Joe Metzler of Coos Bay will talk about exploring the Elliott State Forest and the West Fork of the Millicoma River during an upcoming Umpqua Valley Audubon presentation.
“Recreating in and Protecting our Elliott State Forest” will start at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Ford Room of Douglas County Library, 1409 N.E. Diamond Lake Blvd., Roseburg.
The slide show presentation will mostly focus on the recreational opportunities and beauty of the forest. There are no established hiking trails in the Elliott, as it has been designated for timber production, but it is open for hikers, hunters and anglers to walk along the river or make their own trails.
Metzler will also discuss the state’s history with the forest leading up to the decision to sell 82,500 acres.
“It really is an amazing gem,” Metzler said of the Elliott. “It’s been managed well by the Oregon Department of Forestry. I thought it was going to be an example to private timber companies on the correct way to manage timber lands, but this has turned into more of a political battle between environmental groups and state forestry and land managers than it has anything else.”
The state set aside the Elliott State Forest for timber harvest so its revenue could support the Common School Fund. The state has been losing money on the forest, so it decided to put it up for sale in 2015. The sale is still pending and will be discussed at the State Land Board meeting May 9.
“The biggest problem with this whole Elliott State Forest is we are losing our public lands and we are losing our ability to influence how we want them managed,” Metzler said. “It’s our public land, and it’s my children’s public land and it’s my grandchildren’s public land. Let’s keep it that way so everyone in Oregon gets to enjoy it.”
Metzler grew up in Roseburg and has recreated in the Elliott State Forest since he was a child.
Currently a spokesman for public lands, the Cape Arago Audubon vice president and a member of the Coos Watershed board of directors, Metzler retired from the U.S. Coast Guard in 2011. He has since worked for a variety of government agencies for endangered species protection, habitat surveys and other projects.
Diana Wales, president of the Umpqua Valley Audubon Society, said her organization is always interested in presentations that encourage people to get out and interact with nature.
“He knows this particular part of the Elliott very well, and that appeals to us in that it takes it from a big hypothetical policy discussion down to an on-the-ground look at what’s special about this particular little river basin,” Wales said.
The Audubon Society has supported keeping the Elliott under public ownership.
“Public land tends to be managed in a way that is better for birds and the habitats on which they depend than private lands. That’s not always the case but that tends to be a general rule,” Wales said. “In this case we’d like to see the Elliott State Forest continue to be managed with priority value being natural habitats.”
Through letter writing campaigns and interviews, Metzler has been trying to show that fishers, hunters, environmentalists and timber workers would all benefit by keeping the Elliott in state hands.
“I’m just trying to raise public awareness and let people know that their public lands are in jeopardy and if they don’t speak up, it might be gone for all future generations,” Metzler said.
Metzler’s efforts led Gov. Kate Brown to declare April 9 to 15 “Oregon Public Lands Appreciation Week.”
For more information, call 541-677-0263.