CANNON BEACH — Former Cannon Beach Mayor Mike Morgan wants the City Council to encourage the Clatsop County Board of Commissioners to opt out of a $1.4 billion lawsuit against the state over timber revenue.
Morgan also plans to approach Seaside and Gearhart with resolutions against county involvement in the lawsuit.
The class action suit, filed by Linn County on behalf of 15 counties, including Clatsop, claims the state has not maximized revenue from timber harvests on land it manages for the counties.
“From an environmental standpoint, I think it’s unwise,” Morgan said.
The Northwest Oregon State Forest Management Plan is based on structure-based management, which is designed to “produce and maintain an array of forest stand structures across the landscape” that provide social, economic and environmental benefits.
It was adopted in 2010 after a public involvement process and two scientific reviews.
“An adopted plan is a plan,” Morgan said. “It’s not just a negotiating tool. It should be taken seriously.”
Morgan served as mayor when Cannon Beach acquired a parcel from the state Department of Forestry that added 800 acres to the Ecola Creek Forest Reserve.
“They were very cooperative and saw the value in our acquiring the parcel,” Morgan said. “I think setting up an adversarial relationship with the state of Oregon and the Oregon Department of Forestry is a bad idea. I can see this dragging on years and years. The only entity that is going to benefit is the law firm representing the counties.”
Lianne Thompson, who represents South County on the Board of Commissioners and serves on the Forest Trust Land Advisory Committee, is in favor of the county’s inclusion in the lawsuit.
Thompson said opting out would deny the county an opportunity to “negotiate to protect our resources.”
Thompson said she wants the county to have a say in the legal dispute. “We are forest trust land counties so we’re automatically part of it,” she said. “We would have to affirmatively say we don’t want to be part of it, in which case we would have no say.”
Opting out, she said, would leave Clatsop County out of future decision-making. “If you’re a part of the lawsuit and sitting at the table and you get up and walk away, you’ve denied yourself a voice in whatever happens,” Thompson said. “How do we fulfill our obligation as elected leaders and be good stewards for these resources if we are not at the table?”
Thompson said she listens to both environmental groups and timber companies.
“The timber industry is not monolithic,” Thompson said. “If you see them as the enemy and all the same, that doesn’t allow for effective negotiation.”