Private land in Lincoln, Benton and Polk counties has been exchanged for state land to allow for better road placement and easier management. // PHOTO COURTESY OF OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FORESTRY
After almost two years of negotiations, Corvallis-based Starker Forests will exchange 2,095 acres of land in Lincoln, Benton and Polk counties for 1,904 acres of state-owned land. Exchanging small pieces of land gets rid of jigsaw-puzzle property lines, which allows for better road placement, says Marc Vomocil, spokesman for the timber company.
Both parties feel the exchange will make management of the land easier. The city of Cannon Beach also entered into negotiations with the Department of Forestry in 2008 concerning 805 acres of land.
Vomocil says a similar exchange between two private companies could have been completed in six to 12 months. Additional appraisals and public hearings slow the process. Also, counties must have a balanced value of land traded because they receive some of the revenue generated by the land.
“Patience is the key,” says Mike Totey of the Department of Forestry.
Land negotiations are a balancing act. The value of the timber and the land are the major concerns, but biological assessments and recreational value must also be considered. Third-party appraisals must be used to ensure a fair assessment, and they aren’t cheap. The Cannon Beach exchange cost approximately $70,000. Then, to ensure the state doesn’t lose valuable mineral deposits, what lies beneath the forest must be considered. Final approval has to go through the state land board because it owns the mineral rights.
After the appraisals are completed, the negotiations begin. In the Starker Forests exchange, the state’s land was valued at over $1.1 million more than Starker’s land. Timber will compensate the state for the loss and will have to be harvested within seven years, a stipulation of the contract. In the Cannon Beach exchange, the city will pay the state $51,000 to make up the difference.
Everyone involved is glad the negotiations are coming to a close. “It’s one less project on my desk,” Vomocil says. “We’ll be able to reap the benefits of the consolidation.”