The Elliott State Forest, almost 150 square miles of timberland, is the very close neighbor of the Millicoma River Park and Recreation District. It is more than a neighbor. Almost 10 percent of it is within the boundaries of our district and when certain timber sales occur within those boundaries, the district gets a piece of the action. Due to ongoing environmental issues, it has unfortunately been a few years since any timber sales have accrued to our benefit.
The Elliott State Forest belongs to the people of the state of Oregon, who fell heir to this magnificent piece of very unique real estate many years ago. Most of it was originally within the catastrophic Coos Forest Fire of 1868. When the Siuslaw National Forest was created in 1908, this land of the Coos Fire was incorporated into the National Forest, and there it remained until 1930.
Meanwhile, in 1911, the state of Oregon created its Board of Forestry and appointed as its first state forester a man of most remarkable vision. This was Francis Elliott, who set out to create a state forest that would produce a large sustained yield of timber, in perpetuity. The net sales were all to go into a trust fund for support of the public schools. And, he actually pulled it off! In a 1930 land exchange, the federal government transferred about 70,000 acres of federal forest land to the State Land Board. The State Board of Forestry, beginning in 1940, picked up another 9,000 acres of delinquent tax land from the counties. The state forest named for Francis Elliott, through many years of intense land trades and exchanges, attained the very efficient size and boundaries of its present 92,000 acres.
The State Land Board, which holds the legal title to 91 percent of the Elliott, is now proposing to sell 2,714 acres of it. If that goes through, it will probably be only the first of many sales of Elliott State Forest land until there may be no state forest at all. If there is no Elliott State Forest, neither the Public School Trust Fund nor the Millicoma River Park and Recreation District will ever again receive income from the timber sales of that land. And, under private ownership we can expect less stringent adherence to environmental issues, and no interest at all in sustaining the yield.
The Elliott State Forest was the first forest of its kind in the United States. Years of progress, guided by a succession of dedicated professional foresters, has created for us what is arguably the best state forest in the United States. If the State Land Board begins selling pieces of it, all that progress will be for nothing, and the people of the state of Oregon will lose one of its proudest assets.
The State Land Board is accepting public comment until Nov. 10. Public comment should be addressed to:
Dept. of State Lands
775 Summer St. NE
Salem, OR 97301
Lionel Youst is a local historian and biographer. His recent book, “Lost In Coos,” tells of Coos River and Elliott State Forest search and rescue missions from 1871 to 2000. His property is adjacent to the Elliott State Forest and he has long shown an interest in its management.
–The Coos Bay World