Press Release: Board of Forestry to Vote on New Logging Rules to Stop Streams from Warming

3 November 2015


Mary Scurlock, OSPC, 503.320.0712,
Bob Van Dyk, Wild Salmon Center, 503.503.8471,


Key step to meet Clean Water Act standards would affect less than 1% of Western Oregon private forestland

Salem, OR:  The Oregon Board of Forestry will consider new rules in order to bring the state into compliance with federal Clean Water Act standards.

Two options are under consideration.

They will be considered in Salem on November 5, between 9:50 am and 2:30 pm, with public comment occurring before lunch.

The proposed changes are designed to protect fish from warm water conditions such as those that occurred this summer. Removing too many trees near streams causes the water to heat up, which can harm cold-water fish like salmon and steelhead. (Conservation and fishing leaders detailed ongoing concerns with forest practices along streams in an opinion piece in September.)

The proposed changes for streams on private land would affect a small sliver of forestlands, according to a state analysis.  The widest setbacks formally under consideration – no logging within 90 feet of salmon, steelhead and bull trout streams in western Oregon– would affect just 0.5% of forestland in the region.

On an annual basis, that amounts to an average of only 300 acres of industrial land and 230 acres of non-industrial forest land removed from harvest per year in western Oregon.  (See state analysis here.)

Together, Oregon’s private landowners hold more than 10.3 million acres of forestland across the whole state.

A weaker proposal crafted by a timber representative on the Board suggests very small changes to current rules with a voluntary option.  Scientific analysis by the State of Oregon clearly shows that the timber-backed proposal would not meet the protection standard set by the Environmental Quality Commission to meet federal law.

“Oregon’s salmon and steelhead need more protection,” said Mary Scurlock, Coordinator of the Oregon Stream Protection Coalition comprising 23 conservation and fishing groups.  “The science clearly shows more than 100 feet is needed to be really confident that we are complying with the Clean Water Act.”

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

Learn more on this topic at the OSPC website:


Oregon Considers New Proposals For Limiting Logging Near Streams

September 26, 2015, AP

This AP story  is available on the OPB website.

Coho salmon. Rick Swart/Oregon Deparment of Fish and Wildlife

A subcommittee of the Oregon Board of Forestry has identified two proposals for new state logging rules to keep streams in western Oregon cool enough for salmon.

One proposal increases no-cut buffer zones to 90 feet. The other offers approaches such as thinning or staggering harvests. Currently, trees must not be cut within 20 feet from streams.

Conservation and fishing groups say neither proposal is sufficient. They say no-cut buffers should be 100-foot deep.

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

Logging operators say increasing buffers would impact their business. The Board of Forestry will consider the proposals on Nov. 5.

OSPC Press Release: Compromise proposals on new logging rules fail to protect cold water for salmon: Conservation and Fishing Coalition urges 100 foot or larger stream buffers

Download the full press release 

24 September 2015


Contacts:  Mary Scurlock, OSPC, 503.320.0712,

Bob Van Dyk, Wild Salmon Center, 503.504.8471,


 Conservation and Fishing Coalition urges 100 foot or larger stream buffers

 Salem, OR:  A committee of the Oregon Board of Forestry is set to deliberate over new logging rules for streams in western Oregon at a public work session tomorrow September 25 from 9am to 1 pm in Salem.  The session’s goal is to identify one or two proposals that will be put to a vote of the full seven-member Board on November 5.

Two draft proposals released before the work session have conservation and fishing groups worried, as neither proposal includes the option for 100-foot no-cut setbacks that state scientists found were needed to prevent warming of salmon streams.

Removing too many trees near streams causes the water to heat up, which can harm cold-water fish like salmon and steelhead.

Neither of the draft proposals has earned support from conservation and fishing groups.  “The proposal for a 90-foot buffer comes closest to providing adequate stream protection but it still falls far short of the mark and has some potentially gaping loopholes,” said Mary Scurlock, Coordinator of the Oregon Stream Protection Coalition comprising 23 conservation and fishing groups.  “The other proposal is a total nonstarter because it makes only minor improvements to current buffers and will still warm streams beyond legal limits. ”

The Board has a clear obligation to meet the Clean Water Act standards,” says Bob Van Dyk of the Wild Salmon Center, “and the science clearly shows at least a 100 foot buffer is needed to meet that standard.”

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

Learn more on this topic at the OSPC website:


 Size of the riparian buffer ((i.e. the streamside area subject to harvest prohibitions or limitations):

  • Package 1 calls for either a mandatory 90 foot no-cut buffers on small and medium streams OR a 100 foot buffer that could still allow logging as close as 20 feet.
    • Extends protection 1000 feet upstream from salmon, steelhead and bull trout reaches;
    • Includes all regions of western Oregon
  • Package 2 calls for either voluntary 50 foot buffers on small streams and 70 foot buffers on medium ones (same overall size as current buffers) OR a mandatory minimum option that includes the existing 20 foot no cut area within 50 and 70 foot buffers but requires more trees to be retained.
    • Salmon, steelhead and bull trout stream reaches only;
    • No change to rules in Siskiyou Region of Southern Oregon

Larger stream buffers will make for healthier salmon: Opinion in the Oregonian

Guest opinion published in the Oregonian 

Dog Creek feeds the fish ladders at the hatchery in Clackamas County’s McIver State Park, where spring chinook and coho salmon are raised. (Kristyna Wentz-Graff/STaff)


By Liz Hamilton and Bob Van Dyk

In this dry, thirsty summer, a host of people sacrificed for salmon. Ordinary fishermen followed bans on afternoon fishing. Anglers, guides and the entire sportfishing industry suffered. Federal fisheries managers trucked salmon to cooler water. Farmers in the Klamath Basin sacrificed valuable surface water to save fish and wildlife.

Unfortunately, not everyone did their part.

After an eight-year, state-sponsored study clearly showed logging along streams raises water temperatures above the legal standard, Oregon’s Board of Forestry was finally poised to expand protective buffers along streams in July. Gov. Kate Brown’s adviser told the board, “to be truly sustainable, Oregon’s private forests need to do their part to meet water quality standards and protect our environment.”

We agree.

But after hearing concerns expressed by timber representatives in the audience and on the board, they delayed action once again. The board will now take up the topic in late September for possible action in early November.

Oregonians overwhelmingly believe that salmon are worth saving; they are our regional icon. To ensure the health of declining salmon runs, we invest hundreds of millions of state and federal dollars every year. Salmon stimulate more than a billion dollars annually in Oregon’s rural and urban economies — money flowing to small businesses, like sporting goods stores, guide services, manufacturers, restaurants and national and international commercial markets. As the Northwest climate continues to heat up, we need policies in place that ensure salmon survival alongside cities, agriculture and the timber industry.

Adequate stream buffers on private timberland are essential to sustainable salmon runs. Healthy standing forests along streams not only shade and cool water, they also supply downed trees to streams. These logs create jams and then deep pools, where juvenile and adult fish can ride out heat waves and escape predators. Heavy logging on private timberlands starves streams and salmon of cold water refuges.

Expanding current buffers from the current standard of as little as 20 feet to a minimum of 100 feet on fish-bearing streams would help bring Oregon into compliance with standards set by state and federal scientists. Oregon stream buffers would finally be on par with other Northwest states while affecting only an additional 2 percent of private forest acreages. Washington, where stream buffers are far larger than in Oregon, sustains a thriving, $8 billion timber industry. And expanded buffers would be an important step toward getting Oregon coho removed from the endangered species list.

Oregon’s broad coalition of salmon supporters have tried for two decades to make the incremental changes necessary for stream protection. Now it’s time for the timber industry to step up.

Gov. Brown can help protect cold water by asking the board to strengthen forest rules up to levels similar to Washington and California. She can provide further leadership by committing to assist the small portion of family forestland owners who might be unduly affected. By doing so, she will help protect our fishing economy, take an important step toward protecting our streams in the face of climate change, and help build better fish habitat for generations to come.

Liz Hamilton represents the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association and Bob Van Dyk represents the Wild Salmon Center.

Oregon Board of Forestry Riparian Rule Subcommittee meeting Friday, September 25 at 9 AM

The Oregon Board of Forestry Riparian Rule Subcommittee will meet at 9 a.m. Friday, September 25, 2015, in Salem at the State Forester’s Headquarters Office, Tillamook Conference Room, 2600 State St. Salem, Oregon 97310.

Download the agenda for the meeting.  Materials for the meeting are available at the following link:

Comments have been submitted by various organizations and government entities in advance of the subcommittee meeting.  Click to read the comments made by:

The Oregon Stream Protection Coalition with Science Advisors 

The Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association 

Oregon Wild

United States Fish and Wildlife Service

Willamette Week Story: Logrolling The timber industry is mighty in Oregon—thanks to tax dollars it spends on ads.

September 9th, 2015, The Willamette Week, by BEN DEJARNETTE

Although environmental groups have helped Democrats win big legislative majorities, the timber lobby trounced enviros in Salem once again this year.

A bill to regulate aerial spraying of timberland—the subject of a sobering investigative series inThe Oregonian—went nowhere. A bill to impede the export of raw logs met the same fate. 

Critics say that even as the timber industry’s tax burden has eased, a well-funded industry trade group has skillfully used a growing war chest to shape public perception—to the public’s detriment.  

Now those critics want to redirect those funds and revive a repealed tax on the industry.  

One recent timber industry-funded television ad shows fourth-generation logger Bob Luoto filling a glass with crystal-clear water retrieved from one of the forest’s streams.  

“Oregon has strong laws to help protect our watersheds,” Luoto explains. “Buffers of trees help ensure cool, shady streams that are great for fish and wildlife.”

The feds disagree with Luoto. Oregon’s stream-protection rules are so lax the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency took the unprecedented step this year of nixing the state’s water-pollution plan.   

Nonetheless, in July, the Oregon Board of Forestry postponed a long-anticipated vote on whether to increase logging buffers along streams.  

Environmentalists such as Steve Pedery, conservation director for Oregon Wild, point a critical finger at the Oregon Forest Resources Institute, a semi-independent state agency that spent $1.05 million in tax money on advertising last year.  

Officially, OFRI’s mission is to educate the public about forestry practices, but Pedery says the agency’s allegiance to timber interests is clear. OFRI receives its funding from a volume-based harvest tax paid by timber companies when they cut trees, and the agency’s commercials paint an idyllic portrait of forestry in Oregon, despite mounting criticism of state regulations.  

“People who see those ads think that Oregon has the strongest logging rules in the country,” Pedery says. “As much as I disagree with the policies OFRI advocates, I have to give them credit: Their propaganda has been highly effective.” 

OFRI’s tax-funded advertising campaign has put the agency at the center of a controversy over where the timber industry’s tax dollars go—and where they don’t.  

In the 1990s, lawmakers phased out what was called the “privilege tax” on timber. According to analysis by InvestigateWest, that decision has saved Oregon’s timber companies an average of $59 million each year, adjusted for inflation.

But even as lawmakers gutted the privilege tax, they approved increases for a different tax—one that is popular within the industry. Under the current distribution formula for the Forest Products Harvest Tax, 26 percent of revenue is earmarked for OFRI, while the other 74 percent is split between forestry research and education, wildfire protection for private timberland owners, and enforcement of the Forest Practices Act—all stuff the timber industry supports.  

“In effect, tax dollars go from the right pocket of the industry to the left pocket of the industry,” says Ernie Niemi, president of Natural Resource Economics. “Timber companies are serving their own interests.” 

OFRI executive director Paul Barnum rejects criticism that OFRI is simply a mouthpiece for the industry. He says the agency’s advertising plays an important role in educating new Oregon residents. “We’re not making a statement that the laws are good or bad,” explains Barnum, a former communications director for Weyerhaeuser, a publicly traded timber company. “We’re making a statement that the laws exist.”

The harvest tax that funds OFRI and its advertisements is allocated by the Legislature and the OFRI board. They’ve repeatedly restricted the money to timber-related programs. That pool of money has been growing.  

Revenue from the harvest tax has more than tripled in the past 25 years, reaching an all-time high of almost $15 million a year ago. OFRI’s take of the harvest tax has increased on three occasions. 

Meanwhile, the industry’s overall tax contribution to the state has plummeted. InvestigateWest’s analysis found timber companies saved about $72 million last year thanks to the privilege-tax phaseout, even as they contributed more than ever to OFRI.   

“The industry is saying, ‘Woe is me, we can’t be forced to pay these taxes any longer because we’re so poor,’” Niemi says. “It’s sort of an astounding argument.”  

Enviros and loggers agree on few things. Among their disputes: whether timber companies are paying their fair share of taxes.

The unraveling of the privilege tax began in 1991, when the timber interests made the case that property tax relief for residential and commercial property owners under Measure 5 should be similarly applied to trees. The Republican-controlled 1999 Legislature finalized the phase-out of the tax.  

Linc Cannon of the Oregon Forest Industries Council says repeal of the privilege tax was fair.  

Since 1972, state law has required timber companies to replant trees after harvest, supporting their argument that timber is a crop—and like other crops, shouldn’t be subject to property tax.  

“The big source of confusion is that it takes 30 to 60 years for us to produce our crop,” Cannon says. “The bottom line is, we’re taxed like everyone else.” 

Environmental groups want to put timber taxes back on the table as part of a broader struggle over the future of Oregon’s publicly owned forests. Since 2012, Congress has been considering bills that would increase logging on the state’s federally owned public lands as a way to boost timber revenues for rural counties. And last month, the State Land Board approved selling off the 140-square-mile Elliott State Forest to raise money for public schools.   

Critics say restoring the privilege tax on private timber companies could provide nearly $50 million a year for schools and $25 million for Oregon counties (assuming the state kept the most recent distribution formula). 

OFIC’s Cannon calls it “disingenuous” for environmentalists to blame timber companies for state and county funding woes.  

Environmental groups successfully sued to block logging on most public lands in the state, cutting off a key source of revenue for schools and counties.  

Cannon says environmentalists want the private timber industry to foot the bill for a problem it didn’t create.  

“Why would private forest owners get taxed to make up for declining federal timber harvests?” he says. “Because they both have trees? That’s the only reason for it.” 

But as timber companies continue to funnel money into OFRI, even some timberland owners are beginning to question whether spending timber money on ads is good for Oregon. 

Sarah Deumling, who manages the 1,300-acre Zena Forest near Salem, is among a group of ecology-minded foresters who disapprove of the agency’s message. 

“OFRI aggressively represents a type of forestry that doesn’t represent me,” she says. “I don’t feel good supporting educational work that I think is inadequate and misleading.”  

Deumling and fellow forester Peter Hayes, owner of Portland-based Hyla Woods, plan to petition the agency for a tax refund next year, an option they say is permitted under state law.  

Deumling and Hayes say the timber industry—led by OFRI—has tried to bend public opinion its way through rose-colored advertising. It’s unclear how well it’s succeeding.  

Each year, the agency conducts polling to gauge public perception of Oregon’s forestry laws, asking questions like this one: “Does Oregon law require forest landowners to protect forest streams and water resources during timber harvest?”

The EPA answered with a resounding “not exactly” this January, when the federal agency determined that Oregon’s logging laws do not adequately protect fish habitat or drinking water. Public opinion appears to be moving in the same direction, if only modestly. In 2012, 79 percent of respondents answered yes to OFRI’s query. In 2013, the number fell to 76 percent. A year later: 71 percent. 

Despite the slipping poll numbers, OFRI isn’t giving up on its campaign. The agency’s most recent commercial, titled “Amazing,” touts the state’s logging rules, including the protections for drinking water and wildlife habitat. The commercial aired during the NCAA men’s basketball tournament this spring.  

“The industry was quite clever,” Hayes says. “They knew that if they could control the narrative, they could control the outcomes.” 

Speaking for the Trees: A film festival to explore the impacts of forest management in Western Oregon

Oregon Wild presents a film festival Wednesday, September 9, from 6 pm to 9 pm at the Bijou Art Cinema in Eugene, Oregon

Click here for full information from Oregon Wild, or view the event on Facebook.

A brief explanation from Oregon Wild’s more detailed page:

The films offered at this event explore current management of private and federal forest lands, the environmental consequences of this management, alternative ways of managing forests, and policy changes needed to protect our health, water, wildlands, and wildlife. Viewed together, they tempt thoughtful conversation about blurred lines, public values, and the future of our forests and all they provide.



Board postpones decision on logging buffers to cool streams

By Jeff Barnard, Associated Press

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Board of Forestry on Thursday postponed a decision on updating state logging regulations to keep streams cool enough for salmon.

After four years of consideration, the board had been scheduled to vote in Salem on a new riparian rule for the Oregon Forest Practices Act, mandating just how many trees must be left along small to medium streams on private timberlands in western Oregon.

Department of Forestry spokesman Tony Anderson says the board formed a subcommittee to make recommendations that will be considered sometime this fall.

After hearing from timberland owners trying to minimize logging restrictions, and conservation and sport fishing industry groups trying to maximize protections for salmon, the board decided it needed more time.

The action comes as record hot temperatures and drought have been killing fish.

Richard Whitman, natural resources adviser to Gov. Kate Brown, told the board that it must try to meet the cold water standard to the fullest extent feasible, while taking into account economic considerations.

“Everyone pretty much agrees what is needed to meet the standard,” he said. “The question is what is feasible.”

Current rules require riparian zone buffers of 20 feet on small to medium streams but do not do enough to prevent streams from warming more than 0.54 degrees after logging.

Buffers up to 100 feet are being considered. The bigger the buffers, the more shade and the greater the chance of meeting the standard, but the greater the economic impact on timberland owners.

The Department of Forestry has estimated that imposing buffers up to 100 feet along streams could cost timberland owners up to $227 million in land and timber values.

Federal regulators ruled in January 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, landslides and sites sprayed with pesticides, putting millions of dollars in federal grants in jeopardy.

Conservation groups have been trying to get the board to boost the current buffers of 20 feet to 100 feet for 20 years, said Mary Scurlock of the Oregon Stream Protection Coalition.

She said the various interest groups appear to still be far apart. She added that she felt the board was making progress, and hoped the subcommittee would weed out proposals that have no chance of meeting the state water temperature standard.

Liz Hamilton of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association told the board fishing gear stores and fishing guides had lost a lot of business this year because record high temperatures and low stream flows from drought have been killing fish and putting those that survive off the bite, and anglers had quit fishing.

Kristina McNitt, president of the Oregon Forest Industries Council, was frustrated by the board’s failure to tackle the issue.

“I’m just mystified about why they need more time,” she said. “Originally, they were going to make a decision in June.”

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