Conservation steelhead

Conservation and timber interests agree to changes to Oregon forest practices

2014 JUL 28: The Elk River Salmon Emphasis Area outside of Port Orford, OR.

Today, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced a historic agreement between conservation groups and timber companies that represents an important first step in a process that will see the most significant update of Oregon’s Forest Practices Act in decades. 

This agreement, formalized as a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the timber industry and major conservation groups, should deliver significant benefits for Oregon’s salmon, steelhead and native trout, particularly in rural communities affected by aerial spray of pesticides, and in the Siskiyou region for rivers such as the Rogue, Smith and Chetco.

Trout Unlimited is pleased to support this agreement. TU staff in Oregon, including Oregon Director Chrysten Lambert, Senior Policy Advisor Chandra Ferrari, and Field Coordinator Kyle Smith, have been closely engaged in the process which produced it.

The new agreement bridges a longstanding divide between commercial timber interests and conservation organizations that will put Oregon on a path toward sustainable forest management. For too long, conservation and forestry interests have fought over the adequacy of existing rules without producing meaningful change. 

Ferrari said, “We’re glad to see these divergent interests coming together to do what’s best for all Oregonians and commit to commonsense, science-based rules for managing Oregon’s forest lands that adequately protect people, fish and wildlife, and water quality.” 

The agreement reached today resolves to provide immediate, beneficial changes to forest rules while also establishing an accountable, collaborative process to secure additional long-term changes to forest rules through a comprehensive Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP). 

Immediate reforms include changes to existing pesticide aerial spray rules that will include notice requirements for local communities, increased buffers to homes and schools and water intakes (from the existing 60 foot buffer requirement to a 300 foot buffer), and no spray within the Riparian Management Areas of fish streams (60, 70, 80 or 100 feet depending on stream type and fish species present). 

The Chetco River.

The agreement also includes better streamside rules to protect the Rogue-Siskiyou region, primarily through increased riparian buffers that prevent logging in sensitive areas. 

These changes represent a big step forward in the long struggle to better integrate management of Oregon’s timber resources with conservation of the state’s renowned coldwater fisheries. The new agreement will help protect people, drinking water sources, and salmon and steelhead populations in key rivers throughout the state, while sustaining Oregon’s tradition of working forests that provide jobs for rural communities. 

Admittedly, the outcome of this collaborative process is uncertain. However, the progress of the initial discussions, including the immediate reforms, and meaningful support from the Governor’s office give us optimism that a modernized Forest Practices Act – and better long-term protections for Oregon’s world-famous salmon and steelhead fisheries — is within reach.

Read more from The Oregonian here.

Read more from Oregon Public Broadcasting here.

By Kyle Smith.