AP

Appeals court nixes $1.1 billion timber award against Oregon

Apr 27, 2022, 10:25 AM | Updated: 12:40 pm

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Court of Appeals on Wednesday overturned a $1.1 billion verdict against the state over its forest management practices, the latest development in a decades-long dispute over the best use of vast tracts of forestland that cover much of the state’s rural areas.

A Linn County jury found in 2019 that Oregon breached its contract with 13 rural counties and 151 local taxing districts by failing to maximize timber harvests on state forests over the last two decades. The counties have said Oregon must manage more than 700,000 acres (28,327 hectares) of state forestland for maximum timber revenue, while the state Department of Forestry believes it has the discretion to manage the land for wildlife and recreation.

Gov. Kate Brown applauded the reversal and said in a statement that Oregon manages its forests sustainably “not only for the benefit and prosperity of this generation but those to come.”

“Today’s decision by the Oregon Court of Appeals is a validation of the fact that a balanced, science-based approach to public forest management will produce the greatest long-term outcomes for all Oregonians, including the counties and taxing districts that receive revenue from state forests,” she said.

Roger Nyquist, chair of Linn County’s Board of Commissioners, one of the counties that sued the state, said plaintiffs will appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court.

“We knew from day one this was ultimately headed to the Supreme Court,” Nyquist told The Oregonian/OregonLive in an emailed statement. “We have no option at this point other than to appeal this decision.”

At the heart of the dispute is an 80-year-old Forest Acquisition Act, which governed the transfer of county lands that now make up Oregon’s state forests.

The counties which stand to gain from timber revenue on those lands say the act represents a contract between the parties, and point to language in it that requires Oregon to manage the forest for their “greatest permanent value.” The state has maintained that the act was not a contractual agreement and that the counties don’t have standing to sue the state.

The appeals court, in its decision, wrote that the language and intent of that act in its history and context — and without any “useful” legislative action on the issue — “does not clearly and unmistakably create a contractual obligation.”

The law was originally enacted when hundreds of thousands of acres of Oregon forests were logged or burned by wildfire and the counties turned them over to the state in exchange for a share of revenue generated by the land. But the forests have now recovered and comprise some of the best timber stands in the state.

In 1998, the state board that oversees forest management policy adopted a rule stating that although timber harvest could be a valuable use of the forest, the term “greatest permanent value” also includes other beneficial uses that provide social and economic benefits.

Wednesday’s decision threatens to create further divisions between rural and urban Oregon that have arisen over clashes over logging. Timber harvests have declined steeply in rural areas of the state in recent decades due to environmental protections and both environmentalists and the timber industry have been closely watching the case.

The decision also comes after President Joe Biden issued an executive order during his visit to the Pacific Northwest last week that directed the Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture to create an inventory of mature and old-growth forests across the country and protect those forests from wildfire and climate change.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

A newly released report on last year’s fatal crash involving a pickup truck and a group of bicycl...

Associated Press

Report suggests steering of vehicle that caused fatal Goodyear bicycle crash worked fine

A new report on last year’s fatal Goodyear bicycle crash has cast doubts about the driver’s claim the vehicle’s steering locked up.

4 hours ago

Israeli Embassy...

Associated Press

US airman dies after setting himself ablaze outside Israeli Embassy in Israel-Hamas war protest

An active-duty member of the U.S. Air Force has died after he set himself ablaze outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C.

2 days ago

Biden and Trump to visit Mexico border Thursday immigration...

Associated Press

Biden and Trump both plan trips to the Mexico border Thursday, dueling for advantage on immigration

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump will make dueling trips to the U.S-Mexico border on Thursday.

2 days ago

Arizona and New York attorneys feud over extraditing suspect...

Associated Press

Why Alvin Bragg and Rachel Mitchell are fighting over extraditing suspect in New York hotel killing

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell says she isn't into extraditing a suspect due to her lack of faith in Manhattan’s top prosecutor.

6 days ago

A Gila monster is displayed at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Dec. 14, 2018. A 34-year-old Color...

Associated Press

Colorado man dies after being bitten by pet Gila monster

A Colorado man has died after being bitten by his pet Gila monster in what would be a rare death by one of the desert lizards if the creature's venom turns out to have been the cause.

7 days ago

Police clear the area following a shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs NFL football Super Bowl celebr...

Associated Press

1 dead, many wounded after shooting at Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory parade

One person died after 22 people were hit by gunfire in a shooting at the end of the Kansas Chiefs' Super Bowl victory celebration Wednesday.

14 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

...

Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

Appeals court nixes $1.1 billion timber award against Oregon