Legislature sets plan for Elliott State Research Forest, funds OSU-Cascades Innovation District and student initiatives

CORVALLIS, Ore. — The 2022 session of the Oregon Legislature ended Friday with the approval of several key Oregon State University initiatives, including the conversion of the state forest from Elliott in southwestern Oregon to an OSU-managed research forest, funds to help launch an innovation district at OSU-Cascades in Bend and a housing project serving the programs Marine Studies at OSU and the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport.

Lawmakers have also invested in higher education programs to help students transition to four-year colleges in Oregon and support college expenses for enrolled tribal members. The legislature also reinstated portions of a forest products harvesting tax that funds OSU’s College of Forestry programs.

“I am so grateful for the support of public higher education and Oregon State University initiatives by Governor Kate Brown and Oregon lawmakers,” the acting president of Oregon said. OSU, Becky Johnson.

“The state’s continued investment in supporting student success will benefit thousands of students across Oregon. Within Oregon State University, legislative support for a new innovation district at OSU-Cascades, creation of an Elliott State Research Forest, housing support for students, faculty, and partners in research at the Hatfield Marine Science Center and investments in many other academic institutions for education, research, and outreach programs will serve Oregonians and advance scientific discovery and our state’s economy.

Elliott State Forest consists of 82,520 acres in Douglas and Coos counties between Coos Bay and Reedsport in Oregon’s Coast Range. It was designated in 1930 as Oregon’s first state forest.

The legislative action converts the state forest into a research forest which, with the approval of the OSU Board of Trustees, would be managed by the university. Following guidance provided by the State Land Board in late 2019, OSU and the Department of State Lands began exploring how to turn the Elliott into a research forest. Since then, university leaders have worked with the Department of State Lands and environmental, wildlife, forestry, tribal and community stakeholders to create a framework for a research forest.

The bill approved by the Legislative Assembly includes the creation of an independent state entity that would own and be fiscally responsible for the forest while contracting with the State of Oregon to conduct research and manage the forest. The OSU Board of Trustees has until July 1, 2023 to authorize the university’s role as forest manager. If operated as a research forest, Elliott State Forest would remain open to public access.

The Legislative Assembly approved $10 million to help mitigate a former Deschutes County construction landfill slated to be the site of an OSU-Cascades Innovation District. The 24-acre Innovation District is planned within the 128-acre branch campus to include academic space, light industrial space and office space and bring together academic researchers and businesses to accelerate technology creation, deliver practical opportunities to enhance student career-preparation and contribute to the region’s economy and workforce.

The concept for an Innovation District was approved in 2018 by the City of Bend as part of the campus planning effort. The district’s first phase is expected to cover eight acres and the $15 million cost of the mitigation will be paid for by state and university funds.

The Legislature also made significant new investments in higher education for students.

The Strong Start program, which bridges high school and college, will receive $7.5 million. This is the second year of funding for individual programs at Oregon public universities that aim to assist students in their transition to college life, provide tools for academic success, and help students succeed. their degree.

The program addresses the challenges students face during the transition from high school to college, which university leaders say has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission will receive $19 million for a Tribal Access Grant program, which will fund most undergraduate and graduate higher education expenses for registered tribal members. A recent report from the Higher Education Coordinating Commission shows that tribal students face significant challenges in an education system with significant systemic barriers.

The $6.5 million approved for housing at Hatfield Marine Science Center will support students participating in OSU’s marine-related programs and activities, as well as visiting scholars and employees of HMSC’s state and federal partner agencies located in Newport. The housing will be built on approximately five acres of Oregon State-owned property in south Newport.

The Legislative Assembly has approved a bill that restores portions of a tax on the harvesting of forest products, supporting Oregon State Forestry Research Laboratory. Established by the Legislative Assembly in 1941, the laboratory is located within the College of Forestry and develops understanding and innovation on forest ecosystems, forest management and renewable materials from forests. The tax will also contribute to the college’s education fund.

The legislator also approved:

  • $30 million in bonding authorization for deferred maintenance investments at Oregon’s seven public universities.

  • $1 million for the Oregon Bee Project, a cooperative effort between the Oregon State Extension Service, Oregon Department of Agriculture, and Oregon Department of Forestry. The project was launched in 2017 to support pollinators and education programs on the use of pesticides.

  • $350,000 for maintenance and repairs to the Pacific Storm, an 84-foot research vessel operated out of Newport by the Marine Mammal Institute, which is based at the Oregon State College of Agricultural Sciences.

  • $250,000 for improvements and upgrades to the Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center in Union. The center is part of the College of Agricultural Sciences network of agricultural experiment stations.