The Elliott State Forest is home to endangered and threatened species, and environmentalists say it should remain in public ownership.

The Oregon Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the state cannot sell a 788 acre piece of the Elliott State Forest.

The case revolved around the state’s 2014 sale of a parcel called East Hakki Ridge.

Cascadia Wildlands, along with other environmental groups had sued to block the Department of State Lands from selling the parcel to Seneca Jones Timber Company.

Cascadia Wildlands Executive Director Josh Laughlin hailed the court’s decision as a victory.

“Oregon’s highest court has spoken, and it is illegal for the state of Oregon to sell off the treasured Elliott State Forest,” Laughlin said Wednesday in a written statement. “Those who appreciate clean water, stately forests and access to our public lands are the big winners today.”

Elliott and other state trust lands were originally set aside for the purpose of generating timber revenue to add to the Common School Fund. But environmentalists value the forest because it is home to endangered and threatened species including marbled murrelets, spotted owls and coho salmon.

The State Land Board had hoped to privatize the Elliott in part because the same environmental groups had won a 2012 lawsuit blocking timber sales where the murrelets were nesting.

The Hakki Ridge sale wasn’t the last time privatization for the Elliott was contemplated by the state.

The State Land Board voted in February 2017 to sell the forest to the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians, which had hoped to manage the land along with Lone Rock Timber Management Company. However, the state backed out a few months later and decided to keep the Elliott publicly owned.

It wound up choosing a proposal from the Oregon State University College of Forestry, which now plans to turn the Elliott into a research forest.

Reporter Carisa Cegavske can be reached at ccegavske@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4213.

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Senior Reporter

Carisa Cegavske is the senior reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at ccegavske@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4213. Follow her on Twitter @carisa_cegavske

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