February CREATE Meeting

The next meeting of the Columbia River Estuary Action Team will be on Thursday, February 16 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Blue Scorcher.  All are welcome.

January has been a busy month with many CREATE members testifying in writing and/or in person before the Clatsop County Commission and the Clatsop Community College Board, urging both to opt out of Linn County’s $1.4 billion class action timber lawsuit against the state.

On January 11, Clatsop County Commissioners voted 3 to 2 to opt out.  Linn County lawyers and officials rushed in to lobby other entities within the county, promising a financial windfall, and the Port of Astoria and the Seaside and Jewell School Districts have opted in.

The Clatsop College Board will make its decision Tuesday, January 24.  Below is a sample of letters CREATE members have submitted to the college.

As one of a large group of Astoria citizens who lobbied the Clatsop County Commissioners to OPT OUT of the Linn County Lawsuit for more than 8 months, I was dismayed to read that your president invited the lawyers for the plaintiff into executive session to give you an unbiased explanation of the lawsuit and what it will mean for the future of Oregon’s state forests. That’s a little like inviting the fox into the hen house to assure the chickens about security issues.

Either Mr. Breitmeyer is incredibly naive about the lawyers motivation in this highly contentious litigation or he has fallen prey to the lure of “free money” and is hoping to join the class in this suit for the short term gains that mIght be had. It is undisputed fact that the suit was initiated and paid for in its first phase by Hampton Tree Farms, Stimson Lumber Company, the Oregon Forest Industrial Council and others industrial timber concerns who will be the primary beneficiaries if the suit succeeds. Attorney DiLorenzo and his firm stand to receive 210 million dollars if their client prevails and yet you have asked them to give you an unbiased assessment of the suit!?

In further discussion, the plaintiff’s lawyers should not be present, but, if so, in order for there to be a level playing field the attorneys for the state should also be there. Rather than scheduling this pretrial debate over the merits of the suit which would not provide much clarity for your members, I have another suggestion.

Forest management is a complex issue. It has been a perennial topic of discussion and the subject of numerous statements and reports by the Clatsop County Commission for years. They are the governing body in the county that is our voice in forest management. They literally have a seat at the only table that matters on this issue, The Forest Trust Lands Advisory Committee. The committee is comprised of one member each from the Forest Trust Lands Counties of which there are 15. These representatives craft recommendations to the Oregon Board of Forestry, the ultimate arbitrator of forest management in Oregon.

The Linn County lawsuit has huge implications for the future management of our state forests regardless of what the plaintiff’s lawyers may have told you. In light of the amount of time the County Commissioners have spent discussing the lawsuit and in deference to their decision to OPT OUT based in large part on what County Commission Chairman, Scott Lee, described as “the overwhelming message from public testimony in support of a balanced management of state forests and against the Linn County lawsuit”, I suggest that you also OPT OUT after considering the following:

-OPT OUT recommended in overwhelming public testimony as expressed in literally hundreds of written and public comments to the County Commissioners.

– OPT OUT – The Clatsop Vision 2030 Together plan, the only public document expressive of the will of the majority in the county, advocates a balance management plan.

– OPT OUT advocated by the editor of the Daily Astoria

-OPT OUT recommended by the Board of the Clatsop County Democratic Party

– OPT OUT recommended by the Northwest Forest Coalition and other environmental groups.

IN REACHING YOUR DECISION I remind you that the college is part of the community and relies heavily on our support and good will to achieve its purposes. Voting in opposition to the County Commission, our representatives on forest management issues, would be in opposition to the will of the community and will not be overlooked or forgotten. It is important to be in solidarity as a community on this matter. As Scott Lee so eloquently stated in his remarks regarding this vote, ” Oregon has a proud history of working together to find solutions. We need to stick to the Oregon Way, which is solutions and not standoffs.”

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Over the course of the year since the Linn County lawsuit was announced, many Clatsop citizens have followed the process and studied the documents filed by the attorneys for Linn County. Following are just a few of the points we have raised:

First, the suit is not really the “Linn County lawsuit” at all. It was initiated and kick-start funded by timber interests who then found Linn County commissioners willing to attach their public body to the lawsuit.

Secondly, at the center of the lawsuit is the argument that money for timber trust counties was the primary focus of the original legislation developed to let the State accept ownership of the counties’ burned over, logged over forest lands. The suit states: the “Forest Trust Counties understood the phrase “greatest permanent value” to mean the greatest potential to generate revenues for these Counties and their local districts.” It makes no sense for the forest trust counties to think that’s what the law meant when it’s not what it says. The various forest values are listed without prioritization. Nowhere does the statute say revenue comes first over all other values. Greatest Permanent Value language simply did not prioritize revenue generation in 1941 or in 1998, and it still doesn’t in 2017.

The lawsuit also contends that “Neither Linn County, nor the other class members consented to the Greatest Permanent Value rule,” referring to the 1998 administrative process that expanded the language of the rule. Actually, many trust county representatives participated in the formation of the Greatest Permanent Value rule. I participated as Clatsop’s representative at that time. Written testimony has also been presented at our county commission meetings demonstrating support for the proposed rule from Lincoln County, Tillamook County, Benton County, Linn County and Clackamas County, among others.

The most frequently sited justification for Clatsop County opting into Linn County’s lawsuit is: “if we don’t opt in, we won’t have a seat at the table.” This is a timber industry lawsuit. Linn County, with a small fraction of the state forest resources that Clatsop County holds, will be “at the table” as plaintiff, not Clatsop County. The “table” where our county needs to be present and clearly represented is our statutorily guaranteed place at Forest Trust Land Advisory Council and the Board of Forestry.

Simply put, joining this suit developed by timber interests, is a statement of support for industrial tree farming over all other values of our publicly owned forests. If, instead, you support a balanced approach to forest management including designated conservation areas; if you share our concern about pesticide spraying and the continuing drumbeat to prioritize the removal of older larger trees in an effort to destroy habitat, then I hope you will opt out of this lawsuit. I understand the opportunity that windfall money would seem to bring to the college and I want the college to succeed. The question is, at what cost?

Thank you for the time and consideration you have given this important issue, and thank for considering my point of view.

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This purpose of this email is to express my opposition to the Linn County lawsuit against the State of Oregon relating to timber revenues.

I have previously stated my position to the Clatsop County Commissioners and applaud their decision to not join as a plaintiff. I am hopeful that the Board of Directors of Clatsop Community College has the same foresight.

The knowledge and experience that I gained from practicing law was nothing compared to my father’s wisdom. . .if you want to know who’s picking your pocket, just follow the money. A lawsuit bought and paid for by the timber industry probably doesn’t have the best interests of our local or state communities at heart.

If you want to hear an absurd reason for joining the lawsuit, consider the rationale of County Commissioner Leanne Thompson. Ms. Thompson is quoted as stating that,

while she “hated” the lawsuit itself, she wanted Clatsop County to have a say in how its forests are managed. ‘What I’m interested in is how best to control the outcomes.’ [Daily Astorian, Clatsop County Opts Out of Timber Suit, 1/12/17].

If one “hates” this lawsuit and also wants to have a say in its outcomes, it is perhaps better to oppose the lawsuit and have a seat at the table on the winning side. For some reason, Ms. Thompson believes that the plaintiff will absolutely, definitely prevail. There are several expressions of conventional wisdom for describing Ms. Thompson’s mistake: “buying a pig in poke” or “being sold a bill of goods”.

Having been a lawyer, I know the value of being confident of one’s winning position. . .clients like to hire the confident lawyer as opposed to the unconfident lawyer who worries clients about losing. The best part is that the lawyer get paid either way – win or lose.

I know that the college needs money. But gambling is not fiscally responsible. If the Board of Directors considered going to Las Vegas and putting its revenues on red (or black), its lack of judgement would be glaringly apparent. Betting on a lawsuit boosted by the plaintiff’s lawyers is not any better, maybe worse. By betting on a lawsuit one is not only a fool, but a sucker as well.

Please use common sense and good judgement, and consider the best interests of the citizens of Clatsop County and the State of Oregon.

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I am writing to urge you to follow the leadership of the Clatsop County Commission and opt out of the Linn County timber lawsuit.

Even the commissioners who voted to stay in, disagreed with the premise of the lawsuit. They voted to stay in based on the flawed logic that it would be the only way to have a seat at the proverbial table.

I strongly disagree with the “no voice at the table ” argument for staying in. We just used our voice to say loud and clear that we do not agree with the premise of this lawsuit, that maximum timber harvest should trump all other values on our communally owned state lands. ODF and the Oregon board of forestry have been making good progress towards a more balanced management approach while still favoring timber harvest in Clatsop state forests. Our county just sent the message to the state, the citizens of Oregon, and the judge that we do not agree with the basic premise of the Linn County lawsuit, which is that managing for “greatest permanent value” equates to maximizing timber harvest. This lawsuit isn’t just about getting back perceived damages owed. It’s about pushing policy towards maximizing harvest, rather than allowing management for other values such as conservation and recreation on our state forests. Clastop County did the right thing by opting out of this short-sighted, combative approach to state forest policy. It’s unethical to participate in a lawsuit you don’t believe in simply because you may stand to gain financially.

What kind of message does CCC want to send its students, and the citizens of Oregon ? That you’ll take money from anyone, no matter how wrongfully gained ? I know the college needs money. The county needs money. We all need money. But that doesn’t mean we should participate in lawsuits that are antithetical to the values we purport to believe in.

Do you really believe the ODF and the state of Oregon have been breaking the law since 1998 in efforts to manage our state forests for multiple values ? and that the taxpayers of Oregon should cough up all that lost revenue now to pay the counties back (side note – Clatsop County residents are Oregon state taxpayers)? If so, stay in the lawsuit.

If you believe that our friends and colleagues on the board of forestry and at ODF have been correctly interpreting “greatest permanent value” to encompass all values that are important to Oregonians (timber harvest, conservation, recreation, clean water, fisheries), then you must vote to opt out.

I’m proud of the message our county just sent to the industrial timber interests and the citizens of Oregon: we believe in a balanced, sustainable future for ourselves and our forests. I hope you’ll join them and opt out of this lawsuit.

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Where to begin?
No doubt Linn County’s attorneys promised you a quick and painless windfall from the Linn County state forest lawsuit. But this is a gift horse whose mouth deserves a close and careful inspection.

What they have engineered is a suit that has taxpayers suing themselves, with Oregon’s timber counties suing Oregon. Imagine for a moment what might happen if the suit were to succeed. The state, strapped for funds, could rightly conclude that the needs of the timber counties and their various districts were more than adequately funded by the suit and direct future state funding to other parts of Oregon. In the middle and long term how does that affect the college?

My guess is the suit will be successful only as long as it is argued within Linn County. The state surely will appeal because this is more than a battle over money. The suit represents a takeover of Oregon’s State Forests. The Linn attorneys likely have assured you the suit will not affect forest practices. In order to believe that you’ll need to come up with some other reason why the suit is funded by Stimson Lumber Company, Hampton Tree Farms, LLC , Oregon Forest Industries Council and the ironically named Sustainable Forests Fund.

The lawyers for Linn County would be the biggest beneficiaries of any award from a successful suit. As things stand they get 15% off the top. By comparison, the average award for each of the counties and their districts would be less than 6% (85%/15 counties). So who is the suit really designed to benefit? And how much faith should you put in what the lawyers tell you?

For some reason, after your January 10 meeting, your chair saw fit to put opposition to the suit in quotation marks as if it was mythical, saying the board would “hear from the quote-unquote other side.” To help dispel the myth I have attached copies of Oregon’s response to Linn County’s filings and links to opposition to the suit from The Daily Astorian, the City of Cannon Beach and the North Coast State Forest Coalition. And of course I have to wonder when it is between now and January 24 that you are going to “hear from the quote-unquote other side.”

The Linn lawyers also have told you, I’m sure, that your community will never support future attempts to raise funds if you turn down this proverbial golden pot of free money. I submit the exact opposite is true. If you paid attention to what the public was saying to Clatsop County Commissioners you know that testimony and written comments overwhelmingly urged the commission to opt out, by a ratio of about 8 to 1. That’s the same public you serve, the same people who would feel ignored and put off if you opted in.

I get that the college needs additional revenue and reserve funds and that this is one of the board’s main concerns. This community has an enormous amount of energy, pride and good will and I believe it will respond to a call to help with enrollment, fund raising and stimulating interest in its degree programs. Strategic thinking and community support will go a lot farther than betting on a bad deal that insults our values.

There is much more to be said, about damage to the forest, the fishing industry, tourism, clean air, clean water and the circle of life. But I think you will hear from many others who will say it.

Thank you for hearing me out. Your community will thank you for opting out.

Oregon response A

Oregon response B

http://www.dailyastorian.com/20170109/editorial-county-others-should-opt-out-of-timber-lawsuit

http://www.dailyastorian.com/Local_News/20170104/cannon-beach-urges-county-to-opt-out-of-timber-lawsuit

http://forestlegacy.org/10-reasons-counties-and-taxing-districts-should-opt-out-of-the-linn-county-lawsuit/

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Linn County, through its attorneys, is talking with you about a possible financial windfall, were Linn County to be successful in its suit against the State. No surprise, as this law firm stands to gain more than the Dept. of Forestry’s annual budget, should they be “successful”. But there is no free pot of money to raid. Money to pay counties, districts and agencies would be taken from other State programs, already being asked to craft reduced budgets. Where would you guess that the millions would come from? Essentially, we the taxpayers will pay. The real benefits will go to the attorneys, and to the timber companies who will gain from the expanded rate of harvest, all at our loss.

But what I want to speak to you about is the role of higher education – our Community College – an integral part of our region. The College is one of the reasons that we chose to move to this area, as it feeds the intellectual, environmental, and cultural life of the region. Through your continuing support of such programs as nursing, work force training, MERTS, heritage, and basic education, you allow students and the community to grow and be enriched. That requires financial support. But it also requires that you meet a standard of excellence and credibility as you approach those efforts and present yourselves.

Particularly with a new president, it is to easy to stay inside a bubble of administrators and funders. But you are teaching your students through your actions. If you hold yourselves apart from the larger community by actions which are inconsistent with evident scientific, environmental, and ethical analysis, what are you saying to current and potential students and supporters? The level of harvest demanded by the Linn County suit would decimate the concept of “Greatest Permanent Value and replace it with corporate asset stripping. It would disregard the values of forest diversity, cooling water for fish passage, clean water, habitat protection, carbon sequestration and recreation. Are these the values that you want to put before your students, and the way to represent yourselves to the larger community? I would offer instead that you want to represent the best of Oregon values, as a part of our wider community.

In some quarters, those of who oppose the Linn County lawsuit have been called “outsiders”, environmental extremists, interest groups, or simply unaware of the financial demands of public budgets.

I’m one of those “special interests”. For those of you who don’t know me, I worked as a long range planner for a larger city throughout my career. When we moved here over 20 years ago, I volunteered as chair of a national bicentennial event for 10 years, and served on the Oregon Heritage Commission for 8 years. I’ve served on the County Planning Commission and the Astoria Planning Commission. I was a CASA for many years, and have served on several social service boards as well as chairing the Cultural Coalition. Astoria and Clatsop County are remarkable in the vibrancy of their volunteer efforts. I am not an “interest group” and I stand to gain nothing, as do the corporate lawyers advising you, except for the inherent values of healthier forests.

With outreach, the College can certainly build its support, in ways that have benefitted The Liberty, The Armory, the PAC, art-walks, and many on-going events. This is not meant to suggest an easy path; but it does recognize that what takes away from the State of Oregon cannot benefit local agencies without major disruption over the years. The cost to our public forests and our longterm values is hard to justify for an educational institution representing ethical standards to their student body and community.

I thank you for your consideration. Please opt out of this timber company raid on Oregon and our forests.

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I implore you to maintain the integrity of the current, common sense forest management plan. The Department of Forestry’s plan has enabled our county and other local taxing districts to see increased revenues from responsibly managed timber harvest and timber value, even as Oregon’s federally managed forests have seen a decrease in harvests.

Prevent the aggressive exploitation recommended by the attorney’s for the Linn County suit. This plan requires the State Forester to harvest at least 80% of the annual amount of harvestable timber.

Prevent the lawsuit’s irresponsible forest management plan, which could result in unintended consequences, such as federal court involvement, decreases in long term timber values, harvests, and an increased use of herbicides. The result of this lawsuit could be contrary to it’s purported intent from the resource drain, combined with a retreat from using the best available science, attracts regulatory or legal action that halts or radically reduces timber harvest. Management by the Board of Forestry, while not perfect, is far better than management by the courts, whether lawsuits are driven by industrial or environmental concerns.

Please maintain our support for a responsible, sustainable forest management plan instead of throwing your support behind a transition to the unwise timber management optimization model that has been demonstrated to cause long term harm to lands, wildlife, waterways, and economic contributors – like salmon fisheries.

Step up as the forward thinking leaders of the future of state forest management and in support of the well-researched “greatest permanent value” rule for our Community, including reasonable forestry management; cultivation and sustainability of jobs; continued partnership with the Department of Forestry; and protection of our natural resources, ecosystems, and wildlife.

Continue to foster a cooperative relationship with the Department of Forestry, which has resulted in the acquisition of the Ecola Forest Reserve in 2011 and productive dialog with staff. This lawsuit may damage the relationship and trust between local taxing districts and the Department of Forestry.

I urge you to opt out of the Linn County Lawsuit.

In asking this Board to opt out of the Linn County Class Action lawsuit, I will first address the essential elements of the Linn County lawsuit that I find most objectionable:

1. This lawsuit is a cynical attempt by certain elements of the logging Industry – mainly the investment-type owners, and the law firm representing the plaintiffs – to dangle so much “free money” in front of the counties and their taxing districts that they take the “bait”.
2. If the Counties and taxing districts fall for this and the Class action prevails, they will in effect be obligating the people of Oregon to pay the $1.4 Billion award through either a new tax levy or a new bond measure.
3. Thus, the people of Oregon would actually be paying the timber interests to cut down much of the remaining forests on State-owned land to increase their bottom-line by a couple of percentage points, while the plaintiffs’ law firm walks away with more than $200 million! Once the “poor” Counties throughout the state realize that this whole lawsuit is just a scam and that they’re supposed to pick up the tab, we may have a taxpayer revolt!

Secondly, I will point out some of the serious environmental and economic consequences to this County if this lawsuit is successful:.

1. This County, with no federal forest, will have all but about 10% of its last remaining forests on its State Forest turned into tree farms and our last remaining large trees (80 – 120 years old) cut down to provide the type of wood products that these commercial logging companies no longer have access to in this area.
2. To support this operation, we should expect to see the devastating effects of increased chemical spraying, decrease in water quality, and the subsequent impacts on wildlife and human health.
3. The negative impact on the aesthetic and recreational value of our public land will go down with a corresponding decline in the tourist industry and recreational fishing business in this area.

Finally, I would ask what kind of message would this send to your staff and student body for you to accept this “tainted” money, when I know you must be trying to instill ethical values and the need at times to make the hard and courageous choice.

Thank you for the opportunity to express my views on the important topic.

I urge the Clatsop Community College Board of Directors to opt out of the Linn County class action lawsuit. The Board should not allow the College District to unintentionally become a party to a lawsuit that hopefully the Board but clearly the community understands is without merit. Furthermore, a settlement in the plaintiffs favor would have disastrous consequences for the future of forest lands in Clatsop County and throughout Oregon. For nearly twenty years Oregon state forests have been managed under the principle of maintaining the greatest permanent value and ensuring the sustainability of our forests into the future. The value referred to includes far more than merely a potential revenue source to be generated by clear cutting young potential forests and then covering the landscape with toxic chemicals, even when it threatens our community water supplies.

Oregon’s forest lands are recognized as essential and valuable for providing recreational opportunities and the related economic benefits, potential atmospheric carbon dioxide sequestration, fish and wildlife habitat so important to the health and productivity of our commercial coastal fisheries, and abundant clean water. Forests regulate surface temperatures and play a role in determining the climate locally and globally by behaving as a source or sink in the hydrologic and carbon cycles and more directly from leaf-cover effects on overall albedo.

Oregon has strived to maintain a balanced approach in managing state forests for all the competing uses and values. The revenue produced from Oregon state forest timber sales may disappoint some of the many recipient taxing entities. However, the price of logs is determined on the world market and the price is falling. To suggest cutting more trees to make up for the lower per unit value of logs globally is absurd and decidedly unsustainable. Joining a plaintiff in a lawsuit based on what you know are invalid arguments solely for the money would be clearly unethical, no matter how dire the need for additional revenue may be.

Please opt out of the Linn County lawsuit because that is the right stance to take in a case without merit. By doing so you will be supporting the best interests of all Clatsop County residents and representing the majority view that our forests have many valuable qualities and resources besides timber and management must balance these without favor toward only one – that’s Oregon law.

Attached is some information that my be of interest in your consideration of participation in the Linn County Lawsuit.

As part of my work with sustainable economics, I’ve been tracking ODF’s forestry practices since the mid-1990s, and have found them unwaveringly totally in violation of their core legal mandates of Greatest Permanent Value, overcasting our forests, and subsidizing the timber industry rather than financing our agencies. They have NEVER done a comparison of the economic impacts of short vs long rotation lengths (say 40 vs. 240 years). Never an analysis of the values of other forestry uses, nor the positive and negative impacts of one upon the other.

Linn County is demanding increased overcutting, and back payment for not overcutting even more in the past. This is absurd. A 40 year (current) rotation produces NO merchantable timber or even captures the full sunlight that runs the show for the first 20 years. Stumps DO NOT grow trees. ODF’s staff testimony itself shows ODF going bankrupt because the short rotations don’t even meet their own revenue needs. Attached is my testimony to BOF from November 2015, showing that LONGER rotations would provide FAR greater net yearly revenue than current.

Here is a more detailed, visual overview of core issues I see currently with Oregon Forestry:
http://www.tombender.org/factor10econarticles/NEW%20FORESTRY%20LAWS.pdf

And some more detailed documents if you want to overload!
http://forestlegacy.org.s57429.gridserver.com/photos-2/

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