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Take Action: Send a letter to Governor Brown through Oregon Wild and ask for Oregon’s Forest Practices to be reformed

Oregon Wild, a member of the Oregon Stream Protection Coalition, has drafted a petition calling for the reform of Oregon’s forest practices.

The following is a blurb from Oregon Wild’s request for the public to take action:

It’s time to reform Oregon’s harmful logging practices!

For too long, Oregonians have tolerated shameful logging practices in our forests:  clearcuts that are too big and too close together; stream habitat made too hot and muddy for fish; logging-induced landslides; water supplies rendered too dirty for communities to drink without expensive treatment; and people poisoned by aerial spraying of dangerous chemicals. Logging corporations have undue  influence on the regulatory process in Oregon, leaving state agencies incapable of enacting the science-based policy changes required to protect human safety and the public’s natural resources.

Something has to change.

Sign the letter to Governor Kate Brown.

Oregon Department of Forestry’s Summary and Q & A Regarding New Riparian Rule Proposal

The Oregon Department of Forestry has posted the following information about the Riparian Rule Analysis Decision on its website.

The contacts at the bottom allow for you to ask questions or provide comments:

November 5, 2015 Board of Forestry Streamside Buffer (Riparian) Rule Analysis Decision

Summary

  • The Oregon Board of Forestry ruled to increase streamside buffers on many streams in western Oregon.
    • The decision will apply to streams that are:
      •  West of the crest of the Cascades but not in the Siskiyou region; oregon riparian rule graphicand
      •  Classified as being a small or medium fish-bearing stream by the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF); and
      •  Determined to support salmon, steelhead or bull trout.
    •  This decision will increase buffer widths on applicable streams by 10 feet and more than doubled the amount of trees to be left uncut.
    • The decision included options to provide economic relief for smaller parcels and to provide an alternative prescription for streams that run in an east-west direction.
    •  Rules must still be written on this decision and may take over a year to be formalized. This process will allow public review and input.
    •  For all other streams, the current rules will continue to apply.
    • Questions & Answers
    •  Why did the Board make this decision?  This decision was based on ODF monitoring results that showed rules falling short of the protecting cold water (PCW) standard, a Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) temperature requirement. This standard requires that stream temperature not rise more than 0.5˚F Fahrenheit due to activities such as logging.
    •  How did this decision occur?  Stream temperature monitoring results have been presented to the Board since 2009. In 2012, the Board considered the need for new rules. Since that time the Board has heard testimony from ODF staff, scientists, stakeholders, and other state and national agencies that influenced its decision.
    •  Does this decision apply immediately?  No. Rules must still be written, likely become effective in 2017.
    •  Will streams near me be affected?  Streams that meet all of the following conditions will be affected: (1) located west of the crest of the Cascade Mountains (excluding the Siskiyou region); (2) classified by ODF as being fish-bearing and small or medium in size; and (3) determined to support salmon, steelhead or bull trout. ODF will make maps available that will help you to see if a specific stream might meet these criteria. How these determinations are to be made will be decided as part of the rulemaking process.
    •  Why was the Siskiyou region excluded?  This decision was based on scientific data collected in regions outside of the Siskiyou. The Board determined it inappropriate to apply the same protection measures given the differences in vegetation and stream characteristics in this region.
    •  How will economic impacts be included in this rulemaking process?  Consideration of economic impacts is a required part of the rule making process. ODF is currently working on an economic impact analysis.
    • What if the new rule will affect a large part of my property?  The Board decision has sought to provide relief for landowners with small lots next to such streams.
    • How can I provide input on future rulemaking?  The public may provide comments at public hearings on draft rules. These hearing are expected to occur later next year. An advisory committee will also be appointed that includes members from the public likely to be affected by the rule. Additionally, written or emailed comments can be submitted to ODF at any time.
    • Questions or comments?
    •  Email: forestryinformation@oregon.gov, subject “Stream Rules”
    • Online: http://www.oregon.gov/ODF/AboutODF/Pages/Comment.aspx
    • Mail: Oregon Department of Forestry, 2600 State Street, Salem, Oregon 97310. Attn: “Stream Rules”

Wider stream buffers sought for southwest Oregon

New rules calling for wider stream buffers in Western Oregon exempted the Siskiyou Region

By Mark Freeman
Mail Tribune
January 25, 2016

Read the article at the Mail Tribune

Advocates for wild fish and clean water want the state’s top environmental managers to apply new Oregon Department of Forestry rules that expand streamside riparian protection rules on Western Oregon’s private and commercial forestlands to southwest Oregon.

Forrest English, program director for Ashland-based Rogue Riverkeeper, said Gov. Kate Brown or the state Environmental Quality Commission should step in and enact wider no-cut buffers to shade fish-bearing streams and provide other benefits for wild salmon and other inhabitants.

English said the Siskiyou Mountains region was improperly left off those new buffers that will be applied to the rest of Western Oregon once the rules to put the board’s November policy vote in action are written.

Most fish-bearing streams will see the no-cut boundary extended from 20 feet to as much as 80 feet on each side on private and commercial forestland regulated by ODF. English said data provided to the board show that extending buffers to 120 feet will ensure streams meet water-quality standards.

The EQC, which sets policy for the state Department of Environmental Quality, should do so because it’s on the hook for ensuring Oregon streams meet Clean Water Act standards, which English believes can’t be ensured without those changes.

“The question is, are the EQC and the governor going to correct them on those defects, or is someone else going to have to do it for them?” English told the Mail Tribune.

English said his group has not yet decided whether it will sue ODF should those changes not come about.

Richard Whitman, Brown’s natural resources policy director, said there is a process by which the EQC could put pressure on the Board of Forestry to change the rules, and the EQC could strike out on its own if it believes it to be necessary.

However, the EQC would not take a stance until the actual rulemaking is complete, and that might not be done until the end of this year, Whitman said.

Marganne Allen, field-support manager for state forestry’s Private Forest Division, said the seven-member citizens board that sets state forestry policy “is not considering revisiting its existing decision.”

Allen said the board relied on specific data collected from Northwest Oregon, coastal areas and the Willamette Valley to adopt its rules. It also exempted the Siskiyou Region from rulemaking because the board believed it was incorrect to extrapolate data from other state regions with different environmental realities onto southwest Oregon.

ODF was specifically looking for data from controlled experiments that documented changes in streamside vegetation and changes in water temperatures, Allen said.

“There simply wasn’t anything available in the Siskiyou Region,” Allen said.

Data about stream temperatures weren’t enough, nor was the DEQ’s so-called “shade-a-lator” computer model used to predict changes in stream temperatures with riparian growth used on projects in the Rogue River Basin, Allen said.

“We wanted to bring to the board actual studies, not modeling information,” she said.

The new rules for most of Western Oregon call for 60-foot-wide buffers on both sides of small fish-bearing streams and 80 feet on both sides of medium fish-bearing streams.

The decision means the state Forest Practices Act will be amended to reflect those changes. It does not impact streams on public lands under different buffer restrictions

The Siskiyou Region is defined as running between the Cascade and Coast range crests, the California border to the south and the Rogue-Umpqua Divide to the north.

2016 Board of Forestry Meeting Dates

 

January 6*

Meeting

State Forester’s Headquarters, Salem

March 9*

Meeting

State Forester’s Headquarters, Salem

April 27

Meeting

Tillamook Forest Center

April 28

Field Tour

Co-host Tillamook Forest Heritage

June 8*

Meeting

State Forester’s Headquarters, Salem

July 20

Meeting

State Forester’s Headquarters, Salem

September 7*

Meeting

State Forester’s Headquarters, Salem

October 12

Workshop

Annual Planning Workshop, West Salem

November 2**

Meeting

Ashland

November 3

Tour

Cohesive Wildfire Strategy, Ashland

 

*Required by ORS 526.016

**Potential joint meeting with EQC

Speaking up for the Salmon: Portland Tribune Article

by Paul Koberstein
December 15, 2015
Click here to link to the article in the Tribune

Forestry board widens no-cutting zone along streams, but critics say it wasn’t enough

COURTESY: FRANCES EATHERINGTON  - This land owned by Weyerhaeuser west of Roseburg shows a typical riparian zone protected from logging, in a fish-bearing tributary of the Coos River.

For salmon that live in the mountains of Western Oregon, the Oregon Board of Forestry recently delivered what seemed like good news — expanding the no-timber-cutting zone along rivers.

In the most significant change in Oregon’s forest practices regulations in two decades, the forestry board voted on Nov. 5 to widen the buffer zone along rivers by 10 feet, which should double the number of trees left uncut.

But leaders of Oregon environmental groups say the board’s decision falls far short.

“Oregon’s salmon and steelhead need more protection,” says Mary Scurlock, coordinator of the Oregon Stream Protection Coalition comprising 23 conservation and fishing groups.

Biologists have long known that logging clear-cuts harm salmon habitat, and that overly aggressive logging practices have been behind the decimation of many Northwest salmon runs.

COURTESY OF OREGON STREAM PROTECTION COALITION - This aerial shows the Smith River along the Oregon Coast.

 In 1997, the National Marine Fisheries Service listed Oregon’s coastal coho salmon as threatened, due in large part to logging on private lands. Logging right next to rivers is especially harmful to fish, which is why regulators have required loggers to preserve narrow bands of uncut trees along streams, often known as riparian zones.

The main benefit of riparian trees is their shade, which has a cooling effect on water temperatures. Under prior Oregon forestry rules, the no-logging riparian zones had to be from 20 to 70 feet wide, depending on the size of the stream and whether it has fish or not.

But streams in the Coast Range have been found to consistently violate Clean Water Act standards for temperature, and Oregon’s Forest Practices Act requires that the state’s logging rules meet those standards. The Oregon Department of Forestry’s own research shows that buffers need to be about 100 feet wide to keep the water cool enough to be healthy for salmon and meet the standards.

“The science clearly shows more than 100 feet is needed to be really confident that we are complying with the Clean Water Act,” Scurlock says.

Bob Van Dyk, of the Wild Salmon Center, says Oregon’s forest rules to protect salmon lag far behind its neighbor in Washington state. “It’s time for us to catch up to the science-based rules Washington state passed 15 years ago,” Van Dyk says.

Mike Cloughesy, the Oregon Forest Resources Institute director of forestry, says logging causes only a “slight” increase in river temperatures. He says the benefit of having wider buffers than those prescribed by the Board of Forestry would be only minor, but the cost to logging companies would be “in the millions.”

The forestry board’s rules apply only to small or medium fish-bearing streams that support salmon, steelhead or bull trout, and not the smaller headland tributaries that feed into these streams. The rules apply only to privately owned timberlands of Western Oregon except for the Siskiyou region of Southwest Oregon, which are dealt with under a separate rule.

Besides their cooling effects, riparian buffers improve river habitat by reducing runoff from pollutants, supplying woody debris that salmon use for habitat structure, and retaining flood flows and sediment.

Salmon thrive best in temperatures ranging from 53 to 64 degrees Fahrenheit, but in many Oregon streams the temperatures are much warmer.

Coho salmon, the salmon species most commonly found in coastal streams, prefer to spawn when the water temperature is below 61 degrees. Their eggs suffer at temperatures above 70 degrees. Temperatures above 78 degrees are lethal. By definition, streams that are warmer than these benchmarks violate the state’s water temperature standards.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality reports that 7,732 miles of river in the Coast Range fail to meet the temperature standard. The habitat in these streams is not ideal for salmon when they spawn, migrate or just hang out.

It’s not clear how many of these river miles will be brought into compliance under the new standards. Rules enforcing this decision have yet to be written, and will be subject to public review.

Testimony to the Environmental Quality Commission regarding Oregon Board of Forestry Stream Buffer Proposal

Click here to download the full testimony as a PDF, including charts 

BEFORE THE ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY COMMISSION

Statement of Mary Scurlock during General Public Forum

10 December 2015

I represent the Oregon Stream Protection Coalition’s 24 fishing industry and conservation member groups[1] united in support of stronger, science-based riparian protection for streams on Oregon’s 10.6 million acres of private forestland.   We share the common goal of a stronger regulatory baseline to ensure the long-term health of freshwater ecosystems and the many economic benefits they support, including but not limited to sport and commercial fisheries and a sustainable timber industry.

My purpose in testifying today is to summarize our perspective on the recent decision by the Board of Forestry to increase stream buffers on some western Oregon streams.  We do not believe the Board took sufficient steps to meet their legal obligations, and are asking the Commission to closely examine the proposed protection and to consider petitioning the Board to ensure that best management practices for water pollution from private forest practices are truly adequate to meet water quality standards.

As you know, the anti-degradation component of the stream temperature standard limits warming from individual land use activities to .3 degrees C or less.  This is known as the Protecting Coldwater Criterion, or the “PCW.” Four years ago, in January of 2012, the Board of Forestry initiated a rule-making process in on the basis of the “Rip Stream” study (Groom et. al. 2011) that found logging compliant with current stream protection rules does not reliably meet the prevent stream-warming of .3 degrees or more due to excessive removal of riparian shade small and medium fish-bearing streams. On November 5, 2015 the Board made a 4:3 decision initiating formal rulemaking on a specific proposal that is expected to result in a final rule within a year.

There are three points I’d like to make today.

  1. The EQC has a duty to independently evaluate the adequacy of the Board’s rules, including the Board’s recent proposal.

The OSPC is deeply concerned by the Board’s decision, and we think you should be too.  We think the science is clear that the proposed stream rules are inadequate to meet the PCW.  I’m asking you to take a hard look the proposal in light of the law and the best available science and make your own determination about the adequacy of the Board’s rule directive.

 Although EQC shares authority with the Board of Forestry regarding water quality attainment on state and private forestlands, the EQC is still the primary enforcer of water quality standards under ORS 527.724.   As you know, good faith compliance by landowners with the Board of Forestry’s rules are generally considered adequate to meet water quality standards under ORS 527.770.   But the EQC need not accept the Board’s proposed rules as adequate, and has reserved the right to petition the Board for better rules under ORS 527.765 and to enforce directly for violations of Total Maximum Daily Loads where water quality standards are not attained.

If the EQC does not find the Board’s proposal adequate, we urge you to avail yourselves of the remedies available to you, including but not limited to petitioning to the Board for rules that are adequate to meet the Protecting Coldwater Criterion.

  1. The proposed buffers will not be effective to meet the PCW, yet buffers that would attain full compliance are clearly practicable

We understand that the Board of Forestry has some discretion about the level of certainty of compliance that it deems acceptable for the management practices it selects to meet water quality standards.  However, it is our understanding that the Board is legally obligated to implement management practices that are actually effective to meet these standards to the maximum or highest degree attainable unless it can be demonstrated that meeting the standards is not practicable for the regulated community as a whole. [2]

The first problem is that the Board has selected practices that, according to the Department’s own analysis, will not be effective to prevent the prohibited stream warming with any reasonable likelihood.  As illustrated by the attached graphs generated by ODF’s Jeremy Groom, even buffers of 90 feet are predicted to limit warming to .3 degrees or less on only about 50% of the sites to which it is applied — yet Board has selected only 60 and 80 foot buffers on small and medium streams, respectively.  These buffers, even if not harvested at all, have a very low chance of actually meeting the standard and would simply perform somewhat better than the status quo.  Further, the Board’s proposal apparently deems these buffers adequate even when harvested down to retention standards for which there is virtually no analytical basis.

The second problem is that there is no justification on the basis of practicability at the sector level for choosing the inadequate 60 and 80 foot buffers.  The footprint of a 90- foot buffer on both small and medium streams is only 15,200 acres or .4% of private industrial land in western Oregon.  On an annual basis this translates into 300 acres per year with 50 year rotations.  For smaller private non-industrial owners this would be 15,800 acres and .6% of Private Nonindustrial Land, or about 230 acres/year using a 70 year rotation.

  1. The Board’s decision does not extend additional adequate protection to all streams to which the Protecting Coldwater Criterion applies, i.e. those upstream of salmon, steelhead and bull trout (SSBT) reaches and streams in the Siskiyou, Blue Mountain and Eastern Cascade Regions 
  • Upstream Extent. The PCW expressly requires some reaches upstream of SSBT reaches to be protected from warming, yet the Board’s action does not effectively apply the new buffers upstream of these reaches.  The Protecting Coldwater Criterion applies to reaches upstream of salmon, steelhead and bull trout reaches that are “necessary to ensure that downstream temperatures achieve and maintain compliance with the applicable temperature criteria.”  The Board ignored ODF staff analysis showing high variability in heat dissipation downstream, and finding that available evidence shows only half the upstream temperature increase dissipates after 300 meters downstream, which in many cases would result in PCW violations at that distance. On the basis of available information, NMFS scientists called for the new buffers to apply at least 1600 feet upstream of SSBT reaches.  What we got was “to the end of the uni,t” whatever that distance may be.
  • The PCW applies on all Oregon streams. The Board proposes no action to extend new protections to all regions of the state. There is no timeline for addressing the Siskiyou and the two ODF regions in Eastern Orego also excluded despite a large body of evidence (including but not limited to RipStream) indicating that the current rules are not adequate to meet the Protecting Coldwater Criterion in any region of the state.

In conclusion, I urge you to examine the compelling reasons why the Commission should petition the Board of Forestry for rules that will effectively meet the PCW.   In parallel, we further urge you to independently assess the adequacy of current and proposed rules to meet temperature restoration targets (TMDLs) on impaired stream reaches statewide.

Respectfully submitted,
Mary Scurlock, Coordinator, Oregon Stream Protection Coalition

[1]Association of Northwest Steelheaders, Audubon Society of Portland, Cascadia Wildlands , Center for Biological Diversity, Coast Range Association, Defenders of Wildlife, Institute for Fisheries Resources, KS Wild, McKenzie Flyfishers, Native Fish Society, NW Guides and Anglers, Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, Oregon Wild, Pacific Rivers, , Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Rogue Riverkeeper, Sierra Club, The Wetlands Conservancy,,Trout Unlimited, Umpqua Watersheds, Washington Forest Law Center, WaterWatch of Oregon, Wild Earth Guardians, Wild Salmon Center.

[2] See e.g. Adams, J.J. (Oregon Assistant AG).  2005. Legal Relationship Between ORS 527.765 and ORS 527.714 in Deciding Whether to Adopt BMPs under the Oregon Forest Practices Act ; Daugherty, P., 2012. http://www.oregon.gov/odf/BOARD/docs/2012_November/BOF_ATTCH_20121107_03_06.pptx).

 

Guest Opinion: Board of Forestry fails to protect Southern Oregon salmon

In Medford’s Mail Tribune

By Forrest English

Posted Nov. 21, 2015 at 12:01 AM

I was standing on a bridge in town recently, watching salmon below me move upstream. These fish were at the end of a long journey. A journey that started in this very creek years before when they emerged from the gravels, made their way to the ocean and now had fought their way back upstream to spawn and start the cycle anew.

As I stood there dozens of people walked up and asked if I’d seen the fish. Many strangers eventually stood together in awe watching these salmon dart about the pool and thrash their tails building a nest for eggs.

The Oregon Board of Forestry unfortunately, demonstrated no such awe for salmon and our societal obligation to protect habitat that is so critical to the fish and our culture and economy.

In a recent decision intended to increase protection for our streams and salmon from the impacts of logging along streams, the Board missed the mark by a mile. Not only did the Board fail to implement protections that scientists identify would meet legal obligations to protect water quality critical to salmon survival, but they also elected to leave out southwest Oregon (the Siskiyou region) entirely from the limited protections granted to regions north of us.

While there were two votes for stronger protections, the timber industry interests on the board prevailed in weakening the buffers and excluding the Siskiyou region. It’s as if the Board believes that the physics of how streamside trees create habitat, keep our streams cool with shade, and filter pollution do not apply to southwest Oregon.

Scientists have been looking for years at how big streamside buffers would need to be to meet the legal requirements to protect cool water for fish and inform a Board decision to meet them. In addition to the existing body of evidence that these buffers are critical and needed, the Department of Forestry studied the issue in western Oregon with many sites on timberland in the so called RipStream study.

The Department heard from both their own staff, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and independent scientists that the results of the RipStream study showed that the minimum buffer size that would have any real confidence of meeting the legal requirements is at least 100 feet.

The evidence identifies that even if forests may be somewhat drier and sparser in the Siskiyou region that makes up most of the Rogue River watershed, those conditions would make warming of streams even MORE likely by removal of those trees, not less. The Department’s own research in fact showed that streams with a lower density of tree cover were equally or more sensitive to increases in temperature from the removal of additional trees.

The evidence also shows that 80-foot no cut buffers on medium streams, and 60-foot buffers on small streams identified by the Board’s decision in the rest of western Oregon simply does not go far enough, and it certainly doesn’t justify throwing southwest Oregon under the bus by excluding the region entirely from those small steps forward.

Many streams in our area are already suffering from temperatures too high for cold-water fish like salmon. Oregon’s water quality restoration plans highlight temperature problems throughout the Rogue Basin and elsewhere throughout the state. Removing streamside trees and warming headwater streams will likewise warm up waterways that salmon depend on downstream, something the Board’s decision again fails to address.

As if that weren’t enough, a warming climate is already placing additional pressure on our streams. The last two summers have served as a window into what the future may look like, leaving less water in our streams and that quickly becomes very warm. In the face of climate change, we must develop policies that help us build resilient communities and aquatic ecosystems so we will still have access to clean, cold water.

People in the Rogue Valley are very attached to the salmon and clean water that make this a special place to live, locals look forward to fishing, or just watching them move up stream for many generations to come. I wish the Board of Forestry shared that vision.

Forrest English is the program director of Rogue Riverkeeper and works to protect and restore clean water and fish populations in the Rogue Basin.

AP Story: Board of Forestry boosts no-logging buffers along streams

By The Associated Press
NOV. 6, 2015

View article in the Washington Times

PORTLAND — Forest officials have voted to expand no-logging buffers along streams on private timberland in Western Oregon to keep water cool enough for salmon.

The Oregon Board of Forestry adopted the rules on Thursday, despite protests from logging interests. Riparian zone buffers would increase to 80 feet on medium-sized streams and 60 feet on small streams, with the option to not cut any trees or to do thinning on part of the buffer.

The new rules won’t apply in the Siskiyou region, which was left out of the buffer expansion.

Currently, trees must be left uncut 20 feet from streams on private timberland — though some additional feet are required where a number of trees must be maintained.

Removing too many trees leads streams to warm up, which can harm cold-water fish such as salmon, steelhead and bull trout. Logging near streams also eliminates downed logs, which help create deep pools for salmon to escape predators and hide from the heat.

The bigger the no-­logging buffers, the more shade, but the greater the economic impact on timberland owners.

Conservationists for years have been trying to get the board to boost the current buffers of 20 feet to 100 feet in order to meet the cold water standard. In recent years, record hot temperatures and drought have killed fish.

Earlier this year, federal regulators ruled that Oregon logging rules do not sufficiently protect fish and water in Western Oregon from pollution caused by clear-cutting too close to streams, runoff form old logging roads and other problems.

The Board of Forestry considered two proposals. One would have increased no-cut buffer zones to 90 feet, while the other would have left buffers unchanged, but would have require approaches such as thinning, sun-sided buffers or staggering harvests. The newly adopted rules were a compromise between the two.

“We feel it’s a modest step in the right direction, but we’re concerned it doesn’t go far enough,” said Bob Van Dyk with the Wild Salmon Center. Van Dyk said the new small stream buffers still won’t meet legal requirements to protect cold water for salmon.

Timber companies said the buffer increase would have big economic effects and is too expensive for loggers. Kristina McNitt, president of the Oregon Forest Industries Council, said the organization sees the new logging restrictions as political and arbitrary. The group represents private timberland owners.

“There is no evidence that modern forest practices harm fish,” McNitt said in a statement.

News Story: Logging Limits Added Along Streams In Oregon

by Cassandra Profita, OPB/EarthFix

Read this story on the OPB website

The Oregon Board of Forestry voted 4-3 Thursday to add logging restrictions along streams in the western part of the state.

After a failed vote of 3-4 on a less restrictive proposal, the board elected to more than double the stream-side shade requirements under the Forest Practices Act to protect cold water for fish. The rules bring Oregon closer in line with logging policies meant to keep streams cool in the neighboring state of Washington.

The new rules increase the size of the restricted areas along small and medium fish-bearing streams. They’re estimated to affect between 15,000 and 30,000 acres of forestland altogether.

On small streams they require a 60-foot buffer on both sides of small streams where logging is either not allowed at all or is restricted. That buffer is 80 feet on both sides of medium streams.

Many Oregon streams have been found to be too warm to comply with the cold water standard under the Clean Water Act, which limits how much human activity is allowed to raise the temperature of the water in streams.

Board member Cindy Williams, who has worked as a fish biologist, choked back tears while discussing fish population declines and urged the board to take stronger action to improve fish habitat.

“What we’ve been doing hasn’t been working,” she said. “It’s been a long, slow bleed and we’re continuing to bleed despite the fact that we have improved forest practices. Now is the time to not be timid or we’re not likely to retain much more than a zoo population of salmon and steelhead.”

Forest landowners said the decision would reduce their income while conservationists said they were hoping for more restrictions.

Dick Courter owns forestland in Columbia County that’s been in his wife’s family since the 1940s. He said he was stunned to hear the board’s final decision, which was more restrictive than one of the options board members had been considering.

”It’s going to affect me fairly severely,” he said. “This land has been an early retirement account for me and my wife and I don’t know how to tell her when I get back that part of it’s been taken away from us.”

Bob Van Dyk of the Wild Salmon Center said the new rules aren’t likely to get streams to the point of meeting the cold water temperature standard, but they are an improvement.

“It’s a significant step in the right direction,” he said. “The current rules lead to significant warming on small and medium streams well in excess of the limits allowed under the Clean Water Act.”

Washington made changes to its forest practice rules back in 2000 and even with these new rules Oregon still won’t measure up to Washington, Van Dyk said.

“We’re still far below Washington standards – even after this step,” he said.

Oregon State Forester Doug Decker said the decision was a tough one and was bound to disappoint people on both sides.

“It’s a very delicate balancing act to on one hand address the protecting cold water standard but also not put landowners out of business and allow for investments on these lands in the future,” he said.

The rules exclude the Siskiyou region in Southern Oregon and allow lesser restrictions for landowners with more than 10 percent of their land affected.

Testimony before the Oregon Board of Forestry, November 7

BEFORE THE OREGON BOARD OF FORESTRY
Statement of Mary Scurlock for the Oregon Stream Protection Coalition
Agenda Item 3: FPA Riparian Rule Review
Mary.Scurlock@comcast.net
5 November 2015

Chair Imeson and members of the Board, my name is Mary Scurlock, representing the 23 conservation and fishing groups of the Oregon Stream Protection Coalition.

As you are well aware, we have consistently recommended adoption of at least 100 foot no cut buffers on all fish-bearing streams in western Oregon to meet the PCW.

Today, the Board has narrowed its options to two rule packages, neither one of which we believe will provide an adequately high level of certainty that the Protecting Coldwater Criterion will be met and is in fact the “maximum practicable” stream buffer.

But having put 100-120 foot buffers aside, Option 1 (90 foot buffers with equivalent variable retention prescription on SSBT streams plus 1000 feet upstream) is the only choice on the table whose stated objective is to meet the legal duty of this Board under the Oregon Forest Practices Act. The Department’s analysis demonstrates that this option is capable of meeting the PCW on average across the landscape, a relatively low bar in our view but one that seems to comport with the Board’s “working definition” of Maximum Extent Practicable.

In contrast, Option 2 is fatally flawed for at least the following reasons:

• Its objective is simply to reduce exceedances of the PCW, not to “insure” compliance “to the maximum extent practicable which is the standard this Board is legally obligated to meet.
• The 50 and 70 foot no cut buffers, where implemented, will not be effective to meet the PCW according to the ODF analysis. (See graph below). Thus, there is no science-based rationale in the record for choosing these buffers except that they equate to the overall extent of the current Riparian Management Area and would presumably have an acceptable level of economic impact in the view of some forest landowners.

testimony picture

•It fails to protect any reaches upstream of salmon, steelhead and bull trout habitat, even though this is a necessary part of the standard itself. Without these reaches, this option fails to meet the standard on this basis alone.
• It accepts a smaller buffer on small streams, although there is no distinction between small and medium streams in the analysis, and the PCW applies to these streams equally. The fact of Oregon’s outdated stream classification system does not provide a reason to continue it in this rule.
• It excludes the Siskiyou when public policy and science dictate that the new rule should apply to all streams where the PCW applies in all of Western Oregon. There is no basis to believe that current practices are not at least as inadequate in the Siskiyou as they are in Western Oregon in the body of information before you. Given that RipStream data are consistent with other studies in the region so should be the relationships these data describe between stream temperature and riparian buffer size. This conclusion is supported by EPA and DEQ testimony.

There is no real debate that larger stream buffers on private forestland will benefit native fishes

As a matter of aquatic ecology, it is beyond debate that the larger buffers needed to keep waters from heating in violation of current standards will also help salmon survive and populations to recover. The critical importance of streamside buffer protection to fish is exactly why stronger forest practices regulations feature so prominently in both the CZARA compliance determinations and the proposed federal recovery plan for Oregon’s Coast Coho, listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Oregon Coast Coho have a whopping 34% of their habitat on private lands, much of it managed for timber.

There are about 9500 miles of “small and medium” fishbearing streams on private forestlands in Oregon, at least 40% of which provide habitat for salmon, steelhead and bull trout. ODF analysis demonstrates that the buffers currently required on small and medium fish streams can lead to stream heating of as on average about 2.7 degrees F (1.45 C). We have heard evidence that these increments of warming can be biologically significant at individual sites, and that the main problem addressed by compliance with the PCW is magnification at river basin scale because warming can occur on multiple harvest sites across the privately held forest landscape – almost 7 million acres in western Oregon.

The Board’s duty is to the public, not to any particular economic interest

We remind the Board that this is a “policymaking” board that is accountable, through the Governor, directly to the public. Quoting from the Governor’s handbook for Boards and Commissions:

“It is important to keep in mind that all members have been appointed to the board to serve the public at large. The concerns and points of view of all interested parties must be represented and considered, but ultimately, the primary responsibility of every board member is to protect the health, safety and welfare of the general public.

If you were recommended by a professional association or special interest group, you will be expected to provide the board with your technical expertise, and to bring the point of view of the group to the board. However, you were not appointed to serve only as the representative of a specific group. When the group’s interest conflicts with that of the general public, your primary responsibility is to the public. All board members must work for the benefit of the public first, with the good of any particular profession, industry or special interest group taking a secondary position.”¹

¹Governor Kate Brown, Membership Handbook for Boards and Commissions, revised 2/15/15.

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