Failing forestry: The $1 billion lawsuit that could decide the fate of Oregon’s state forests

Twelve people in Linn County are about to decide, for all Oregonians, how we value state forests.

It’s not about selling them, but how the state balances the need for logging revenues against other social and environmental benefits the forests produce.

In a trial that started Thursday, jurors are considering whether the state breached a contract it made with 15 rural counties in 1941, and if so, how much it owes them.

Eighty years ago, counties began deeding 600,000 acres of burned, logged and unproductive forests to the state. In return, the state agreed to rehabilitate them, protect them from wildfire and share logging revenues. Today, the 15 “trust land counties” receive two-thirds of all state timber sale revenues – money they depend on to fund public services.