.

They backed out because they wanted the forest to stay in state hands, primarily to appease environmental interests, which apparently believed preserving an 82,500-acre forest — representing less than half of 1 percent of the forestland in the state — is more important than helping the state’s 571,000 public school students.

It should be noted that the state Legislature is continually poor-mouthing public schools, so money from the Common School Fund and the Elliott State Forest is sorely needed.

The land board has come up with a unique plan for the state to sell $100 million in tax-free bonds to buy the forest. Then the board would give the forest to Oregon State University, whose budget the Legislature is also threatening to cut. Somehow, OSU would be expected to find the remainder of the purchase price.

If you’re not following this, you’re not alone. This sort of thing happens too often in Oregon, where spending money with no idea of where the project is headed is an art form. We remember the hundreds of millions of dollars spent to study a bridge across the Columbia River that wasn’t built and for an Obamacare website that didn’t work.

Considering the Elliott Forest debacle, it appears they are all part of an ongoing trend.

The state’s job in managing the Elliott Forest is to find a way to fund state schools. Period. If that can’t be done for environmental or other reasons, the board needs to find income-generating timber land to come up with that money, not selling bonds to assuage environmental sensitivities.

Secretary of State Richardson appears to be the only person on the board with the glimmer of a clue of how to do that. He suggested swapping the forest to the federal government for commercial timberland that can be logged to generate money for the schools and create jobs for loggers and mill workers.

But that suggestion apparently exhibits way too much common sense.

In the meantime, the land board seems destined to find yet another way to come up with a losing proposition — and leave the state’s taxpayers with the bill.

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