SALEM, Ore. – Oregon’s State Land Board today directed Oregon State University and the Oregon Department of State Lands to continue exploring the prospects of converting the Elliott State Forest into a research forest managed by OSU and its College of Forestry.
The Elliott State Forest is located in Oregon’s coastal range near Reedsport and is managed by the state to benefit the Oregon Common School Fund. A year ago, the Land Board, which is made up of the governor, secretary of state and state treasurer, directed OSU and the Department of State Lands to examine the potential for 82,000+ acres of the Elliott to be managed as a research forest.
“Although a number of details and questions remain, we are excited to continue looking at the possibility of transforming the Elliott State Forest into a research forest,” said Anthony S. Davis, interim dean of the OSU College of Forestry.
“As we find ourselves amid a climate crisis and a sustainability crisis, an Elliott State Research Forest offers an exceptional opportunity to produce science that addresses many of the most pressing issues related to forest conservation and management,” Davis said. “The Elliott is the appropriate size and scope to answer vital questions to help us understand opportunities and tradeoffs as we manage forests for the myriad values they provide. Values such as habitat, carbon storage, timber production, and the quality and quantity of water for our communities.”
Today’s direction by the Land Board follows a yearlong process where OSU and DSL worked to develop a vision for transforming the Elliott into a world-class research forest that also accounts for key public values.
DSL and OSU today provided an update to the land board on an initial research forest exploratory process, which over the past year has included the work of an OSU-led exploratory committee; extensive input from an advisory committee of stakeholders that was convened by DSL; feedback received in multiple public forums; and conversations with tribal governments, local governments, statewide and local issue-specific stakeholder groups, and other interested Oregonians.
The vision articulated by Interim Dean Davis indicated that under OSU’s preliminary research design, the Elliott State Research Forest land base would be allocated to conservation or management watersheds. In the initial design, 58% of the land base is allocated to conservation; 26% to extensive, multiple-values management, and 16% to more intensive management.
OSU and DSL will continue to engage with constituents to refine and develop details of the research forest concept, and to address financial and regulatory issues that must be resolved before OSU would assume management of the Elliott as a research forest. These questions include how to decouple the forest from the Common School Fund, and to develop a habitat conservation plan under the federal Endangered Species Act that protects species while allowing for research activities.
OSU and DSL will provide an update and seek to address remaining questions at a State Land Board meeting in 2020.