Monday, August 13, 2007

Taking Trees In Oregon

This seems like an interesting, but confusing story:

VERNONIA -- The state Parks and Recreation Commissioned used its power of eminent domain to take ownership of trees on 113 acres inside the recently opened L.L. "Stub" Stewart State Park.

The vote came this week after Jim Smejkal of Banks notified the state Department of Forestry on that he planned to start logging 23 acres in mid-August.

"He had every right to begin to harvest trees on Aug. 16," said Tim Wood, director of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. "And we don't want that to happen."

Wood said the commission last authorized eminent domain in 1978.

Under the condemnation, Smejkal will receive full-market value for the timber he still owns inside the park about 30 miles west of Portland. Earlier he logged about 25 acres, just as the new park was opening. . . . .

What seems interesting, yet confusing at the same time, is that a state park agency is using eminent domain to take trees in a state park. It is also interesting that the director of the Parks Department says the Mr. Smejkal had every right to harvest the trees that state government took through the power of eminent domain.

I suspect this confusion is cleared up by a comment posted to the news article by a reader:
He sold the property to the state for a park, but retained the rights to log it.

The state is now paying full market value for the trees; OPRD already bought the land and opened a state park on it!
Now this makes much more sense to me. The state bought the property so it could create a state park, but didn't want to pay full market value for the property. So the state did not buy the rights to log from the owner. Later, after the park opened, the owner still retained the right to log trees, and again, instead of buying the right to log from the owner the state decided to use it's power of eminent domain to take his right to log from him.

Of course, there is a difference between taking and buying, and I suspect the state will not have to pay as much to take the trees as it would to buy the trees.

["State uses eminent domain to take trees in new park," Statesman Journal, August 13, 2007]


HAVEL said...

Your suppositions are incorrect, unfortunately. We were interested in the timber rights from day one, back in 2002. The problems originated with the nature of a complicated land trade. The timber rights owner, for whatever reasons, was not interested in a cash payment for the rights back then. He wanted a land trade. Our department did not own the land he was interested in, so we tried to acquire the land to make the trade. The acquisition failed, as land deals sometimes do. The department continued to negotiate with the timber rights owner both before and after he started cutting trees in the park this year. We were working on a deal when he announced his intention to cut another swath of trees, this time in an area where we had developed visitor facilities. Eminent domain merely stopped the cutting and guarantees the owner will receive the very same fair market value he would have received were we able to strike an agreement. No more, no less. Our costs are the same regardless.

Chris Havel
Oregon Parks and Recreation Dept.

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