Strengthen Forestry Rules to Protect our Streams: Guest OpEd in the Register-Guard by Chris Frissell and Mary Scurlock:

June 23, 2015

By Chris Frissell  and Mary Scurlock
for the Register Guard

Something really good for streams and salmon could be about to happen at the Oregon Board of Forestry. The stars are aligned for reform: a straightforward legal mandate, strong support from homegrown science and a new governor owing no special allegiance to timber interests.

But if history — or public posturing at recent board meetings — is any guide, nothing much will happen. For decades, citizens, conservation and fishing groups, scientists and federal agencies have lambasted Oregon’s logging rules for failing to protect water quality and fish habitat. Fish-friendly stream rules are a broken promise of former Gov. John Kitzhaber’s heralded Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds, and in the absence of reform the state continues to draw sustained fire from federal agencies and concerned citizens.

The scientific basis for leaving more trees next to streams has grown stronger with time, and it’s become more certain that voluntary restoration projects can’t substitute for statewide stream protection policies. Native salmon, trout and amphibian species are still fighting just to survive, let alone recover.

Washington and California responded years ago by adopting logging rules that are far more effective at keeping water cool and promoting recovery of fish habitats. Oregon reneged.

Still at the epicenter of this tale is the seven-member Board of Forestry, whose legal mandate is to adopt logging rules that meet state water quality standards and the federal Clean Water Act. The water quality goals the board’s rules must meet are set by the state’s expert water quality authority, the Environmental Quality Commission, and are designed to protect the public’s right to clean water and the fish and wildlife dependent on freshwater ecosystems.

Historically, the board has taken its cues from forest landowners and logging operators, who have little incentive to support stronger rules because legally they are completely safe from prosecution for degrading water quality — even though it is public knowledge that current rules don’t effectively protect streams. State law presumes that if a landowner or harvester follows the board’s logging rules, water quality standards will be met — even if the logging actually degrades water quality. This arrangement would make perfect sense if the logging rules actually met water quality standards (they don’t), or if the board were nimble and politically willing to respond quickly to information showing its rules need reform (it hasn’t been to date).

We know beyond any doubt that our current logging rules are deficient. Clearcutting is allowed to within 20 feet of most fish-bearing streams — many of which harbor federally protected salmon, steelhead or trout. Logging-induced shade loss allows the sun to heat water beyond legal limits. The few trees remaining can’t provide enough wood for streams to create pool habitats or regulate the flow of sediment and nutrients from the adjacent clearcuts.

The result: streams that are warmer and generally more hostile to cold-water-loving salmon and other freshwater species. The state’s most recent analysis shows that a 100- to 120-foot buffer is needed to prevent illegal stream warming; this recommendation doesn’t consider climate change, which will make streamside protection even more critical.

In the past, industry’s chokehold on the status quo was assured by industry domination of the forestry board’s consensus voting process. Today, the board votes by majority, and representation is far more balanced. Nonetheless, the board was presented six years ago with irrefutable scientific evidence from the Department of Forestry’s own study that current logging rules allow significant instream warming. Yet logging still proceeds today under the same old rules.

Is it still acceptable for Board of Forestry members to serve short-term private profits, even though public officials are sworn to serve the public? At recent public meetings, certain members of the board openly state they won’t support leaving more trees next to streams because they believe complying with laws that protect the public’s water isn’t necessary. These board members apparently didn’t get the memo: It is not within the board’s authority or expertise to question the water quality laws. It is the board’s duty to meet them.

It’s now beyond obvious that stronger rules are necessary to protect stream ecosystems that belong to and benefit us all — not just those who take short-term profit by streamside logging on private forestlands. Gov. Kate Brown can help by directing the board to follow the science and the law to enact the streamside protection necessary to meet Oregon’s water quality standards.

Chris Frissell is an aquatic ecologist affiliated with the University of Montana’s Flathead Lake Biological Station. Mary Scurlock is a freshwater law and policy expert who coordinates the Oregon Stream Protection Coalition.

Materials presented at the June 3 Board of Forestry Meeting

On June 3, 2015, the Board of Forestry held a meeting during which the Board discussed the development of riparian rule prescriptions.

The Oregon Stream Protection Coalition presented the following materials to the Board:

1) Testimony to the Board by Mary Scurlock.  OSPC Testimony 

Attachments to Mary Scurlock’s testimony included:

a) A discussion of applying prescriptions to only Salmon and Steelhead bearing streams: fish bearing streams

b) A discussion of the economic values of protecting riparian forested areas: Carbon Values for Riparian Buffers

c) a summary of the differences between stream protection protections in Oregon, Washington, and California: state stream protection comparison

2) Testimony by Dr. Chris Frissell: Dr. Frissell’s testimony explained why a conservative coldwater protective standard applied to all streams (whether fish or nonfish-bearing) that contribute to salmon, steelhead, and bulltrout habitat will be necessary to assure compliance with the protecting cold water criterion.  Dr. Frissell provided criticism and evaluation of the Oregon Department of Forestry’s report, analysis, and summaries regarding the temperature effects of various proposed streamside logging prescriptions,

3) Statement of Chris Mendoza: Riparian and aquatic ecologist Chris Mendoza submitted a statement questioning Oregon Department of Forestry’s large wood recruitment modeling and claims about the large wood recruitment rate that will occur with a 100 foot no cut riparian management zone.


Oregonian Story: Whistleblower videos reveal helicopter spraying workers with weed killers

By  Rob Davis
The Oregonian/ Oregon Live
May 20, 2015

Click here to read the story on OregonLive and view the videos.

Exposed atop the barren clearcut in Oregon’s coastal mountains, he hid in the only place he could.

A helicopter circled overhead, spraying a fine mist of toxic weed killers. Darryl Ivy took refuge inside his pickup: Windows up, doors shut.

The scene was captured on camera, one of more than 200 videos Ivy recorded on his smartphone.

Again and again, herbicides rained down. The milky chemical mix stained Ivy’s windshield white and turned his phlegm red.

Ivy, a truck driver, spent 17 days this spring on a spray crew in Douglas County, the heart of Oregon’s timber country.

He got sprayed so often it became routine.

Don’t worry about it, Ivy said the pilot told him. It won’t hurt you.

Troubled by what he saw, Ivy documented his working conditions day after day. He recently provided hours of time-stamped clips and hundreds of photographs to The Oregonian/OregonLive.

The photos and videos provide damning proof of what can happen deep in Oregon’s forests when no one is looking. The scenes could have come from a Hitchcock movie.

They catch a helicopter pilot repeatedly unleashing hazardous chemicals on Ivy and others.

The clips show drivers moving leaky trucks covered in weed killers past homes, campgrounds and rivers. One driver dips a bucket used to measure atrazine, a chemical that easily pollutes water, into a stream.

In another video, Ivy chronicles how he and a co-worker drove chemical trucks high on a narrow logging road, moving atop eroded earth that appears to have freshly slid away. In others, they pump water out of streams without first notifying the necessary state agencies.

Nothing is more worrisome than the number of times the helicopter sprays over workers. Depending on the chemicals used, workers aren’t allowed to enter spray sites for up to 48 hours. Directly spraying workers is illegal. It’s also illegal to allow chemicals to drift onto workers.

One of the weed killers, Velossa, which is identified in the videos, can cause irreversible eye damage. Another, 2,4-D, causes skin irritation. Breathing even its vapors can cause dizziness.

If such chemicals land on workers’ clothes, they’re supposed to take them off and wash their skin for 15 minutes. Ivy said he was never told that. He wore the same clothes for three days before realizing that might be the reason his skin felt itchy.

Industry representatives insist that timber companies and their contractors follow the rules. They say they adhere to federally approved instructions for each chemical.

Documentation like Ivy’s is rare. Regulators seldom are present during spray operations so there is little independent evidence of what goes on.

An Oregon Department of Forestry monitor was on the site last month at the time the videos show Ivy being sprayed in his truck. An agency spokesman said the observer didn’t see any violations but wouldn’t answer more specific questions.

State agencies investigate after-the-fact complaints, but those are infrequent. In 2014, the Oregon Department of Agriculture investigated six cases about aerial sprays in forestry.

Oregon environmental groups and citizens cite instance after instance in which spraying operations have gone awry, poisoning people and property. They have pressed state agencies and legislators to more tightly regulate industrial spraying. Their demands have gone nowhere.

Lisa Arkin, executive director of the advocacy group Beyond Toxics, said Ivy’s videos as described to her confirm her suspicions about the timber industry’s spraying practices.

“I understand better why they fight tooth and nail against any disclosure or monitoring or advanced notification,” she said. “Because they wouldn’t have the ability to hide this from the public.”

The Oregonian/OregonLive shared three videos with Ted Reiss, timberlands manager for Seneca Jones Timber Co. The Eugene firm hired Applebee Aviation, which did the spraying.

Two clips show herbicides being sprayed directly above Ivy’s crew. In one, a Seneca forester is nearly sprayed.

Reiss said the forester was not sprayed. The company’s observers, Reiss said, “did not observe anything during the applications in question that would substantiate Mr. Ivy’s claims, but we take such accusations seriously and are fully cooperating” with two state investigations.

Mike Applebee, owner of Applebee Aviation, declined to comment. The company employed Ivy for the Douglas County project. The pilot, David McDaniel, didn’t return telephone messages.

Ivy remains outraged at his experience.

He paused repeatedly during interviews, coughing blood into a stained white towel he now carries everywhere.


Each year, helicopters spray weed killers on more than 165 square miles of Oregon timberland, an area larger than the city of Portland. They do it under the West Coast’s weakest regulations.

The practices are governed by the Agriculture and Forestry departments. They oversee laws that give companies far more discretion to decide how and where to spray than in neighboring states.

Timber companies and helicopter sprayers describe themselves as conscientious stewards of forestlands, following layers of heavy regulation to ensure weed killers are used safely. The chemicals kill and control weeds that sprout after timber is cut, allowing fir seedlings to grow.

Reiss, Seneca Jones’ timberlands manager, emphasized last fall how responsible his company’s spray practices were.

“Our neighbors … feel better about the entire situation knowing that we have a suite of professionals on the ground,” he said.

Seneca owns the Douglas County land where Ivy worked last month.

Industry representatives repeated Reiss’s message at the Legislature, successfully lobbying this session to kill a bill to establish new no-spray buffers around homes and schools.

But buffers would have provided little relief to Ivy and other workers employed by Applebee Aviation.

Seneca foresters were nearby as some spraying operations unfolded. In one video, a Seneca observer is taking a wind reading as a helicopter swoops overhead, spraying just a few feet away from him.

Applebee pilots have sprayed illegally before, Agriculture Department enforcement records show.

An Applebee pilot doused a Hillsboro cyclist with an insecticide in 2010 but was not fined, state records show. The company was found in violation as well, but wasn’t fined either.

Last year, state records show, another Applebee pilot allowed weed killers to drift 400 feet into a neighbor’s front yard during a Seneca Jones spray operation in Douglas County. Several people complained of being sickened. The pilot and the company were each penalized $407.

The pilot could have gotten a bigger fine for driving 36 mph in a 25 mph zone.

Regulators reacted forcefully to Oregon’s highest-profile spray case, a 2013 Curry County incident that produced 20 complaints of illnesses. In that case, an independent pilot repeatedly flew over homes as he moved between two clearcuts, misting people below.

The Agriculture Department suspended that pilot’s spraying license for a year and fined him and his business $10,000 each. Nearly a year later, the sanctions are on hold as the pilot, Steve Owen, contests the matter.


It started with a job posting on Craigslist.

Applebee Aviation was looking for a truck driver with a special license to haul hazardous materials.

Though he’s a helicopter mechanic, Ivy was qualified. And he needed the money. He’d moved to Oregon from Alaska in late 2014, working part time at the Aurora State Airport to pay his wife’s medical bills.

In early April, he joined an Applebee spraying crew racing against nature’s clock. The workers had a narrow window to use chemicals to prevent weeds from sprouting and competing with Douglas firs, the timber industry’s money crop. Ivy began hauling jet fuel and barrels of weed killers throughout Douglas County.

As the herbicides started getting sprayed on him, Ivy opted to stick out the job for a few weeks. The spraying season was nearly over.

He said the people around him didn’t mind the circumstances. The pilot reassured him. Seneca Jones foresters supervising the sprays didn’t raise concerns, either. They didn’t report anything out of the ordinary to their boss. Another driver told Ivy he’d been sprayed before, too.

In one video, a pilot sprays in conditions that are “way too windy,” the other driver tells Ivy.

Ivy asks in another video about neighbors who complained. “Pansies,” a driver says. Deer in the way? “They all get sprayed,” a forester says.

Ivy is a tough guy, a 45-year-old gym rat with a barrel chest. He assumed he would get used to it.

“I knew I was getting sprayed every day,” Ivy said. “But I thought I was resilient.”

But after just a few days on the crew, he started coughing blood. It came in hacking fits, up from his chest and then down from his sinuses. He broke out in red welts that still dotted his arms and neck two weeks later.

Graphic videos show it all.

Finally, on April 26, he’d had enough. Ivy left and went straight from the job site to the emergency room at Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg.

Hospital staff immediately put him in a decontamination shower, sealed his clothes in a bucket and kept him in an isolation room, equipped with a special ventilation system used when treating highly infectious patients.

A doctor diagnosed him with “acute chemical exposure” and “acute contact dermatitis,” according to medical records Ivy provided to The Oregonian/OregonLive.

Three weeks after leaving, Ivy remains concerned about his future and his health. He has retained two attorneys and filed a worker’s comp claim with Applebee.

His cough persists, coming in wheezy fits. He’s thrown away socks, a pair of shoes, three t-shirts, pants — anything he wore in the field. He keeps waiting to feel normal again. But he doesn’t yet. His lungs keep burning.

“When I was on site I was thinking I’d bounce back really quick,” he said. “But it’s got me a little worried. I can’t breathe right.”

— Rob Davis


Jefferson Public Radio Story: Bigger Buffers for Fish? Family Foresters Nervously Eye Possible New Logging Rules

May 12, 2015
by Liam Moriarty

Click here to read this story and listen to it on Jefferson Public Radio.

Bill Arsenault has owned Paradise Creek Ranch since 1971 with his wife Joan. He's done a lot of work to restore the stream after a previous owner's cattle operation damaged the banks and water quality. Credit Liam Moriarty/JPR
Bill Arsenault has owned Paradise Creek Ranch since 1971 with his wife Joan. He’s done a lot of work to restore the stream after a previous owner’s cattle operation damaged the banks and water quality.
Credit Liam Moriarty/JPR

The federal government has been telling Oregon for over a decade that its rules to protect threatened coastal salmon are not up to snuff. Now, the state is faced with a loss of federal dollars unless it gets with the program.

In response, the Oregon Board of Forestry is weighing whether to require timberland owners to leave more trees standing along streams to better protect fish habitat. And that’s got owners of small timber lands especially worried.

In Oregon, timber holdings under 5,000 acres are often described as “family forests,” as opposed to the large commercial forest lands owned by timber giants such as Plum Creek and Weyerhauser. And while the big guys are concerned about the possibility of new rules mandating larger forested buffers along streams, it’s the family foresters who are doing the most sweating.

Bill Arsenault is standing along a lush stream bank near Elkton in Douglas County.

“This is Paradise Creek,” he says. “It drains the watershed here, about 12,000 acres.”

Bill and his wife Joan have owned this 277 acre parcel since 1971.

“It’s a large fish­bearing stream,” Arsenault says. “We have just about everybody in here; chinook, coho, steelhead and then native cutthroat.”

Paradise Creek runs through Bill and Joan Arsenault's 277-acre ranch and tree farm near Elkton, Oregon. Note the abundant trees and greenery along the banks, and the woody debris in the creek, all things that promote healthy salmon habitat. Credit Liam Moriarty/JPR
Paradise Creek runs through Bill and Joan Arsenault’s 277-acre ranch and tree farm near Elkton, Oregon. Note the abundant trees and greenery along the banks, and the woody debris in the creek, all things that promote healthy salmon habitat.
Credit Liam Moriarty/JPR

It’s the prospect of rules requiring larger buffers alongside streams ­­ what’s called the “riparian zone” – that has small timberland owners such as Bill Arsenault worried. Arsenault says while relatively little of his property would be impacted by such a rule, there are family forest owners for whom as much as 25 percent of their land is already set aside for riparian protection.

“So, taking more property from us has real meaning,” he says. “Society expects us to foot the whole bill. There’s no compensation, even partial, for having taken our lands.”

Wider buffers means leaving more valuable timber standing and small timber owners say such a rule would hit them disproportionately hard. At a meeting of the Oregon Board of Forestry in April, Rick Barnes, a Roseburg-based forestry consultant who owns timberlands of his own, explained that’s because family forests tend to be at lower elevations.

“Our streams are, on the average, larger, have more fish-bearing streams as a percentage and have a unique perspective and exposure to the riparian rules,” he said.

Barnes is also a member of the Committee For Family Forestlands. That’s a group set up by the Board of Forestry to advise it on issues related to family forests. Barnes cautioned the board in April against adding to the regulatory burden.

“The family forestland owners already have significant challenges in making activelymanaged forest economically viable,” he said. “Small forests that do not return an economic benefit are more likely to be converted to other uses and subject to fragmentation.”

The thing is, salmon, steelhead trout and other fish need cold water to thrive. If logging removes the trees near a stream, the lack of shade can make that water warmer. Is that a problem in Oregon? Mary Scurlock, who represents the Oregon Stream Protection Coalition, says there’s little doubt that it is.

“Oregon has in hand very clear monitoring evidence that we are not protecting cold water streams from harvest­related stream warming, in violation of the state’s water quality criteria,” she says.

The Oregon Stream Protection Coalition is a group of environmental and trade organizations that seeks stricter logging rules to protect fish habitat. Scurlock points to a study conducted by the Oregon Department of Forestry that found many private forestlands logged according to current rules still exceeded temperature standards set to protect fish.

As is often the case in environmental issues, the science is in dispute. Federal officials and environmentalists say there’s a clear need to leave more trees standing to keep steams cooler for the fish. But the timber folks say the studies leave important questions unanswered.

In Part Two of this story, we’ll look at what the science does – and doesn’t – say.

Oregon Board of Forestry Testimony, April 22, 2015

Statement of Mary Scurlock, Oregon Stream Protection Coalition
Regarding Agenda Item 2: Methods for Riparian Rule Analysis
Sunriver, Oregon
22 April 2015

My name is Mary Scurlock, and I represent the Oregon Stream Protection Coalition’s 21 fishing industry and conservation member groups united in support of stronger, science-­based riparian protection for streams on Oregon’s over 10.6 million acres of private forestland. We stand united around the common belief that a stronger regulatory baseline is needed to ensure the long-­term health of freshwater ecosystems and the multitude of economic benefits they support, including but not limited to saw timber and wood fiber.

  • The Decision Analysis Package coming to the Board, as outlined by the Department in the pre-­meeting materials, promises to provide an adequate basis for the Board to select proposed rule prescriptions on June 3

The information now being prepared by the Department for delivery to the Board ahead of the June 3 meeting falls into main four categories

  1. Predictive model-­generated information about how proposed prescriptions perform to prevent stream warming, and other information relevant to prescription evaluation where the predictive model is informative. This is the threshold information that the Board will use to determine whether a prescription is effective enough to be considered capable of “meeting” the Board’s objective for this rule process and its legal duty to promulgate rules that meet the water quality criteria.
  2. Regulatory and Economic Impacts on Landowners assessed using both GIS generated information about how the various prescriptions affect the acreage available to landowners for harvest and estimates about the expected change in land and timber values. This information is relevant to how the Board will determine which of the alternatives deemed effective are “least burdensome” to the regulated community.
  3.  Ecological Benefit information other than protection from shade-­based stream warming, which should include how prescriptions contribute to large wood recruitment objectives, sediment and nutrient retention, expected fish response, and other benefits. This information is relevant to how the chosen rule alternative meets the Board’s natural resource objectives other than those directly related to water quality criteria for stream temperature based on streamside shade.
  4.  Geographic Extent Information. This information simply illustrates how the various prescriptions would change the status quo in the different ODF geographic regions depending on whether they apply to all small and medium fish streams, or just to salmon, steelhead and bull trout reaches. This relates to how the Board chooses to geographically constrain the reach of the resource degradation finding it made without reference to geography in January of 2012.

Although we have a few comments to make about each of these categories of information, our overall evaluation is that the Board will have an adequate informational basis upon which to make a decision on prescriptions that should go forward to proposed rule language on June 3. 

We make this finding on our belief that the predictive model is a robust and credible tool for evaluating prescription effectiveness to prevent harvest that allows undesirable shade reductions and consequent solar warming as required by applicable EQC-­ and EPA-­approved water quality criteria limiting such warming. This is the key piece of information that the Board needs to consider because it goes to the threshold determination of whether a particular prescription is adequate to meet the Board’s objective of preventing harvest related stream warming as required by DEQ water quality criteria. All of the other information is subordinate to the Board’s determination of prescription effectiveness.

For example, the relevance of economic impact information at this point is to allow the Board to select the “least burdensome” alternative or alternatives from among those determined to be adequate to meet the water quality goal according to the predictive model and other evaluative information. The information prepared by the ODF is more than adequate to do this job. It will not, however, be adequate to serve as the sole source of scientific input to comprehensive economic analysis required prior to adoption of a final administrative rule. Improved availability of certain information about how streamside prescriptions contribute to other ecological benefits besides those related to preventing shade loss and stream warming is very important because prescriptions designed to meet temperature criteria will also directly and indirectly improve non-­shade related riparian functions.


The Model and other information about prescription effectiveness

It is our assessment that the scientific modeling developed by ODF to allow the Board to evaluate the relationship between streamside logging, stream shade, and stream temperature response represents state-­of-­the art science. To our knowledge the Board has never before been presented with such a rigorous scientific analysis to inform a rulemaking provision for resource protection. This body of work has been carefully developed over many years, grounded and calibrated in an extensive base of field data and tailored to address very specific questions and prescriptive scenarios, and subject to peer review at several junctures. While our experts might quibble with certain interpretations of data near the margins of the analytic findings, we fully support the crux of this analysis and its findings.

• Ecological Benefits Assessment

We have three comments on the ecological benefits analysis.

First, it is important to acknowledge that the prevention of stream warming is itself an “ecological benefit” that was evaluated using the predictive model and other scientific information in a separate exercise, and that the large wood, fish response and other functions analysis adds to that important benefit.

Second, although we reserve judgment on this specific analysis of large wood, fish response and other functions until we see the details, the proposed methods seem likely to be informative on their face, and should provide valuable context for the June decision. Even without seeing the results of a quantitative analysis, we are certain that a proposed rule change that expands streamside leave areas and reduced logging and equipment operations within them will confer substantial and measurable benefit to other important water protection functions. For example, these benefits include improved sediment retention, nutrient retention, large wood recruitment, flood abatement, protection of wetlands and near-­surface groundwater conditions and processes , and riparian wildlife habitat.

Third, while acknowledgement of and some attempt to quantify the multitude of ecological benefits from increased riparian protection is important to an informed decision process this should not be the end of the benefits analysis. We emphatically note that it will be very important for ODF to include estimates of the economic value of these manifold environmental benefits as part of its comprehensive economic analysis.

• Geographic Extent of Prescriptions

We have two comments here.

First, we urge the Board not to conflate its decisions about prescription effectiveness with decisions about either geographic or stream extent. The effectiveness of prescriptions should be the primary determinant of which prescriptions are chosen. Whether a region or set of stream reaches are included should be based on the Board’s findings about which regions and stream reaches are not currently receiving prescriptions that are adequately likely to meet the applicable water quality criteria.

Second, as we have previously indicated to the Board we are not satisfied that this rule process has adequately acknowledged the clear implications of the RipStream study for streams subject to warming limitations as part of watershed-­wide temperature TMDLs.
While we recognize that including all stream reaches to which Temperature TMDLs apply would exceed the “outer limit” of the potential footprint for this rule (all small and medium
fish streams) we believe that this information is nonetheless relevant for the following reasons:

  •  In addition to reaches subject to the Protecting Coldwater Criterion, there is an existing legal duty to prevent stream warming on most if not all other streams by virtue of valid existing TMDLs. Under Oregon’s water quality standards, once a TMDL is completed, its provisions override the PCW criterion. The Board’s failure to acknowledge its duty to ensure that the forest practices rules meet TMDLs as well as the PCW ignores the plain language of the water quality standards, and is not an acceptable basis for restricting the scope of new rules. We think it is important that the Board -­-­ and EQC -­-­ both recognize that:
  •  the same temperature standards apply to all perennial streams, at a minimum, and do not distinguish between SSBT, fish-­bearing, and non-­fish bearing streams;
  •  the same temperature standards apply to all streams, regardless of whether they are impaired or not impaired; and
  • the allowable warming under TMDLs is no longer just the PCW’s 0.3˚ C, but becomes between zero and 0.1˚ which reflects the applicable human use allowance.

RipStream clearly demonstrates we are not meeting our obligations under these TMDLs (and any that are likely to be developed in the future for that matter). The study results demonstrate significant stream warming under current rules on small and medium streams -­-­ not just to salmon, steelhead and bull trout-­bearing streams.

The Board is considering applying increased buffers only to “Salmon Steelhead and Bull Trout” bearing reaches, which would protect very few of the stream miles where warming limitations equivalent to or less than the PCW actually apply. We urge the Board to consider all information that illustrates the actual scope of the various rule options relative to all the streams in need of protection. Please work to ensure that a fully informed decision is made by the Board in June ,and that you have a full understanding of the stream warming limitations set by temperature TMDLs as well as the Protecting Coldwater Criterion.

  • PUTTING THIS RULEMAKING IN CONTEXT: Freshwater habitat is not recovered and drought conditions and climate change heighten stream-­dwelling species vulnerability to land use impacts. There is a pressing need for immediate policy change on Oregon forest practices.
  •  Just because Oregon Coast Coho Salmon populations have increased in recent years (on average, in aggregate) doesn’t prove that freshwater habitat is doing fine and changes in land use practices aren’t needed. In the public discourse over the last few months, we have run across several misconceptions about the need for new rules. One of them is evident in the letter sent to the Board by the Committee for Family Forestlands: that recent increases in coastal coho spawner abundance demonstrate that all is well with salmon habitat and forest land use practices. This conclusion is not supported.

First, I am advised by NOAA Fisheries and the record of the coho listing that the initial ESA listing was primarily driven by trends in production of salmon, i.e. by declines in recruits (the number of juveniles that survive to maturity), not spawners. See e.g. Lawson, 1993. So a more relevant graph to consult would be one based on ODFW’s combined spawner & harvest numbers, below.

C lick here to download the testimony and see the graph

Second, while both spawners and recruits have increased since the 1990s when coho were originally listed, this is still too short of a time period to reflect the result of changes in forest practices. It will take decades more for streams and the fish inhabiting them to respond to the changes in riparian management from the 1994 rules. It is not appropriate to rely on the self-­serving speculation of a special interest group in these matters. Instead, we need to rely on our extensive scientific knowledge of how ongoing forest practices impact habitat characteristics known to limit fish survival.

Third, the prevailing opinion of experts on this fishery is that the most likely causes for the recent upticks are: reduced harvest, short-­term variation in marine and freshwater climate, greatly reduced hatchery coho releases, and — in some local streams only— directed habitat restoration efforts. This uptick seems unlikely to continue given the low snowpack and general drought conditions now facing much of the west, coupled with the expectation of poor ocean conditions. (See attached article in Science by R. Service, 2015). Fish biologists are now predicting at least a 25% smaller return rate by 2016. (Pers. Comm. B. Rees, Association of NW Steelheaders). This convergence of highly adverse circumstances is likely reduce coho salmon survival for at least the next 3 years, and well beyond that should the adverse conditions prevail.

      •  Time for A Change: status quo is not acceptable

The conservation community and the interested public it represents are understandably frustrated with Oregon’s slow rate of progress toward updating its forest practices rules to meet water quality standards. Our stream protection standards are a fraction of those
provided by our neighboring states, both of which sustain viable timber industries. I provide here two chart that illustrates this gap for both fish streams and nonfish streams when Oregon’s rules are compared to those in Washington and California. (We note that
the Board is admonished by ORS 527.765(1)(c ) to consider “[a]ppropriate practices employed by other forest managers” in developing its own management practices. These clearly include at least those practices employed by private forest managers in other
western states).

Click here to view the full testimony including charts, photographs, and Science article.

Oregon Stream Protection Coalition Testifies at Environmental Quality Commission about rulemaking to protect streams

On April 16, Mary Scurlock of the Oregon Stream Protection Coalition presented the following testimony to Oregon’s Environmental Quality Commission:

16 April 2015


Statement of Mary Scurlock, Oregon Stream Protection Coalition
Regarding Board of Forestry’s Riparian Rulemaking

My name is Mary Scurlock, and I represent the Oregon Stream Protection Coalition’s 21 groups united in support of stronger stream protection on Oregon’s over 10.6 million acres of private forestland.

As you know, the Board of Forestry is slated to make a decision about which policy alternatives for riparian protection on private forest streams it will send to formal rulemaking on June 3, with a focus on small and medium streams. We urge the Commission to be an active and demanding partner in this effort, and to do everything in its power to ensure an outcome at the Board that results in forest practices rules that are truly capable of meeting applicable water quality standards for stream temperature on as many of the streams in need of such measures as possible.

  • The Department should be advocating for increased protection on all small and medium streams where stream warming limits apply under currently applicable water quality criteria

The ODF rule process has been so focused on the Protecting Coldwater Criterion as it is currently written that it does not adequately acknowledge the clear implications of the RipStream study for streams subject to warming limitations as part of watershed-wide temperature Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs). We have three points :

  1. In addition to the Protecting Coldwater Criterion, there is an existing legal duty to prevent stream warming on most if not all other fish streams by virtue of valid existing TMDLs. We hope that this Commission agrees that under Oregon’s water quality standards, once a TMDL is completed, its provisions override the PCW criterion. The Board’s failure to acknowledge its duty to ensure that the forest practices rules meet TMDLs as well as the PCW ignores the plain language of the water quality standards, and is not an acceptable basis for restricting the scope of new rules. We think it is important that the Commission and the Board both recognize that:
  • the same temperature standards apply to all perennial streams, at a minimum, and do not distinguish between Salmon, Steelhead and Bull Trout (SSBT), fish-bearing, and non-fish bearing streams;
  • the same temperature standards apply to all streams, regardless of whether they are impaired or not impaired; and
  • the allowable warming under TMDLs is no longer just the PCW’s 0.3° C, but becomes between zero and 0.1° which reflects the applicable human use allowance.
  1. RipStream clearly demonstrates we are not meeting our obligations under these TMDLs (and any that are likely to be developed in the future for that matter). Compelling, peer-reviewed study results demonstrate significant stream warming under current rules on small and medium streams — not just to salmon, steelhead and bull trout-bearing streams. These results create a presumption that current rule are inadequate to meet the stream warming limitations set forth in the following 12 TMDLS within the potential boundary of the ODF’s new rules. – and which include all perennial streams unless indicated to the contrary: North Coast (all perennial or fish bearing); South Coast; Upper South Fork Coquille watershed; Umpqua (all perennial and fish bearing); Rogue except Bear Creek watershed; Bear Creek watershed (all perennial and intermittent fish bearing); Applegate, Lobster Creek and Lower Sucker Creek watersheds; Willamette (perennial and/or fish bearing); Sandy; Mid Columbia Miles Creek watershed (all perennial and intermittent).
  1. The Board is considering applying increased buffers only to “Salmon Steelhead and Bull Trout” bearing reaches, but this option would protect very few of the stream miles  where warming limitations equivalent to or less than the PCW actually apply. We estimate based on the incomplete information provided by ODF thus far that well under a third of fish streams on forestlands in western Oregon would receive protection from the new rules if only SSBT reaches are included, and urge the Commission to ensure that the information necessary to determine the actual scope of the new rules relative to streams in need of protection is considered as part of this process.

It is important and appropriate that the state’s lead water quality agency should work to ensure that the Board makes an informed decision in June. This includes a full understanding of the stream warming limitations set by temperature TMDLs as well as the Protecting Coldwater Criterion.

  • Just because Oregon Coast Coho Salmon populations are up doesn’t prove that freshwater habitat is doing fine and changes in land use practices aren’t needed

In the public discourse over the last few months, we have run across several misconceptions about the need for new forest practices rules in Western Oregon. One of them, pushed by members of the landowner community, is that recent trends in spawner abundance demonstrate that all is well with Oregon Coastal coho salmon habitat and forest land use practices.

This conclusion is not supported by the science.

  • First, I am advised by NOAA fisheries that the initial ESA listing was primarily driven by trends in production of salmon, i.e. by declines in recruits (the number of juveniles that survive to maturity.), not spawners. (See e.g. Lawson, 1993). So a more relevant graph to consult would be the OD FW spawner & harvest numbers. (See below).
  • Second, while both spawners and recruits have increased since the 1990s when Coho were originally listed, this is still too short of a time period to reflect the result of changes in forest practices. It will take decades for streams and the fish inhabiting them to respond to these types of changes.
  • Third, the prevailing opinion of experts on this fishery is that the most likely causes for the upward trend are reduced harvest, short-term variation in marine and freshwater climate, changes in hatchery practices, and — in local some areas — directed habitat restoration efforts.

The Status Quo is not acceptable: Oregon’s Forest Practices Just Don’t Measure Up

The conservation community and the interested public it represents are understandably frustrated with Oregon’s slow rate of progress toward updating its forest practices rules to meet water quality standards. We urge this Commission to do everything in its power to make sure that the rulemaking currently underway results in a significant change to forest practices on a significant portion of the streams in need of greater protection.

Our stream protection standards are a fraction of those provided by our neighboring states, both of which sustain viable timber industries. The two charts below illustrate the gap for both fish-bearing and nonfishbearing streams when Oregon’s rules are compared to those in Washington and California.

Click here to view the full testimony, including charts and photos.


Take Action: Ask for a no vote on bill for intensive, industrial logging on Oregon State Forests

Please help protect State Forest Streams by urging members of the Oregon House Agriculture Committee to Vote NO on HB3210. This bill would manage 85% of our state forests for intensive, industrial logging, harming fish and wildlife.

Please email the Committee Members, whose contact information can be found here:

Member: Representative Greg Barreto
Member: Representative Sal Esquivel
Member: Representative Lew Frederick
Member: Representative Chris Gorsek
Vice-Chair: Representative Wayne Krieger
Member: Representative Caddy McKeown
Vice-Chair: Representative Susan McLain
Member: Representative Gail Whitsett
Chair: Representative Brad Witt

Click here for a  fact sheet prepared by the North Coast State Forest Coalition.

Legislature begins negotiating weed killer spray reforms

A helicopter used to spray herbicides in Douglas County in 2014. Oregon's aerial spray laws are the West Coast's weakest. (Courtesy of Dena Reynolds)
A helicopter used to spray herbicides in Douglas County in 2014. Oregon’s aerial spray laws are the West Coast’s weakest. (Courtesy of Dena Reynolds)

By Rob Davis | The Oregonian/OregonLive

Legislators, industry and environment representatives are beginning to reconcile reform proposals for Oregon laws governing the spray of weed killers from helicopters.

A 2014 investigation by The Oregonian/OregonLive found Oregon does less than neighboring states to protect people and the environment from chemicals sprayed to control weeds after clearcuts.

Oregon’s rules even do more for fish than people. Streams with fish get a 60-foot buffer. Homes and schools get none, despite the risk of toxic chemicals drifting.

A legislative workgroup is scheduled to start meeting Tuesday.

State Sen. Chris Edwards, D-Eugene, who convened the group, told The Oregonian/OregonLive he expects the issue to be one of the most contentious facing the 2015 Legislature.

But Edwards, chairman of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, said enough conflicts have occurred in Oregon forests to warrant reform. “Even industry understands that,” he said.

“What we have currently is not working for people that live in the forestland and forestland interface,” Edwards said. “What remains to be seen is what is most protective for those folks and politically feasible in the capitol.”

Edwards said he wanted the workgroup to “find common ground where there seems to be none currently.”

A proposal from state Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, would make Oregon’s spraying laws hew closer to those in Washington and California, increasing transparency and requiring companies to notify neighbors about their plans to spray and burn slash.

Today, coastal residents must listen for the sound of approaching helicopters as their only warning that toxic chemicals are being sprayed.

Dembrow’s bill, co-sponsored by state Rep. Ann Lininger, D-Lake Oswego, would require the state forestry board to mandate protective buffers around homes and schools. The forestry board in 1996 removed a no-spray buffer around homes.

A package of bills in the House from state Rep. Brian Clem, a Salem Democrat with strong timber ties, would require more training for pilots and those who investigate complaints while increasing funding to respond to incidents. Clem questioned the types of notifications and buffers Dembrow and Lininger proposed.

Still, Clem, who has received more than $23,000 in campaign donations from the timber industry since 2008, said he hopes to find middle ground.

“Their ideas are in the ballpark of possible,” he said. “I want to get the different concepts on the table and see if they’re workable.”

Reform advocates called Clem’s plan a distraction that does little to prevent problems, only react after they occur.

“What I see in this is that the timber industry rejects transparency and accountability,” said Lisa Arkin, executive director of Beyond Toxics, a Eugene advocacy group. “People deserve to be able to take steps to protect themselves and be treated like people in other states that do provide advanced notification.”

Dembrow said elements of Clem’s bills would boost the part of his plan that aims to improve incident response.

“There are some who see those bills as replacements, but I don’t see it that way,” Dembrow said. “We need legislation that leads to reasonable buffers around schools, residences, and drinking water, and gives neighbors real-time, advance notice when a spray is going to happen next to their homes.”

A spokeswoman for Gov. Kate Brown said her office was “engaged in the conversation” and will have a representative in the workgroup.

— Rob Davis



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