Oregon Supreme Court Declines To Take Up The $1 Billion Timber Case On Appeal

The appeal by timber counties looking to maximize logging revenue on 700,000 acres of state forestland was not taken up by the Oregon Supreme Court.

On Friday, the state’s top court rejected the counties’ appeal without offering a reason, silently putting an end to a protracted discussion about Oregon’s forest management and a more than $1 billion dispute about timber earnings.

Ralph Bloemers, who represented fishing and conservation organizations in the lawsuit, said it was “the end of the road for what has been a false narrative for far too long… that it’s the public forestland’s job to provide the bulk of the earnings for local communities.”

The verdict upholds a lower court decision from April that stated Oregon may manage forests for a variety of objectives, not only logging money, including recreation, water quality, and animal habitat.

Roger Nyquist, a commissioner for Linn County, described the Oregon Supreme Court’s announcement as “disappointing” in a statement. “The fundamental problem of forest management on public lands remains unaddressed.”

One of many counties and special taxation districts in Oregon that receives a portion of the logging revenue from the forestland it donated to the government in the 1930s and 1940s is Linn. The majority of those lands were burnt and logged over when they were donated, and Oregon pledged to manage them “so as to ensure the maximum permanent value of those lands to the state.”

Over the years, Oregon has provided the counties with millions of cash, helping to support local budgets. However, 13 counties filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming that it had underpaid them. They claimed that maximal wood revenue equals “most lasting worth.”

Oregon Supreme Court Declines To Take Up The $1 Billion
Oregon Supreme Court Declines To Take Up The $1 Billion

In 2019, a Linn County jury upheld the verdict and mandated that Oregon pay the timber counties $1.1 billion in damages, plus interest. Earlier this year, the Oregon Court of Appeals overturned the judgment.

In a written statement released on Friday, the Oregon Department of Justice, which represented the state government in the lawsuit, hailed the Supreme Court’s ruling as a “win for Oregon’s environment and for prudent forest management in general.”

The statement states, “Our forests serve a variety of environmental, recreational, and economic objectives.” “We have a quicker conclusion and finality after a 6-year fight by letting what we contended was the proper decision of the Court of Appeals stand,” the lawyer said.

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