An Oregon state agency and public university will co-host a public informational meeting Tuesday to discuss a proposal to turn a state forest in southwest Oregon into a research forest. 

The meeting will take place at the OSU Portland Center, located in the Meier & Frank Building in downtown Portland. It’s scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m.

Since 2018, Oregon State University has been working with the Department of State Lands to develop a plan to transform the Elliott State Forest into a world-class research forest.

The State Land Board kicked off the effort as an attempt to keep the Elliott publicly owned with public access; decouple the forest from an obligation to put money from logging into the Common School Fund; and continue habitat conservation planning to protect species while allowing timber harvesting and providing multiple forest benefits.

Tuesday’s informal meeting will cover the history of the Elliott and what a research forest might look like. It will also include an opportunity for the public to speak with the Department of State Lands and Oregon State University representatives.  

“This is much more informal. We’ve done a few of these around the state and are just simply looking to hear what the public has to say,” Oregon Department of State Lands Communications Manager Ken Armstrong said.

Armstrong said his agency expects to hear opinions from a wide range of people — from conservationists who care about wildlife habitat to people from the timber industry who want to learn more about future logging in the Elliott.

Even if the plan is accepted, Oregon State University will still have to find a way to meet the purchase price for the Elliot: over $200 million.

Until a few years ago, the Elliott was logged to produce money for Oregon schools through the Common School Fund. That ended when courts shut down the harvest because of endangered species concerns.

Since then, the state has been looking to offload the 91,000-acre forest.

Oregon has approved $100 million to help reimburse the Common School Fund for the loss of timber harvest revenue, but another $120 million is needed to cover the rest of the appraised value of the land.

Oregon State University has not indicated how it will cover the rest of the funds but according to the College of Forestry’s Interim Dean Anthony Davis, OSU is first looking into the kind of value the Elliott will have as a research forest.  

“The most important question is, could this advance the mission of the university and the college drive towards Oregonians having healthy forests, vibrant forests into the future,” Davis said. “If the answer to that is yes, then later questions would be around the financial mechanisms.”

Oregon State University expects to deliver its proposal by the end of the year.