SALEM, Ore. — The Oregon Board of Forestry has voted unanimously to keep moving forward on developing rules to making sure logging sites leave enough trees standing along salmon streams to keep the water shaded and cool.
The vote Wednesday in Salem directs the Department of Forestry to finish developing various alternatives – including voluntary and mandatory measures — to assure the cool- water standard set by the state Environmental Quality Commission is met.
The board decided not to ask the Environmental Quality Commission to consider setting a more lenient standard — a direction that had been favored by some in the timber industry, and opposed by salmon advocates.
The issue was raised by a 2011 study that found temperatures were getting warmer in salmon streams on state-regulated timberlands in the Coast Range.
On September 3, 2014, the Oregon Board of Forestry unanimously voted to move forward with the riparian rule analysis needed for rules that would meet the cold water criterion of Oregon’s stream temperature standard. The Board of Forestry accepted the Oregon Department of Forestry’s recommendation to the Board of Forestry to accept the June 23, 2014 workshop summary and to proceed with the development of alternative management prescriptions. The final decision of the board was:
“The Board adopted the following pathway forward for the rule analysis process:
The Board directed the department to continue with the current rule analysis, and in conjunction with the Regional Forest Practice Committees and stakeholders, to develop prescriptions for a new Riparian Protection Rule designed to meet the Protecting Cold Water (PCW) criterion to the Maximum Extent Practicable (MEP) and facilitate flexibility in harvest approaches through consideration of regulatory measures, voluntary approaches or a combination thereof, including:
No-cut buffer rule alternatives; and
Appropriate criteria for a Plan for Alternate Practice.
The Board directed the department, in conjunction with the Regional Forest Practice Committees and stakeholders, to continue analysis of a) Geographic Regions in western Oregon to which the rule should apply, and b) to which stream segments (i.e., only those streams with salmon, steelhead, or bull trout present; the entire network of small and medium fish streams; or something in between) the rule should apply.
The Board directed the department to develop preliminary economic and ecological information related to each prescription for the rule alternatives.
The Board directed the department to work with the Board of Forestry/Environmental Quality Commission liaison process to communicate the Board’s concerns regarding the sensitivity of small and medium fish streams relative to the Protecting Cold Water (PCW) criterion and the potential impacts on forestland. Work with the liaison process to help develop understanding, acceptance and support for the Board’s approach for addressing the PCW criterion.
The Board directed the department to consider impacts of proposed prescriptions on large woody debris (LWD) recruitment.
The Board received the workshop summary (Attachment 1) as adequately documenting key points from presentations and associated discussions at the June 23, 2014 Riparian Rule Analysis Workshop.”
BEFORE THE OREGON BOARD OF FORESTRY
Statement of Mary Scurlock
Re: Agenda Item Number 9 — Water Quality Protection and Riparian Rule Analysis 3 September 2014 Salem, Oregon
State Forester Decker, Chair Imeson and members of the Board, thank you for considering my input today. My name is Mary Scurlock and I am here on behalf of the 22 organizations of the Oregon Stream Protection Coalition. We strongly urge you to accept Department staff’s recommendation to accept the June 23, 2014 workshop summary and direct the Department to present the Board with a rule alternative or alternatives (though not specific rule language) in November that meets the Protecting Coldwater Criterion of Oregon’s stream temperature standard. The rule alternatives would be presented with further recommendations about the geographic regions and stream segments to which they would apply and with preliminary economic analysis related to buffer prescriptions. You would also be presented in November with an evaluation of how the proposed prescriptions would bear on large wood recruitment and voluntary measures for large wood.
In supporting the staff’s recommendation, we are urging you to reject other options that have been described by staff and promoted by some members of the Board and other stakeholders. Specifically:
The Board should not formally include large wood recruitment as a rule objective. As much as my community wishes that this rulemaking could have been more holistic and designed to address the serious deficiencies of large wood in Oregon’s streams as well as issues related to road sediment and management impacts on mass wasting regimes, we supported the narrow scope of this rule process because of the clear performance objective the Protecting Coldwater Criterion provides. We agree with the Department that expanding the scope of this effort now would delay policy change for months or years.
The Board should not revisit prior determinations in this rule process, all of which had a rational basis, were made through a transparent public process with stakeholder input and none of which are undermined by significant new information or changed circumstances.
The Board should not request the Environmental Quality Commission to change the Protecting Coldwater Criterion. The existing statutory structure creates an expectation that the Board will defer to the EQC in matters related to the substance of water quality standards, particularly one for which there is such strong support at both the state and federal levels — as the June 23 workshop made clear. In our view, a formal request by the Board to the EQC for a water quality standards rule change should be reserved for extraordinary circumstances where there is no rational policy, legal or ecological basis for such a rule. Such is not the case here.
The Board should not focus now on issues that are not directly related to the achievement of its primary objective, which is to develop rules to meet the Protecting Coldwater Criterion on small and medium fishbearing streams. It is simply not the right time to take up whether and how the location of temperature-impaired streams (“303(d)” streams with or without TMDLs), or the location of stream segments determined by other processes to be of high or low ecological value, or the location of reaches that may have particular sensitivities or insensitivities to management might be relevant. The Board needs to focus on determining what practices meet the standard and where the standard applies.
We hope you will consider the following in your deliberations:
Oregon’s salmon, steelhead and bull trout have waited long enough: there has been uncertainty around the adequacy of the forest practice rules to prevent harvest-related stream warming since the late 1990s, but rule change was deferred pending the completion of the RipStream study, approximately 2002-2010. Now almost three years of work by the Board and Department have been dedicated to this rule analysis since the “degradation finding” in January 2012 on the basis of RipStream — including an extensive science review that validates RipStream as among the best available scientific studies on the subject.
There are more decisions ahead. Continuing with the rule process laid out by the Department does not tie the Board’s hands to shape the final outcome. There are still several key decisions ahead that are within the Board’s discretion, most notably including the specific rule prescriptions that will be adopted, their geographic extent, and the appropriate role of voluntary measures.
Adaptive management without policy change is a broken promise. As a matter of public process, this Board’s failure to pursue meaningful policy change after an evidence-based deliberative process that began over a decade ago would be perceived by my community as an extreme institutional failure that demands recourse through whatever political, legislative, and legal means available. We would prefer to work as stakeholders within a successful adaptive management program.
The question was raised by a 2011 study that found temperatures were getting warmer in salmon streams on state-regulated timberlands in the Coast Range.
The Department of Forestry is recommending the board go forward with analyzing the different logging prescriptions that would be needed to meet the cool water protection standards for small- and medium-sized streams with salmon, steelhead and bull trout, and their economic impact.
A final decision is months away and will take into account whether the changes create too much of a hardship on the timber industry.
Mary Scurlock of the Oregon Stream Protection Coalition says the study makes it clear that Oregon will have to start leaving more trees standing along streams to meet the cool water standard set by the state Environmental Quality Commissions, and some form of financial assistance for small landowners may be needed to soften the blow.
She added that Washington state logging rules use the same cold water protection standards set in Oregon, and the timber industry is viable there.
In testimony to the board over the past year, representatives of the timber industry have urged approaching the Environmental Quality Commission to change the cool water standards — a position opposed by the Department of Forestry — and raised questions about how long-lasting the effects are of logging on stream temperatures.
Katrina McNitt, president of the Oregon Forest Industry Council, said while the study showed water temperatures rose after logging, they never exceeded the standard for protecting salmon.
The RipStream study by the department and Oregon State University looked at 33 stream sites on state and private lands in the Coast Range dating to 2002. The study found an average increase of 1.26 degrees Fahrenheit after logging on private lands. There was no increase on state timberlands, where more trees are left standing along streams. The temperature increases were prompted by less shade thrown on the water by trees.
— The Associated Press
Other media outlets that published the story: The Bulletin (Bend)