2019 SWOCC Elliott State Forest Draft Recreation Plan

PART 6. Recreation Economics in the Elliott

By Sebastian Bartlett, Koby Etzwiler, and Gabriella Jones

Fig. 6.1. "Third-growth" timber stand two miles upstream from the Elkhorn Ranch. Note burned snag in foreground and bracken fern understory. Photo by Sebastian Bartlett, October 23, 2018.

This chapter assimilates work done in chapter 12 "Forest Recreation Economics" by Scott Guthrie, Amy Kronsberg, and Maggie Boone in the 2018 Draft Elliott State Forest Recreation Plan (Kronsberg, et al. 2018: 44-46).

Current Recreational Uses

Traditionally managed from a harvest perspective, no research has been done the recreational uses and attractions found on the Elliott. Due to the harvest centric model for the forest no plans have ever been applied towards managing and capitalizing on recreation in the Elliott. According to Jerry Phillips (personal communication, June 3, 2019), this was by design in order to concentrate on timber sales and in order not to incur related expenses, such as maintaining portable toilets, processing garbage, or monitoring campsites.

The Elliott is used only occasionally for recreational use, and mostly by local residents who hunt and fish at certain times of the year, depending on legal seasons, fish runs, and the availability of game animals. Elk and deer populations are seen as in decline, possibly due to conifer growth, while black bear populations remain high, according to Amelia Harvey (see Fig. 5.1).

Direct Income vs. Economic Impact

In order to discuss potential areas of profit it is important to differentiate between direct income and economic impact. Direct income is the money that is generated by sale of goods, services and experiences. Economic impact involves assessing an attraction’s effect on local economies; e.g., the sale of gasoline, food, and places to stay while travelling to and visiting:

“Typically, revenue is tied to fees or licenses (and sometimes taxes such as hunting and fishing equipment), which will best relate to camping, hunting, fishing, and general day use.  Another meaning could be based on economic impact analysis where direct spending by visitors (food, gas, lodging, fees, clothes, souvenirs, etc.) generates income for people that work in related sectors (restaurants, hotels, gas stations, retail outlets, etc.)” (Randy Rosenberger: personal communication, May 27, 2019)

The Elliott has the potential to be used for a variety of recreation resources, generating income such as user fees from camping and hiking, as well as timber harvests and leasing land. In order to determine how the Elliott would maintain itself, first we must know what uses are best suited to the local population and what could draw people in from out of the area.

Here is a breakdown of the average revenue generated per activity per day compared with estimated gross annual receipts for the same activities for Douglas and Coos Counties. This data is inclusive of indirect profits generated in the surrounding area. Information was gathered from Forest Service regional and national data and from statewide OSU research for Oregon.


US Daily Gross Income Per Person Per Day

Douglas Co. Annual Income

Coos Co. Annual Income









Cross-Country skiing




Developed camping
















Motorized boating




Nature related




Off-highway vehicle use




Other recreation








Non-motorized boating




Table 6.1 National average revenue per activity per day, compared with economic impact of Elliott State Forest counties (Rosenberger et al. 2017: 06-19; Rosenberger 2018: 35-44).

The top generators for income would be non-motorized boating, biking, hiking, hunting and fishing. Since these are all activities occurring in the Elliott, I believe they should be promoted in order to help generate money for the Common School Fund

“Economic impacts or outcomes are typically associated with changes in sales, tax revenues, income and jobs due to spending on outdoor recreation activity.” (Rosenberger et al. 2017: 6)

This information correlates to an assessment done in 2014 on the economic opportunities in the Elliott. The paper, titled Options for the Monetization of the Elliott State Forest, determines several options for the forest. It states that recreation opportunities will not provide more income than logging, due to a lack of special attractions and low surrounding population (Sim et al. 2014: 31). While recreation would provide an influx of money into the community, the amount that it could generate directly for the Common School Fund would be minimal in contrast to logging.

While there is significant income generated from several of these activities, the money generated is widespread across various entities such as local business and government. This makes it difficult to justify recreation as a primary income generator. While the overall economic impact is positive, the direct income generated for the Common School Fund would be limited.

Potential for school trust advantage

Although it may be difficult to generate significant direct income for the common school fund, with selective logging to cover maintenance and installation costs of signage and facilities, the Elliott can be self-sufficient at a minimum. The value of well-educated students with even a minimal understanding of nature should not be underestimated, and the Elliott could be an outdoor and/or online classroom for K-12 and higher education alike (Zybach 2019a). Therein lies its true value, one that is hard to attach a monetary value to.

The Elliott could generate revenue for the Common School Fund if it is managed from a perspective of multiple use. The forest was set aside to provide for the students of Oregon, and it should do so via monetary contributions to the Common School Fund or by providing education opportunities for school children, college students, and the general populace while funding its own maintenance.

Barriers to development

Startup costs for certain venues would consist of creating pull-offs and vistas on the roads, developed campgrounds, visitor signs for navigation and education and the creation of trails.

To provide access for students and people wishing to recreate roads must be passable, which means gravel, ditches, brushing sides of roads, culverts, signage, and downed trees. This all requires not only man hours but material, and in most cases the operation of heavy machinery. There also needs to be areas created for use such as trails, camping and vistas.

The cost liability of the forest over the past 20 years must be taken into consideration. Due in part to the listing of several endangered species, significant decline in timber revenue occurred beginning in the 1990’s. Alternative sources of funding are a necessity.

Fig. 6.2. Elliott Timber Volumes and Endangered Species Act, 1955-2014 (Bird 2016: 3). Note: Green line actually represents 50 million board feet (mmbf)/year; Jerry Phillips retired in 1989.


I recommend strategically logging areas in the Elliott, maintaining its productivity and increasing recreational value in certain areas by opening vistas to see the ocean and dunes, as well as creating early seral habitat for ungulates. These cuts will generate money for management costs, and any excess should go to the Common School Fund.

Surveys are another thing that needs to have urgent consideration and implementation. Surveys may be passive or active, either providing them at entrances or going out in person to talk to users. Planning for recreation cannot occur without the who, what, when, where, and why. User groups need to be accounted for and intensively trafficked roads identified.

Creating ATV trails would provide additional areas for people attracted to the area for riding on the dunes and Coos County Forest. The trails would provide a different experience, providing a sharp contrast to how hectic riding on the sand can be. The trails would appeal to subgroups of ATV riders that want to enjoy views, have privacy and more family-oriented fun. Trails could be created on recent timber cuts, including their construction in the logging plan. Providing more area to ride would help minimalize impact and user density in the surrounding area, leading to a generally better user experience.

In order to generate money, the Elliott should apply special fees and licenses within its borders, capitalizing on camping, hiking and hunting opportunities. Timber harvests provide the most viable opportunity to generate revenue. Many areas would experience extensive improvements from logging such as viewpoints and campsites. Logging also provides an educational and recreational opportunity by having a working forest that can be observed by college and K12 students alike. People will have the opportunity to visit a forest that has stands ranging from recent disturbance to trees in excess of 80 years old.

Before any of this can be implemented, the forest must have several improvements made to it. The priority is immediate action installing directional signage, as well as an inventory of roads and making sure they are being maintained. These should happen this summer, along with surveys on current use.

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