All posts by Bronwen

Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast Coho Recovery Plan finds that timber harvest under the Oregon Forest Practices Act continues to pose a threat to coho

The September 2014 Federal Recovery Plan for the threatened Southern Oregon/ Northern California Coast (SONNC) coho determined that timber harvest continues to pose a serious threat to the coho.  The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) specifically discussed the failure of the Oregon Forest Practices Act to protect the coho.

NMFS also identified revision of the Oregon Forest Practices Act as one of the highest priority recovery actions for almost all SONNC Oregon populations , including Elk River (p. 7-1), Brush Creek (p. 8-1), Mussel Creek (p. 9-1), Lower Rogue River (p. 10-1), Hunter Creek (p. 11-1), Pistol River (p. 12-1), Chetco River (p. 13-1), Illinois River (p. 30-1), Middle Rogue/Applegate (p. 31-1), and Upper Rogue River (p. 32-1).

The following is an excerpt from the plan:

At the time of listing, the Oregon Forest Practices Act (OFPA), modified in 1995 and improved over the previous OFPA, did not have implementing rules that adequately protected coho salmon habitat. In particular, the OFPA did not provide adequate protection for the production and introduction of large wood to medium, small and non-fish-bearing streams. Since the listing of SONCC coho, the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds (Oregon Executive Order 99-01; 1999) directed the creation of the Forest Practices Advisory Committee to help the Oregon Board of Forestry assess forest practices changes that may be needed to meet state water quality standards and protect and restore salmonids. As of 2003, draft water protection rules and non- regulatory recommendations based on the recommendations of Forest Practices Advisory Committee had been developed, but had not been adopted by the Board of Forestry. A review of OFPA and forest practice rules (IMST 1999) showed the regulations in place may be ineffective at protecting water quality and promoting riparian function and structure, especially in small- and medium-sized streams. In their review of the forest practice rules, the Oregon IMST found that one of the greatest shortcomings of the current rules is that they are dominated by site- and action-specific strategies which, taken together are insufficient for recovering habitat of listed stocks of salmonids (Everest and Reeves 2007). Everest and Reeves (2007) report that current forest practice rules in the Pacific Northwest represent improvements over their preceding rules, but continued change and evolution of the forest practices rules is of vital interest.

Though significant improvements have been made to the current rule package, the Oregon Forest Practice Rules represent the least conservative forest practice regulations administered by the state governments within the SONCC coho salmon ESU. Some riparian areas may be protected by narrow, no-harvest zones; however, the stands located upslope of the no-harvest zones could be subject to intense harvest, leading to diminished riparian function and cumulative effects to anadromous salmonid habitat. In a 2010 status review of Oregon Coast (OC) coho salmon, NMFS concluded that the Oregon Forest Practices Act does not adequately protect OC coho habitat in all circumstances. In particular, disagreements persist regarding: (1) whether the widths of riparian management areas (RMAs) are sufficient to fully protect riparian functions and stream habitats; (2) whether operations allowed within RMAs will degrade stream habitats; (3) operations on high-risk landslide sites; and (4) watershed-scale effects. On some streams, forestry operations conducted in compliance with this act are likely to reduce stream shade, slow the recruitment of large woody debris, and add fine sediments. Since there are no limitations on cumulative watershed effects, road density on private forest lands, which is high throughout the range of this ESU, is unlikely to decrease under the Oregon Forest Practices Act (NMFS 2009). 

National Marine Fisheries Service. 2014.
Final Recovery Plan for the Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast Evolutionarily Significant Unit of Coho Salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch). National Marine Fisheries Service. Arcata, CA.
(discussing Oregon Forest Practices in Chapters 1 through 6 at pages 3-56 and 3-57)

Testimony Before the Board of Forestry, November 5, 2014

  Download the Testimony

Statement of Mary Scurlock, Oregon Stream Protection Coalition
Agenda Item 7: Informational Update on Riparian Rule Analysis
5 November 2014

My name is Mary Scurlock and I represent 21 fishing and conservation groups comprising the Oregon Stream Protection Coalition. The intent of my remarks today is to add some further detail to the staff update about the issues under discussion with stakeholders from our perspective.

New rule timeline. The new rule timeline has pushed further Board decisions out until March and April, with July slated for final rule adoption. In our view it is imperative that this timeline be adhered to and that rule completion be a Board priority. As you are well aware, a federal disapproval of Oregon’s coastal program is pending and there is currently no policy change that the state can hold up to demonstrate that it is addressing any of the problems identified by the NOAA and EPA. There is also increased public scrutiny on Oregon’s logging rules as a result of the recent Oregonian expose describing weak regulation of forest chemicals and indicting current rules on public health, environmental protection and public process.

Ongoing public outreach. We appreciate the Department’s efforts to set aside adequate time and resources for stakeholder input. I and other members of my coalition will continue to be actively engaged as staff recommendations are developed on new rule prescriptions as well as where the new rule prescriptions should apply.

Georegions Decision Set for March 4: The conservation groups I represent continue to oppose the geographic limitation of this rulemaking. The basis for this view is that in every georegion studied by RipStream the current rules were found lacking; therefore, the only reasonable assumption the Board can make is that the current retention requirements in the other georegions are also insufficient to meet the PCW – an assumption that can be validated using available information if the Department is instructed to gather it.

In particular, there is a strong sense in the conservation community that the Siskiyou Region must be included in a policy change due to the high aquatic resource values at stake and because this region is part of Oregon’s Coastal Zone, within which policy changes have been specifically identified as needed to meet the requirements of federal coastal water pollution control statutes. Likewise, the recently finalized federal recovery plan for Southern Oregon/Northern California Coastal Coho is quite clear about the need for improvements to small and medium stream protections on private forestlands.

We reiterate earlier comments that the exclusion of any region from this rulemaking must be accompanied by a clear plan for how the rules in those regions will be evaluated and amended with respect to the PCW on a reasonable timeline.

Stream Reach Extent Decision Set for April. The Board’s decision on stream reach-scale designation for additional prescriptions is not now slated to occur until April. This decision involves drilling down on a number of technical issues that bear on stream classification rules and guidance, and how the rules will be implemented on the ground. Our overall recommendation to the Board at this time is that ODFW’s expertise should be heavily relied upon. Our specific concerns include:

1. Regulatory use of maps. ODFW fish distribution maps are the best available information and we support its use as a starting point for making reach level decisions. It will be important to clarify how these maps will be used and the process by which they will be updated.

2. All fish not some fish. The current rules are largely tiered to fish versus nonfish streams. We strongly support application of the new rule to all streams that meet the current criteria for a fishbearing stream. At present the Department is contemplating a policy change that would tier prescriptions to stream reaches that are or could be used by specific fish species, i.e. salmon, steelhead and bull trout only, because of how the PCW is written, but the same level of protection is needed on all fishbearing reaches. We will be interested in the specifics of the implementation mechanisms – presumably habitat criteria — that will be used to determine the end of SSBT use. It seems likely that a full discourse around this issue will require scrutiny of the current rule guidance pertaining to physical habitat characteristics that may be considered incompatible with salmon, steelhead or bull trout use, and consideration of whether aspects of this guidance will need to be elevated to rule. If management prescriptions are going to vary markedly between types of fish bearing reaches, the ecological basis for the criteria used to distinguish these reaches will come into play. Likewise, the conditions under which fish presence surveys can be used to override a fishbearing designation will also require vetting because this process will assume greater regulatory significance.

3. If SSBT only, include upstream reaches as default. The coalition is concerned that this rule should deal appropriately with uncertainty by giving the benefit of the doubt to the resource. For example, the increased stream protections should be presumed to apply to all fish streams upstream of Salmon, Steelhead and Bull Trout segments unless a physical barrier has been field verified and it can be demonstrated that warming of upstream reaches will not lead to downstream warming in violation of the PCW.

Prescription Elements: It also appears that there are stakeholder differences of opinion on several items pertaining to prescription elements, including:

1. Buffer delineation methods. In our view, stream buffers should be measured based on horizontal, not slope distance — which is particularly important on steeper slopes where it makes the most difference. We note that this method is currently used on Oregon’s state forestlands.

2. Whether to change which trees can contribute to basal area targets. We expect that there will be a need for further discussion about the implications of changing the “countability” of trees to meet new targets to include smaller trees (e.g. 6 inches from 11 inches) and whether to include hardwoods as well as conifers.

We expect these and other issues will be the subject of lively stakeholder discussion in the coming months.

Oregonian Exposé on Forest Chemicals: Lax Oregon Logging Rules Fail to Protect People as well as Fish and Water Quality

A major two-part investigative piece finds that Oregon’s regulations do less than neighboring states’ to protect people and the environment from herbicides.  This is a familiar refrain for the Oregon Stream Protection Coalition, whose members are trying to convince the  Board of Forestry to require that more trees be left near streams to prevent stream warming, regulate sediment, and provide the woody and other organic material needed to build healthy fish habitat and protect streamside soils.

Oregon agencies blew off complaint, red flags before helicopter sprayed weed killer on residents

In Oregon, helicopters spray weed killers near people under West Coast’s weakest protections 

Scientific journal articles have also addressed the differences between Oregon Forest Practices Act rules and those in Washington, California, and in the federal Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP). Oregon’s rules are less protective of streams than those of Washington and the NWFP, and, to a lesser extent, California’s forest practices rules.

Specifically regarding Washington State, Oregon’s forest practices regulations require significantly less protection for streams than do their counterparts in Washington in several key respects: 1) the buffer size next to the stream; 2) how much vegetation is allowed to be removed within the stream buffer (i.e. retention requirements); 3) how much smaller streams, especially non fish-bearing smaller streams, are protected; 4) identification and protection of unstable slopes; and 5) road construction and maintenance rules to limit the adverse impacts of roads, and rules to restore old and degraded roads.

The following three articles include illustrative comparisons between the states as well as comparisons with the federal Northwest Forest Plan:

Cashore, Benjamin and Graeme Auld. 2003.
British Columbia’s Environmental Forestry Policy Record in Perspective.
Journal of Forestry. December: 42-47.

Olson, D.H., P.D. Anderson, C.A. Frissell, H.H. Welsh, Jr., and D.F. Bradford. 2007.
Biodiversity management approaches for stream-riparian areas: Perspectives for Pacific Northwest headwater forests, microclimates and amphibians.
Forest Ecology and Management, 246: 81-107.

H.H. Welsh, Jr. 2011.
Frogs, Fish and Forestry: An Integrated Watershed Network Paradigm Conserves Biodiversity and Ecological Services
Diversity, 3, 503-530.



In the news: Oregon forestry board moves to protect cool water

The Associated Press
Posted in The Seattle Times
and Capital Press

SALEM, Ore. — The Oregon Board of Forestry has voted unanimously to keep moving forward on developing rules to making sure logging sites leave enough trees standing along salmon streams to keep the water shaded and cool.

The vote Wednesday in Salem directs the Department of Forestry to finish developing various alternatives – including voluntary and mandatory measures — to assure the cool- water standard set by the state Environmental Quality Commission is met.

The board decided not to ask the Environmental Quality Commission to consider setting a more lenient standard — a direction that had been favored by some in the timber industry, and opposed by salmon advocates.

The issue was raised by a 2011 study that found temperatures were getting warmer in salmon streams on state-regulated timberlands in the Coast Range.

Oregon Board of Forestry Votes to Move Forward on Riparian Rulemaking

On September 3, 2014, the Oregon Board of Forestry unanimously voted to move forward with the riparian rule analysis needed for rules that would meet the  cold water criterion of Oregon’s stream temperature standard.  The Board of Forestry accepted the Oregon Department of Forestry’s recommendation to the Board of Forestry to accept the June 23, 2014 workshop summary and to proceed with the development of alternative management prescriptions. The final decision of the board was:

“The Board adopted the following pathway forward for the rule analysis process:

  1. The Board directed the department to continue with the current rule analysis, and in conjunction with the Regional Forest Practice Committees and stakeholders, to develop prescriptions for a new Riparian Protection Rule designed to meet the Protecting Cold Water (PCW) criterion to the Maximum Extent Practicable (MEP) and facilitate flexibility in harvest approaches through consideration of regulatory measures, voluntary approaches or a combination thereof, including:

    1. Variable retention;
    2. No-cut buffer rule alternatives; and
    3. Appropriate criteria for a Plan for Alternate Practice.

  2. The Board directed the department, in conjunction with the Regional Forest Practice Committees and stakeholders, to continue analysis of a) Geographic Regions in western Oregon to which the rule should apply, and b) to which stream segments (i.e., only those streams with salmon, steelhead, or bull trout present; the entire network of small and medium fish streams; or something in between) the rule should apply.
  3. The Board directed the department to develop preliminary economic and ecological information related to each prescription for the rule alternatives.
  4. The Board directed the department to work with the Board of Forestry/Environmental Quality Commission liaison process to communicate the Board’s concerns regarding the sensitivity of small and medium fish streams relative to the Protecting Cold Water (PCW) criterion and the potential impacts on forestland.  Work with the liaison process to help develop understanding, acceptance and support for the Board’s approach for addressing the PCW criterion.
  5. The Board directed the department to consider impacts of proposed prescriptions on large woody debris (LWD) recruitment.

The Board received the workshop summary (Attachment 1) as adequately documenting key points from presentations and associated discussions at the June 23, 2014 Riparian Rule Analysis Workshop.”

The Department of Forestry’s recommendation was part of the materials for the Board’s Sep. 3 board meeting.  View the full report. Read Mary Scurlock’s testimony to the Board of Forestry urging the Board to accept  the Department staff’s recommendation.

Testimony Before the Board of Forestry, Sept. 3, 2014

  Download the Testimony


Statement of Mary Scurlock

Re:  Agenda Item Number 9 — Water Quality Protection and Riparian Rule Analysis
3 September 2014
Salem, Oregon

State Forester Decker, Chair Imeson and members of the Board, thank you for considering my input today. My name is Mary Scurlock and I am here on behalf of the 22 organizations of the Oregon Stream Protection Coalition.  We strongly urge you to accept Department staff’s recommendation to accept the June 23, 2014 workshop summary and direct the Department to present the Board with a rule alternative or alternatives (though not specific rule language) in November that meets the Protecting Coldwater Criterion of Oregon’s stream temperature standard.  The rule alternatives would be presented with further recommendations about the geographic regions and stream segments to which they would apply and with preliminary economic analysis related to buffer prescriptions.  You would also be presented in November with an evaluation of how the proposed prescriptions would bear on large wood recruitment and voluntary measures for large wood.

In supporting the staff’s recommendation, we are urging you to reject other options that have been described by staff and promoted by some members of the Board and other stakeholders.  Specifically:

  • The Board should not formally include large wood recruitment as a rule objective.  As much as my community wishes that this rulemaking could have been more holistic and designed to address the serious deficiencies of large wood in Oregon’s streams as well as issues related to road sediment and management impacts on mass wasting regimes, we supported the narrow scope of this rule process because of the clear performance objective the Protecting Coldwater Criterion provides.   We agree with the Department that expanding the scope of this effort now would delay policy change for months or years.
  • The Board should not revisit prior determinations in this rule process, all of which had a rational basis, were made through a transparent public process with stakeholder input and none of which are undermined by significant new information or changed circumstances.
  • The Board should not request the Environmental Quality Commission to change the Protecting Coldwater Criterion.  The existing statutory structure creates an expectation that the Board will defer to the EQC in matters related to the substance of water quality standards, particularly one for which there is such strong support at both the state and federal levels — as the June 23 workshop made clear.  In our view, a formal request by the Board to the EQC for a water quality standards rule change should be reserved for extraordinary circumstances where there is no rational policy, legal or ecological basis for such a rule.  Such is not the case here.
  • The Board should not focus now on issues that are not directly related to the achievement of its primary objective, which is to develop rules to meet the Protecting Coldwater Criterion on small and medium fishbearing streams.  It is simply not the right time to take up whether and how the location of temperature-impaired streams (“303(d)” streams with or without TMDLs), or the location of stream segments determined by other processes to be of high or low ecological value, or the location of reaches that may have particular sensitivities or insensitivities to management might be relevant.  The Board needs to focus on determining what practices meet the standard and where the standard applies.

We hope you will consider the following in your deliberations:

  • Oregon’s salmon, steelhead and bull trout have waited long enough: there has been uncertainty around the adequacy of the forest practice rules to prevent harvest-related stream warming since the late 1990s, but rule change was deferred pending the completion of the RipStream study, approximately 2002-2010.  Now almost three years of work by the Board and Department have been dedicated to this rule analysis since the “degradation finding” in January 2012 on the basis of RipStream — including an extensive science review that validates RipStream as among the best available scientific studies on the subject.
  • There are more decisions ahead.  Continuing with the rule process laid out by the Department does not tie the Board’s hands to shape the final outcome. There are still several key decisions ahead that are within the Board’s discretion, most notably including the specific rule prescriptions that will be adopted, their geographic extent, and the appropriate role of voluntary measures.
  • Adaptive management without policy change is a broken promise. As a matter of public process, this Board’s failure to pursue meaningful policy change after an evidence-based deliberative process that began over a decade ago would be perceived by my community as an extreme institutional failure that demands recourse through whatever political, legislative, and legal means available.  We would prefer to work as stakeholders within a successful adaptive management program.


New Media Coverage: Oregon forestry board may increase tree buffers along salmon streams, first time since 1994

September 2, 2014
AP Story
Covered in the Oregonian (and other media outlets listed at the end of the story)

The Oregon Department of Forestry is recommending the state analyze the different logging prescriptions that would be needed to meet cool water protection standards for small- and medium-sized streams with salmon, steelhead and bull trout. (The Oregonian/Doug Beghtel)
The Oregon Department of Forestry is recommending the state analyze the different logging prescriptions that would be needed to meet cool water protection standards for small- and medium-sized streams with salmon, steelhead and bull trout. (The Oregonian/Doug Beghtel)

Oregon’s state Board of Forestry is working on balancing a healthy timber industry with healthy salmon runs.

On Wednesday, the board votes on taking the next step in developing rules governing how many trees must be left standing along streams to keep the water shaded and cool enough for salmon to survive.

It would be the first change to the riparian protections of the Oregon Forest Practices Act since 1994.

The question was raised by a 2011 study that found temperatures were getting warmer in salmon streams on state-regulated timberlands in the Coast Range.

The Department of Forestry is recommending the board go forward with analyzing the different logging prescriptions that would be needed to meet the cool water protection standards for small- and medium-sized streams with salmon, steelhead and bull trout, and their economic impact.

A final decision is months away and will take into account whether the changes create too much of a hardship on the timber industry.

Mary Scurlock of the Oregon Stream Protection Coalition says the study makes it clear that Oregon will have to start leaving more trees standing along streams to meet the cool water standard set by the state Environmental Quality Commissions, and some form of financial assistance for small landowners may be needed to soften the blow.

She added that Washington state logging rules use the same cold water protection standards set in Oregon, and the timber industry is viable there.

In testimony to the board over the past year, representatives of the timber industry have urged approaching the Environmental Quality Commission to change the cool water standards — a position opposed by the Department of Forestry — and raised questions about how long-lasting the effects are of logging on stream temperatures.

Katrina McNitt, president of the Oregon Forest Industry Council, said while the study showed water temperatures rose after logging, they never exceeded the standard for protecting salmon.

The RipStream study by the department and Oregon State University looked at 33 stream sites on state and private lands in the Coast Range dating to 2002. The study found an average increase of 1.26 degrees Fahrenheit after logging on private lands. There was no increase on state timberlands, where more trees are left standing along streams. The temperature increases were prompted by less shade thrown on the water by trees.

— The Associated Press

 Other media outlets that published the story: The Bulletin (Bend)

The Daily Courier (Grants Pass)

The Columbian (Vancouver)

Albany Democrat-Herald

Herald and News (Klamath Falls)

SFGate (Raleigh, Durham, Fayetteville)