Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Future of the Elliott State Forest
Oregon State University is stepping back from a years-long effort to turn the Elliott State Forest into the country’s largest research forest, but state leaders and longtime advocates say they aren’t concerned about the long-term designs to rehabilitate the forest.
The announcement marks another twist in a lengthy story involving the 82,000-acre Elliott State Forest. For more than four years, OSU has worked with the Oregon Department of State Lands on a proposal that would make the Elliott a “world-renowned” research forest to help better understand how climate change is impacting forests, contributing to sustainable forest products while also allowing public access and timber harvesting.
The Importance of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
- Goal 13: Climate Action
- Goal 15: Life on Land
But OSU President Jayathi Murthy announced this week she would not make a recommendation to OSU’s Board of Trustees to authorize the school’s management of the research forest, in what appeared to stall the future of the forest that was set to be created at the start of next year.
OSU’s announcement is the latest development surrounding a public forest that’s been immersed in controversy for more than a decade. It was put on the market for $221 million in 2016 and was the subject of numerous lawsuits from environmental groups years before that, yet ultimately stabilized with a plan to partner with the state’s largest university. The research forest was also intended to study ways to protect threatened species such as the marbled murrelet, coastal coho salmon and northern spotted owl.
The Role of Stakeholders and Conservation Groups
- Conservation Groups
Gov. Tina Kotek and conservation groups that have been at the table for years say they aren’t concerned about the withdrawal. A spokesperson for Kotek said that she was disappointed in the development but confident in the work already underway.
“The Department of State Lands is already working with stakeholders who have been instrumental in this initiative for nearly four years to map out next steps toward fulfilling the vision for establishing the Elliott State Research Forest,” spokesperson Anca Matica said in an email sent to OPB. “The Governor is confident that the forest’s future will include meaningful research by scientists from OSU and other universities.”
Bob Sallinger, a longtime conservationist who serves on the appointed board that was supposed to start overseeing the forest in January, said he doesn’t believe OSU’s departure undermines the work.
“There’s no reason that we can’t move forward with this plan,” Sallinger said of the deal ironed out over the past four years. But in a letter to the Oregon State Land Board obtained by OPB, Murthy said the latest plan to use the forest as a research tool falls short of the university’s initial vision. She said her decision to have OSU disengage was driven by several factors, including opposition expressed by the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians.
The Elliott State Forest is located northeast of Coos Bay on the tribes’ traditional lands. The tribes have long supported plans to turn the area into a research forest. But Murthy said they recently “expressed significant concerns” that the proposed management plan doesn’t give the tribes a meaningful role in forest stewardship, and that it doesn’t adequately incorporate Indigenous cultural knowledge or practices.
Importance of Forest Health and Management
Murthy also expressed concern about how much timber the state would harvest from the research forest. Citing an email exchange between the Department of State Lands and the State Land Board, Murthy said the state plans set a specific amount of timber that could be harvested from the forest every year, with minimal year-to-year variation. She said such a plan would harm the forest’s health.
“Further, the proposed research forest was predicated on the realization that forest management would be modified over time as knowledge is gained and understanding is built through research, observation, and collaboration,” Murthy wrote. Even so, Murthy said the university is still committed to working with the state on recalibrating the plan “in a
SDGs, Targets, and Indicators Analysis
1. Which SDGs are addressed or connected to the issues highlighted in the article?
- SDG 13: Climate Action
- SDG 15: Life on Land
The article discusses the efforts to understand how climate change is impacting forests and the intention to protect threatened species. These align with SDG 13, which focuses on taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts, and SDG 15, which aims to protect, restore, and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems.
2. What specific targets under those SDGs can be identified based on the article’s content?
- SDG 13.2: Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies, and planning.
- SDG 15.1: By 2020, ensure the conservation, restoration, and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services.
- SDG 15.5: Take urgent and significant action to reduce degradation of natural habitats.
The article highlights the intention to understand and address the impacts of climate change on forests, which aligns with SDG 13.2. Additionally, the efforts to protect threatened species and promote sustainable forest management align with SDG 15.1 and SDG 15.5.
3. Are there any indicators mentioned or implied in the article that can be used to measure progress towards the identified targets?
- Indicator for SDG 13.2: Number of countries with integrated policies, strategies, and plans for climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction, and early warning.
- Indicator for SDG 15.1: Proportion of important sites for terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity that are covered by protected areas, by ecosystem type.
- Indicator for SDG 15.5: Red List Index.
The article does not explicitly mention specific indicators. However, to measure progress towards the identified targets, indicators such as the number of countries with integrated climate change policies, the proportion of important biodiversity sites covered by protected areas, and the Red List Index (which assesses the conservation status of species) can be used.
SDGs, Targets, and Indicators Table
|SDG 13: Climate Action||13.2: Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies, and planning.||Number of countries with integrated policies, strategies, and plans for climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction, and early warning.|
|SDG 15: Life on Land||15.1: By 2020, ensure the conservation, restoration, and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services.||Proportion of important sites for terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity that are covered by protected areas, by ecosystem type.|
|15.5: Take urgent and significant action to reduce degradation of natural habitats.||Red List Index.|
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