Opinion: Our forests’ future depends on our working together; Oregonlive

By Guest Columnist Peter Hayes
Jan. 8, 2020

Hayes and his family own and care for Hyla Woods in the Oregon Coast Range. Hayes served on the Oregon Board of Forestry from 2007 to 2011.

For how many decades have Oregonians opened the newspaper and read of our fellow citizens in conflict over forest-related issues? Debate over our proper relationships to forests is not only inevitable but also healthy, when handled well. But the nature, form and tenor of these tensions and conflicts have changed.

These conflicts – whether it is the future of the Elliott State Forest, the Oregon Department of Forestry’s challenges, state forest litigation, implications of pending climate legislation – are more numerous and paralyzing than ever before. They involve increasingly complex considerations, including the role of climate, water and wildlife. And when we most need to count on democratic processes and functional government to help us resolve these issues, our state and federal governments seem incapable of doing what we rely on them to do – develop common ground on which solutions can be built. So we find ourselves fighting our battles through litigation, initiatives and protests and making it nearly impossible for the Department of Forestry to function.

As a multigenerational forest and sawmill owner I see that these problems demand that we work together. We can and must take action to create a better path, with six principles to guide us:

  • It is time to acknowledge that the forest-related conflicts listed above are symptoms of a culture wrestling with a pair of fundamental questions – “What is a forest for?” and “How will we build enough common ground to allow us to move beyond this dangerously divided situation?” Whether it is in the board room, court room, voting booth, protest barricade or the cab of a log truck circling the Capitol honking in protest, the underlying questions are the same.
  • Oregonians must become better informed, more engaged with, and more vocal about our forests and their future.  To do this we must dig beneath the deliberately deceptive illusions propagated by vested interests, to better understand the circumstance, issues and choices.
  • We must accept that responsible forest stewardship, public and private, depends on us shifting from seeing and treating forests as commodities belonging to us to seeing them as communities within which we, as members, have responsibilities.
  • It is time for us to tell elected and appointed officials that we expect them to become knowledgeable about and take effective leadership on forest issues. As a former member of the Board of Forestry, I see that government will only fairly lead on forest issues once the corrupting power of corporate campaign donations have been removed.
  • We must join in imagining and creating better approaches to forestry that are climate smart, water wise, fire adapted and that support the vitality of rural communities through a reliable forest economy. Many of us have worked for decades to test and show what forests can be for by moving beyond timber-centric models to create economically viable, multi-value forests.  We have many structures, including watershed councils and forest collaboratives, that demonstrate our ability to build powerful bridges to heal this divided world; we can and must make better use of them.
  • And finally, we must acknowledge that forests have been, are, and will always be central to the heart, soul, and character of this state and its citizens. Responsible, innovative forest stewardship must be a cornerstone of our vision of our shared future. As Northwesterners step up to meet the interwoven challenges of climate, water, and too little rural opportunity, we should better harness our most unique superpower – our forests’ underutilized potential to help meet these challenges.

When we care for Oregon forests with respect and a long-term vision, we know that they will sustain us. At the same time that we, as a species, are at a critical decision point in relation to the earth’s climate, Oregonians face the choice of whether we will rise above our differences to build the common ground needed to live compatibly with forests and one another in the long run.

Guest View: The real cause of division in communities: The Register-Guard

The Register Guard

By David Eisler
Jan. 7, 2020

Amanda Astor ends her recent column with “Better understanding of forests and the science behind decision making can bring our community closer and tear down divisions and alarmist narratives.”

Apparently she believes that scientists’ and community members’ concerns about the impacts of industrial logging are alarmist and have no basis in fact. Astor would have us all simply accept timber companies public relations and we should all get along just fine living with high-impact clearcutting, aerial herbicide spraying, moncrop plantations and the decimation of forest and aquatic ecosystems.

So, let’s be clear about what seems to be the cause of division in the communities.

Astor correctly points out that there are many approaches to forest management used by private forestland owners. It is the management model used by large corporate landowners and timber investment management organizations, often Wall Street-based, which place value on the highest financial return for stockholders.

This management model depends on the conversion of older, healthy biodiverse and resilient forests into monocrop Douglas fir plantations that cover vast expanses of the landscape. It is the impacts — including herbicide drift onto neighboring properties and water systems, steep slope landslides, runoff sediments clogging salmon spawning streams— that create tension, division and Astor’s “alarmist narratives.”

Plantations are not “ forests.” Forests are composed of interacting communities of plants and animals that develop over long periods of time. A plantation is no more a “forest” than a 100-acre corn crop is a meadow or prairie. The complex processes that drive the development of healthy forests are increasingly well understood by researchers at Oregon State University’s Forest Ecosystems and Society program.

Astor perpetuates the industry myth that clearcutting, burning off all residual woody material, several years of herbicide spraying and the planting of Douglas fir seedlings genetically selected for fast growth eight feet apart, somehow mimics natural disturbances such as fire or insect infestations. Scientific research has not supported this industrial narrative myth.

Any industry that has shareholder profits as its primary objective needs to convince the public that there are no environmental or human health impacts from their management, The tobacco industry put profits before truth for decades. The mining companies in Appalachia claimed to put worker safety before profits. The gasoline industry claimed that adding lead was necessary.

The timber industry has a narrative that serves their interests including softening words like “clearcutting” to “regeneration harvests” or “overstory removal” and overusing the word “sustainable” to suggest maintaining healthy forests instead of planting seedlings to replace trees to sustain timber volume into the future.

If Astor and other industry foresters would like to educate us in the “science of decision making,” we might come to understand why clearcutting cycles are shortening to 30 years and why it is necessary to apply fertilizer to depleted soils and why the cost and impacts of aerial herbicide spraying is economically worth the risks to human health, water quality and wildlife.

The narrative that industry lobbying groups have painted is a picture of clean water, abundant wildlife and “forests” forever, the “everything-is-just-great-folks” narrative.

While we may enjoy relatively cheap lumber prices in the short run, the industry model of high-impact logging passes along the costs of the impacts to all Oregonians.

Yes, the companies follow state laws, but with the help of a powerful lobby in Salem and a Board of Forestry dominated by industry interests, the Forest Practices Act has held off meaningful changes since 1972.

The “alarmists” and “divisions” Astor refers to are based on decades of communities directly experiencing the results of industrial forestry. Communities like Gold Beach where dozens of lives were irreversibly impacted by forestry herbicides and Rockaway Beach where municipal water now has cancer-causing chemicals, have every right to feel the divisions and expect something better from their industrial neighbors.

David Eisler, Ph.D, is a retired anthropologist. He has actively managed forest land in the Coast Range for 40 years. He was a founding board member of the Siuslaw Watershed Council and was a founding member of the Siuslaw National Forest’s collaborative Stewardship Group.

Not logging some Northwest forests could mitigate climate change, OSU study says: Statesman Journal article

By Tracey Loew
Statesman Journal
Dec. 9, 2019

A new study from Oregon State University recommends preserving, rather than logging, most forests in the Oregon and Washington Coast and Cascade mountain ranges.

Doing so could mitigate climate change through carbon sequestration and enhance biodiversity, according to the study, published Dec. 4 in the journal “Ecological Applications.”

“We are in the midst of a climate crisis and a biodiversity crisis,” said Beverly Law, a study author and professor in OSU’s Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society. “Preserving these forests is one of the greatest things we can do in our region of North America to help on both fronts.”

Not logging the forests, which also include pockets in the northern Rocky Mountains, would be the carbon dioxide equivalent of halting 8 years of fossil fuel burning in the 11 western states, the scientists found.

“Smart land management can mitigate the effects of climate-induced ecosystem changes to biodiversity and watersheds, which influence ecosystem services that play a key role in human well-being,” said Polly Buotte, a study author and postdoctoral researcher.

The five-year study was supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The other study authors are OSU forestry professor William Ripple, and Logan Berner, of EcoSpatial Services in Flagstaff, Arizona.Get the Daily Briefing newsletter in your inbox.

The researchers analyzed forests in the western United States to simulate potential carbon sequestration through the 21st century.

They identified forests with high carbon sequestration potential, low vulnerability to drought and fire, and high biodiversity value. They were mostly older, intact forests with high structural diversity.

“Preservation of high carbon density Pacific Northwest forests that are also economically valuable for timber production will have costs and benefits to consider, including socioenvironmental benefits, the feasibility of preservation, and opportunity costs harvest,” the authors wrote in the peer-reviewed article.

Oregon Forest & Industries Council President Kristina McNitt declined to comment on the study Monday.

The timber-industry trade group has criticized a previous study by Law, Berner and others, which concluded that timber harvest is the leading source of carbon emissions in Oregon.

The forest council said the earlier study failed to account for reforestation, which the timber industry does after harvest.

Testimony to the Board of Forestry about Siskiyou Streamside Protections

Statement of Mary Scurlock, Oregon Stream Protection Coalition
Agenda Item 3: Siskiyou Streamside Protections Review
8 January 2019

Timely Degradation Finding Regarding Stream Tempreature as Priority. Our priority is for this Board to reach a final decision about the sufficiency of the current water protection rules with respect to stream temperature in the Siskiyou based on all available relevant information, including the expanded literature review. It would be ideal to decide the sufficiency of the rules to meet “desired future condition” at the same time, but not if alignment requires delay of a decision on stream temperature. We urge the Board to establish July 2020 as a firm date to decide whether resource degradation is occurring in the Siskiyou under current rules.

Climate Change Should Be Considered Without Delaying A Degradation Decision. We believe that available information on climate change is important contextual information that should be incorporated into the Siskiyou analysis, but that a 9 to 12 month project is not required to provide this information to the Board. We hope that you can find a way to scale back Option 1 to focus on the three identified information sources (the NorWest model, Spies et. al. 2018 and the Southwest Oregon Adaptation Partnership) in a way that fits within a hard July 2020 decision point. Your direction can clarify that consideration of this information in no way shifts the focus of your decision away from the discrete impacts of current forest practices on stream temperature.

Climate Change Option 2 creates a false tradeoff by for the Board. Option 2 outlines a policy analysis and development project that ODF (and other state agencies) may well find both necessary and valuable, but it does not belong in this Siskiyou Stream Rules review. We do not think that pursuing this or a similar policy development option should have any direct bearing on the conduct of the Siskiyou rules analysis, nor should it burden the Department’s limited effectiveness monitoring budget.

Project Charter (Attachment 2): This is a useful format to convey project scope. We have a few concerns:

• We suggest attaching a timeline, including past milestones.
• The outcome of the ODF-DEQ collaboration is described as a “process for aligning agencies’
sufficiency reviews.” Does this mean the result is simply a process for future alignment, or can we expect to accomplish actual alignment within the context of the Siskiyou rule review? When will the parties get beyond the current stage of “clarifying” their respective legal and policy authorities and mandates and finalizing statements of intent?
• We suggest that the description of monitoring options in the charter be amended to clarify how final decisions about how and whether to proceed will be made;
• The landowner-controlled regional committees are listed as “interested parties” that will be represented on the Siskiyou Advisory Committee but these committees do not actually represent a separate stakeholder group from forest landowners, who are already recognized. We suggest that it may be more appropriate to include county governments, local watershed councils or water providers as interested parties.

Committee Objectives (Attachment 3). We appreciate that the purposes of the committee have been clarified and that the Department recognizes the importance of prioritizing inclusion of Siskiyou region members and the use of in-region locations as budgets allow.

Forest Waters Campaign Update

Hello from the Oregon Forest Waters coalition!

We are making excellent progress in our campaign to protect forest waters in Oregon through ballot measures. Our forest water measures will update forest management practices, improve habitat for fish and wildlife, and increase the resilience of our forests in the face of climate change.

The three measures – Initiative Petitions 45, 46, and 47 – were filed in October by concerned Oregonians to put the vote on the ballot for this year’s election. The aim is to increase protections for water in Oregon’s forests up to the level of Washington State.

We’re hearing support from people around the state, and our polling is strong. Plus, we’ve been getting a lot of coverage in the media.

Another sign that we’re off to a good start: Logging interests have responded with ballot measures of their own. And, no surprise, they’re already resorting to extremist rhetoric despite the fact that our proposals largely follow the standards of neighboring states. Our proposals are reasonable, feasible, and long overdue.

This will be a challenge, as is always the case when taking on the logging industry in Oregon, but one that is shaping up to break the stranglehold that the logging industry has exercised on environmental policy in Oregon for too long.

Here are four quick updates on the campaign and a way you can help.

4 quick updates

1.  Our refiled Initiative Petitions have final titles and they are strong.

The forest waters coalition resubmitted three initiative petitions on October 2, 2019 (IP 45, 46, and 47). Please take a look at the titles

IP 45:  Expands area around forest waterbodies where aerial pesticides are prohibited and where logging operations limited

IP 46:  Expands area around forest waterbodies where aerial pesticide spraying prohibited; increases notice requirements for spraying

IP 47:  Expands to 50/100 feet the area around waterbodies where commercial logging operations limited; exceptions

As expected, the logging industry – who have opposed the measures all along – appealed these titles to the Oregon Supreme Court. The Attorney General will defend the titles, and the chief petitioners will submit amicus briefs to the Court.

2. The logging industry is pursuing three measures of their own. Please consider taking a look at them as well.

IP 53:  A Constitutional Amendment that will require taxpayers to pay landowners when laws protect public values – like buffers for rivers and streams – without any exceptions for public health, safety.

IP 54:  Statutory measure to block voter’s and legislature’s ability to change forest laws.

IP 55:  Statutory measure to change the board of forestry to increase the number of logging interests on the board.

One of these cynical measures received its final ballot title on Monday, January 13. The other one was rejected on single-subject grounds. The third will have a final title assigned on January 17. The current titles for IP 54 and 55 expose the brazen attempt by the logging industry to rig the rules in their favor and put corporate interests ahead of the public good.

3. New climate study underscores the need for forest protections

Oregon State University researchers published a wake-up call study on December 4. The OPB headline says it all:  “Study Finds Not Logging Some Northwest Forests Could Offset Climate Change.”

Study authors analyzed forests across the country that could prove most critical in storing carbon pollution and found that Oregon – especially the Cascades and Coast Range – is filled with forests deemed a high priority for protection. The forest waters initiatives aim to protect these carbon-storing forests near waterways across the state, while also protecting our clean water and wildlife.

4. People and groups are getting involved. What’s next?  

Our chief petitioners for the forest waters initiatives are local people who have been directly impacted by industrial logging. Kate Crump is a coastal resident and fishing guide who knows firsthand how industrial logging in Oregon harms drinking water and fish habitat. Micha Elizabeth Gross is co-owner of Myrtle Glen Farms in Coos County, where Oregon’s lax buffers around streams have damaged her drinking source water. Vik Anantha is a conservation advocate and outdoor enthusiast who has seen our coastal forests rapidly converted to industrial tree farms.

Public health and conservation groups from across the state are supporting the effort of local residents to put one of these measures before the voters. Some of the organizations involved are: Beyond Toxics, Cascadia Wildlands, Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Native Fish Society, North Coast Communities for Watershed Protection, Oregon Wild, Pacific Rivers, Portland Audubon, and Wild Salmon Center. The petitioners are gearing up to begin the volunteer portion of their signature gathering drive.

We would like your help and involvement! 

We still have a few things to wrap up before we bring the forest waters initiative to the ballot. So far we have met or exceeded the goals we set for ourselves. For example, our:

  • Experiments with signature gathering show we can collect what we need very quickly.
  • Opinion research shows a growing majority of Oregonians support the forest waters initiatives, with 70% in support.
  • Fundraising efforts show major donors are willing to invest in the potential campaign.

We are working now to line up your group, your members, and individual volunteers to be prepared with petitions to help gather signatures. We will be ready to go just as soon as the Supreme Court challenge is completed.

Here’s how you can help.

Please make a pledge to collect signatures to qualify our measures for the ballot!  We need 112,020 valid signatures (and a cushion to be safe), and you or your group can help! We can provide the signature sheets and training to your teams, and we will take the sheets when complete and validate the signatures and conduct the turn-in.

We need you to make our goal! Can you commit to collecting 1,000 signatures? How about 2,500? Send us an email to let us know if you can help gather signatures.

We value your input 

The forest waters initiatives have been designed with extensive feedback from community organizations, conservation groups, landowners, small family foresters, and neighbors living with the impacts of industrial forestry. As we work to make history by passing the first significant modernization of Oregon’s forest water laws we need your help and your best ideas. Please email us at info@forestwaters.org with your thinking, and we will be in touch!

Failing Forestry: Board puts state forester on notice – performance improvement required: Oregonlive article

by Ted Sickinger
December 7, 2019

The Oregon Board of Forestry has put Peter Daugherty, the state forester, on a performance improvement plan to address dysfunctional relationships with some board members, poor communication with the board at large and concerns over the agency’s financial condition.

In a Oct. 30 letter to Daugherty, board chair Tom Imeson said the plan stemmed from a discussion the board had after its retreat on Oct. 9. He said the recommendations for corrective action were endorsed by the entire board and the governor’s office.

Tensions between board members, the department and Daugherty have been evident for some time, particularly those members appointed to bring a conservation voice to the board: retired businessman James Kelly, fish biologist Cindy Williams and retired Oregon State University forestry professor Brenda McComb.

The three have frequently expressed frustration with the agency’s lack of responsiveness to their requests for information and that their concerns on specific issues were ignored. The board’s increasing dysfunction spilled into an open and emotional discussion at the Oct. 9 retreat, and Daugherty acknowledged some of the problems there.

Daugherty responded Friday in an emailed statement.

“I take all board feedback seriously, particularly when it has recommendations for improvement,” he wrote. “This review is an opportunity to work with the board to improve relationships within the board as well as between the board, the department and our stakeholders.”

The agency has remained mired in numerous struggles during Daugherty’s tenure, which began in 2016. For the last several months, it has been trying to address an acute cash flow crisis due to uncollected costs from large wildfires. The issue is significant enough to threaten the agency’s solvency, and it has only been able to keep the doors open by borrowing from Treasury, raiding its own reserves and having the Department of Administrative Services cover its payroll costs.

Simultaneously, agency leaders have been striving to develop a new management plan for state forests, one that can stabilize the finances of the division while winning support among both conservation and timber interests. The agency released a draft of that plan this week, and initial feedback from the timber industry, environmental groups and rural counties was not good.

Agency leaders have also been under the gun to respond to two major lawsuits. One just ended with a $1.1 billion jury verdict against the agency for failing to maximize logging revenues on state forests. The other remains in the discovery phase, but seeks to stop 68 planned timber sales that environmental groups contend threaten endangered salmon.

Imeson’s letter acknowledged that the department was dealing with multiple challenges at once, and called the position of state forester “one of the most difficult jobs in state government.” He said Daugherty has effectively led the agency’s firefighting efforts, and that his “loyalty to the department, its people and its programs is unquestioned.”

It went on to say, however, that the broad set of perspectives individual board members brought to the job should be a valuable asset to the department.

“It is critical that each board member feel that their contributions are valued, their request for information are heeded and their concerns are addressed,” Imeson wrote. “At this moment not all board members feel that way. Individual discussions with each board member are imperative to reset the relationship as necessary.”

The letter directed Daugherty to meet individually with each board member within 60 days to gather their perspectives, prepare an overview of the feedback, and deliver a plan detailing how he can work with the board “in a way that builds relationships, promotes consensus and effective and respectful governance. That action plan should be complete by February 15.”

The board also directed Daugherty to prepare a list of key agency stakeholders and develop a strategy to show his and the agency’s commitment to “meaningful and recurring dialogue with all of your stakeholders.”

Imeson called the financial management of the agency’s wildfire costs an issue “of paramount importance.” He acknowledged that Daugherty had informed the board on several occasions that the department was struggling with an outdated fire funding model. But Imeson said Daugherty failed to give them several vitally important facts, including how old some of the uncollected bills were; the sheer size of the $100 million-plus backlog; and that the agency had come perilously close to default on a line of credit on one or more occasions.

“This failure is unacceptable, getting in the way of the board’s responsibility to provide oversight and assistance.”

The same discussion came up at the Oct. 9 retreat, where several board members expressed their concerns that they were only learning the severity of the agency’s cash flow crisis by reading about it in The Oregonian/OregonLive.

The governor has since appointed a financial SWAT team and hired a consultant to help the agency dig out of its financial hole. Imeson’s letter directed Daugherty to work with them and deliver a plan to achieve a meaningful reduction in the uncollected fire costs, and develop a long-term solution to those funding problems.

“You may find that as you are following through on these expectations that you would benefit from a leadership coach,” the letter continued. “We support your working with the Department of Administrative Services to retain a leadership coach who can help you reflect and take action on the feedback you receive from board members and stakeholders.”

The board, which has the authority to hire and fire the state forester, will keep Daugherty on a fairly short leash. Imeson said he would schedule another board evaluation with Daugherty, most likely at the January 2020 meeting, and will require quarterly progress reviews through the year.

Fight over flight: Activists resist aerial pesticide spraying: Register-Guard article

The Register-Guard
by Christian Hill
December 6, 2019

Timber companies notified state regulators this year that aircraft will spray pesticides on least three dozen tracts of forestland in Lane County.

Aerial spraying of these chemicals has been controversial in Oregon, with environmental groups seeking reforms to the practice for years. Timber companies spray pesticides using aircraft to kill competing vegetation after a clear-cut that can curtail the growth of Douglas fir and other valuable trees grown for logging. Oregonians have raised concerns about how the broad application of pesticides and applying them from the air can pollute waterways and sicken people.

Oregon lawmakers moved in 2015 to protect homes and schools from the chemicals, but more recent legislative efforts to restrict aerial spraying and improve public notification have floundered.

In recent weeks at the county and state level, efforts to ask voters to curtail or outright ban the practice, which opponents say is only loosely regulated, have been stymied. For example, a judge threw out in September an aerial spray ban that Lincoln County voters passed in 2017.

But supporters of the statewide efforts received good news Thursday when Secretary of State Bev Clarno approved three proposed initiatives, two of which seek more restrictions on aerial spraying, to take another step toward signature gathering. Clarno rejected three earlier proposed initiatives after concluding they were unconstitutionally over broad.

“I appreciate that the chief petitioners of these initiatives amended their proposals to meet the constitutional requirements,” Clarno said in a statement. “Voters will now be able to read and decide for themselves on these issues.”

Regulating aerial spraying

State regulation of aerial spraying falls under the Oregon Forest Practices Act, the law that sets policy for commercial logging in Oregon’s forests, and is chiefly divided between the state departments of agriculture and forestry.

The agriculture department registers the pesticides and licenses the people who apply it. To qualify for an Oregon aerial applicator license, which allows a person to apply pesticides by aircraft, pilots must meet a list of requirements, including passing an aerial exam and least 50 hours of pesticide application flight time​. ​There are 1,012 active Aerial Pesticide Applicator licenses in the state.

Timber companies must notify the forestry department before applying pesticides, but there’s no state requirement to notify the public. Companies can voluntarily provide that public notice.

Thirty-eight tracts of Lane County forestland were sprayed with pesticides using aircraft in 2019, according to Beyond Toxics which provided The Register-Guard with data from an Oregon Department of Forestry-managed database. Pesticide reform is one of the main missions of Beyond Toxics, a Eugene-based nonprofit environmental organization.

From 2015 to 2019, 185 tracts of Lane County forestland were sprayed with pesticides by aircraft, according to the data.

The database doesn’t provide the exact acreage sprayed, the exact dates of the spraying or the exact chemicals and amounts used.

But the typical chemicals used in those sprays included imazapyr, a weedkiller, and clopyralid, an herbicide that kills broadleaf weeds, including clover. Both chemicals can damage or irritate eyes and skin.

The data shows that this year another 44 Lane County tracts of forestland were sprayed with either aircraft or on-the-ground applicators.

“We’re finding that more and more timber companies are switching from aerial spray to ground spray because of the public awareness,” said Lisa Arkin, Beyond Toxics executive director. “I think that’s a good thing.”

At the same time, she said, companies are applying pesticides more frequently as the growth cycle for trees grown for logging has narrowed from 60 years to about three decades.

Attempts to strengthen regulations

In 2015, state lawmakers passed a law establishing a 60-foot “no-spray buffer” when aerial spraying occurs next to homes and schools. The law also required state certification for applicators using aircraft to spray pesticides.

The law came amid growing public concern about the potential dangers of aerial spraying and Oregon’s weak regulations in comparison to neighboring states, which do more to protect people and the environment from drifting chemicals.

But efforts to further tighten regulations surrounding aerial spraying haven’t advanced in the Legislature since then.

A 2017 bill, supported by Beyond Toxics, would have provided residents timely public notification of aerial sprays and more detailed public information about the applications, but it died in committee.

Earlier this year, a second attempt to strengthen notification requirements failed, as did a bill that would ban aerial spraying on state-owned lands.

Recent county efforts stymied

Locally, county commissioners have made clear they will not refer to voters a ballot measure proposed by grassroots organizations to ban aerial spraying of herbicides, which kill undesirable plants and weeds, in Lane County.

The groups, including Community Rights Lane County and the Lane County Freedom From Aerial pesticides Alliance, gathered signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot but a judge invalidated the initiative in 2018 as overly broad.

While an appeal of that decision is pending, backers have pressed county commissioners to refer the measure to the ballot, citing the level of public support.

Elected county commissioners have balked, citing an opinion from their attorney, County Counsel Stephen Dingle, that they could be held personally and financially liable for spending public money to hold an election on a measure that doesn’t pass legal muster. The county took the rare step of waiving attorney-client privilege to make the opinion public because of the high interest in the issue.

Stan Long, a retired local attorney and timber industry supporter, has threatened to take the county to court if it refers the measure. He sued Lane County and that case ultimately led to the judge throwing out the groups’ measure.

State law preempts cities and counties from adopting policies and regulations related to the use of pesticides.

This preemption is the reason a Lincoln County judge invalidated that county’s voter-approved measure. The measure was similar to Lane County’s proposed initiative.

And the potential personal liability for Lane County commissioners if they referred the local measure to the ballot with that state preemption on the books gave the elected leaders pause.

“To me, wasting time, money and effort if it’s going to be preempted doesn’t make a great deal of sense,” Commissioner Pat Farr said at an Oct. 17 meeting when the legal issues surrounding a referral were debated.

The attorney representing the organizations putting forth the measure disputes Dingle’s finding, arguing there’s no case in which public officials have been held personally liable for placing a measure on the ballot.

“They (commissioners) lack the courage to stand with the people, and they’re hiding behind an unjust (state) law,” said Michelle Holman, founder of Community Rights Lane County, one of the measure’s backers.

Measures proposed to state

Meanwhile, efforts by a coalition of environmental groups to amend state law to scale back aerial spraying and restrict logging had hit roadblocks until Thursday.

In September, Clarno, the state’s top elections official, had tossed three prospective initiatives for being unconstitutionally overbroad. The coalition, which includes Oregon Wild and Beyond Toxics, filed another three prospective initiatives aimed at addressing Clarno’s concerns, leading to her approval.

A key aim of the initiatives is to amend the state law to expand the buffer where aerial spraying is prohibited to 500 feet from 60 feet in areas next to waterways.

Jason Gonzales, Oregon Wild’s forest and watershed campaign organizer, said the coalition is seeking to put on the November 2020 ballot a measure that amends current law in a way “that the science, common sense and the voters will support.”

“A 500-foot buffer from running water is something that we found widespread agreement about,” he said, “and something that I think accomplishes what we all want to see, which is protection from this practice without going so far as banning a whole class of behavior.”

Katie Fast, executive director of the agribusiness industry group Oregonians for Food and Shelter, raised concerns about the local and statewide efforts.

She questioned how county governments would enforce local bans and restrictions without the experts and resources offered by the state.

“Would the county still have the expertise to go in and do an investigation?” she asked.

On the proposed statewide restrictions, Fast noted the federal government registers the chemicals and sets the instructions for their use, including how far they can applied from water.

“What’s in the ballot measure are very large buffers that we would see as” an infringement of private property rights, she said, “because of not being able to control noxious weeds in that area by using the application method.”

Holman with Community Rights Lane County said the groups pushing the county measure aren’t allowing the recent setback as a result of the county commission decision to stop them.

“We believe we are fighting a principled fight,” she said.

Timber interests propose three pro-logging ballot measures: Oregonlive article

by Ted Sickinger
November 8, 2019

A  group of retired foresters backed by the timber industry filed three initiative petitions this week looking to counter what they say are “radical anti-forestry ballot initiatives being pursued by environmental extremists.”

The measures would give Oregon counties and the wood products industry more control over how members of the state Board of Forestry are selected. They would amend the state constitution, requiring the state to fully compensate woodland owners for any new regulations that eliminate their ability to log, such as expanded no-touch stream buffers. And they would require that the forestry board use “non-biased” and “peer reviewed science” to come up with consensus-based policies.

Jim James, a forestry consultant and executive director of the Oregon Small Woodlands Association, is one of the chief petitioners. He said he was not acting on behalf of the association, though it is mentioned in the initiative petitions. The Oregon Forest Industries Council, a timber industry trade group, is serving as treasurer of the campaigns.

“I’m a professional forester and have had a long career in the industry,” James said. “When I became aware of the three anti-forestry ballot measures, I became very passionate about how wrong those were and I reached out to others to push back on these absolutely crazy initiatives they proposed.”

Environmental groups filed three ballot measures earlier this year to tighten aerial herbicide spraying rules, increase forest stream buffers, prohibit logging in steep, landslide-prone areas, and prohibit conflicts of interest for state forestry board appointees.

Secretary of State Bev Clarno rejected all three petitions, saying they violated rules that prohibit measures that address more than a single policy topic. Environmental groups are taking her to court over that decision, but have since filed new versions of the petitions that they claim address Clarno’s concerns.

Now the forestry groups have filed their own countermeasures.

The dueling ballot measures go the heart of the timber tug of war that has been playing out in Oregon for four decades. Once centered on the decline of logging on federal forests because of endangered species concerns, the divide over policies also spread to private and state forests. Indeed, that partisan divide could become a deciding factor in how the legislative session plays out next year, with likely battles over climate change policies and wildfire funding.

As it stands, the controversy is currently being spotlighted in a $1 billion lawsuit in which 14 rural counties are suing the state for breach of contract, saying it has failed to maximize logging on state forests.

Environmental groups have long contended that Oregon has some of the weakest forest protection rules in the West. They say the rules fail to ensure the protection of endangered species and their habitats, as well as the health and safety of rural residents. They describe the forestry ballot measures as a power grab by the industry that would limit the discretion of the state board, and possibly lock the state in the same constitutional debate over property rights and land use safeguards that came with the 2004 passage of the far-reaching Measure 37. Voters subsequently overturned most of those reforms with the passage of Measure 49 in 2007.

“With this measure, industry wants to change the Oregon constitution to make Oregonians pay them to not pollute rivers and streams with excessive clearcutting on steep slopes, said Ralph Bloemers, senior staff attorney for the Crag Law Center, a non-profit that represents conservation groups and local residents throughout Oregon.

“They expect to be paid if Oregonians decide to limit their ability to spray toxic chemicals near drinking water supplies, homes and schools,” he said. “I don’t expect Oregonians will be fooled twice.”

James, meanwhile, insists that there is no scientific evidence that wider stream buffers would help salmon habitat, as environmentalists contend. He says the new regulations proposed in the environmental petitions would prevent active forest management in many areas, cause more wildfires, and result in an uncompensated taking of land from private owners. And while he could not cite a specific example, he said the forestry board’s policy-making has been hobbled by a divide among conservation and industry-oriented members.

“If there was more of a collaborative model,” he said, “things would happen more quickly and they would be more balanced and fair.”

As many as nine dueling forestry bills could be on next November’s ballot: NewsReview story

by Carisa Cegavske
The News-Review
November 10, 2019

The timber industry and environmentalists are headed toward a showdown over forest management that could bring as many as nine ballot measures before the voters next November.

At issue is a fundamental disagreement over what forest practices best protect water quality. The two sides are also gearing up for a possible fight over what role the timber industry should play in making the regulations that govern forest management in Oregon.

The environmentalists fired the opening volley with Initiative Petitions 35, 36 and 37 in July. All three were rejected by Oregon Secretary of State Bev Clarno, who said the petitions failed to meet the requirement that each measure cover a single topic.

The environmentalists sued, hoping to overturn that decision.

While that case works its way through the court system, the environmentalists filed three pared-down initiative petitions — 45, 46 and 47 — in October, in an attempt to meet the single topic requirement.

Last week, the timber industry fired back, filing three initiative petitions of its own. They’re numbered 53, 54 and 55.

The environmentalists propose changing the laws to block clear-cuts in landslide-prone areas and to create more restrictive rules around spraying of herbicides near waterways.

They argue that intensive logging in landslide hazard locations increases sediment and debris in the forest waters that become Oregonians’ drinking water. They also argue that aerial application of toxic herbicides is allowed across broader areas of forest watersheds in Oregon than in other states and that this affects forest waters and endangers Oregonians’ health.

Their first set of proposed measures would additionally prevent people with conflicts of interest from sitting on the State Board of Forestry. Those who make money from the industries the board regulates could not become board members. These conflict of interest rules weren’t included in their second round of petitions.

The pro-timber petitions filed last week would do three things. First, Initiative Petition 53 would change the Oregon Constitution to provide that any time the state makes a law or regulation that eliminates the economic value of a property, it would have to provide just compensation to the landowner.

Second, Initiative Petition 54 would mandate that policies related to forest management be based on peer-reviewed science and on the forestry board’s consensus.

Third, Initiative Petition 55 would change the composition of the forestry board to expressly include industry representatives, small woodlands owners and wood manufacturing employees — people who would be barred under the environmentalists’ proposed conflict of interest rules. It would also include three members nominated by state agencies to represent environmental advocates.

Sara Duncan of Gallatin Public Affairs, a spokeswoman for the Oregon Forest and Industries Council, said barring those industry representatives from the board would amount to regulation without representation. She said it’s important to have members who work in the timber industry because they are the ones who have experience in managing the forests.

Duncan said the landslide and spraying rules proposed by the environmentalists aren’t based on science.

“There has been a movement — and you can see it in the ballot initiatives of the anti-forestry activists — to put in regulations, prescriptive regulations that have no backing by science. We think that’s a bad idea,” she said.

Duncan also said reducing timberland owners’ ability to manage their forests increases the risk of wildfire.

“We think that will increase catastrophic wildfire risks in Oregon and we don’t think Oregonians want that, nor can they afford it. It’s bad for our health. It’s bad for the health of the forest. It pollutes our air and our water and we think that’s a bad idea,” Duncan said.

She said the spraying that environmentalists object to is necessary to ensure that newly planted trees aren’t choked out by Scotch broom and blackberries before they have a chance to grow into forests to replace those that have been harvested.

Water quality in the state is excellent today, especially in forestlands and including actively managed forest, Duncan said.

“So we know that the laws that are in place to protect water quality in the forest, those are working,” she said.

Kate Crump of Rockaway Beach is a chief petitioner for the environmentalists’ initiatives. She does not think the state’s current forestry laws adequately protect the water Oregonians are drinking.

“I feel like they’re extremely unsafe, and I feel like there’s a complete lack of transparency on what is happening in our drinking watersheds in forestlands,” she said.

And that, she said, has everything to do with the forestry board’s membership.

“They’re the ones that are making the decisions and they are responsible for allowing Oregon to fall behind our neighbors in our forest practices. They’re responsible for not protecting our forest waters further for communities and people and wildlife,” she said.

She also disputed the assertion that her petitions’ proposals are unscientific.

“All of our measures are backed by science. I definitely feel like that’s an inaccurate claim,” she said.

Crump is a fishing guide for Frigate Adventure Travel. She became concerned about her water after she received a notice in the mail saying elderly or pregnant people shouldn’t drink it.

“I was like what, I live in America. How is this a thing?” she said.

There wasn’t a factory upstream, but she said she discovered the water flowed through recently cut industrial timberland. She walked to the headwaters and said it looked like a bomb had gone off and she learned it was being helicopter sprayed with herbicides and pesticides.

Crump said caring about clean water and forests is a core value for Oregonians.

“It’s very important to people to protect these places and to have clean water and to know that it’s safe for their children to drink and play in it,” she said.


Oregonlive article: Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum refuses to defend Secretary of State over unprecedented rejection of forestry ballot measures

By Rob Davis
October 30, 2019

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum is refusing to defend Secretary of State Bev Clarno in litigation over Clarno’s unprecedented rejection of three proposed ballot initiatives to tighten state forestry laws.

Rosenblum also challenged Clarno’s legal basis for tossing the proposals, which Clarno said violated a state requirement that legislative measures stick to one subject. The rule applies equally to voter initiatives and bills in the Legislature.

“There is no question that, under current law, the legislature could pass a measure such as this one and it would be in full compliance with the ‘single subject’ requirement,” Rosenblum told The Oregonian/OregonLive in a statement. “I do not believe there is any compelling reason to argue for a change in the current law.”

Rosenblum said she couldn’t represent Clarno because the Oregon Legislature is also a client and she didn’t want to make arguments that would impede its work. She said she authorized Clarno to find another lawyer due to the conflicting interests.

Clarno did not respond to a request for comment. Her deputy, Rich Vial, declined to answer questions.

The decision by Rosenblum, a Democrat, is unusual, pitting two of Oregon’s top elected officials against one another.

Clarno, a Republican who has taken $36,000 in donations from timber interests in her career, is not backing down in a suit brought by environmental advocates trying to ensure their original petitions advance.

She will instead be represented by Schwabe Williamson Wyatt, a Portland law firm that advertises itself as “one of the nation’s top timber law practices” and says it is part of the fabric of the timber industry. The firm says on its website it is “involved” with the Oregon Forest & Industries Council, one of the leading opponents to the ballot measures.

Clarno on Sept. 24 rejected Initiative Petitions 35, 36 and 37. The measures are substantially the same, calling for tightening the state’s aerial herbicide spraying laws. They propose more logging restrictions in steep, landslide-prone areas. They would prohibit conflicts of interest for state forestry board appointees.

Clarno rejected the initiatives proposed by environmental advocates, including the group Oregon Wild, saying each of the proposals covered more than one subject. The Oregon constitution says a ballot initiative can only address a single policy topic. The same ballot initiative couldn’t raise the minimum wage and ban the death penalty, for example.

No other ballot measure has ever been rejected by the Secretary of State on single-subject grounds, two election lawyers have said.

Vial, Clarno’s deputy, is a former Republican lawmaker who took $19,000 from timber interests in his career.

Vial would not say how the law firm retained by the Secretary of State was being paid. He would not explain why the Secretary of State is litigating a case the state’s lead attorney has opined has no legal justification.

Former Oregon Supreme Court Justice Michael “Mick” Gillette is representing Clarno’s office for the Schwabe law firm. Gillette declined comment.

As a justice on the Oregon Supreme Court, Gillette wrote the landmark 1997 ruling that eliminated Oregon’s campaign contribution limits. The decision allowed Oregon to become one of the biggest money states in American politics, one where today the timber industry gives more than anywhere else in the nation.

Rosenblum’s full statement is below.

My office represents both the Secretary of State and the Oregon Legislature. Our overarching client is always the State of Oregon, however. As the chief law officer of the state I have reached the conclusion that the Secretary of State is entitled to hire conflict counsel in this matter. This is a brief explanation of this decision.

The Oregon Supreme Court has said that the ‘single subject’ requirement in the Oregon Constitution that governs the initiative process is to be given the same interpretation as the ‘single subject’ requirement that applies to the legislature. There is no question that, under current law, the legislature could pass a measure such as this one and it would be in full compliance with the ‘single subject’ requirement. I do not believe there is any compelling reason to argue for a change in the current law.

Under the circumstances I concluded that we would not want to make arguments detrimental to our legislative branch client (although the legislature is not currently a party to this litigation) in order to defend this executive branch action. I authorized Secretary Clarno to obtain conflict counsel, which will allow her to present her view of the ‘single subject’ requirement to the courts for their consideration.

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