Thursday, August 15, 2002
County approves controversial land swap
By BENJAMIN ROMANO
The Daily Astorian
The Clatsop County Board of Commissioners voted 3-1 to approve the G & N land swap at its meeting Wednesday night.
The vote came late in the evening after commissioners heard nearly two hours of impassioned comment from four people in favor of the trade and 15 opposed.
Pending approval of the trade from the Oregon State Board of Forestry, which meets Sept. 4, 296 acres of state-owned land will go to Martin Nygaard and Kent Grewe in exchange for 407 acres of privately owned land and $260,500.
David Nygaard said after the decision, "It's a good trade. Good for the county, good for the state and good for us."
Pam Birmingham, who lives near the Luukinen parcel 20 miles east of Seaside and has led the opposition to the trade, told commissioners she has spent the past four years educating herself about forest management issues. She said those opposed to the trade are not "anti-logging," but they believe the trade is not in the county's best interest because the forest land the county would lose is unique, older forest.
Bill Lecture, who heads up the trade for Oregon Department of Forestry, told commissioners that the trade would help achieve ODF's goal of consolidating its lands so they can be managed more efficiently. He said the forest tracts to be traded have been reviewed independently for their recreational and biological values and the value of the land and timber growing on it.
Many opponents attacked the credibility of the reviews because some of them were paid for, in part, by Nygaard Logging Co. Lecture answered these criticisms, saying that it is standard practice for both parties involved in a land swap to share the cost of assessing the properties in question.
Martin Nygaard rose before the committee to defend the lands he's giving up in the trade. "Our property seems to be not worth anything," he said. But, Nygaard continued, it has the same type of timber and beautiful creeks; it has a mile of Nehalem River frontage. He tried to quell trade opponents' fears that the older trees would be cut down.
"All those big, beautiful trees," he said, "we have no intention of cutting them."
Birmingham said she plans to oppose the trade again when it comes before the state forestry board next month.
"I have to remain optimistic," she said. "I hope the Board of Forestry at least will listen to those who made comments, because the Clatsop County board doesn't seem to care."
County Commissioners Russ Earl, Tim Gannaway and Sam Patrick voted to approve the trade. Commissioner Bob Green voted against it and Commissioner Richard Lee was absent from the meeting.
Chairman Patrick said decisions such as this one are his "least favorite things to do."
"I read Pam (Birmingham)'s book, I read these books," he said, gesturing toward the state's Forest Management Plan and another thick volume. "I tried to arm myself with information."
In the end, it was the future gains ODF and the county hope to realize through the trade that won Patrick over, he said. The county is netting 111 acres of forest land, which contains fewer merchantable trees today, but has the potential to create more board feet of timber in the future.
"If you look at the trade in total for the county," he said, "in the long run, it will be better."