Anti-logging activists say they would physically block timber harvests on Elliott State Forest parcels sold by the Department of State Lands.

Cascadia Forest Defenders, in an open letter addressed to "big timber" Monday, said protesters "will not respect new property lines, signs or gates."

"If timber companies are buying this, they are not just buying a piece of land they can log, they are buying a giant controversy with a large and unified movement encompassing a spectrum of tactics and a spectrum of people," organizer Erin Grady said Tuesday in an interview.

Three other groups last week threatened to sue any timber company that bought pieces of the Elliott, a 93,000-acre forest between Reedsport and Coos Bay.

The twin warnings aren't likely to discourage timber companies from bidding, Douglas Timber Operators Executive Director Bob Ragon said today.

"We're a mature industry. We recognize the hazards, and we'll conduct our operations in full compliance with the laws," he said.

The Department of State Lands will go ahead and open bids March 28 despite the threats of lawsuits and blockades, the department's assistant director, Jim Paul, said.

"We can't control how other folks are going to react to this sale," he said.

The State Land Board - made up of Gov. John Kitzhaber, Secretary of State Kate Brown and Treasurer Ted Wheeler - decided to sell 2,738 acres to make up a $3 million deficit in the Common School Fund. The shortfall opened after the state curtailed logging because of lawsuits filed by environmentalists.

In its message to timber companies, Cascadia Forest Defenders accused the State Land Board of "trying to wash their hands of the Elliott."

"If these forests are privatized, we know what the outcomes will be. We have seen the way that private timber companies have destroyed the land they own," the letter states.

The group charged the land board with not caring about residents of Douglas and Coos counties "who are sick of seeing the hills above their homes yarded away to a timber mill while their counties grow poorer."

The activists promised to disrupt operations.

"Do not bid on these sales. If you become the owner of the Elliott, you will have activists up your trees and lawsuits on your desk. We will be at your office and in your mills."

Said Ragon: "I think it's kind of an affront to be threatened like that."

"Who do they think we are? Hooligans running around the woods with chain saws cutting down trees without regard for the environmental consequences?"

Cascadia Wildlands, Audubon Society of Portland and the Center for Biological Diversity have threatened any timber company that buys a piece of the Elliott with litigation. The groups claim logging would harm marbled murrelets and violate the Endangered Species Act.

Cascadia Forest Defenders' tree-sitters have been effective in stopping since June the 187-acre White Castle timber harvest on Bureau of Land Management timberlands east of Myrtle Creek.

Grady declined to comment on whether tree-sitters have remained there since Oregon Wild and Cascadia Wildlands sued in January to stop the timber harvest.

Cascadia Forest Defenders has staged previous anti-logging protests. Tree-sitters were arrested in the Elliott three years ago when state forest managers proposed increasing annual timber harvests.

The state will open bids this month for the 788-acre East Hakki Ridge in Douglas County and the 355-acre Benson Ridge and 310-acre Adams Ridge Tract 1 parcels in Coos County.

The state plans to auction off another 1,300 acres within the Adams Ridge parcel in the fall.

-You can reach reporter Christina George at 541-957-4202 or at cgeorge@nrtoday.com.

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