The Coos Bay World on the DSL Land Sale in the Elliott

COOS BAY — Environmentalists say a proposed sale of Elliott State Forest lands could impact habitat for a threatened bird species that nests in old-growth timber.

Erin Grady, an activist with the Eugene-based Cascadia Forest Defenders, said that Coast Range Forest Watch identified nesting behavior by threatened marbled murrelets in the Adams Ridge parcel of the Elliott State Forest.

She said the organization has submitted its studies in the Adams Ridge parcel as part of the public comment process for the sale proposal.

The Department of State Lands is proposing to sell Adams Ridge and two other parcels — Benson Ridge and East Hakki Ridge — to offset a predicted harvest shortfall. The combined lands total approximately 2,714 acres.

More than 90 percent of the forest is dedicated to generating revenue for the state’s Common School Fund.

In a summary presented to the State Land Board in June, the agency said a 2012 Endangered Species Act lawsuit — alleging that logging on the lands was resulting in the unlawful take of murrelets — had forced forest managers to concentrate on unproductive timberlands.

“Developments that have occurred under this lawsuit to date have resulted in the ODF temporarily adjusting the harvest plans on Common School forestlands within the Elliott State Forest in order to focus on timber sale opportunities that don’t involve the issues disputed in this lawsuit,” the summary read.

Forestry officials now expect a 2013 and 2014 harvest of only about 15 million board feet, compared to the approximately 40 million they originally anticipated.

ODF spokesman Tony Anderson said that the parcels in question weren’t among those the agency abandoned logging as a result of the lawsuit.

“There’s no intersection between the parcels being proposed for sale and the deferred harvest,” Anderson said.

Grady said Cascadia Forest Defenders, several of whose members were arrested in a 2011 protest at the forest’s Elkhorn timber sale, is primarily relying on public outreach efforts to spread word about the proposed land sale and its possible impact.

But they’re willing to stand up for the forest if they have to, she said.

“If it does go through, we’ll be back in the woods,” Grady said. “Because it’s still the Elliott State Forest to us.”

Reporter Thomas Moriarty can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 240, or by email at thomas.moriarty@theworldlink.com. Follow him on Twitter: @ThomasDMoriarty.

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