Bureaucratic Responses to Conflicting Mandates: The Case of the Elliott State Forest

Originally published in Open Journal of Social Sciences

Federal, state, and local government agencies are often tasked with managing conflicting legislative, administrative, and public demands. Without clear direction on how to manage these conflicting interests, a bureaucracy often struggles to determine an optimal outcome. The Elliott State Forest in southwestern Oregon exemplifies how these conflicting interests can become problematic. After endangered species concerns and increased litigation reduced the amount of revenue generated by the forest’s timber harvest programs, the State Land Board was forced to find a new way to meet its mandate to generate revenue for a Common School Trust Fund while protecting endangered species and supply public benefits through the forest. The Board ultimately decided to sell the forest to a private buyer, but disallowed competitive bidding in favor of a selection process that examines how potential buyers will supply public benefits. Without allowing competitive bidding, the Board may not meet its obligation to maximize revenue for the trust and is no longer supplying the same degree of public benefits for Oregonians. The Board’s decision was shaped by its conflicting mandates and public pressures but ultimately the boards chosen path remains one where its conflicting mandates remain problematic and at the center of ongoing discussion and debate.

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