State land managers have set minimum prices for pieces of the Elliott State Forest that will be sold to the highest bidders next month.
The Department of State Lands figures to collect at least $3 million by selling a total of 1,451 acres in Douglas and Coos counties.
Gov. John Kitzhaber said last week he hopes a buyer will preserve the land, but timber companies may gamble they can log the land.
State Land Board members Kitzhaber, Secretary of State Kate Brown and Treasurer Ted Wheeler in December approved putting three parcels up for sale to help offset losses to the Common School Fund. Lawsuits have blocked logging in the 93,000-acre forest, depriving the school fund from its source of revenue.
Cascadia Wildlands’ conservation director, Francis Eatherington, said she too hopes a conservation group purchases the land, but remains doubtful.
“Since the state is not restricting it to a conservation sale, these are pretty attractive places for someone who wants to cut the timber,” Eatherington said today. “It remains to be seen what they are sold for and who purchases them.”
The state is seeking at least $1.82 million for the 785-acre East Hakki Ridge in Douglas County. The other minimum bids are $610,500 for the 353-acre Benson Ridge parcel and $595,000 for the 311-acre Adams Ridge Tract 1 in Coos County.
John Rosenthall, president of Portland-based Realty Marketing Northwest and principal broker for the sale, said two other parcels totalling about 1,300 acres within the Adams Ridge parcel will be auctioned off next fall after some land-use issues are resolved.
“I expect we will have a lot of interest because the values there seem quite attractive, but all three tracts have suitable habitat for the marbled murrelet, and there is a risk what you will be able to harvest over time,” Rosenthall said today.
The timber on all the land the state plans to sell has been appraised at $22 million, assuming the presence of marbled murrelets, a threatened seabird protected by the Endangered Species Act, doesn’t hinder logging.
Last summer, state surveyors and conservation group volunteers reported spotting a marbled murrelet on two tracts in Coos County. A lower appraisal of $4 million was given if timber companies balked at purchasing land with marbled murrelet habitat.
Timber companies are interested in purchasing the parcels, despite the uncertainty, Oregon Forest Industries Council President Kristina McNitt said.
“With no doubt, the uncertain data and science around the marbled murrelet contribute to the wide range in valuation, and any potential purchaser must factor in a huge number of variables,” McNitt said in an email.
She called it a shame the state felt it had to put the land up for sale.
“To the extent any sale is completed at a value less than $22 million, beneficiaries of the Common School Fund have lost the value,” she said. “A company may indeed invest more than $22 million in the parcels, but it won’t be schoolchildren who benefit.”
Realty Marketing Northwest will begin accepting bids Feb. 16. All sealed bids will be opened March 28. The State Land Board will then have five days to notify the highest bidders for each parcel, Rosenthall said.
•You can reach reporter Christina George at 541-957-4202 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.