Linn County plans to sue the State of Oregon for $1.4 billion in damages
SALEM, Ore. – Linn County commissioners notified Gov. Kate Brown and state forester Doug Decker that they plan to file a huge class action lawsuit against the State of Oregon.
“The short story is that in 1998, the Department of Forestry passed an administrative rule that changed their focus,” said Roger Nyquist, chair of the Linn County Commission. “My hope is to resolve this issue for rural communities in Oregon. They’re the ones who have been really hurt by the change in forest management policy.”
“So we believe that since 2000 at least, these counties have been deprived of $35 million a year that otherwise would have been theirs,” said John DiLorenzo, the lead attorney on the suit. “All of those local districts are desperately in need of funding, especially in the area of public safety.”
The lawsuit seeks over $1.4 billion in damages. The county is accusing the state of breaching its contract for lands managed for 15 counties in western Oregon.
The board says the state is violating its contract with the counties with a management plan that they feel cheats the counties out of $35 million dollars in revenue each year.
A joint statement released from Nyquist, John Lindsey and William Tucker of the Linn County Board of Commissioners says the purpose of the litigation is to enforce a contract that the state has willfully violated.
They say 75 years ago, Oregon’s Forest Trust Land Counties gave land to the state under law. They say the state is required to manage the lands for the economic benefit of the counties, but they haven’t been.
If the suit is successful, Linn County stands to gain $97 million. They say that money would go to county services such as the sheriff’s office, schools, care centers, libraries, and other community groups.
The lead attorney expects the lawsuit to be filed in the next 30 days.
“This is a straight-forward breach of contract case. The state’s breach has strained county budgets and impacted public safety, education and other basic services local citizens need,” said DiLorenzo, counsel to Linn County and partner at the law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP. “The state has improperly altered management criteria for the Forest Trust Lands and subsequently failed to generate the appropriate level of timber revenue to the Forest Trust Lane Counties.”
State Representative Sherrie Sprenger (R-Scio) issued the following statement regarding Linn County’s plans to pursue a lawsuit against the state of Oregon:
“Today, Linn County announced plans to pursue a class-action lawsuit against the state of Oregon for the state’s failure to properly manage forest policy and promote timber harvests. I’ve seen firsthand the devastating impact the state’s forest management policy has had on our rural communities. I hope that this new effort, regardless of outcome, results in a shift in the way the state regulates and controls our natural resources and allows our rural communities to have more influence on that process. I firmly believe that greater local control of our forests and other natural resources will have positive benefits for communities in Linn County, as well as those around the state.”
H/T KVAL News