The Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Tribe of Indians and Lone Rock Timber Management Company were recognized for their resourcefulness and creativity in their proposal to buy the Elliott State Forest from the state of Oregon.

The two chamber members won the 2016 Business Innovation Award at the Roseburg Area Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Membership Meeting & Awards Banquet Thursday night.

“The ‘out-of-the-box’ innovation of these two members will provide benefits that reach beyond our county boundaries,” 2016 Board Chair Kent Rochester said as he announced the award. “It has set an example of thoughtful cooperation and is the gold standard for future proposals.”

The Cow Creek Tribe and Lone Rock joined together with the help of the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians and The Conservation Fund to create the proposal in hopes to manage the 82,500 acres of forest land for timber harvest providing 40 jobs per year and the preservation of sensitive habitats, older forest reserves and public recreation.

The proceeds of the sale, $220.8 million, would go toward supporting local schools through the State Common School Fund. The state can no longer afford to generate revenue for the fund through its management of the forest.

Director of Forest Management for Cow Creek Tim Vredenburg said he was thrilled and surprised by the recognition.

“We’ve been so focused on working hard to develop a good solution for Oregon and the Elliott that I don’t think any of us ever paused for a minute to consider that we were doing work that could be recognized in this way, so it was really a meaningful and pleasant surprise,” Vredenburg said. “We’re very grateful to our partners and the folks that created this award and shared it with us.”

Though there is still some hard work ahead, he added, the partners are optimistic and are looking forward to the next step in the process. The Department of State Lands will report back to the State Land Board at a Feb. 14 meeting before a decision is made.

Rochester said this venture would contribute both to the business’s economic vitality and that of the community.

President and CEO of Lone Rock Toby Luther said he was surprised and appreciative.

“The coalition we brought together with the tribe was a really creative and unique opportunity, so hopefully that award is a reflection of the work we put into it,” Luther said.

Director of External Affairs for Lone Rock Jake Gibbs said this opportunity inspired the company to forge a new working relationship with the tribes that will continue even if the Elliott project doesn’t pan out.

“I doubt this will be the last time you’ll see us working together,” Gibbs said, adding that he hopes to get the chance to implement the plan established in the proposal.

Luther said there’s a great sense of partnership and commitment between the organizations that has been very rewarding.

Reporter Emily Hoard can be reached at 541-957-4217 or ehoard@nrtoday.com. Or follow her on Twitter @hoard_emily.

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Outdoors and Natural Resources Reporter

Emily Hoard is the business, outdoors and natural resources reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at 541-957-4217 or by email at ehoard@nrtoday.com. Follow her on Twitter @hoard_emily.

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