It was about cutting trees, not who would profit.
Oregon’s largest newspaper has never understood sustainable forestry practices.
The Oregonian in its article “Failing forestry: With $1 billion timber lawsuit, not all 14 counties are big winner,” said as much. Their latest report saying that taxpayers would have to foot the bill proves the point. It’s not up to taxpayers to pay the lawsuit, it’s about a government agency doing what it was charged to do: manage Oregon’s forest for multiple use which includes logging.
When 15 Oregon counties, led by Linn County, won the $1.1 billion lawsuit against the Oregon Department of Forestry, the argument centered around sustainable harvest of timber and a jury of citizens agreed.
The jury found that the greatest permanent value was equal to boosting timber production. That’s a big deal. It found the state had breached a contract with the counties for years by failing to maximize logging hence timber payments since 2001. It awarded the plaintiffs $674 million in past damages and $392 million in future damages.
The jury also concluded that the STATE WILL CONTINUE TO FAIL TO PROVIDE TIMBER REVENUES for the next 50 years when it issued the future damages. Not even a jury has hope that this agency can fix itself.
What the plaintiffs so eloquently proved in court was that the Oregon Department of Forestry, ODF, can’t box its way out of a wet paper bag. The ODF should immediately engage in sustained harvest on State Lands, instead the agency will look to the legislature with hat in hand for another bail out.
The ODF has sustained one miserable failure after another. This fall, the ODF said it was not able to pay its bills and was in debt $500 million, a violation of state budget law for sure. They admitted to not billing vendors for forest fire work claiming computer systems as failures.
This was a known fact to Board members and its director for at least four years. They looked to the Oregon Legislature for a bailout, but lawmakers were not willing to cough up the dough.
The Oregonian has errored repeatedly in its story with outrageous claims of taxpayer liability supported by questionable math that leaves readers wondering if the white hats won.
The State says the data and arguments presented during the case were flawed and wants to appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court. The problem with that strategy is, interest must be paid on the $1.1 billion award over the time it would take for the Supremes to hear the case which would surely outstrip any economic benefit to winning the appeal.
With this landmark decision, it’s now time that the US Congress and the federal courts use the same common sense in managing Oregon’s federal lands which make up 54% of the state’s land mass.
Who really wins? The people’s right to use Oregon’s land for timber production, recreation and environmental set asides must equally be considered. Up and until now, that was not the case.