PORTLAND, Ore. — A Linn County Circuit Court judge’s ruling clears the way for 15 Oregon counties and dozens of taxing districts to move ahead with a class-action lawsuit seeking $1.4 billion over logging harvests on state-managed lands.
The Oregonian/OregonLive reports ( http://bit.ly/2eb6Cey ) that Judge Daniel Murphy’s decision certifying a class consisting of the counties and some 130 districts means a lawsuit filed in March can proceed to trial early next year.
The suit alleges the state has for decades placed conservation goals ahead of sustainable harvest levels on state-managed timberlands. The counties allege that the state’s own figures show they have been deprived of at least $1.4 billion needed to fund basic services.
The counties and taxing districts involved all rely on logging money derived from harvests on state lands.
“The counties are not getting the benefit of the bargain made back in the 1930s and 1940s, when we entered into agreements with the state to manage these lands in a way that would produce the greatest permanent value,” Linn County Commissioner Roger Nyquist said. “This tug-of-war has been going on for more than 15 years and lands us in the spot we’re in today.”
The counties and taxing districts involved all rely on logging money derived from harvests on state lands. They can opt out of the lawsuit if they choose, Nyquist said, but the “vast majority” are expected to support the action.
A spokeswoman for Gov. Kate Brown referred questions about the case to the Oregon Department of Justice. A DOJ spokeswoman said it is not the department’s policy to comment on pending litigation.
A win by the counties will not translate to massive clearcuts on the more than 823,500 acres of timberlands managed by the Oregon Department of Forestry, Nyquist said.
“They don’t have to clearcut anything to properly manage their forests,” he said. “Everyone who owns a pair of hiking boots need not worry that we are going to destroy their resource.”
Besides Linn County, the counties affected by the lawsuit include Benton, Clackamas, Clatsop, Columbia, Coos, Douglas, Josephine, Klamath, Lane, Lincoln, Marion, Polk, Tillamook and Washington.