Secretary of State's office. (Caleb Wolf/Special to Salem Reporter)

SALEM — The Oregon Court of Appeals said Wednesday, Feb. 12 that Secretary of State Bev Clarno incorrectly asserted that a slate of prospective ballot measures didn’t comply with the state’s constitution.

The court reversed a decision by Marion County Circuit Judge Daniel Wren that had favored Clarno and sent it back down for a ruling favoring the petitioners. The petitions sought to restrict certain logging practices and protect forest waters from herbicides and pesticides. 

Still, voters may never see the measures.

The forest industry and conservation groups announced this week they have agreed to work together on updating the state’s forestry practices in a landmark agreement between the historic adversaries.

Each side also agreed to drop their proposed ballot measures. The forestry industry had lobbed back with its own set of petitions seeking to insulate current practices from change. 

Clarno, who oversees state elections, had said that the three measures violated a constitutional requirement that each petition cover a “single subject.” 

The Court of Appeals, in a unanimous opinion, said Clarno offered several justifications for her decision but “none persuades us.”

The three petitions asked voters prohibit certain logging techniques thought to be harmful to the environment and Oregonians.

Citing relevant cases, the court wrote that “it is relatively easy to identify a logical, unifying principle connecting the provisions of each measure: the regulation and protection of forestlands.”

“I am disappointed in the court’s decision,” Clarno said in a statement Wednesday morning. “I believe the single subject rule means something and had hoped the court would agree. We will have to thoroughly read the opinion and consult with our attorneys before deciding on further action.”

Petitioners Kate Crump and Vikram Anantha didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment Wednesday morning.

Sean Stevens, director of Oregon Wild, the group backing the forestry initiatives, points out that both sides of the agreement between conservation groups and timber interests hinge upon legislation being passed in this legislative, so there’s still room for either side to potentially pursue their ballot measures.

In January, a Marion County Circuit Court overturned Clarno’s rejection of two measures proposed by Renew Oregon, a coalition advocating for clean energy. Clarno had also argued in that case that the measures violated the “single subject” provision.

Reporter Claire Withycombe: [email protected] or 971-304-4148.

Reporter Sam Stites: [email protected].