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SW Oregon Logging Plan Moves Ahead

The Oregon Lands Board Tuesday unanimously approved a plan to increase logging on the only state forest that puts revenue directly toward education.

The board — consisting of Gov. John Kitzhaber, Secretary of State Kate Brown, and Treasurer Ted Wheeler — signed of on the proposal as dozens of protesters assembled outside the State Lands Building in Salem. The marchers were able to watch the proceedings through a window. Before the three Democratic statewide office holders approved the plan, protesters briefly interrupted the meeting.

The Elliott State Forest is 93,000 acre, located in the Coast Range between Coos Bay and Reedsport. Proceeds from timber sales go into Oregon’s Common School Fund. The policy shift would increase school dollars by about $10 million a year, according to projections.

The plan increases logging from the recent 25 million board feet to about 40 million board feet. The historic levels are around 50 million board feet. The proposal now goes to the state Board of Forestry, which is expected to take action on Nov. 3.

The proposal, drawn up by the state Forestry Department, relies on a new strategy for protecting threatened and endangered species, including the northern spotted owl and the marbled murrelet. Rather than set aside habitat, the department would scour the forest for these species to make sure they’re not living in areas where logging is planned.

Environmental groups have scorned the plan. The forest-products industry has supported the change.

Find more environmental news at EarthFix.

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