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Debbie Schlenoff

Some people argue that we need to privatize the publicly owned 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest and sell it to timber interests to generate money for our school funds. The argument does not hold water (although our forests do!) when one considers the actual value of our forests to the public. So what does a forest do for us? It cleans the air; it cleans the water; it traps pollutants. It slows the devastating effects of climate change by storing and sequestering carbon. It maintains soil quality and nutrient cycling. It supports the insects, bats, and birds that pollinate our food crops and other flowering plants. It also supports the wildlife that disperses seeds and controls pests.

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<p>A forest prevents erosion, landslides, and flooding, and it buffers nearby dwellings from the brunt of storms. It maintains biodiversity, providing resources and a home for birds, other wildlife, and vegetation that share our world. A forest provides critical habitat to species on the brink of extinction. Its streams produce salmon and other fish.</p>
<p>A forest is a place for recreational activities such as birding, hiking, backpacking, fishing, and paddling, and people gain money and jobs from tourism and the recreation businesses. Research has demonstrated that forests support our creativity and improve our health. A forest provides a place for reflection, spirituality, and the appreciation of beauty. </p>
<p>Many of these services cannot be assigned a dollar value (what is the value of beauty and joy?). Some of these services can indeed be economically assessed, and environmental economists have repeatedly shown that the value of just a few of these services (for example, water filtration costs or worth of carbon stored based on carbon market values) is far greater than the revenue that is generated by cutting the forest down.</p>
<p>We absolutely should be concerned about money for our schools, but it is folly to rely on a faulty, antiquated system of school funding that can provide only a small percentage of the total funding at best. To best protect our children’s heritage, clear-cutting and its associated ecological damage should be decoupled from school funding.</p>
<p>The Elliott, located in the Coast Range, is the only state forest with a substantial amount of old-growth forest. It has pristine drinking water, salmon runs, and critical wildlife habitat, and it provides the other benefits listed above. Some portions of these publicly owned lands have already been sold  to timber companies for clear-cutting. Clear-cut revenue is somewhat restricted by the Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing of birds, such as the Marbled Murrelet, that rely on mature trees in Coast Range forests. These ESA listings reduced proceeds to the state because they had to sell at a very low price—yet the state is now considering selling off more or all of the forest. This publicly owned forest provides much more value intact and managed for its ecosystem services and conservation value.  Privatization is not the answer.</p>
<p>Although the official public comment period has ended, you can still voice your opinion to the State Land Board, which consists of the governor, the secretary of state, and the state treasurer, by emailing (State Land Board secretary). You can also write to the board members individually at:</p>

Sign a petition asking the State Land Board to protect the Elliott State Forest at

On December 9, a project team will present its final findings to the State Land Board at a public meeting in Salem (775 Summer St. NE). Please consider attending.