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Changes on 10 million acres of private forests

Agreement was designed to protect fish and wildlife

 

November 25, 2021 | View PDF



After nearly ten months of negotiations, a last-minute agreement last weekend between conservationists and owners of private forest will significantly change Oregon’s 1971 Forest Practices Act and add new protections for sensitive fish and wildlife species on over 10 million acres of private forest land in the state.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced an agreement Sunday, Oct. 31, that she had brokered between private forestry representatives, small forestland owners, conservation leaders, and fishing organizations. The proposal, according to a state news release, also seeks to meet the federal standards for a statewide Habitat Conservation Plan.

“Today’s historic agreement is a perfect example of the Oregon Way––coming together at the table to find common ground, to the mutual benefit of us all,” said Governor Brown. “Together, this agreement will help to ensure that Oregon continues to have healthy forests, fish, and wildlife, as well as economic growth for our forest industry and rural communities, for generations to come. I would like to thank everyone involved for their role in making this agreement a reality today.”

In February 2020, Brown convinced parties of dueling ballot measures to abandon what she called a “costly and divisive ballot initiative fight” in exchange for legislation supporting collaboratively-developed changes to forest practices.

One of those ballot measures sought to keep the regulation of forest and timber practices on all state and privately owned lands in the hands of professional foresters, scientists, and the Oregon Board of Forestry. It would have added four new members to the Board representing those interests, and it would have amended Oregon’s constitution to the state to compensate landowners if state actions reduce property values.

The other ballot measure would have prohibited aerial spraying of pesticides on forest clear cuts within 500 feet of streams and reduced logging operations near bodies of water.

Called the Private Forest Accord, the collaboration led to bipartisan legislation that passed with overwhelming majorities in June 2020 (SB1602). That legislation codified the agreement, funded the negotiating process now just completed and enacted a set of significant reforms to the Forest Practices Act.

Among the new laws are:

* Increased notification for Oregon residents, including real-time alerts, during pesticide spraying on forestlands;

* Pesticide spraying would be prohibited:

— Within 300 feet of schools and homes;

— Within 300 feet of all drinking water sources;

— Within at least 50 feet of all salmon streams and upstream waterways.

* Expanded forested buffers along salmon, steelhead and bull trout streams in the Rogue-Siskiyou region of Southwest Oregon.

* An agreement to work on a forest practices reform package that will form the basis for a federally approved plan to protect salmon and other aquatic species in Oregon known as a Habitat Conservation Plan. The new framework for forest practices rulemaking in Oregon will seek to decrease risk to endangered species and water quality, allow for adaptive management on forestlands, and include special provisions for small landowners.

This collaborative group then began a series of meetings Jan. 12, 2021, in which they discussed proposed changes to Oregon’s forest practices that, after being incorporated by the Legislature into law, would also achieve a statewide Habitat Conservation Plan from NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for threatened and endangered species. Still, the HCP will require a rulemaking process overseen by the Oregon Board of Forestry that could take up to a year. The state says the HCP will provide more regulatory certainty for landowners and long-term conservation benefits to wildlife species. For example, it would allow logging to continue while minimizing damage to wildlife habitat.

The group worked until 1 a.m. Saturday to formalize the agreement that changes the Forest Practices Act. It still must be approved by the Oregon Legislature, which will next meet in January. They agreed on a framework for:

• Riparian buffers for streams, rivers, and bodies of water;

• Steep slopes protection to minimize erosion and protect habitat;

• An approach moving forward to improve forest roads; and

• A path forward to make adjustments and adaptation to forest practices in the future.

“This is truly an exciting time to be a part of the Oregon forest sector,” said David Bechtold, representative of the coalition of forest companies. “We’re extremely proud to have started a process for more constructive engagement on forest policy issues. This is a new era that will produce the best outcomes for Oregon’s private forests and the communities that depend on them to provide clean water, recreation, renewable wood products and year-round, family-wage jobs.”

Timber sector representatives are Adrian Miller (Rayonier), Diane Meyers (Weyerhaeuser), Cameron Krauss (Seneca Sawmill Company), Heath Curtiss (Hampton Lumber), Eric Geyer (Roseburg Forest Products), and Jim James (Oregon Small Woodlands Association). James had sponsored the ballot measure in 2019 that was opposed by conservationists. Also joining in the agreement are Hancock Natural Resource Group, Lone Rock Resources, Greenwood Resources, Campbell Global, Starker Forests, and Port Blakely.

Bob Van Dyk, Oregon Policy Director at Wild Salmon Center said, “We are thrilled to join the Governor and timber industry counterparts on a new path for Oregon’s forests and for our organizations. The measures announced today provide significant new protections for our fisheries, for cold clean water, and for the people who rely on these resources.”

“Given the increasingly damaging effects of climate change, the strategies we agreed on are even more urgent,” Van Dyk continued in an online blog.

“It will be no surprise that this was a difficult process for everyone. We all had to stretch. We all made painful compromises. No one got everything they wanted. We deeply appreciate the hard work and commitment of our industry counterparts and the Governor and her facilitation team.

“We look forward to building on the new, collaborative spirit of this agreement to pass it into law in the short term and to implement the agreement in the years ahead.”

The conservation and fishing representatives are Bob Van Dyk (Wild Salmon Center), Sean Stevens (Oregon Wild), Chrysten Lambert (Trout Unlimited), Bob Sallinger (Portland Audubon), Joseph Vaile (Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center), and Dr. Kelly Burnett (Aquatic Scientist). Also joining in the agreement are the Beyond Toxics, Cascadia Wildlands, Northwest Guides and Anglers, the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, the Oregon Stream Protection Coalition, The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Rogue Riverkeeper, and Umpqua Watersheds.

Oregon says its Forest Practices Act (1971) recognizes the contributions forests make to Oregon by providing jobs, a tax base and other social and economic benefits. The Act establishes public policy aimed at maintaining productive forests, as well as soil, air and water resources, and providing habitat for wildlife, including aquatic species. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency accepted the Act as meeting the requirements of Sec. 208 of the federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972.

 

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