Guest column: Streams pay a price for forest roads

by Mary Scurlock
The Bulletin, Sept. 24, 2017

On Aug. 26 The Bulletin editorialized about a recent research publication under the header “Forest roads don’t always damage streams.” The piece makes fair points that there are sound social and economic reasons why we build roads in forests, and that modern road designs can reduce harmful sediment delivery to streams.

What is missing from this editorial is the bigger picture. At the most basic level, the scientific literature is overwhelmingly clear that forest roads provide no benefit to the health of our rivers and streams. Forest roads are a necessity, but one that comes at a cost to clean water.

As The Bulletin correctly notes, there is much about harm from roads that this study doesn’t tell us. For example, harm from roads doesn’t come from just a few logging road segments. Anyone who has flown over the Coast Range or the Cascades knows that most of our watersheds have dense road systems that look like thousands of miles of silly string. A range of effects from road systems across the landscape creates a combined impact. For example, sediment pollution that enters headwater streams from multiple roads ends up in downstream salmon habitat. Among other impacts, fine sediment can smother spawning gravel for salmon.

Critically, the cited Oregon State University study only measures sediment delivery to small headwater streams from a narrow set of activities associated with single logging events. But we know these activities are drops in the bucket, occurring on top of other impacts from harvest and haul on other roads across the entire landscape. Additionally, the study does not address failure of high-risk road segments during large storms. Upgrading and removing old roads at risk of failure is something that conservation groups strongly support on federal lands, and that forward-thinking private timberland owners also invest in.

Local evidence of low sediment impacts is something to celebrate. However, it would be a mistake to assume that these results mean that there are no cumulative sediment pollution or other impacts from forest roads. In fact, the authors themselves admit that “it is difficult to make broad generalizations from our findings.” Without a better understanding of these cumulative effects, it is an oversimplification to claim that the impact of forest roads is overblown or imaginary. Ignoring the bigger picture misdirects public attention away from a pressing stream protection and restoration problem in Oregon, while critical advances are made in Washington and California.

— Mary Scurlock is the coordinator of the Oregon Stream Protection Coalition.

New logging rule allows continued harm to streams (Oregonian guest opinion)

The authors argue that salmon in the Rogue River can't afford another 15-year process to make changes that the state of Washington and California made over a decade ago.
The authors argue that salmon in the Rogue River can’t afford another 15-year process to make changes that the state of Washington and California made over a decade ago. (Randy L. Rasmussen/The Oregonian)


Too little, too late is the name of the game when it comes to protecting streams from harmful forestry practices in Oregon.

On July 1, a new rule that pushes clearcut logging on private forestlands farther from the edge of streams that support salmon, steelhead and bull trout took effect. Essentially, the rule requires a small increase in the amount of trees near streams, known as a “stream buffer.” More trees and vegetation along stream banks helps to keep our rivers cool. The science is clear that removing trees contributes to warming stream temperatures, which can stress or kill native fish.

The problem is that the rule change is both too little and too late for Oregon streams. Not only will the new rule still allow logging too close to salmon streams to reliably prevent warming, it will only apply to part of Western Oregon, and, at most, a small distance upstream of salmon, steelhead and bull trout reaches.

After 15 years of taxpayer-supported research and public process, the vast majority of the forest streams on Oregon’s more than 10 million acres of private timberlands will still be subject to clearcutting within 20 feet or less of streams, with most streams receiving no buffer at all.

Streams that are left behind include the iconic waters of the Siskiyou region that flow into the Rogue River. The waters of the Rogue support habitat for threatened salmon, and many are consistently too warm. Despite sound science and policy logic for extending even the modest improvements of the rule to the rest of the state, the Siskiyou and eastern Oregon remain excluded.

The Board of Forestry, which makes stream rules, has directed its staff to start looking into new rules for the Siskiyou and Eastern Oregon. But there seems to be little urgency for action.

Salmon in the Rogue River can’t afford another 15-year process to make changes that the state of Washington and California made over a decade ago. The governor, the Environmental Quality Commission and the Board of Forestry should move quickly and decisively to keep all Oregon streams cool, starting with updated standards for the Siskiyou region.

Stacey Detwiler is the conservation director of Rogue Riverkeeper; Moary Scurlock, coordinator of the Oregon Stream Protection Coalition.

View opinion in the Oregonian

Oregon’s Forest Practices Act Requires: Wider Stream Buffers & A New Stream Classification

View original email notice from the Oregon State Forester

Oregon’s Forest Practices Act Requires:

Wider Stream Buffers & A New Stream Classification
Dear Friend,

I write to update you about changes to the Forest Practices Act Water Protection Rules. New rules to protect cold water streams that support salmon, steelhead or bull trout are effective July 1, 2017.

The Oregon Board of Forestry added the salmon, steelhead and bull trout stream
classification, known as SSBT. It made this change based on science and public input.

These rules changed:

  • Division 600: Definitions
  • Division 635: Water Protection Rules: Purpose, Goals, Classification and Riparian Management Areas
  • Division 640: was deleted and replaced by Division 642
  • Division 642: Water Protection Rules: Vegetation along Streams

The changes may impact your forest management plans. If you have questions, please contact your local office for help using the Find a Forester tool.

To check on stream classifications go to LocatOR.

To learn more about submitting a notification of operation or subscribing to receive information about potential forestry work go to E-Notification.

Thank you for your time and help managing forests in Oregon for their many benefits!

Peter Daugherty
Oregon State Forester

Save the Date: Carbon Friendly Forestry Conference

Mark your calendar for September 12, 2017.  Washington Environmental Council will be bringing together the best minds on the West Coast to discuss how forest management practices can maximize carbon sequestration to combat climate change.

Join us at Cedarbrook Lodge for Carbon Friendly Forestry: A West Coast Forest Carbon Conference.

Registration will open soon!

For questions, please contact Arianne Jaco at

OSPC Testimony Voluntary Restoration Efforts Report

Download these comments 

These comments relate to the ODF-OWEB  Report on Voluntary Resoration Efforts by Forest Landowners

June 7, 2017
Public Comment on Agenda Item 5
ODF/OWEB Report on Voluntary Restoration Efforts by Forest Landowners
Mary Scurlock, Coordinator, Oregon Stream Protection Coalition (OSPC)

We appreciate the collaborative effort that went into producing March 2017 report entitled “Voluntary Efforts by Forest Landowners to Restore Salmon Habitat and Watersheds in the Oregon Coast Range.” We strongly support full recognition of land managers who voluntarily go above and beyond minimum regulatory requirements to improve aquatic habitats for their intrinsic value at their own expense. These efforts should continue to be encouraged.

However, OSPC is concerned about the extent to which the report implies that completion of projects is known to have benefited coho salmon in one way or another without reference to either implementation or effectiveness monitoring studies, or to whether the actions taken actually address recovery priorities under the federal ESA recovery plan. We note that, in general, NOAA Fisheries has cautioned that we will need to evaluate returns affected by the poor marine conditions of the last several years to understand the sufficiency of freshwater habitat.i  The 2016 Status review specifically notes that:

“New information available since the last status review indicates that a number of restoration and protection actions have been implemented in freshwater and estuary habitat throughout the range of OC coho salmon. However, at this time we do not have information that would reveal improvements in habitat quality, quantity, and function. Future status assessments would benefit from a systematic review and analysis of the amount of habitat addressed against those high priority strata identified in the NMFS 2015 Proposed Recovery Plan. We remain concerned about degraded habitat conditions throughout the range of the OC coho salmon ESU, particularly with regard to land use and development activities that affect the quality and accessibility of habitats and habitat-forming processes such as riparian condition and floodplain function as well as water quality. Overall, we conclude that the risk to the species’ persistence because of habitat destruction or modification has not changed since the last status review.ii

Effectiveness Monitoring is Needed.  The report itself acknowledges that effectiveness monitoring still is needed. Many of the projects acknowledged in the report were likely carefully designed for benefits to aquatic habitat, including the primary limiting factor for  coho recovery of habitat complexity. But this report does not itself evaluate the effectiveness of specific projects or the overall cumulative effectiveness of projects relative to any particular criteria or metrics (e.g. increased numbers of pools, channel-to-floodplain connectivity, off-channel habitat, stream temperature/water quality concerns, location of projects in priority reaches or which address priority recovery actions). In our view, the most important investment that the Department of Forestry’s monitoring unit can make related to voluntary efforts goes beyond merely counting the number and cost of projects to robust effectiveness monitoring — something that this report only aspires to do under next steps, resources permitting.

Until such monitoring is done, it is premature to make statements about the benefit of restoration projects – voluntary or otherwise – for coho.

We further encourage the Board’s attention to the participation of small forest landowners whose management objectives and need for incentives differ from those of industrial owners.

Expectations for the ecological benefits of voluntary restoration efforts should be realistic and based on metrics that relate to recovery outcomes. This effort to catalogue the last 20 years of voluntary restoration is an important piece of information because it will help set realistic expectations for voluntary efforts. The federal coho recovery plan recognizes the potentially positive role of these efforts.iii But unless and until such voluntary efforts are demonstrated to be effective and obviate the need for regulatory change, the need for stronger land use controls will remain.

Also needed is a further clarity about the metrics that will be used to demonstrate attainment of desired habitat recovery outcomes through any mechanisms, including those identified in the federal recovery plan. For timberlands, these metrics should relate to increased shade through increased retention of riparian trees, increased sustainable natural recruitment of large wood, and other factors related to habitat complexity and road system impact reductions. iv

i See e.g. NOAA-NMFS, 2016, 2016 5-Year Review at 12: “it is only when marine survival is low that it becomes apparent whether habitat quality and quantity are sufficient to support self-sustaining populations. With marine survival rates expected to decrease for OC coho salmon entering the ocean in 2014 (Peterson et al. 2014a and b), 2015, and 2016, it may be advisable to wait to observe how populations fare during this potential downturn before deciding to change their status (NWFSC 2015).”

iiId. at pp. 19-20, emphasis added.
iii iv


Voters approve ban on aerial pesticide spraying in Lincoln County

Post from Citizens for a Healthy County

A majority of voters who returned to sign unsigned ballots approved Measure 21-177, bringing the total vote to 6994 for the ban versus 6933 against it, making the ban on aerial pesticide spraying in Lincoln County a reality. Thanks to the many people who volunteered and campaigned so valiantly, the vast amounts spent by corporate opponents failed to convince voters that profits are more important than health, safety, and the right to informed consent.

By this victory, Lincoln County is the first county in the United States to ban aerial spraying of pesticides by the vote of the people. This is not the first time Lincoln County has spoken truth to power and won.

“Back in 1976, folks here put Lincoln County on the map by winning a huge landmark case against the United States government, stopping federal spraying of Agent Orange on our forests and homes and waterways,” said Susan Parker Swift. “Now Lincoln County has done it again. I couldn’t be prouder to share this repeat victory!”

Barbara Davis, co-petitioner of measure 21-177, says our win brought to her mind the following quote by Margaret Mead:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

This election was the first major hurdle Measure 21-177 had to overcome to become a reality. Implementation of the measure, and the obstacles to it that opponents will raise, among them superior “rights” to override the rights of the people, including the people’s right to vote and their constitutional right to safety, are next. Citizens for a Healthy County will continue to meet those challenges, and welcomes all who are willing to join us in the effort.

Citizens for a Healthy County

For more information


It’s unanimous: Elliott State Forest will remain publicly owned (Oregonian article)

By Rob Davis,
The Oregonian

The Elliott State Forest, the 82,500-acre Coast Range parcel the state nearly sold to a timber company, will stay in public ownership, bringing an end to Oregon’s years-long flirtation with divesting the land.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, Secretary of State Dennis Richardson and state Treasurer Tobias Read voted Tuesday in Salem to halt the sale, pulling the remote forest back from the brink of a plan that was wildly unpopular with hunters, anglers and environmental groups.

The potential divestiture had put Oregon at the forefront of a nationwide debate over publicly owned land, leaving a Democrat-controlled state positioned to do something that some Republicans, including President Donald Trump’s interior secretary, have rejected.

Huge questions about the forest in Coos and Douglas counties remain unanswered. Chief among them: Which agency will manage the land, what role logging and recreation will play in its future and how many acres of the forest will be protected with a proposed $100 million investment from state taxpayers.

The sale had been driven by the archaic system by which Oregon holds the state forest. The state is constitutionally required to use revenue from logging the land to benefit schools. But logging was curtailed by environmental lawsuits after the state in 2011 tried to nearly double the amount of clear-cutting allowed each year.

The vote was a major win for Brown, who successfully fought back a February attempt to sell the land. Her plan would use $100 million in taxpayer-funded bonds to end the state’s obligation to earn money for schools from the forest’s old growth trees, riparian areas and steep slopes.

Under Brown’s proposal, decisions about the rest of the land would be entrusted to what’s called a habitat conservation plan, a blueprint that would dictate where logging could occur and where habitat for threatened species like the marbled murrelet and northern spotted owl would be protected. It would need federal approval, something that federal agencies withheld the last time Oregon tried to draft such a plan for the Elliott.

Liz Dent, a state department of forestry official, said the expected timber harvest under Brown’s plan would be about 20 million board feet each year – roughly half as much as the state’s aggressive 2011 plan that led to the situation today.

The vote was a remarkable turnaround for Read, a Democrat who has been assailed by environmental groups since siding in February with Richardson in rejecting Brown’s effort to keep the land public. Oregon Wild and the Oregon League of Conservation Voters had attacked the new treasurer through a social media campaign with the hashtag #betrayedmyvote.

Read and Richardson would have sold the forest for $221 million to Lone Rock Timber Management, which bid in conjunction with Native American tribes and The Conservation Fund. The state would’ve received an assurance that half of the forest would be kept open to public access.

Three months later, Read is now touting his own plan to build on Brown’s, offering Oregon State University the option to buy the forest for $121 million after the initial $100 million state investment.

Such an idea, which would decouple all of the forest from its school-funding obligation, appears to be a long shot.

Ed Ray, Oregon State’s president, described Read’s idea as “a burst of imagination,” noting that the university would use revenue from logging it to pay for its purchase. “I haven’t got $120 million lying around,” Ray said.

Thomas Maness, dean of Oregon State’s forestry school, said the university’s 15,000 acres of timber holdings do not include any old-growth habitat home to threatened species including the coastal Coho salmon, northern spotted owl and marbled murrelet. The Elliott would provide the school with a place to conduct long-term research to understand how active timber harvesting impacts them.

“If we don’t learn how to manage with these listed species we’re going to see disaster” in the state’s timber industry, Maness said. “We’ve learned nothing about managing with spotted owls.”

Rather than borrowing $100 million from taxpayers and paying additional interest on the debt, Richardson proposed swapping the high value state land for federal forests that aren’t home to endangered species. He offered scant detail, saying it would be modeled on similar transfers in Minnesota, California and Utah.

— Rob Davis

Oregon Stream Protection Coalition Comments on Proposed Riparian Rules

The following are the comments submitted by the Oregon Stream Protection Coalition regarding the proposed riparian rule changes:

OSPC Comments on Riparian Rules

Attachments to Comments


1- List of Oregon TMDLs Approved by EPA

2-TMDL Spreadsheet–Feb 2017 database of temperature impaired streams  

3- Oregon  TMDL  Status  Map

4- TMDL for the Applegated(Rogue) watershed

5- TMDL for Bear Creek (Rogue) watershed 

6- TMDL for the Clackamas Basin (Willamette) 

7- TMDL for the Lobster Creek (Rogue) watershed 

8-  TMDL for the Lower Sucker Creek (Rogue) watershed

9- TMDL for the McKenzie River (Willamette) 

10- TMDL for the Western Hood Watershed (Mid-Columbia) (Part 1) 

Part 2 – TMDL for the Western Hood Watershed (Mid Columbia) x

11-  TMDL for the Middle Willamette (Willamette) 

12- TMDL for the Rogue

13-  TMDL for the S Santiam (Willamette)

14- TMDL for the Sandy River basin

15- TMDL for the Umpqua basin (part 1) 

15- TMDL for the Umpua basin (part 2)

16- TMDL for the Upper South Fork Coquille watershed

17-  TMDL for the Coast Fork Willammete Subbasin 

18-  TMDL for the Middle Fork Willamette Subbasin

19 – TMDL for the Upper Willamette (Part 1) 

19 – TMDL for the Upper Willamette (Part 2) 

20- TMDL for the Lower Willamette

21- TMDL for the N Santiam (Willamette)

22- TMDL for the North Coast 

23- Frissell, C., Scurlock, M. Wright, B. The Western Oregon Paired Watershed Studies: Initial Results, Limitations (August 24, 2014) ris

24- McCullough, D.A. “Critique and Observations on Evaluation of ODF Proposal for Changes in the Riparain Rules under the Forest Practices Act.”

25- NOAA Fisheries, 2016. Oregon Coastal Coho Recovery Plan.

26- Berger C., S. Wells &  A. McCulla.  2009.  The Impact of Idaho Power Company’s Proposed Temperature Mitigation Projects on Temperatures in the Boise River and Snake River.

28- Comments of Ernie Niemi on Riparian rules. Feb. 8, 2017.

29- Oregon Department of Forestry. 2015. Riparian Rule Analysis: Methods for evaluating prescriptions and their geographic extent.

30- Oregon Department of Forestry. 2015. Riparian Rules Analysis: Analysis of riparian prescriptions and expected changes in restrictions.

31- Oregon Department of Forestry. 2015. Detailed Analysis Predicted Temperature Change Results.

32- Oregon Department of Forestry, 2016. “Riparian Rule Analysis: Additional analyses of riparian prescriptions and considerations for Board decisions.”

News Times Story: State forests to tighten logging rules near streams

 Board of Forestry accepting public comments on new streamside buffers through March 1

COURTESY PHOTO - Environmentalists are worried the new streamside buffer regulations still won't be enough to protect water temperatures and habitat. This photo shows a stand of forestland adhering to buffer rules by leaving a skinny strip of trees along a stream but clearcut beyond that.
COURTESY PHOTO – Environmentalists are worried the new streamside buffer regulations still won’t be enough to protect water temperatures and habitat. This photo shows a stand of forestland adhering to buffer rules by leaving a skinny strip of trees along a stream but clearcut beyond that.

Buffer zone rules that protect streams from the effects of logging are getting an upgrade for the first time in 25 years.The rule change will affect a number of local forest owners, as more than 20 percent of the state’s 10.5 million acres of private forestland is located in the Coast Range. The new rule will apply only to private forestland — not state or federal lands — and only applies to small and medium streams known for salmon, steelhead and bull trout.

Currently, Oregon Department of Forestry rules restrict logging within 50 feet of small streams and 70 feet of medium streams. The new rules would expand that buffer zone to 60 feet for small streams and 80 feet for medium streams. Limited logging would be allowed in those areas.

Trees near streams shade water, maintaining cool temperatures necessary for fish and their eggs to thrive. Some streamside trees also end up falling into the water, providing necessary building blocks for quality fish habitat with ample pools and cover. When trees near streams are logged, the water heats up and makes a harsh environment for Oregon’s fish and their eggs.

While the new rule appears to be just a 10-foot difference, the change also includes a rule that requires more trees to be left standing in a “well distributed” manner throughout the whole buffer. While the rule currently in place calls for 50- and 70-foot buffers, it’s possible for landowners to comply by leaving a narrow 20-foot no-harvest area bordering streams and clearcutting the rest of the buffer outside of that.

The new rules would maintain the current ban on all logging within 20 feet of streams. Trees left outside the 20-foot strip but still inside the buffer zone must be 8 inches or more in diameter. In addition, 40-foot buffers on the north side will be allowed on some streams running in the east-west direction.

While the proposed buffers are an improvement, environmentalists still think they fall short and are asking the public to voice their concerns.

“The new rule is still inadequate, it’s just less bad than the current rule,” said Mary Scurlock of the Oregon Stream Protection Coalition (OSPC), who thinks allowing even limited logging starting at 20 feet outside streams “is carelessly close.”

Scurlock said Department of Forestry analyses — consistent with other scientific findings — show an ideal buffer would fall between 90 and 120 feet. She also said the proposed new rules don’t adequately protect fish habitat because they ignore advice from the Environmental Protection Agency by not increasing water protection far enough upstream.

More than 90 percent of forest landowners won’t be affected by the new rule —and those that are will see the new rules affect an increase of .5 percent of their land.

For those more heavily impacted, there is an exception in the new rules that would allow continued logging closer than 60 to 80 feet. “Logging should never be allowed to harm public waters and threatened and endangered species,” an OSPC document states.

The Oregon Board of Forestry is accepting comments on this issue from the public though 5 p.m. March 1, asking for wider buffers.

Comments should be addressed to: Private Forest SSBT Rulemaking, Oregon Department of Forestry, 2600 State Street, Oregon 97310; or send to or via fax 503-945-7490.

By Stephanie Haugen
Reporter, Forest Grove News-Times
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State News Release: Governor Brown Proposes Elliott State Forest Plan to Retain Public Ownership, Protect the Common School Fund

NEWS RELEASE by Governor Kate Brown, State of Oregon

February 10, 2017

Media Contact:
Bryan Hockaday, 503-580-7836

Governor Brown Proposes Elliott State Forest Plan to Retain Public Ownership, Protect the Common School Fund

(Ontario, OR) — Governor Kate Brown today announced a plan for Oregon’s Elliott State Forest in advance of the Feb. 14 State Land Board meeting. Governor Brown released the following statement:

“The Elliott State Forest was created in 1930, through consolidating tracts of Common School Fund forest land scattered across Oregon. Since the mid-1950s the Elliott has produced in excess of $400 million for Oregon schools. About 90 percent (82,500 acres) of the Elliott State Forest is owned by Oregon’s Common School Fund – a trust fund for K-12 public education that is overseen by the State Land Board as trustees.

“Since 2013, because of harvest limitations prompted by a lawsuit over federally protected species, owning the Elliott has cost the Common School Fund more than $4 million. We must change the way we own and manage the forest, ways that benefit Oregon’s schools and children for the long term.

“Oregon’s public lands – our forests, parks, and beaches – are irreplaceable assets. Even in the face of complicated challenges, we must strive to protect the values Oregonians hold dear.

“Today I propose my way forward for the Elliott, a plan I believe is in the best interest of future generations of Oregonians.

  • The Elliott is Oregon’s first State Forest, and has been a State Forest since 1930. Under my plan, the Elliott State Forest would remain in public ownership, with either the state or tribes owning the land.
  • A bond proposal would be developed to include up to $100 million in state bonding capacity to protect high value habitat, including riparian areas, steep slopes, and old growth stands. The investment will go into the Common School Fund and decouple a portion of the forest from the Common School Fund trust lands.
  • On the remainder of the forest, we will re-enter into negotiations with the Federal Services for a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) that will allow for sustainable timber harvest while protecting endangered and threatened species. We expect that harvest to average about 20 million board feet per year over the long term – the next 100 years of this state forest’s history.
  • We hope to work with the tribes to regain ownership of their ancestral lands while protecting the Common School Fund.

“When the state adopted the protocol to sell the Elliott, there was no established value for the forest. Because we followed the protocol, we have an appraised value of $221 million.

“We know the Elliott is worth far more to Oregon’s children than $221 million. By investing in and protecting the highest quality habitat, areas where forest management is the most vulnerable to expensive and lengthy lawsuits, we are protecting marbled murrelets, owls, and coho salmon. At the same time, sustainable forestry management on the remainder of the land can generate continued financial returns for Oregon schools.

“We also know Oregon forests are a carbon sink, holding an estimated 3 billion tons of carbon. Growing trees is something the Elliott does well, and in public ownership the forest will help the state meet our climate goals. That, too, benefits Oregon’s school children, and all Oregonians for generations to come.”

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