HB 3210, which would have seen our state forest lands clearcut at much higher levels, is no longer. The bill was supported by timber industry lobbyists and Tillamook County Commissioner Tim Josi, but Rep. Brad Witt, Chair of the House Committee on Agriculture & Natural Resources heard from hundreds of Oregonians to reject the bill and keep balance on our forests. Rumor has it that Chair Witt’s phone was ringing off the hook. Congratulations and thanks to all who contacted Chair Witt!
Bills like HB 3210 rear their heads in nearly every Oregon legislative session, but they normally don’t go as far as this one did. We need to hold our lawmakers accountable for pushing unbalanced forest agendas that sacrifice future benefit for short-term dollars.
Last month, the Board of Forestry refused to endorse a proposal that would have seen drastic increases in clearcutting across the landscape. Our supporters drove hundreds and hundreds of thoughtful, personalized comments to Governor Brown asking her to reject this plan. Thank you for your support—we were heard loud and clear!
The search for a new Forest Management Plan continues as the Board instructed Department of Forestry staff to engage in shuttle diplomacy with stakeholder groups in an attempt to find areas of agreement among the timber industry, county interests, and the conservation community.
The Board Subcommittee in charge of a new plan meets on April 8th with a lot of work to do. Tasked with improving conservation and stabilizing ODF’s funding, it is becoming more evident that the Board needs to seek alternative revenue streams rather than continuing to rely solely on logging to manage these public lands.
Fortunately, a conservation-minded member of the Board blocked this initial proposal, but ODF leadership have clearly made a power move to expand their budget as the Governor changes. The Department was directed to seek alternative revenues for their state forest program, but are clearly focused only on increasing harvest levels dramatically.
For most people, “salmon” is an expensive, unnaturally pink piece of fish at the grocery store. It is a potential meal, detached from its context by thousands of miles. Even those of us who are lucky enough to live in the Pacific Northwest often have only a distant relationship to these iconic fish. However, there are places where we can bridge the gap and connect with an elusive and integral part of our history, culture, cuisine, and economy.
Just over an hour from Portland, and a mere 30 minutes from the fast-growing cities of Beaverton and Hillsboro, one can sit on an isolated stream bank and share hours with spawning coho salmon. For the uninitiated, this is an eye-opening experience that can open new ways of looking at the natural world on which we depend. However, these are also the last hours of the salmons’ lives. They travel over 100 miles up rivers like the Nehalem, the Salmonberry, the Trask, and the Wilson to spawn where they hatched 3-5 years before, dying in the process of continuing their line.
Our publicly-owned north coast forests, the Tillamook & Clatsop State Forests, likely hold the key to salmon habitat in northwest Oregon. The management of these lands is currently undergoing a revision. Some stakeholders would like to see these lands managed with even more emphasis on timber production, a move that would likely harm wild salmon and take away the possibility of connecting with these fish.
A parcel of forest only needs to be clearcut once to destroy most of its ecological value for decades and decades. On the other hand, conservation requires constant, long-term, robust protection. That is why, as the Board of Forestry writes a new plan for managing the Tillamook & Clatsop state forests, conservation commitments need to be real–long-lasting, appropriately managed, and mapped.
Current “High Value Conservation Areas,” which we fought hard for for several years, represent an important step forward for the Oregon Department of Forestry. Their designation (covering 140,000+ acres state-wide) has helped to frame the process that will result in a new Forest Management Plan. In part because of these new designations, the Board is strongly pursuing a “land allocation” approach, which will see a conservation zone, a timber-emphasis zone, and possibly other zones that, contrasting the current approach, do not move around the landscape. Governor Kitzhaber recently promoted this type of plan.
A land allocation approach has the potential to succeed in improving conservation. Clearly, a large portion of the landscape would need to fall into the conservation zone in order for wildlife habitat and clean water to be adequately protected. What’s even more important though, is how that allocation is managed and where it is. Current conservation areas are too often managed to produce some timber volume–heavily thinned or even clearcut. In the new plan, conservation areas need to be managed for conservation without any expectation of producing timber. That means forests, left largely untouched, intended to grow old and complex. Not wilderness, but wild.
Another crucial factor in the success of this approach is maps. Public awareness and transparency are of the utmost importance for conservation. Protected areas should not be moved and changed at the discretion of ODF staff on a yearly basis. These areas need to be on long-term, publicly available maps. Oregonians deserve to know where these areas are, and for the sake of healthy salmon runs, wildlife habitat, carbon sequestering old trees, and clean drinking water, these areas should be in the public eye and the public conscience.
Conservation does not work at the whims of political tides and timber projections. It requires durable and robust commitments for the foreseeable future.
Seeking balance for the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests–clean drinking water, healthy fish & wildlife habitat, and abundant recreation opportunities