Oregon’s political leaders have the chance to do what they frequently ask of the state legislature: provide more money to Oregon’s schools. So why aren’t they doing it?
The Elliott State Forest on Oregon’s South Coast is an endowment asset for Oregon public schools and is supposed to be making money through timber sales. Unfortunately, due to mismanagement by the Oregon Land Board, timber harvest levels (and associated revenues) have been a fraction of their former levels.
Earlier this year, the Land Board directed the Department of State Lands to develop a new business model for the Elliott in order to turn it from a “net-negative to a net-positive.” In a new report by Cascade Policy Institute, researchers at Utah-based Strata Policy have identified several options for monetizing the Forest so it can meet its constitutional responsibility to Oregon’s children. One option, privatizing the Forest, is likely the most financially beneficial. In a previous Cascade report, economist Eric Fruits concluded that selling or leasing Forest assets could provide stable funding for Oregon schools at approximately $40 to $50 million annually.
The State Land Board will make preliminary decisions on the “new business model” on December 9. Environmental advocates are pushing strongly to eliminate all timber harvesting from the Elliott, but the Board must turn the Forest into an income-producing asset to fulfill its fiduciary obligations to the schools.