ODF Puts Forward FMP Proposals
The Oregon Board of Forestry continues to explore new Forest Management Plans that will both provide financial viability to the Department of Forestry and improve conservation outcomes on the Tillamook & Clatsop state forests. On September 29th, the Board weighed two options developed by ODF. A “Land Allocation” proposal suggests putting at least 30% of the forest into a conservation zone and managing other portions of the forest for different degrees of timber production. A “Landscape Management” proposal is similar to the current forest management plan, with various types of forest structure moved around the landscape over time. Either proposal has the potential to succeed or fail. There is room in each framework to improve conservation, but there is also the potential for harmful environmental outcomes. The latter proposal suggests sacrificing habitat in smaller forest districts, such as the Santiam.
Counties Won’t Play
The Trust Land Counties (CFTLC), which receive a significant portion of revenue from state forest timber harvests, rejected both proposals and did not offer alternatives. County representatives implied that they would not support any new plan that did not dramatically increase clearcut levels. The Counties’ unwillingness to meaningfully participate in the process does not bode well for a new plan being created.
Speaking against the Department working with federal scientists to negotiate a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP), the CFTLC expounded on the “risk of an aging forest,” warning that, “as forest ages and begins to provide habitat for listed species, the ability to continue timber harvest may decline dramatically. ODF and the Board of Forestry must not let this situation develop on the Trust lands.” These forests are crucial to providing habitat for listed fish and wildlife. Efforts to prevent habitat from improving are misguided and show an alarmingly single-minded view of these forests simply as tree farms.
The Timber Industry Shows Its Colors
Dave Ivanoff, of Hampton Lumber, also objected to the pursuit of a Habitat Conservation Plan and warned ODF of the “perpetual issue of creating habitat.”
Mr. Ivanoff was “dismayed” by both ODF proposals, saying that the Land Allocation approach was a “departure” from what he envisioned: “From my selfish perspective I would request support of the 70/30 zoned approach the way I’ve offered it, based on the Forest Practices Act.” “I fundamentally believe that there is absolutely nothing wrong with [the industrial approach].” There is significant scientific literature on environmental problems caused by the FPA.
When asked why he came up with the 70/30 split, Mr. Ivanoff said that it was based on “what is the level of harvest that’s going to be needed to maintain the family-owned forest manufacturing sector in NW Oregon,” what is needed to “support our company’s needs, our competitors’ needs.” The harvest level “would come close to replacing that lost fiber that is no longer coming from Washington.” It’s clear that the timber industry’s calculations of what should be cut don’t consider the forests many values, but instead stem from their own needs.
Rex Storm, representing the Associated Oregon Loggers, urged the Board to curtail public input and not seek public approval when devising a new plan, stating that the timber industry and even the Board are more important stakeholders than the Oregonians who own these lands. The Board, of course, is supposed to manage these forests on behalf of all Oregonians. Ironically, Mr. Storm delivered his alarming message during the public comment period.
Conservation Improvements Needed
The North Coast State Forest Coalition urged the Board to move forward keeping conservation improvements in mind. In order to improve conservation outcomes, any plan would likely need to improve riparian buffers to provide adequate shade and wood delivery to streams, increase the amount of older forest on the landscape, reduce clearcutting on steep slopes, and decrease the forest road network, which currently is very expansive and can lead to sediment problems in streams. Both ODF proposals include expanding no-cut buffer zones on fish-bearing streams to 115 feet, reflecting current scientific literature that suggests little or no riparian management is best for stream health. 115 feet is a good start, but it is unclear that it is adequate. Non-fish bearing streams would benefit from a no-cut buffer of at least 75 feet. Current standards are much less protective.
The success of either plan hinges on balance, public input, and the best science available. Dollars cannot be the only driver determining the future of these forests. These lands have been over-logged and burnt. They are just beginning to recover, and their protection is crucial to Oregon’s economy and environment.
The Board Acts
The Board moved a motion to explore/pursue a land allocation proposal, but did not move any specifics such as those in the ODF proposal. Board members Gary Springer and Mike Rose, both employees of the forest products industry, voted for a zoned approach that sees much of the landscape treated like industrial timber land. Chair Tom Imeson followed the timber representatives’ vote. The only “no” vote to this proposal came from Sybil Ackerman-Munson, who was rightfully doubtful that a zoned approach would work without any cooperation from the Trust Counties.
ODF will now move forward exploring a zoned approach, but without any sideboards for conservation and with the Counties refusing to enter dialogue, it is doubtful that a good plan will come to fruition.