Homesteader: 1890 – 2016

Northwest Oregon’s state-owned forests are comprised of less than .01% old growth, a stunning number that indicates their fraught history of devastating fires and aggressive logging. A notable forest parcel in the Clatsop State Forest, known as “Homesteader,” contained trees upwards of 125 years old that had survived massive fires and over a century of logging. This parcel had numerous old growth characteristics and showed signs of providing rare habitat for threatened species, including marbled murrelets, red tree voles, and northern spotted owls. It’s location on the bank of the Nehalem River made it important to aquatic species. And, for about two years, activists, surveyors, and researchers exploring the area enjoyed its accessibility, tranquility, and abundance of biodiversity.

Beginning in April of 2015, thousands of Oregonians submitted public comments to the Oregon Department of Forestry [ODF] asking that this parcel of old growth not be logged. Official public comments were supplemented by letters, media pieces, and general outcry from Oregonians (especially Clatsop County residents). The voices were varied but the message was clear: “old growth is rare, it is critical, it should not be logged.”

ODF responded to this message rapidly. On state forests, timber sales commonly take 1-3 years between the announcement of the sale and commencement of logging. In the case of Homesteader, perhaps because of intense public scrutiny and dissent, was logged less than 10 months after being announced. The trees were sold off in January and as of mid-March, what used to be a lush forest is now something altogether different:

Photo by Trygve Steen
Photo by Trygve Steen

Part of the blame for this expedited degradation of public land can be placed on ODF. However, the Agency is in a bind. They are expected to manage these state forests for a suite of values—social, environmental, and economic—yet they are only funded by logging. Moreover, 2/3 of state forest revenue goes to counties while 1/3 is retained by ODF. In 2015, state forest logging contributed $55 million to counties across Oregon. And yet, some counties are engaging in a disruptive lawsuit claiming that state forests are not producing enough timber! Meanwhile, ODF’s budget, like other natural resource agencies, continues to dwindle.

Oregon has changed and is changing. Logging is no longer a primary economic driver. While logging will remain a part of our history, culture, and (to an extent) our economy, Oregon’s present and future is built around outdoor recreation, fisheries, tourism, quality of life, and natural beauty. Yet private and public forest management has so far failed to keep up with the will of the people. Part of catching up is a balanced management plan for our coastal state forests, a plan that protects critical areas like Homesteader.

Photo by Trygve Steen
Photo by Trygve Steen

Join us in Astoria!

Astoria Event Pic

Mark your calendars to celebrate and advocate for our state forests. We all need to stand up and make sure that Clatsop County opts out of the Linn County lawsuit. The future of the Clatsop State Forest should be a balanced, collaborative management plan, not an industrial tree farm!

What: A forest evening with the North Coast State Forest Coalition
Where: Lovell Showroom, Fort George Brewery, 1483 Duane St, Astoria
When: 6:30-8:30 pm, Friday March 11th
Why: 2016 is gearing up to be critical for protecting the Clatsop State Forest. Join others who care about conserving fish & wildlife habitat, clean drinking water, and recreation opportunities and lets keep Clatsop county out of a bad lawsuit!
Who: You and everyone you know!

Linn County lawsuit creates confusion along with disruption

When Linn County announced that they intend to sue the state of Oregon for $1.4 billion over “mismanagement” of our state forests, it was immediately obvious that the process to find a lasting, balanced Forest Management Plan would be severely disrupted. What has become clear over the past few weeks though, are some serious misunderstandings about the history, purpose, and current management of state forests. Some media outlets have failed to adequately research the complex nature of these lands and the result has been some dubious reporting.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Linn County Lawsuit

Here are a few on-point pieces related to the Linn County lawsuit:

Daily Astorian Letter: Pushy

Daily Astorian Letter: Beware “easy money”

Corvallis Gazette-Times: County lawsuit hampers state forestry collaborative efforts, Salmon rep says

Daily Astorian Letter: Economic terrorism

Daily Astorian Editorial: Difficult spot

Albany Democrat-Herald: Conservation groups oppose county class action lawsuit

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State forests should be managed for multiple benefits

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Forest Coalition: State forests should be managed for multiple benefits

“Greatest Permanent Value” means protecting fish and wildlife, clean water, recreation – as well as timber

January 14, 2016 Portland, Ore. – A coalition of fishing and conservation groups working on Oregon’s North Coast state forests is speaking out today against a threatened class action lawsuit by Linn County, on behalf of 150 Oregon taxing districts.

At issue is whether the state can manage its forestlands for values other than timber.

Members of the North Coast State Forest Coalition emphasize that the forests are in fact mandated by state statute to provide the “Greatest Permanent Value” to all Oregonians.

OAR 629-035-0020 reads: “‘greatest permanent value’ means healthy, productive, and sustainable forest ecosystems that over time and across the landscape provide a full range of social, economic, and environmental benefits to the people of Oregon.”

As such, the coalition stands behind state efforts to manage its state lands for multiple benefits – including timber revenue.

Guido Rahr, President of Wild Salmon Center said: “Oregonians are fortunate that our state forests can provide a broad array of values including diverse recreation opportunities, drinking water for hundreds of thousands of people, a rich salmon fishery, fish & wildlife habitat, and timber harvest for jobs and government revenue.”

“Therefore, our state-owned forests are more than a source of revenue for Linn County,” he continued. “What’s more, thousands of acres of state forests are clearcut every year. There is simply no more room to expand timber harvests and maintain the integrity of these forests.

Bob Rees, Executive Director of Northwest Steelheaders and long-time fishing guide said, “These lands provide the basis for multiple economies – including recreational fisheries and commercial salmon fisheries that contribute more than a billion dollars to the state economy every year. That’s a public value worth protecting.”

Tom Wolf, Executive Director of Oregon Trout Unlimited added, “We need to pass a legacy of healthy, working forests to the next generation. That includes a healthy timber enterprise, but it also requires intact watersheds for our iconic salmonid species. Linn County is forcing us into a false choice. It’s time for them to explore other sources of revenue.”

Greg Haller, Conservation Director for Pacific Rivers said: “Oregonians do not want State Forests managed like private industrial forestlands, which pollute our streams and degrade fish and wildlife habitat.”

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The North Coast State Forest Coalition seeks balanced management of the Tillamook & Clatsop State Forests, an approach that protects fish & wildlife habitat, clean drinking water, and recreation opportunities. Our member organizations are Association of Northwest Steelheaders, Wild Salmon Center, Oregon Council of Trout Unlimited, Oregon Chapter of Sierra Club, Native Fish Society, Pacific Rivers, and Northwest Guides & Anglers Association. Our supporters include thousands of Oregonians and approximately 100 Oregon businesses and organizations.

Clatsop - Medium

Seeking balance for the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests–clean drinking water, healthy fish & wildlife habitat, and abundant recreation opportunities