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Many of us learn important foundational lessons in our youth that influence our thinking and behavior throughout our entire lives.

Two lessons I learned at an early age, which have played important roles in my life, are the value of education for personal growth and as a key to social and economic success and the fact that we all are the custodians of our natural environment. We have a responsibility to not only enjoy it, but also to protect and cultivate our natural gifts in a socially responsible manner. That is why I sponsored Senate Bill 847, which will create a Trust Land Transfer Program for public lands being managed for the Common School funds.

As a long-time educator, I have a standing commitment to the full funding of Oregon schools. The revenue the state earns from logging on public land has been an important funding source for our educational institutions. But my deep appreciation of our natural world is accompanied by a commitment to support our natural resources. This hits especially close to home, as the Elliott State Forest is right here on the Oregon Coast. For many decades, it has provided opportunities for creating jobs, funding schools, conserving wildlife and public recreational use.

The bill is modeled from the State of Washington successful Trust Land Transfer Program, which has been operating since the 1980s. The Washington Department of Natural Resources coordinates with other state agencies and then submits a proposed list for review by the governor's office and Legislature. The Legislature reviews the proposal, identifies a list of underperforming properties to transfer and sets a funding level. Senate Bill 847 would create a similar process in Oregon for the transfer of school trust lands to another public agency or federally recognized tribe. The bill provides a distinct statutory structure for the State Land Board to transfer certain non-performing state trust land properties, while maintaining some form of public ownership. Senate Bill 847 also would provide a role for the legislative assembly to direct the receipt of any such transferred lands.

Forests are important for job creation and our economy – especially in rural Oregon – but Oregonians value our forests for so much more than simply as a means for making money. We value our forests as the home to wildlife. We value the rivers which flow through our forests, the clean waterways that sustain salmon and provide fresh drinking water. We value our forests for the vital role play they play in reducing carbon dioxide, helping to counter climate change. We also value our forests for the recreational enjoyment they provide campers, hikers and many others. Our forests are among the treasures that make Oregon the best place in the world to live, work and play.

In the current political environment – in which there is pressure from some quarters to transfer public lands into private hands – I felt it important to take necessary steps to ensure our forests are protected so that our kids, grand kids, great grand kids and on down the line can enjoy and benefit from them for centuries to come. Senate Bill 847 accomplishes this, while also fulfilling my commitment to fund public schools. It also allows for planning out sustainable timber harvest levels that will create jobs and economic benefit in our communities.

I thank my colleagues in both chambers of the Legislature who supported this legislation and I am grateful to Governor Brown for her readiness to sign this bill into law. The passage of Senate Bill 847 is a good example of how the members of the Oregon Legislature can prioritize the needs of the people we represent and work together to address them.

Sen. Arnie Roblan (D-Coos Bay) represents Senate District 5, which includes portions of Coos, Douglas, Lane, Lincoln, Tillamook and Polk counties along the Oregon Coast.