Plan Protects the Elliott, Creates Family-Wage Jobs, and Restores Tribal Ownership
Salem, OR—Today, Secretary of State Dennis Richardson proposed to increase funding for education while protecting the Elliott State Forest through a land exchange with the federal government. The federal government manages over half of the public land in Oregon and over the last decade has processed hundreds of land exchanges around the country. Instead of saddling Oregon's children with debt to buy land already owned by Oregon, Richardson proposes a solution that balances competing concerns.
“My plan, The Oregon Way Forward, requires creative solutions to prioritize education for kids like my granddaughter, Rose,” said Richardson. “A land exchange could fund education, protect endangered species, and create family-wage jobs.”
During this morning's State Land Board meeting, Richardson talked about his hopes and dreams for his granddaughter Rose and other Oregon children who, in order to thrive, need a strong education system. The passion Richardson has for providing good education is as if he were every Oregon child's grandpa. Richardson expressed concerns about Oregon's low graduation rates, large class sizes, lack of career training programs, and obstacles to equity. Children are Oregon's most precious treasure. They deserve better.
The State Land Board has struggled for years with how to generate money for schools while protecting the Elliott's sensitive habitat. A land exchange solves this dilemma by permanently protecting the Elliott while giving the state the opportunity to sustainably manage other lands that do not have similarly sensitive habitats. Maintaining the Elliott under public ownership, without the burden of additional debt, while funding education makes this plan a better option than other proposals under consideration.
Modeled on similar exchanges in Minnesota, Utah, and California, Richardson's proposal would ensure public ownership of the Elliott by exchanging part of it for other federal lands in Oregon that are not habitats for endangered species. Such a transfer would enable sustainable management of commercial timberlands, thereby generating for the Common School Fund substantial funding for education. As part of the land exchange with the federal government, Richardson also expressed his strong desire that part of the Elliott be placed on a path to tribal ownership.
"Oregon's tribes are the original environmentalists who have conserved forests as their ancestral homelands for thousands of years,” said Richardson. “We can trust our tribal partners to conserve and sustainably manage lands in the Elliott, once again, if given the opportunity.”