Photo from Facebook
A spirited group of people rallied once more to save the Elliot State Forest today. A crowd packed the State Land Board hearing held in Keizer and the issue got good media coverage today. I was once more moved and educated by the protests.
Speaking for myself, I find it difficult to think through pragmatic alternatives to the sale of the forest, but something deep inside of me revolts against the idea of logging and selling state lands to a logging company, or to any private corporation. That any form of privatization and environmental destruction can be seriously debated is outrageous. I object to the logic that says that the forest needs to provide funds and profits for human beings and to the feel-good view that the logging company involved is a local company and that that somehow makes logging a state forest okay. We put people and nature before profits and we're aware that multinational capital now influences local decision-making even when a multinational corporation does not own local companies.
On the other hand, it's hard to agree with the folks who say that there is no constituency supporting logging the Elliot State Forest. Testimony in support of logging came from Native American tribal representatives, the Oregon Education Association and the school boards today. Those are constituencies, and it's difficult for me to imagine fighting people of color and a progressive union. The idea that a bond could be floated to raise funding is a good one, but I can't imagine Governor Brown, who is emerging as an anti-environmental governor and as a liberal establishment leader, backing this. Brown has a liberal machine or coalition in place to back her as another state budget crisis unfolds, and that machine includes many people we ally with on other important issues.
I am also concerned that the necessary fights over environmental issues fall short on analysis and unity. It's hard to talk about saving the Elliott Forest and stopping the coal and LNG terminals with a budget shortfall staring at us and no inclusive solution at hand. We need something which holds on to all public services and land and unites all peoples' needs. It's ridiculous that any part of the education budget is tied to land usage. The defeat of Measure 97 and the absence of a state sales tax mean that the inequities and budget shortfalls built into the system get passed along and never really solved. (That isn't to say that I fully supported Measure 97 or that I support a sales tax, of course.)
Whatever my differences with others involved in this struggle to save the Elliott Forest, I am saddened by three things. First, that the logging company spent time working with the tribes on community projects and were able to build relationships with tribal leaders that got them to the point that we are at today. The lesson is to never let the companies into your home. The tribes want the lands which were taken from them and self-determination, which they're entitled to, but multinational capitalism won't give them that. Can't we project policies which do provide for repartations and support self-determination? Second, I'm saddened by Governor Kate Brown's passive refusal to act affirmatively on environmental issues and by her ability to hold a liberal coalition together as she does so. Third, I'm disappointed and worried that the so-called "environmental versus labor" fight which has set back both environmentalists and labor has a new edge to it, with a progressive public employee union supporting the sale of the Elliott Forest. This is not "jobs versus the environment," but a much more difficult formulation of "education versus the environment" which we have to take on. There will be no winner in a renewed struggle between progressive labor and environmentalists, and losing any degree of unity as Trump takes office puts everyone at risk.
These are my thoughts only. At least one other member of our group has strong feelings about the fight to save the Elliott Forest which contradict what I have written here. Please, friends, let's hear other voices!