SALEM, Ore.— Late Wednesday afternoon after hours of deliberation, the Oregon Board of Forestry voted 5-2 to accept a petition for rulemaking on coho salmon. The petition was brought by 22 different conservation and fishing groups under a rarely used portion of the Forest Practices Act which requires the Board to consider forest protections on private and state land when species are listed under state or federal endangered species acts. The Board is required to identify “resource sites” for listed species and subsequently develop rules to protect these species if threatened by state and private logging practices.
While coho salmon have been threatened with extinction for years, the Board of Forestry has until now never initiated a state-mandated review of its rules to protect the fish. “The Oregon Forest Practices Act requires the Board of Forestry to address conflicts between logging and habitat for species at risk of extinction,” said Nick Cady, Legal Director with Cascadia Wildlands. “The major ongoing conflict between logging practices and coho salmon habitat is finally getting the hard look it deserves.”
The Board has only undertaken such efforts for a handful of bird species and had never done such work for coho salmon, which are listed as threatened by the National Marine Fisheries Service. The petition specifically asked the Board to (1) collect and analyze the best available information on coho salmon; (2) conduct a resource site inventory; and (3) adopt rules to protect resource sites and to develop a process to identify new sites in the future.
“This resource site process allows the state of Oregon to take a wholistic look at the numerous different ways logging impacts salmon and its breeding habitat. Practices that perpetuate poor habitat conditions like intensive logging too close to streams and on landslide-prone areas, sediment from forest roads, and large areas dominated by clear-cuts and said Robyn Janssen with Rogue Riverkeeper. “Oregon’s rules for state and private timberlands are the weakest in the Pacific Northwest, and it is encouraging to see the Board take its first steps towards addressing these deficiencies.”
Oregon has relied heavily on voluntary measures by timber companies to protect coho. Between 1995 and 2017, taxpayers invested $65 million dollars of public funds on instream habitat restoration efforts. However, Oregon’s weak forest practices rules still allow logging to degrade aquatic habitat critical to the recovery of coho salmon.
“It is an obvious case of one step forward, two steps back. We need to address the root causes of fish decline. The public’s investments in habitat restoration activities cannot keep up with the pace or scale of the ongoing degradation from poor forest practices,” said Nick Cady. “The Board has a perfect opportunity now to address these inefficiencies and meaningfully address salmon recovery where it matters most.”
McComb, fellow forestry board member Cindy Deacon Williams and two consultants separately hired by environmental advocates are arguing the department’s work is riddled with biases and analytical flaws. One reviewer deemed them “sufficiently severe to preclude any defendable assessment of compliance rates.”
In response, the Department of Forestry says it is confident in its numbers but has nonetheless commissioned another statistical review by Oregon State University. It expects that to be completed this month.
All this means the state has spent five years and close to a million dollars to find out how many people and companies follow state logging rules — and came away with an answer that’s now being called essentially worthless.
“It’s just ridiculous,” Williams said. She first expressed her concerns about the numbers before ODF cited them in legislative testimony. She now says she’d like to see the monitoring redone and the record corrected.
“You can’t legislate or guide policy in a vacuum of ignorance,” she said. “We simply don’t have the information that we need in order to know whether our policies are responsible and are achieving our aims.”
Is The Law Working?
The effectiveness of Oregon’s Forest Practices Act is at the center of contentious debates about private logging.
Thousands of timber harvests take place in Oregon every year, on vast corporate forests and small family-owned woodlots.
The 288 rules of the Forest Practices Act govern them all. They dictate how many trees must be left standing alongside streams to keep them shady and cool for salmon. They govern forest road construction to lower the chances of a landslide. They direct foresters on when trees must be replanted, and more.
Oregon’s comprehensive law was the first of its kind when it was passed in 1971, but environmental advocates say it has since become the weakest state forestry law on the West Coast.
It remains the law that state officials use in defending against claims from the federal government that Oregon hasn’t adequately protected coastal streams. It’s what industry lobbyists extol and environmental lobbyists rail against.
Central to understanding the effectiveness of this law is the question of how well it’s being followed. So, back in 2011, the Oregon Legislature directed ODF to conduct an annual study of Forest Practices Act compliance, using an independent contractor to collect data from a sampling of forest owners.
The agency began by reviewing how well forestland owners and the timber industry were complying with rules on harvesting trees, building and maintaining forest roads and protecting water quality.
In Line With Other States
Its work found an overall compliance rate of 98% in 2017, the most recent year completed. The state also calculates compliance rates for specific rules, ownership classes and regions. Forest industry representatives say they are confident in the accuracy of those numbers, as do several members of the state’s forestry board.
Joe Justice, a board member who works for Hancock Forest Management in Eastern Oregon, said ODF foresters use the audits to identify areas where they need to work with landowners before, during and after tree harvests.
“Compliance Audits are just one way the Department monitors Forest Practices,” Justice said in an email. “A great deal of valuable information is gained from these audits including information and trends that help ODF focus training and education.”
Marganne Allen, ODF Forest Health & Monitoring Manager, said Oregon’s reported compliance rates are credible. She pointed out that they also fall in line with those reported by other states, which have found that landowners and timber operators are abiding by forestry laws at compliance rates that range from 61% to 99%, according to the Society of American Foresters.
“This has been a very repeatable outcome over time,” Allen said. She said the latest findings also are consistent with previous ODF studies dating back to 2002.
Department of Forestry officials say they are working to improve the way they check on logging-related activities. The department plans to involve statisticians from OSU in reviewing future audits, the next of which will focus on how landowners plant trees after harvesting. The department also opened up its external review team, Allen said, but the environmental groups criticizing its latest audit declined to participate.
A Flawed, Selective Method
A major concern they raised is who the department included and who is left out. The state made 345 inquiries with potential audit participants but ultimately studied only about one-third of them.
Participation was voluntary. Some landowners refused to give state foresters access to their woodlots — something the law permits them to do.
Don Stevens, a retired OSU statistician who reviewed the work at the request of the Wild Salmon Center, is the reviewer who said the audit’s flaws undermine the credibility of the state’s reported forestry-rule compliance rates. He said ODF’s sampling provides “enormous potential for non-response bias.” In other words, there’s no way to know if that method left out thousands of acres of forest land rife with violations. And should that be the case, the Department of Forestry’s overall picture of how well Oregon’s Forest Practices Act has been followed could be wildly inaccurate.
Stevens and others say the problems go beyond the collection of bad data. They say the department’s analysis of that data is also flawed.
Chris Mendoza, an environmental consultant who has worked on compliance monitoring for the Washington Department of Natural Resources, reviewed ODF’s work for the Oregon Stream Protection Coalition. He equated ODF’s methods to finding out that 200 out of 1,000 motorists pulled over by police were exceeding the speed limit — and assuming those 200 were the only speeders out of all 100,000 cars on the highway that day.
“If ODF intended to choose a method that selectively depicts the highest possible compliance rates for forest practices rules … then ODF’s reporting ‘methods’ hits that mark,” Mendoza wrote in his assessment.
The ODF’s Allen said her agency wanted to account for the fact that not all timber harvests are the same, and some landowners may be encountering the law more often than others.
Larger Questions About The Agency
“You can have one harvest unit that has only, say, 100 feet of road. Another may have 500 feet of road. So it’s important to get across some metric of not all harvest units are equal, and that they’ll have a different number of times that a given rule is applied.”
She said no issues had been raised with this method in the past, but that she expected OSU’s expertise to inform how they approach it in the future.
For some board members and advocates, the audit raised larger questions about how the agency works.
Bob Van Dyk of the Wild Salmon Center noted that, save for members from the Department of Environmental Quality, the audit’s external review committee was made up entirely of people from forest companies and industry trade groups.
“This audit shows that the agency that’s charged with protecting our forest waters is too close to the timber industry that they regulate,” Van Dyk said. “And that we can’t be confident in the quality of the laws, nor in their implementation.”
Williams, who was a fisheries biologist for 30 years before serving on the Board of Forestry, said the audit appears to be part of a pattern that causes her to be skeptical of scientific information coming out of the forestry department.
At a Board of Forestry meeting in early June, Williams voiced concerns that a board-ordered review of the science on the effects of forest practices on stream temperatures in Oregon’s Siskiyou forests omitted studies that were both relevant and indicated a need for changes in management to reach water quality objectives.
She said the agency’s work has the appearance of a bias toward upholding the status quo.
“It certainly feels that way,” Williams said in a phone interview. “I don’t know if it is an intentional bias or not, you know, I don’t know what’s causing it, but the result is that we are being given sort of a rose-colored glasses picture of the world.”
While Coho salmon have been threatened with extinction for years, the Board of Forestry has never initiated a state-mandated review of its rules to protect the fish.
Twenty conservation and fishing organizations have delivered a rulemaking petition to the Oregon Board of Forestry requesting new rules to prevent logging-related harm to “resource sites” for Coho salmon listed under the state and federal Endangered Species Act.
Coho salmon, which are split into three evolutionarily significant units in Oregon, were first listed in Southern Oregon in 1997, and soon thereafter along the rest of the Oregon Coast in 1998. The Lower Columbia Coho population was listed almost over a decade ago, in 2005.
“The Oregon Forest Practices Act clearly requires the Board of Forestry to address conflicts between logging and habitat for species at risk of extinction,” said Nick Cady, legal counsel with Cascadia Wild. “There are major ongoing conflicts between logging practices and Coho salmon habitat that need to be resolved.”
Oregon has relied heavily on voluntary measures by timber companies to protect Coho. Between 1995 and 2017, taxpayers invested $65 million dollars of public funds on in-stream habitat restoration efforts. However, Oregon’s weak forest practices rules still allow logging to degrade aquatic habitat critical to the recovery of Coho salmon.
Conrad Gowell, Fellowship Director with the Native Fish Society said, “We need to address the root causes of fish decline. The public’s investments in habitat restoration activities cannot keep up with the pace or scale of the ongoing degradation from poor forest practices.”
Oregon’s rules for state and private timberlands are the weakest in the Pacific Northwest. “Oregon has dragged its feet in addressing problems that have long been identified by state and federal expert agencies,” said Mary Scurlock with the Oregon Stream Protection Coalition.
“Intensive logging too close to streams and on landslide-prone areas, sediment from forest roads, and large areas dominated by clear-cuts and young plantations are perpetuating poor freshwater habitat conditions,” Scurlock said.
“The Board has been taking a very slow and piecemeal approach to updating its policies,” Robyn Janssen said, “The last rule change took 15 years but still didn’t address some of the biggest problems for salmon and water quality – and left the Rogue Basin and its salmon out of the picture entirely. We can’t afford to wait another 20 years for Oregon to bring its logging rules up to snuff.”
I am a mother, a carpenter, a business owner, and the co-founder of a non-profit called Speak for the Trees. I live in the Little Applegate Valley and have for nearly 10 years. During that time, I’ve seen our local forests and hillsides decimated by private forestry practices and lack of reasonable, science-based rules from the Oregon Board of Forestry.
The stated mission of the Oregon Department of Forestry is “To serve the people of Oregon by protecting, managing and promoting stewardship of Oregon’s forests to enhance environmental, economic and community sustainability.” My experience of interacting with the Oregon Department of Forestry has been that it caters heavily to private timber companies and has little regard for communities, businesses and species that depend on healthy forests and waterways.
Currently, rules for clearcut logging on private lands in the Southern Oregon “Siskiyou Region” require 50- and 70-foot riparian “management” areas for small and medium streams. However, all too often the “management” of these riparian areas results in harvesting down to a 20-foot required no-cut buffer minimum. If a stream is non-fish bearing, trees can be cut all the way to the stream’s edge.
You don’t have to be a scientist to know that this is not good for waterways. Lack of trees and streamside vegetation causes warmer temperatures, increased sediment, and additional impacts to cold water streams vital to our fisheries and communities.
Even my 6-year-old could point out that removing the trees (i.e. the shade) from a stream will make it warmer, having a detrimental impact on stream health and salmon habitat. So why even consider excluding any Oregon bioregion from expanded stream buffers when doing so is also in direct violation of the Clean Water Act? Especially in a region that supports threatened coho salmon and other sensitive fish species.
For the rest of Western Oregon, stream buffer rules are at least better than what we have here in the Siskiyou Region. When the Board of Forestry voted to increase stream buffers for Western Oregon forests, increasing buffer zones by 10 feet, they left the entire Siskiyou Region out of these increased protections, claiming there is no data to support the need. Again, I’m not a scientist, but I know that trees create shade and shade creates cooler temperatures on land or water.
From a profit perspective, an extra 10 feet of buffer at the stream would have a minimal economic impact on the vast majority of private-land logging operations and would provide a net positive impact on our environment and our communities. Healthy streams are the life-blood of our rural communities. Water is the bank account we all draw from; it’s how we grow our food, our medicine and our businesses. We are looking at hotter, drier times ahead and our streams deserve and will require more protection as we stare down the barrel at systemic climate changes.
As a carpenter I love working wood and I love our forests. Stream health, forest health and economic health do not have to be at odds. One of the biggest issues is that our forest products are greatly undervalued. With the trade war with China and a slowing construction sector, the price per million board feet is dropping, mills are slowing production and exports are a fraction of what they once were. The time is ripe to encourage holding onto more of our precious resources and managing our forests in a sustainable, innovative and conscious way.
The Oregon Board of Forestry has a responsibility and an obligation to uphold its mission in its decisions. Excluding the Siskiyou bioregion from increased stream buffers seems counter to that mission. I believe we can do better for our watersheds, our communities and our future. You can speak up by asking the Board of Forestry to include the Siskiyou Region in increased stream buffers rules like the rest of Western Oregon.
What legacy do you want to leave?
Lydia Doleman lives in the Little Applegate with her daughter, owns Flying Hammer Productions and is the co-founder of the nonprofit Speak for the Trees.
by Paul Koberstein & Jessica Applegate
23 May 2019
Scientists say reforestation and better forest management can provide 18 percent of climate change mitigation through 2030. But studies appear to be divided about whether it’s better to prioritize the conservation of old forests or the replanting of young ones.
A closer look, however, reconciles these two viewpoints. While young forests tend to absorb more carbon overall because trees can be crowded together when they’re small, a tree’s carbon absorption rate accelerates as it ages. This means that forests comprised of tall, old trees – like the temperate rainforests of North America’s Pacific coast – are some of the planet’s biggest carbon storehouses.
But when forests are logged, their immense stores of carbon are quickly released. A study found the logging of forests in the U.S. state of Oregon emitted 33 million tons of CO2 – almost as much as the world’s dirtiest coal plant.
Researchers are calling on industry to help buffer climate change by doubling tree harvest rotations to 80 years, and urge government agencies managing forests to impose their own harvest restrictions.
In 2007, Richard Branson, the British business magnate, offered a $25 million prize to anyone who can invent a device capable of removing significant volumes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Andy Kerr, a noted Oregon environmentalist, drew a picture of a tree and sent it in. After all, a tree performs the job of sucking carbon out of the air far better than any technology yet devised by humans. But Kerr didn’t win, foiled by contest rules specifying the winner must be the inventor of such a device, and it’s certain neither Kerr nor anyone else invented the tree. An artificial tree might win if it could perform the implausible feat of inhaling CO2.
Kerr’s idea, however, was rooted more in the climate benefits provided by an entire forest rather than just a single tree. These benefits can be enormous, according to “Natural Climate Solutions,” a paper published in 2017 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The paper asserts better management of forests, wetlands and farmland can provide 37 percent of the cost-effective climate mitigation needed through 2030. Forests alone can provide 18 percent of the mitigation, according to a statement published last year by the Climate and Land Alliance and signed by an international group of 40 scientists.
“The ‘natural technology’ of forests is currently the only proven means of removing and storing atmospheric CO2 at a scale that can meaningfully contribute to achieving carbon balance,” the 40 scientists said. “The world’s forests contain more carbon than exploitable oil, gas, and coal deposits, hence avoiding forest carbon emissions is just as urgent as halting fossil fuel use.”
Last year, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned we have only until 2030 to act if we hope to limit global warming to moderate levels.
Forests cool the atmosphere by inhaling CO2 through the process of photosynthesis and storing or sequestering it in roots, trunks, branches, needles and leaves. Half a tree’s weight is carbon. Although every backyard vegetable garden absorbs some amount of carbon, a rainforest takes in exponentially more. For this reason, rainforests and other large terrestrial ecosystems made up of dense vegetation are known as “carbon sinks.”
Kerr lives at the edge of a temperate rainforest straddling the west coast of North America from the redwoods of Northern California into Alaska, the largest contiguous temperate rainforest in the world. Few ecosystems anywhere match its capacity to absorb and store carbon. Trees in the temperate rainforest, among the tallest in the world, live for 800 years or more.
The expansive Amazon tropical rainforest of South America is one of the world’s largest carbon sinks. But on a per-acre basis, the Amazon is not nearly as efficient at absorbing carbon as the coastal temperate rainforest. The Douglas fir forests of Oregon and the hemlock and cedar forests of Alaska store about twice as much carbon per acre as the Amazon. The giant redwoods of Northern California, which store seven times as much, are regarded as the most carbon dense forests in the world.
The temperate rainforest is a “carbon storage powerhouse,” says John Talberth of the Portland, Ore.-based advocacy group Center for a Sustainable Economy (CSE). “If allowed to mature, Pacific Northwest forests can capture and store more carbon than almost any terrestrial ecosystem on Earth.”
The problem is most mature trees in the rainforest have been cut down and young ones are not allowed to mature. Outside conservation areas like national parks and wilderness, ancient groves are converted to industrial tree farms by the timber industry.
After cutting down every old growth tree it can get its hands on, the industry typically plants a young sapling in its place. The saplings grow for about 40 years on average until the next harvest. Then the cycle repeats again and again.
This business model might be good for timber industry profits, but what does it do to the climate?
Sara Duncan, a spokeswoman for the Oregon Forest Industry Council, a lobbying group, claims this business model is good for both profits and the climate. She says old growth trees store a lot of carbon, but like everything else, old growth trees eventually die. If they aren’t harvested and converted into wood products, they will fall down in a windstorm, burn up in a wildfire or meet their fate some other way. Eventually they will release all their stored carbon content back to the atmosphere.
The industry’s solution to the climate crisis is to log the trees, truck them to the mill, and store the carbon in 2-by-4s, plywood boards and toilet paper. Eventually, however, the carbon in these products will still return to the atmosphere one day.
But is there a more climate-friendly way to manage our forests? Can we get more climate mitigation from a forest if we don’t cut it down every 40 years? The science suggests we can.
In 2014, a study published in Nature by a team an international team of researchers led Nathan Stephenson, a forest ecologist with the United States Geographical Survey, found that a typical tree’s growth continues to accelerate throughout its lifetime, which in the coastal temperate rainforest can be 800 years of more.
Stephenson and his team compiled growth measurements of 673,046 trees belonging to 403 tree species from tropical, subtropical and temperate regions across six continents. They found that the growth rate for most species “increased continuously” as they aged.
“This finding contradicts the usual assumption that tree growth eventually declines as trees get older and bigger,” Stephenson says. “It also means that big, old trees are better at absorbing carbon from the atmosphere than has been commonly assumed.”
But the science, as usual, is muddy. As Mongabay reported in February, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2019 by Thomas Pugh of the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research in the UK found young forests sequester more carbon per year than old-growth forests.
“These findings upend conventional wisdom that old-growth tropical rainforests are the planet’s biggest carbon sinks,” Pugh’s study said. It defined old-growth forests as any stand over 140 years of age.
It would appear the two studies contradict each other. But both scientists say they are consistent.
“The difference is that Stephenson et al. looked at biomass of individual trees, whereas our study looks at biomass of whole stands of trees,” Pugh said in an email. “Whilst a single tree might continue to pile on more and more biomass, there will be less of such trees in a stand, simply because of their size and as tree stands age, gaps tend to appear due to tree mortality.”
“So, our conclusion is actually that young forests are responsible for more of the terrestrial carbon sink than old growth forests,” Pugh said.
“Both things are true,” Stephenson said in an email. “Individual tree mass growth rate increases with tree size, but old forests usually absorb carbon more slowly than young forests.”
However, the relative growth rates of young and old trees do not tell the entire story.
“Older forests store a lot more carbon than young forests and much of it is returned to the atmosphere quickly when harvested and planted with young trees,” says Beverly Law, a professor of global change biology at Oregon State University.
By the time it becomes a desk, table or 2-by-4, a log will lose about 70 percent of its carbon, according to Dominick DellaSala, director of the GEOS Institute, an environmental think tank based in Oregon.
About 45 percent of the carbon is left on the forest floor, said DellaSala, a member of the Oregon Global Warming Commission Task Force on Forest Carbon. “This includes decomposition of root wads, branches, and tops remaining on site and a little soil carbon. Logging takes nearly half the carbon and puts it into the atmosphere within years.”
Another 25 percent is lost during manufacturing, he said. And as the finished wood products decay over time, he said, they emit even more.
And that doesn’t include carbon emitted by chainsaws, logging trucks and lathes. In 2018, Law led a team of researchers who quantified these and all other carbon emissions as logs move from forest to sawmill. Their paper, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said logging operations in Oregon contribute an average of 33 million tons of CO2 to the air. This equates to almost as much as the world’s dirtiest coal plant, Taichung Coal Plant in Taiwan, which emits about 36 million tons per year.
Moreover, the climate impacts of logging are even greater if you factor in a harvested log’s lost future growth opportunities, Law says. Although her paper makes no attempt to quantify a logged tree’s foregone climate mitigation potential, she acknowledges it could be significant.
Law called on the industry to help buffer climate change by doubling harvest rotations to 80 years and urged government agencies managing forests to impose their own harvest restrictions. These and other actions could increase the amount of carbon absorbed by Oregon forests by 56 percent by the year 2100, as well as improve water quality and biodiversity, her paper said. She is conducting a similar analysis for forests in California and Washington.
Even after the wood is converted into a wood product, the carbon will likely return to the atmosphere sooner than people might think, Law said.
“Old growth trees in the coastal temperate rainforest can sequester carbon for hundreds of years,” she said, “which is much longer than is expected for buildings that are generally assumed to outlive their usefulness or be replaced within several decades.”
Paul Koberstein and Jessica Applegate are editors of Cascadia Times, an environmental journal based in Portland, Oregon.
On Tuesday, May 14th, 2019, from 6:00 p.m. to about 8:00 p.m., Mary Scurlock, coordinator of the Oregon Stream Protection Coalition, will be giving a presentation entitled “Private Forests, Public Waters: How and Why Oregon is Failing Its Forest Streams.” This presentation will take place at the North Coast Recreation District building: 36155 9th St. in Nehalem, Oregon. It is free and open to the public of all ages.
Mary Scurlock will discuss the science, policy, and political reasons why current state and private forest policies are failing to protect the public’s interest in clean water and healthy wildlife.
Scurlock’s presentation will review the harmful effects in Oregon on water quality and aquatic habitat caused by clearcut logging and its associated road building, compare Oregon’s water protection requirements with those in other states, and describe barriers to, and opportunities for, change through citizen action.
Governor Kate Brown recently submitted comments to the federal government (U.S. EPA and Army Corps of Engineers) regarding its proposal to issue a rule revising the definition of “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act. These comments criticize the environmental rollback of the “waters of the State” definition and emphasize the critical role that waters proposed to be excluded play in overall watershed health and function. Oregon specifically highlights the importance of both intermittently flowing perennial and ephemeral seasonal headwater streams to Oregon’s valuable fisheries. “Ephemeral streams are essential to protecting the overall health of a watershed including the protection of drinking water, recreation, fish, wildlife and their habitats, as well as economies dependent on those systems.” p. 9
Nick Cady, legal counsel with one of the petitioners, Cascadia Wildlands, said the Oregon Board of Forestry needs to address the impacts of logging on habitat for a species at risk of extinction.
“There are major ongoing conflicts between logging practices and coho salmon habitat that need to be resolved,” he said.
Oregon coho are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Their numbers are thought to have ranged between 1 million and 2 million in Oregon before white settlement. But periods of poor ocean conditions, logging, agriculture, dams and road culverts are blamed for reducing their numbers to about 30,000 in Oregon coastal rivers by the 1990s.
In their petition, environmental and fishing groups say these activities have degraded water quality, blocked fish passage and led to the loss of favorable habitat, such as rivers with large wood debris, deep pools, and connections to off-channel waters that rearing salmon need, such as beaver ponds, lakes and wetlands.
Advocates argue for the protection of cold water and more salmon habitat by designating resource sites for coho. Forests would be left in place within 150 feet of coho-accessible waters and 100 feet of non-coho-bearing headwaters.
The proposal is expected to draw opposition from the timber industry, since it would restrict logging and road-building in these protected resource sites.
Twenty Oregon Fishing and Conservation Groups Petition for New Logging Rules to Protect Coho Salmon
SALEM, OR – Today, twenty conservation and fishing organizations delivered a rulemaking petition to the Oregon Board of Forestry requesting new rules to prevent logging-related harm to “resource sites” for coho salmon listed under the federal Endangered Species Act and the Oregon Endangered Species Act. Coho salmon, which are split into three evolutionarily significant units in Oregon, were first listed in Southern Oregon in 1997, and soon thereafter along the rest of the Oregon Coast in 1998. The Lower Columbia coho population was listed almost over a decade ago, in 2005.
While coho salmon have been threatened with extinction for years, the Board of Forestry has never initiated a state-mandated review of its rules to protect the fish. “The Oregon Forest Practices Act clearly requires the Board of Forestry to address conflicts between logging and habitat for species at risk of extinction,” said Nick Cady, legal counsel with Cascadia Wild. “There are major ongoing conflicts between logging practices and coho salmon habitat that need to be resolved.”
Oregon has relied heavily on voluntary measures by timber companies to protect coho. Between 1995 and 2017, taxpayers invested $65 million dollars of public funds on instream habitat restoration efforts. However, Oregon’s weak forest practices rules still allow logging to degrade aquatic habitat critical to the recovery of coho salmon. Conrad Gowell, Fellowship Director with the Native Fish Society notes “We need to address the root causes of fish decline. The public’s investments in habitat restoration activities cannot keep up with the pace or scale of the ongoing degradation from poor forest practices.”
Oregon’s rules for state and private timberlands are the weakest in the Pacific Northwest. “Oregon has dragged its feet in addressing problems that have long been identified by state and federal expert agencies,” observed Mary Scurlock with the Oregon Stream Protection Coalition. “Intensive logging too close to streams and on landslide-prone areas, sediment from forest roads, and large areas dominated by clear-cuts and young plantations are perpetuating poor freshwater habitat conditions.”
“The Board has been taking a very slow and piecemeal approach to updating its policies,” said Robyn Janssen, “The last rule change took 15 years but still didn’t address some of the biggest problems for salmon and water quality – and left the Rogue Basin and its salmon out of the picture entirely. We can’t afford to wait another 20 years for Oregon to bring its logging rules up to snuff.”