Senate Bill 1546 – Establishing an Elliott State Research Forest

On February 1st, 2022, the Oregon Legislature began a 35-day, “short” session. Among the long list of important bills to be considered is Senate Bill 1546, establishing an Elliott State Research Forest. The bill is the culmination of a long and often contentious process involving the Oregon Land Board (comprised of our Governor, Treasurer and Secretary of State), Oregon State University (OSU), the Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL), timber companies, Tribes, regional governments, Oregon’s Common School Fund, and many other stakeholders – including thousands of Oregonians who protested, attended meetings, and submitted comments.

If you’re new to the Elliott issue, I’ve included links to some previous blogs at the bottom of this post. Unfortunately, the rushed nature of the “short” legislative session is really working against thoughtful consideration of this bill. The majority of conservation groups, lawmakers, and the general public saw the bill for the first time on February 1st. Much of the work on this bill was done behind closed doors (on the DSL’s governance and legislative subcommittees). It took a protracted email battle to get DSL to reluctantly open up these meetings to the public last year. Instead of having weeks or months to study and comment on the bill, we’re now left with days.

The bill started in the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Wildfire Recovery. With only five senators on the committee (and three of them democrats), I had hoped they would be open to considering some much needed changes in the bill. Here are some of the Senate Bill 1546’s glaring problems:

    • no consideration of carbon value (estimated to be up to $1B) that would be taken from the Common School Fund
    • only OSU, DSL director and biased Elliott Advisory Committee can nominate candidates for the controlling board of directors
    • Land Board may only select BoD members from those nominated by OSU, DSL & EAC who’ve demonstrated their allegiance to the OSU proposal/approach
    • OSU’s timber-centric Research Proposal (overwhelmingly rejected by public & experts Dr’s. Franklin & Johnson) will be cemented as the foundational document
    • The Research Proposal will be exceptionally difficult to change/update (and only at OSU’s discretion).
    • right of judicial review is carefully restricted so they can only be sued if they don’t follow their plan (which is fundamentally flawed).

The senate committee had a public hearing on February 3rd. You can find the written testimony here.

You can read the testimony I submitted for SB 1546 below:

Testimony for SB 1546 - Senate Natural Resources and Wildfire Recovery Committee (final)-converted

Postscript: The Oregon Legislature passed Senate Bill 1546 in March of 2022, creating the Elliott State Research Forest. There was no substantive discussion of the bill’s many undemocratic provisions (that I pointed to in my testimony). I had provided key legislators with an amended version of the bill (that would have easily eliminated most of the problematic provisions), but they did not respond. Media coverage was unilaterally in support of the bill, despite our efforts to inject some objectivity. Nearly every conservation group rallied behind the bill, ignoring it’s fundamental shortcomings. The drive to “get it done” and declare victory clearly outweighed the desire to “do it right”. As one veteran forestry expert noted, “The Elliott process was baked from the beginning.