2,728 acres in Elliott State Forest approved for possible sale by Land Board

elliotAt their public meeting Tuesday, the State Land Board approved moving forward on selling five scattered tracts in the Elliott State Forest through an open competitive bid process.

The tracts total 2,728 acres, about 3 percent of the total Elliott acreage overseen by the Land Board. Because of recent restricted timber harvests, in fiscal year 2013, the Elliott experienced a net loss of $3 million, which reduced the value of the Common School Fund. This deficit is expected to continue into the next several fiscal years.

Oregon’s constitution directs the board to manage its land holdings to generate money for public education. Revenue from “school lands” is deposited in the Common School Fund, whose earnings are distributed twice a year to Oregon’s 197 public school districts.

The last online posting available on the value of the Common School Fund is $1.2 billion, which was on June 30, 2013. According to the Department of State Lands information on the Common School Fund, “the Land Board must consider the issue of “intergenerational equity” in its distribution policies. Fund distributions cannot benefit current students at the disadvantage of future students, or vice-versa.”

After receiving public comments from about 20 people (though the Oregonian reported 50), the board gave the Department of State Lands the go-ahead to start the sale process as defined in administrative rule (OAR 141-067), and outlined in the board’s Real Estate Asset Management Plan. Both provide direction and criteria for land sales and exchanges.

Several protestors were reportedly outside the building where about 18 police officers were on hand to keep the peace.

“This is a complicated situation,” said Gov. John Kitzhaber, chair of the board. “These sales are the first step in helping determine the value of this land, and opening the door to a wider range of options for achieving both our need to fund schools and our desire to conserve.”

Kitzhaber and the other Land Board members stressed that the valuation will help inform future land management actions and solutions.

The State Land Board consists of Governor John Kitzhaber, Secretary of State Kate Brown and State Treasurer Ted Wheeler.

The Department of State Lands administers diverse natural and fiscal resources. Many of the resources generate revenue for the Common School Fund, such as state-owned rangelands and timberlands, waterway leases, estates for which no will or heirs exist, and unclaimed property. Twice a year, the agency distributes fund investment earnings to support K-12 public schools. The agency also administers Oregon’s Removal-Fill Law, which requires people removing or filling certain amounts of material in waters of the state are to obtain a permit.