Habitat Conservation Plans – A Tool for State Forests

Habitat Conservation Plans – A Tool for State Forests

Over the next year, the Department of Forestry will be reviewing and possibly re-writing the administrative rules that dictate management of Oregon’s state forests, defining the future of some of our state’s most vital natural spaces. Pressures to increase logging on the Tillamook and Clatsop forests is intense. Populations of marbled murrelets, spotted owls, Coho salmon, red tree voles, and other species already struggle to thrive within those borders without the threat of increased timber sales and management that prioritizes short-term profits over long-term forest health. Those most vulnerable species are only signposts for the vibrancy of the entire temperate eco-systems in these emblematic forests.

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Coho Salmon are listed under the Endangered Species Act

Every citizen of Oregon has a strong interest in the management of our entrusted state forest land, and a duty to advocate for prudent land use! In the past, the relationship between conservationists and timber companies and their proponents has been defined by embittered conflict and hostility – and often lawsuits. While seeking injunctions can be a strategic method for halting dangerous and illegal practices, there are other methods for pursuing conflict resolution and creating viable strategies for species preservation.

Wilson-River-Corridor-467.jpgThe Endangered Species Act contains a provision for Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs) – a series of permits and mitigation planning that is usually pursued by non-federal entities that want to build on or log land where endangered species reside. Permits allow the construction or other activity, and the Habitat Conservation Plan explains how the party will help the population grow in other ways. Without vigilant oversight from citizens and non-profits, HCP’s can become unwieldy and risky management plans that harm endangered species.  However, they can also be a powerful tool.  The State of Oregon could seek an HCP on state forest land to limit the potential for messy and expensive lawsuits, create and protect important wildlife habitat, and provide certainty around timber revenue.
Read more here to learn more about the history of Habitat Conservation Plans and what they might mean for Oregon’s state forests.

Looking at new ways to manage state forests in northwest Oregon

The Oregon Department of Forestry asked us to pass this note along to our supporters:
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“THANK YOU FOR PARTICIPATING!

ODF recently hit the road and heard from community members in Astoria, Tillamook, Forest Grove and Lyons at community roundtable discussions focused on a new Northwest Oregon Forest Management Plan. Discussions and conversations at these forums were driven by participants, while ODF staff captured comments on flipcharts to take to the Board Subcommittee and Board as they work hard to decide on the future of forest management in northwest Oregon.

Total, nearly 110 people weighed in face-to-face. We received positive feedback from all viewpoints at the table, thanking ODF for the opportunity to have candid and honest conversations both with staff, and other community members on a broad range of forest management topics. Conversations centered on the Board of Forestry’s direction to develop a plan that addresses State Forests Division budget gaps, while increasing conservation outcomes on state-owned forests.

We also heard suggestions for improving future outreach activities, and will make adjustments for the next phase. If you’d like to weigh in on your experience at a community roundtable, or have new ideas for state forest-related communications and outreach, please let us know through our online forum here.

On behalf of the Oregon Department of Forestry, thank you for coming out and joining the conversation. We look forward to continuing the conversation. Don’t forget about ways to get involved online: Twitter,Flickr, ODF website.

Also learn more about the process through researching the Stakeholder Group site, and through the advisory groups working hard to ensure the new plan meets revenue goals and conservation outcomes.”

ODF Needs Revenue Diversification

The Oregon Department of Forestry is almost totally reliant on timber dollars to manage our state forests. This model of funding is failing to provide sufficient revenue for ODF. Moreover, it forces the Department to log at unsustainable levels that do not allow for adequate conservation, leaving the state susceptible to messy and expensive ESA lawsuits.

Pennoyer Creek Falls

Timber harvest is a critical revenue source for the Department and provides important family-wage jobs to Oregonians. However, it should only be a part of the equation to provide solvency for ODF. The Tillamook and Clatsop forests provide a range of values to all Oregonians–clean drinking water, diverse recreation, fishing and hunting opportunities, scenic beauty, and wildlife habitat. If the Department’s revenue continues to come wholly from timber dollars, these other values will eventually be lost.

Tell Governor Kitzhaber to lead the effort to diversify ODF funding!

High Value Conservation Area Open Houses!

The Department of Forestry is marking the implementation of High Value Conservation Areas with a series of open houses. These events are to celebrate and understand this classification and to explore the areas themselves. There will be self-guided tours, Google Earth maps, and ODF staff to answer questions.

These are great opportunities to pack the room and show support for Conservation Areas on State Forest lands. Make clear to the Department of Forestry that we value these areas and want them to stay!

  • March 17: 6:00 – 8:00 pm, Forest Grove ODF District Office, 801 Gales Creek Rd, Forest Grove
  • March 20: 6:00 – 8:00 pm, Astoria ODF District Office, 92219 HWY 202, Astoria
  • March 22: 10:00 am – Noon, Tillamook ODF District Office, 5005 3rd St, Tillamook

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Stakeholder Group Sends Ideas to the Board of Forestry

The first step to a new plan for our North Coast State Forests concluded last Monday when a stakeholder group sent several proposals to the Board of Forestry for further consideration. In total, five plans were presented by group members. Representatives of mill owners who want more timber from state forests pushed especially alarming ideas. One places timber production over all other values, another proposal treats 70% of the forest like a tree farm, and another proposal even asks to sell our public land to the highest bidder! These industrial proposals will degrade fish and wildlife habitat and pollute clean water.

Oregon's Forest Practices Act: failing to protect our water since 1972 (photo by F. Eatherington)

Oregon’s Forest Practices Act: Weakest stream protections of any West Coast state (PRIVATE LAND. photo by F. Eatherington)

Tillamook County Commissioner Tim Josi did not provide a plan of his own, but endorsed all three of the timber-focused proposals and called for more clearcuts instead of thinning. The Commissioner also rejected proposals to diversify funding for the Department of Forestry. Josi insisted that the Agency should remain dependent on logging as its only means of funding.

Tim Josi thinks that clearcutting is better for the environment! (photo by F. Eatherington)

Tim Josi wants more clear cutting of our public forests to subsidize his low county tax rates. (PRIVATE LAND. photo by F. Eatherington)

One other proposal, a variation of the current Forest Management Plan, called for modest increases to conservation outcomes and timber harvest levels. Our allies put forward a plan that would achieve the goal of improving conservation values while moving funding toward a balanced mix of harvest revenues and other revenue sources. This vision would drastically help to create better fish and wildlife habitat and recreation opportunities while also allowing the forest to be actively managed.

Central to the conversation is how Oregon will comply with the Endangered Species Act. A plan to aggressively log the Elliot State Forest spurred litigation that was recently concluded. Now the state is considering some exploratory land sales to test the value of the Elliot.

The North Coast State Forest Coalition strongly endorses the pursuit of a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for the state forests. An HCP would provide predictability and certainty for timber revenue by preventing lawsuits, and would secure habitat for endangered and threatened species.

Even as some sawmill interests attempt to wipe conservation areas off the map, the Oregon Department of Forestry is planning a series of open houses to explain and celebrate new High Value Conservation Areas. These events will include self-guided tours, Google Earth maps, and ODF staff answering questions, so mark your calendar:

  • March 17: 6-8pm, Forest Grove ODF District Office, 801 Gales Creek Rd, Forest Grove
  • March 20: 6-8pm, Astoria ODF District Office, 92219 Hwy 202, Astoria 
  • March 22: 10am-noon, Tillamook District Office, 5005 3rd Street, Tillamook

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To find out more about our effort to protect the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests, email Chris Smith. Also, visit our Facebook page!

Seeking balance for the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests