By Kyle Bailey
News Radio 1240 KQEN
January 14, 2015 5:05 a.m.
Linn County officials announced on Wednesday that they plan to file a class action lawsuit for breach of contract on behalf of over 150 beneficiaries of timber sales receipts from harvests off of Oregon Forest Trust Lands.
Notice of the lawsuit was delivered to Oregon Governor Kate Brown and State Forester Doug Decker.
In a statement to the media, the Linn County Board of Commissioners said that for over 70 years the state was to adhere to a legal framework for the conveyance of forest lands from the county to the state. In exchange for the conveyances, the lands were to be managed and revenues returned to the counties, with the state taking a management fee. The counties could then distribute the funds to taxing districts to benefit county services and other public safety organizations, education, care centers, libraries and more. The commissioners say the state is violating its contract with the counties by implementing a management plan that results in an annual $35 million reduction of money given to the counties.
Board Chair Roger Nyquist, says the Òbreach of contractÓ has had devastating effects on local communities that have seen both poverty and unemployment rates go up as a result of the current practices.
The commissioners say that Oregon courts have ruled that the state is contractually bound to manage Forest Trust Lands for the benefit of the 15 counties that it actively sought and acquired land from in western Oregon over 70 years ago. The commissioners say the state began to breach the contract in 1998 when it adopted a new rule that de-emphasized revenue generation for the counties in exchange for other objectives.
Linn County is seeking over $1.4 billion in damages. The lawsuit will be officially filed in 30 days. Douglas County is among the 15 counties that receive revenue under the legal framework established by the State of Oregon.