Timber Company Bids To Buy State Forest Land

Apr 4, 2014

A prominent timber family’s bid to purchase state forest land in Oregon could lead to old-growth logging near protected wildlife species. The timber sale is reigniting longstanding environmental debates in the Northwest.

Credit Oregon Department of Forestry

The Elliott State Forest provides environmental protection for threatened and endangered species because it’s public land — but that could change if the property becomes private.

The Seneca Jones Timber Co. submitted a bid on a 788-acre parcel called East Hakki  Ridge. It was put up for sale by the State of Oregon.

Cascadia Wildlands conservation director Francis Eatherington says the parcel is invaluable – and the coastal forests of Douglas County shouldn’t be sold off.

Eatherington: “These are our old coastal forests, which is why there are species that depend on these forests and can live nowhere else. Species like coho salmon, and spotted owl and the marbled murrelet.”

Eatherington says she’s particularly worried about clearcuts on old-growth forest.

Kathy Jones is co-owner of the Seneca Jones Timber Company. And she freely acknowledges that clearcuts would take place if they receive the property.

Jones: “Clearcutting mimics nature. If these lands are awarded to us, and we maintain them as we do all of our private timberlands, we will be clearcutting and replanting Douglas fir.”

Jones’ positive characterization of clearcutting rubs many Northwest residents the wrong way.

Critics say tree farms are no substitute for an ecologically diverse forest — and environmental activists have threatened civil disobedience.

East Hakki Ridge hasn’t been surveyed for the state- and federally protected marbled murrelet. But a state biologist puts the likelihood of the bird’s presence at 50 percent.

Julie Curtis of the Oregon Department of State Lands says environmental regulations will still apply to private landowners.

Curtis: “If the winning bidder decides to do timber harvests then they have to comply with the law.”

Conservation groups sought to make their own bid on the property, but couldn’t raise the funds in time.

The results of the timber sale are expected in coming days. And both sides say they’re gearing up for whatever conflicts may ensue.