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.