The Oregon Court of Appeals has determined Oregon Secretary of State Bev Clarno was wrong when she tossed out three petitions from environmentalists that could have brought tighter forestry regulations to the voters.
Nine separate forestry initiatives have been proposed for the November 2020 ballot, six by environmentalists and three by the timber industry. The three environmentalist-backed measures involved in the court decision were rejected by Clarno, on the grounds that they violated a rule mandating initiatives deal with a single subject.
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Clarno’s decision was opposed by the Department of Justice and state Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. In November, a Marion County Circuit Court judge sided with Clarno, but the appellate court overturned that decision Wednesday.
The point may now be moot, since both environmentalists and timber industry representatives have since agreed to set their petitions aside and come around a table to find common ground on state forestry policy. Representatives of companies like Roseburg Forest Products and Lone Rock are participating in the process, as are environmental groups like Umpqua Watersheds and Oregon Wild.
Clarno said Wednesday she was disappointed in the Court of Appeals decision, but didn’t say whether she would appeal it to the Oregon Supreme Court.
“I believe the single-subject rule means something and had hoped the Court would agree,” she said in a written statement. “We will have to thoroughly read the opinion and consult with our attorneys before deciding on further action.”
Initiative Petitions 35, 36 and 37 — the three involved in the court battle — sought to limit pesticide spraying near waterways, stop clear-cut logging in landslide-prone areas and bar industry representatives from the State Board of Forestry. After Clarno rejected those petitions, environmentalists put forward three more initiative petitions — IP 45, 46 and 47 — each pared down to deal with a single issue and none including the forestry board membership.
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The timber industry filed competing IPs 53, 54 and 55. Those initiatives sought compensation for owners whose properties’ economic values are impacted by new laws, a mandate that forest management policy be science-based and the inclusion of industry representatives on the forestry board.
This week, however, Gov. Kate Brown’s office announced that the timber industry and environmental groups have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that calls for them to drop their petitions and seek compromise. Environmental and timber leaders said they hope the historic effort will lead to forestry legislation acceptable to both sides.