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Oregon approves "Private Forest Accord"

Fish, clean water protections on 10 million acres of forestland

 

March 24, 2022 | View PDF

The Oregon Legislature has passed the Private Forest Accord, which is aimed at bringing durable protections for salmon and cold, clean water across 10 million acres of private Oregon forestland. The legislature also established the Elliott State Research Forest, intended to transform this coastal rainforest into a sanctuary for science. And the legislature allocated a first-ever river resilience funding package to protect streamflows in the face of drought.

"Oregon is now responding with needed urgency to protect salmon and steelhead and the clean, cold water they require," says Wild Salmon Center President and CEO Guido Rahr. "The science is unequivocal: Salmon cannot survive the climate change impacts we're now seeing in Oregon without the streamside protections secured by the Private Forest Accord. That's why we've been fighting for these changes so hard and for so long.

"And as part of strengthening salmon resilience in Oregon, we need to continue to protect key habitats like the Elliott, while delivering reliable water flows in salmon rivers across the state."

With a 43-15 vote in the Oregon House, the historic Private Forest Accord passed the Legislature, making Oregon's forest laws some of the strongest in the nation.

The result of two years of work between 13 timber industry representatives and 13 conservation and fishing groups, including Wild Salmon Center, the Accord updates logging practices to better protect salmon across 60,000 miles of Oregon rivers and streams.

In Oregon, loggers can cut right up to the stream's edge on no-fish streams, impacting water quality downstream.

Among many other changes, the bill expands minimum streamside forest buffers while also improving logging practices on steep slopes and management of logging roads-both key factors in water quality.

With increases in winter flooding and lower instream flows and hotter water temperatures in summer, increased stream protections up into the headwaters are critical to keeping rivers and streams clean enough and cold enough for salmon and steelhead in the face of climate change.

The bill also includes almost $20 million to fund new conservation, science, and landowner-support programs at key state agencies, as well as a 50-year commitment to provide more than $12 million per year in habitat restoration funds.

The Forest Accord:

–Increases stream buffer widths by 10-100% based on stream type and geography, including new protections for headwaters streams, which helps to cool temperatures throughout stream networks.

–Sets new standards for forest road design, inventory, maintenance, management, and culvert design, and provides funding for culvert replacement for qualifying small forestland owners.

–Sets new requirements for unstable slopes to retain trees in key areas to reduce landslide risk and help protect streams and aquatic habitat from sediment.

–Establishes new rules for beavers that reflect the critical role that beavers and beaver dams play in supporting wildlife, including salmon.

- Creates a new stakeholder committee with conservation members that will work with an Independent Research and Science Team to advise the Board of Forestry on recommendations for ongoing rule changes.

In addition to continuing to provide clean water and protected habitat, the agreement helps provide legal certainty and regulatory stability for Oregon's forestry sector and the hundreds of thousands of jobs it supports by pursuing a 50-year Habitat Conservation Plan on private forestland from the federal services. It also creates a new framework for how future water-related changes to Oregon's forest practices will be made that incorporates a robust and thoroughly vetted scientific process.

The Oregon Forest and Industries Council says, "Oregonians will be assured a stable forest products sector that produces a much-needed supply of renewable wood products, jobs, ample recreation opportunities, and good forest management to reduce wildfire risk."

OFIC says its members will participate in the subsequent rulemaking to enact regulations consistent with the deal terms in front of the Board of Forestry in 2022. Following that, an application will be made to the federal services for a state-wide Habitat Conservation Plan on private forestland. It is anticipated that the new rules would phase in over time, with stream buffers potentially going into effect no sooner than summer of 2023 and the rest of the rules going into effect in 2024.

"This is truly a paradigm shift and a moment in our state's history of which all Oregonians should be proud. This demonstrates it is possible to put differences aside and work together on viable solutions to tough problems. Today we leave the Timber Wars in the past and embark on a new collaborative era of forestry that ensures a future for sustainable active forest management and wood products manufacturing," said Chris Edwards, president of OFIC.

 

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