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Benton County To Hold Public Forum January 17 2017 Discuss Class Action Law Suit

Last Modified: 01/10/17
First Published: 01/10/17
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 Benton County hosts public forum to discuss class action timber lawsuit

January 10, 2017


Corvallis, ORE.-The Benton County Board of Commissioners is hosting an open forum on Tues., Jan. 17, 2017 at 6:30pm at the Corvallis High School Auditorium, 1400 NW Buchanan Ave, Corvallis, OR 97330, to hear public opinion about the class action timber lawsuit filed by Linn County. The purpose of the forum is to solicit public input whether to remain in or opt-out of the lawsuit.


The open forum will provide two hours to hear comments from the public, and will begin with an overview of the lawsuit and two guest speakers. Mark Gourley, reforestation and silviculture professional, will identify reasons for the county to stay in the lawsuit, and Chris Smith, coordinator with North Coast State Forest Coalition, will identify reasons to opt-out of the lawsuit. The forum will be moderated by David Bernell, an associate professor in the School of Public Policy at Oregon State University.


On Mar. 10, 2016, Linn County filed a $1.4 billion breach of contract class action lawsuit against the state claiming Oregon Department of Forestry breached its contract with 15 counties, including Benton County, by failing to appropriately conduct timber harvests on state forest trust lands.


Based on a 1939 law called the Forest Acquisition Act, the counties agreed to convey cut over and burned forest land to the state in exchange for the state's agreement to pay the counties a percentage of the revenue it generated from the forest land. The counties transferred over 650,000 acres in 183 separate parcels of land to the state, with Benton County conveying approximately 8,400 acres.


Under Oregon law, the state is required to manage the forest trust lands "so as to secure the greatest permanent value of those lands to the state." Originally, "the greatest permanent value" rule focused on timber harvests. In recent decades, forest management priorities shifted. Timber harvesting is no longer the only priority, with wildlife habitat, water quality, recreation and quarrying activities becoming additional considerations in forest management plans.


The state is entitled to a portion of the revenue for managing the land, but it returns the remainder of the income to the counties. The lawsuit alleges the state has not "maximized the potential revenue that should be generated from the forest trust lands."


Linn County and the other proposed class members are called "forest trust land" counties. Benton County and the other 13 forest trust land counties have until Jan. 25, 2017 to determine whether to opt-out of the class action lawsuit.




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