Here’s a call to action for CREATEives who have opinions about the Linn County class action timber lawsuit and how it might affect our forests on the North Coast.
“There are two regular public meetings scheduled between now and the Jan. 25 deadline when county commissioners must decide if they want to opt out of the lawsuit, one on Dec. 14 and another on Jan. 11. Clatsop County Manager Cameron Moore says it is unlikely the board will make any decision at the Dec. 14 meeting.”
“The Board of Commissioners generally holds regular meetings on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month at 6 p.m. The Board usually meets in the Judge Guy Boyington Building located at 857 Commercial St. in downtown Astoria. The public is always welcome to attend the Board meetings.” (The opportunity for public comment comes early in the meeting.)
Hello Roger: Here’s a resolution I’ve prepared (with help from Helen W.) for the Cannon Beach City Council. I hope to get others to adopt it also, including Gearhart and Astoria. You might want to pass it along to Arlene or Zetty or Tom. Helen thinks the BCC might vote to join the suit on Dec 14, so you may want to move your meeting up or get some folks to show up. Mike Morgan
(Roger’s note: I did pass it along to Arline, Zetty, Cindy and Tom on the Astoria Council)
Former Cannon Beach mayor wants county out of timber suit
By Lyra FontaineThe Daily Astorian
CANNON BEACH — Former Cannon Beach Mayor Mike Morgan wants the City Council to encourage the Clatsop County Board of Commissioners to opt out of a $1.4 billion lawsuit against the state over timber revenue.
Morgan also plans to approach Seaside and Gearhart with resolutions against county involvement in the lawsuit.
The class action suit, filed by Linn County on behalf of 15 counties, including Clatsop, claims the state has not maximized revenue from timber harvests on land it manages for the counties.
“From an environmental standpoint, I think it’s unwise,” Morgan said.
The Northwest Oregon State Forest Management Plan is based on structure-based management, which is designed to “produce and maintain an array of forest stand structures across the landscape” that provide social, economic and environmental benefits.
It was adopted in 2010 after a public involvement process and two scientific reviews.
“An adopted plan is a plan,” Morgan said. “It’s not just a negotiating tool. It should be taken seriously.”
Morgan served as mayor when Cannon Beach acquired a parcel from the state Department of Forestry that added 800 acres to the Ecola Creek Forest Reserve.
“They were very cooperative and saw the value in our acquiring the parcel,” Morgan said. “I think setting up an adversarial relationship with the state of Oregon and the Oregon Department of Forestry is a bad idea. I can see this dragging on years and years. The only entity that is going to benefit is the law firm representing the counties.”
Lianne Thompson, who represents South County on the Board of Commissioners and serves on the Forest Trust Land Advisory Committee, is in favor of the county’s inclusion in the lawsuit.
Thompson said opting out would deny the county an opportunity to “negotiate to protect our resources.”
Thompson said she wants the county to have a say in the legal dispute. “We are forest trust land counties so we’re automatically part of it,” she said. “We would have to affirmatively say we don’t want to be part of it, in which case we would have no say.”
Opting out, she said, would leave Clatsop County out of future decision-making. “If you’re a part of the lawsuit and sitting at the table and you get up and walk away, you’ve denied yourself a voice in whatever happens,” Thompson said. “How do we fulfill our obligation as elected leaders and be good stewards for these resources if we are not at the table?”
Thompson said she listens to both environmental groups and timber companies.
“The timber industry is not monolithic,” Thompson said. “If you see them as the enemy and all the same, that doesn’t allow for effective negotiation.”
Timber suit could bring county millions, but increase harvest
By Katie FrankowiczFor The Daily Astorian
On Monday, Clatsop County received something it has been expecting for weeks: formal notice of a $1.4 billion class action lawsuit that includes 15 counties and dozens of local taxing districts.
By late January, the Board of Commissioners will need to decide whether or not to remain involved in a legal clash that could bring millions of dollars to the county — or could, as some fear, dangerously increase harvest on county forestland and hand over control of these lands to the private timber industry.
The lawsuit, filed by Linn County earlier this year and backed by the timber industry, alleges the state has failed to maximize revenue from the timber lands it manages on the counties’ behalf.
Decades ago, Oregon’s timber counties turned over ownership of their forestlands to the state. The understanding was that, in return, the state would maximize profits from timber harvests. However, a more recent forest management plan emphasized conservation measures and habitat improvements.
The Linn County lawsuit argues that, now, the state owes these timber-rich counties money. In Clatsop County’s case, there’s a possible $300 million at stake.
A seat at the table
There are two regular public meetings scheduled between now and the Jan. 25 deadline when county commissioners must decide if they want to opt out of the lawsuit, one on Dec. 14 and another on Jan. 11. Clatsop County Manager Cameron Moore says it is unlikely the board will make any decision at the Dec. 14 meeting.
No matter what they decide, someone is guaranteed to be unhappy, county officials predict.
Also, in or out, it is likely county staff will have to dedicate time and resources to record retrieval as the lawsuit progresses and lawyers lay out their arguments, Moore said.
And there are benefits to remaining involved.
“If we’re in the lawsuit, we are at the table,” Moore explained. Any settlement discussions with the state, any deals, any changes, Clatsop County would be present.
The county has an obligation to taxpayers to look closely at the lawsuit and examine potential impacts, both positive and negative, Moore said.
The Linn County lawsuit is essentially a contract disputeMoore said.
And, technically, county commissioners don’t have to do anything. The county is named in the lawsuit and will remain unless commissioners opt out.
Some people who have been coming to county commission meetings consistently since the lawsuit was filed worry about what the suit could become and what it might mean if the courts rule in the counties’ favor.
Court filings show the lawsuit is backed by and, in large part, paid for by the timber industry. The Oregon Forest Industries Council, Stimson Lumber Co., the Sustainable Forest Fund and Hampton Tree Farm have all contributed money to cover the counties’ legal fees. They created a litigation fund, described in court documents as a “special purpose entity that may receive donations from third parties.”
Former county commissioner Helen Westbrook and others who have spoken up at commission meetings wonder: If the court decides that the state is in the wrong, will the various timber groups backing the lawsuit gain more control over state forestland? And would such a judgment open up these public lands to increased timber harvest? And who really wins in that scenario? Not the forest, the animals, the fish or the people of Clatsop County, they say.
Westbrook, at a meeting in October, said the evidence of the timber industry’s involvement shows “what the suit is about and who stands to benefit the most.”
“Please think about how this suit will most certainly impact future management of our forests,” she urged.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, roughly 30 percent of Clatsop County’s total acreage is state or federal forestland. Compared to other counties listed in the lawsuit, Clatsop County is a big piece of pie, with thousands of acres of timber worth millions of dollars.
The county expects to receive a projected $3.5 million in general fund revenue from state forest trust land timber sales, according to this year’s budget. This is down from last year’s projections, but more than what the county received in recent years.
“I have serious concerns,” said Board of Commissioners Chairman Scott Lee about the lawsuit. “Particularly the fact that it is completely funded by the timber industry.”
He hasn’t made up his mind yet. The more he looks into the lawsuit and the issues and topics around it, and the more he talks to people more knowledgeable about state forestlands than he is, the more options he sees.
“I’m still finding out options,” Lee said.
Whatever the board’s decision, the discussion of the county’s concerns and options will occur in an open, public meeting, Lee promised.
While “the outcome (of the lawsuit) certainly has the potential to change how the state manages state forestland … that’s really not part of the lawsuit,” Moore said.
At least not yet, environmental groups argue. Some, like the Wild Salmon Center, have filed motions in court to dismiss the case, arguing that the state must take into consideration other factors beyond timber sales and include values like the health of the forest, clean water, recreational options and habitat.
Questions of forest management — or mismanagement — should not be dismissed lightly, Moore agrees.
“You’ve got a unique asset in the state forest that you can never replace,” he said.
The other counties named in the lawsuit include Benton, Clackamas, Columbia, Coos, Douglas, Josephine, Klamath, Lane, Lincoln, Marion, Polk, Tillamook and Washington.
Other readings of interest:
Rural Organizations Leading Change
Tillamook & Clatsop Counties
The Nonprofit Association of Oregon (NAO) is pleased to announce that our Rural Organization Leading Change (ROLC) cohort is coming to your area!
Rural nonprofits have long served as creative and committed change agents in their communities. With increasingly complex environments, it is more important than ever for rural nonprofits to strengthen their capacity to lead change and adapt to change.
This peer-based cohort supports rural nonprofits in building their capacity to adapt, innovate, and co-create the future with those who share their goals. We are seeking leadership teams from 9-12 organizations to engage in a rich learning partnership over the course of six months.
Participants will build the skills and capacities to:
See systematic change
Build broad organizational leadership
Lead with purpose
Engage across difference
Know your network and niche
Each participating organization will receive:
A stipend of $250 per organization in acknowledgement of the commitment.
Complimentary membership to NAO. Check out member benefits here.
Each individual will also receive: delicious meals, lodging for the residential sessions, and the cohort materials.
Sessions will take place approximately once a month from January to June in Tillamook and Clatsop counties. Applications are due by Friday, December 9, 2016.
Please contact our Rural Program Coordinator, Mayra Camacho, at email@example.com or 503-239-4001 x104 if you have any questions.
We have a design for a CREATE logo from Susan Swanby, who designed the last version of our red NO LNG tshirts. Do you know another artist who might help us come up with another 1 or 2 designs, preferably w/ a computer? Please let me know of anyone you know who might want to donate a few hours to this project.
It’s possible Sharon, Susan, and I would want to be on the agenda to show logo design(s).
Another agenda item is the Women’s March, in Astoria on January 21, in conjunction w/ similar marches in DC and other cities the day after the inauguration. We’ll have a broader statement to share with CREATE, since we want environmentalists and other groups and people to walk with us – especially those who feel threatened by the likely policies of the Trump administration.
OUR NEXT CREATE MEETING WILL BE ON THURSDAY, DECEMBER 15 AT 6 P.M. AT THE BLUE SCORCHER