On April 24, 2019, conservation and fishing industry organizations petitioned the the Board of Forestry (Board), requesting the Board to develop a rule designating resource sites on state and private forestlands for Oregon’s coho salmon.
The Oregon Forest Practices Act requires the Board to “collect and analyze the best available information and establish inventories of resource sites of federally listed…wildlife species.” Oregon’s three coho salmon evolutionary significant units are federally listed as threatened. The Board must therefore designate resource sites for coho salmon. In addition, the Board must “determine whether forest practices would conflict with [these] resource sites” and, if so, must adopt rules to protect sites from these conflicts.
The petition submitted by twenty conservation and fishing organizations summarizes the biology and population status of, and past and current threats to, coho salmon in Oregon; the legal basis for petitioners’ request; and the kinds of harm to coho allowed under current regulations. It also includes recommendations for describing a coho “resource site,” identifies conflicts between existing forest practices and coho sites and suggests rule language to resolve these conflicts. Petitioners rely heavily on sources used by state and federal expert agencies in listing decisions, status reviews and recovery plans.
Like the range of coho salmon, the actions requested in this petition are regional in scale and implicate a significant portion of state and private forestlands in Oregon. A large-scale policy review is consistent both with salmon ecology and with the public’s interest in comprehensively addressing weaknesses in current water protection rules, rather than relying on more piecemeal policy change approaches such as those taken by the Board in recent years. Appropriate resource site protections for coho salmon habitat in Oregon can bring this species to the point where endangered species protections are no longer necessary.