Economist.com - Full Article
What happens when trust forests no longer make money
Apr 12th 2017
DEEP in Oregon’s Elliott State Forest, past groves of 200-foot Douglas firs and bigleaf maple trees dripping with emerald green Spanish moss, Joe Metzler pulls over his Toyota truck and peeks over a precipitous slope covered in tree stumps for signs of elk. Mr Metzler, a retired coastguard rescue swimmer who looks a good deal younger than his 49 years, frequently hunts in the area. To make a clean kill with his bow and arrow, he sometimes camps out in the forest for a week. Then comes the really tough part: hauling 300lb of meat to his car, which is sometimes parked miles away. “It is not old man’s hunting,” he says gleefully.
Soon Oregon may sell 82,500 acres, or most of what remains of the dense forest, to a timber company and a Native American tribe. The proposal would allow public access on half the land. But sportsmen, who can currently roam the forest mostly as they please, worry it will be hard to reach or unsuitable for hunting. Environmentalists fret protections for threatened species would be relaxed.
The Elliott State Forest is not directly owned by the state; it is state trust land, which is required by Oregon’s constitution to produce profit for public schools. The Elliott does that through logging. State trust lands are common in the American West. They trace their roots to 1803, when Ohio joined the union and was given a grant of land to support public education. The practice was replicated throughout the process of state accession, and today there are approximately 46m acres of such lands, 85% of which lie west of the Rocky Mountains.
Recently the Elliott State Forest has struggled to meet its financial responsibilities...
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