Category Archives: logging

OSPC Comment on expanding water rules on small and medium salmon, steelhead, and bull trout Siskiyou Georegion streams

PDF of OSPC comments on Siskiyou Rules September 28, 2020

September 28, 2020

Greg Wagenblast, Hearings Officer
Private Forest Siskiyou SSBT Rulemaking
Oregon Department of Forestry
2600 State Street
Salem, OR 97310

Re: Public Comment on Proposed Amendment to OAR Chapter 629: Expanding water rules on small and medium salmon, steelhead, and bull trout Siskiyou Georegion streams

Dear Mr. Wagenblast:
I am the coordinator of the Oregon Stream Protection Coalition (OSPC), an ad hoc coalition of 26 non-profit organizations in Oregon and Washington united around the promotion of increased protection for freshwater aquatic ecosystems on nonfederal lands in Oregon. Thank you for the opportunity to provide public comment on the proposed rulemaking to apply the Salmon, Steelhead,
and Bull Trout (“SSBT”) stream buffer standards to the Siskiyou Georegion.

As a signatory of the Memorandum of Agreement implemented by SB 1602, I support the proposed rule change as part of a larger policy change package that includes future collaboration with private forest landowning entities to develop the framework for a statewide forest practices aquatic habitat conservation plan. Incorporation of the SBBT rule expansion to the Siskiyou into legislation helped expedite and streamline what could have been a lengthy and contentious rulemaking. This action effectively reverses a 2015 Board of Forestry decision to exclude small and medium streams that support salmon and steelhead in the Siskiyou region from stream protection requirements that became effective in July 2017 for the balance of western Oregon. OSPC has consistently advocated for inclusion of the Siskiyou in the SSBT rule since 2015. This rule change represents a modest improvement that brings stream buffer standards in the Siskiyou up to the same level as the rest of western Oregon.

I would like to take this opportunity to clarify that in adopting this rule the Board was not required to make a specific finding about the adequacy of either the existing or proposed rules to meet water
quality standards under the Clean Water Act or restoration targets under any of the six applicable Total Maximum Daily Load plans (TMDLs) for impaired water bodies in the Siskiyou region. Nor
did the Legislature or the Environmental Quality Commission make such findings.

Likewise, this rulemaking is not accompanied by analysis that indicates it renders the Oregon Forest Practices rules to be an adequate foundation for the federally approvable Endangered Species Act habitat conservation plan aspired to by the parties to the MOU implemented by SB1602. As noted in the comments dated September 18, 2020 already submitted into this proceeding by Rogue Riverkeeper and Wild Salmon Center, which we endorse, additional protection of the small and medium fish-bearing streams covered by this rule will be an important consideration in planned
future collaborative policy discussions.

Therefore, we are submitting for this record as separate electronic files:

1. Comments submitted by OSPC to ODF on the original SSBT rule change
These comments argued that none of the four buffer designs provided under the western Oregon SSBT rule (no cut, partial cut, North-South or equity relief) are adequate to meet the Protecting
Coldwater Criterion or the watershed-specific targets established by applicable temperature TMDLs. OSPC continues to find that available information supports the contention that larger buffers applied to more of the stream network are needed to achieve compliance with the Protecting ColdwaterStandard and applicable TMDL/Human Use Allowance requirements.

2. The final ODF report entitled “Siskiyou Streamside Protections Review: Summary of Literature Review” by Adam Coble, W. Terry Frueh, John Hawksworth and Ariel Cowan

This report, provided in its final form to the Board of Forestry as an informational item at its September 6, 2020 meeting, generally informs policy considerations regarding attainment of DEQ
water quality standards for temperature for small and medium fish-bearing streams in the Siskiyou geographic region.

This document includes a summary of available information relevant to the Siskiyou region about the adequacy of current forest practices water protection rules to meet stream temperature goals and relationships between riparian buffer width and basal area and prevention of stream temperature increases due to shade reduction.

A primary finding is that: “[r]elevant literature (12 studies)
suggests implementation of current FPA rules will not ensure maintenance of Protecting Cold Water standard or the Human Use Allowance.” Siskiyou Review at iv. The review is notable for its
discussion of the policy implications of applicable TMDLs for forest practices and for its evaluation of how these analyses may inform our understanding of riparian buffer design as it relates to effective stream shading.

Mary Scurlock, Coordinator
Oregon Stream Protection Coalition

Attachment 1: March 2017 OSPC Comments on SSBT Rule (24 pp)
Attachment 2: Attachments to March 2017 OSPC Comments on SSBT Rule (78 pp)
Attachment 3:  Siskiyou Streamside Protections Literature Review Summary from 9/9/20 Board Packet (30 pp) 

Click here to read related comments by Rogue Riverkeeper and Wild Salmon Center

Governor Kate Brown Announces Continued Agreement on Science-Based Forest Management

Press Release from Governor Kate Brown:

March 31, 2020

Timber and environmental groups reinforce their commitment to February pact brokered by Governor Brown

Salem, OR—Governor Kate Brown today issued the following statement on receiving a reaffirmation of commitment from forest industry and environmental groups to work together on a science-informed policy development process related to forest practice laws and regulations.

In February, the signatories to the original memorandum of understanding agreed to drive a process to update the state’s timber practices balancing habitat and working in the woods, with the mutual goals of meeting the standards of endorsement from federal wildlife agencies; passing legislation on aerial spraying of pesticides to enhance spray buffer zones and notification practices; expanding stream buffers for salmon, steelhead, and bull trout streams; and sustaining Oregon’s critical forest products industries. Both sides agreed to drop all forestry-related initiative petitions and related litigation after passage of updated legislation addressing the areas of contention.

“Two short months ago, with the goal of creating a better future for Oregon, the state’s forest industry and major environmental groups were able to find common ground in a historic collaboration,” said Governor Brown. “Since then, all of our daily lives have changed dramatically, as our state has been dealing with the spread of COVID-19. Right now, my top priority is the safety and health of Oregonians. I am doing everything in my power to slow the spread of the virus and protect our front-line workers to keep people safe.

“Now we’re going to need to work together more than ever. I am pleased to have the partnership of industry and advocates to achieve the original goals of the memorandum of understanding, including legislation, as soon as circumstances allow for this very important work to resume.

“I, too, remain committed to our collective goals and to the long-term health of our state. Oregonians want healthy forests and fish, a vibrant forest sector, and prosperous rural communities, and I appreciate the continued collaboration to make this happen.”


Oregon Timber Pact Holds Promise for Salmon; Story by Wild Salmon Center

Timber industry, conservation groups, including Wild Salmon Center, sign promising agreement to pursue more effective forest practices on private lands in Oregon.

Today, Governor Kate Brown announced a new path of cooperation between the timber industry and conservation groups including Wild Salmon Center. Memorandum of Understanding between a dozen Oregon timber companies and an equal number of conservation groups includes new rules on aerial pesticide spraying, new protections for streams in the Rogue-Siskiyou region of Southwest Oregon, and a new framework for developing comprehensive protections for salmon and other endangered species that depend on clean, cold water throughout the state.

Wild Salmon Center has been working for more than 20 years to update forest policies across the state, to ensure salmon have clean, cold water and adequate habitat for spawning and rearing. Now, WSC has signed on to this agreement, in the belief that it provides a potentially better pathway for protecting Oregon’s salmon and steelhead runs and adapting to a changing climate. (Here’s a a primer on the pact, with highlights and further context.)

After today’s agreement, the Oregon Legislature will take up a package that includes new provisions on aerial pesticide spray, Rogue-Siskiyou stream rules, and support for a comprehensive habitat protection plan.

Governor Kate Brown and WSC’s Bob Van Dyk.

Wild Salmon Center’s Bob Van Dyk, who has worked on Oregon forest policy for two decades, said this today at the Capitol:

  • “It’s a great privilege to be here today as a party to this announcement.
  • Almost twenty years ago, Oregon’s forest laws diverged from our neighbors in Washington State. Washington State worked through a difficult but collaborative process to reform their forest laws.The process resulted in major changes to better conserve wild salmon and clean water, while giving the timber industry more regulatory certainty.
  • In Oregon we never developed that critical mass for compromise. Instead, we argued in front of the Board of Forestry. We filed lawsuits. We fought over legislation. Wild Salmon Center and the many signers of the MOU today have been at the heart of these 20 years of struggleThe result has been a lack of trust, gridlock on forest policy, and growing citizen demand for better forest rules to protect people, clean water, and fish and wildlife.
  • Today we are starting a new approach. The MOU signed today, and the companion legislation on aerial spray of pesticides, are taking a similar path to that in Washington State. It is a path of collaboration toward the stronger conservation measures our groups seek, and toward the certainty the forest industry needs.
  • For many of the people and organizations in the conservation community who signed this MOU, this new approach is unfamiliar and unsettling. Pursue legislation in partnership with the industry? Should we do that? It is a good question. As Mark Twain wrote, “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” On reflection, we have decided it is worth trying something new.
  • I want to acknowledge that this isn’t easy for anyone. The immediate reforms announced today on aerial spray, together with the improvements to rules protecting the Rogue region, are a real and meaningful step by the forest products industry in a new direction. And then on to more difficult steps, working toward a Habitat Conservation Plan for Oregon’s forests.
  • Of course the prospects for this effort are uncertain, as are most ambitious undertakings.  But our agreement today is the right start.
  • I want to end by thanking the Governor and her team for helping to convene this conversation, and for the support she has expressed for the result. It truly would not have happened without her.”

Wild Salmon Center President and CEO Guido Rahr, who has also been working to reform Oregon forest policy for two decades, had these comments:

  • “Two of Oregon’s greatest treasures are its wild fish and wild rivers, and Western Oregon rivers hold the greatest concentrations of healthy wild salmon and steelhead stocks remaining south of Canada. Science clearly tells us that we need to modernize our forest practices in Oregon, to properly protect these rivers and streams and the wild fish that call them home
  • We’ve spent many years fighting about salmon and clean water. But today we’re demonstrating shared values around protecting the things that make Oregon awesome. Today, we are plotting a new cooperative path to update timber practices and protect salmon. We firmly believe we can get better results this way. I want to applaud this new spirit of collaboration. I want to thank the Governor for stewarding this agreement. I want to also acknowledge the long, hard work of our staff, particularly Bob Van Dyk, to bring about this agreement. And we need to thank the citizens and communities throughout Oregon that have spoken up in favor of new protections.
  • There’s still much work to be done to secure needed habitat protection for salmon. But after today’s announcement I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to complete that journey together.”

View full press conference.

Photo by Emily Vaughan-Klickman/Crag Law Center

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.

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.


Oregonian Opinion Piece: Coastal Oregonians want stronger protections for forest waters

October 30, 2019

by guest columnists
Nancy Webster, Jane Anderson and Pat Himes

Webster lives in Rockaway Beach. Anderson lives in Garibaldi. Himes lives in Oceanside. All three are members of the North Coast Communities for Watershed Protection, an organization that seeks to protect air and water throughout the region.

We live at the Oregon coast and have been directly affected by the influence of money in Oregon politics. For 25 years, the Oregon Legislature has failed to significantly update protections from clearcutting for rivers and streams, or to protect us and water from aerial spraying of toxic pesticides. Out of frustration, we have joined with people from across Oregon to advance protections for forest waters.

Recently, The Oregonian/OregonLive’s Rob Davis wrote an article on Secretary of State Bev Clarno’s rejection of ballot initiatives seeking greater protections for forest waters. The initiatives sought to put an important question before voters: Should Oregon update its protections for rivers and streams and require larger buffers for aerial spraying of toxic chemicals? Clarno’s denial appears to be another example of corporate influence hurting rural Oregonians. And considering the donations that she and her deputy have taken in the past, it also seems to be another example of the overreach of corporate influence in Oregon as Davis revealed earlier this year in the series “Polluted by Money.

For too long, we have watched Wall Street corporations clearcut near Oswald West State Park, Cannon Beach, Yachats, Rockaway Beach, Arch Cape and other communities. Experts from Oregon State University have found that short-rotation clearcutting reduces water supplies by half. We have witnessed streams running dry in the summer months.

While we all use wood products, we cannot make more water. According to state figures, timber is around 2% of Oregon’s gross domestic product and less than 2% of jobs. Welcoming visitors to our communities and providing water for them and local residents is worth more. We also know how hard people work and that every job in our rural economy matters. We feel that things are out of balance, and that Oregonians from diverse backgrounds will agree.

The fact is that investment firms and Wall Street corporations control huge amounts of land in northwest Oregon. These companies flood our Legislature with money and resist even modest updates to protect the public’s water supplies that flow from Oregon’s forests.

Secretary of State Clarno demonstrated she is ill-informed when she confused the Oregon Board of Forestry, charged with protecting the greatest permanent value for all Oregonians, with the Oregon Forest & Industries Council, a timber lobbying group that works to protect its ability to clearcut by streams, spray toxic chemicals, and denude steep slopes. While we agree the timber industry should have a voice in decisions affecting its industry, we do not agree that they should get to set all the rules in their favor.

Those of us on the coast are being adversely affected, and we’re not going to take it anymore. In Rockaway Beach, we watched as more than 80% of the forestland from which our water flows was clearcut. Cannon Beach, Yachats, Newport, Arch Cape, Wheeler, and other communities have watched in alarm as their forested watersheds have been clearcut and sprayed with toxic chemicals. Slopes designated by the state as having a high risk of landslides have been clearcut, endangering communities and the waters which sustain them. Our group, North Coast Communities for Watershed Protection, reflects our common goal to ensure the air we breathe and the water we drink are safe. To learn more about us, visit

Idaho, Washington, and California have better protections for forest waters than “green” Oregon. The companies which are deforesting Oregon are able to profitably comply with these better protections in other states. Why not in Oregon? The proposed initiative is consistent with Oregon values. It would protect our forests and the waters that flow from them. It would live up to our reputation.

We have been talking to Oregonians of all stripes who tell us they will support increased protections for forest waters because they know the value of clean and abundant water. They know we cannot afford to spend millions of dollars to treat dirty water caused by clearcutting on steep slopes and by streams. Clarno asserts that the initiative is confusing, but the voters we spoke with understood that it would protect forests and the water they provide.

We think that, given the chance, voters in Tillamook County and many other rural counties will vote for protecting forests and the water they provide. We are for “logging,” and we are for doing better –– for our drinking water, the fish and our communities.

Ballot initiative to tighten Oregon forestry laws gets rejected. Advocates blame timber money: Oregonian Story

By Rob Davis
October 4, 2019

The Oregonian

For years, coastal residents and environmental groups have pushed state forestry officials and the Legislature for tighter restrictions on clearcutting and aerial weed killer spraying in Oregon’s forests.

And for years, little has changed in Oregon, where the timber industry gives more money to state lawmakers than anywhere else in the nation. Oregon trails neighboring West Coast states on a long list of environmental protections.

Now advocates are turning to another avenue — the ballot box. And there, too, they’ve been stymied. This time it’s by the Oregon Secretary of State’s office, led by two former Republican lawmakers whose campaigns drew significant financial backing from timber companies.

The three ballot measures — Initiative Petitions 35, 36 and 37 — are substantially the same. They call for tightening the state’s aerial spraying laws, which today offer some of the West Coast’s weakest protections for people and fish. They call for more logging restrictions in steep, landslide-prone areas. They would prohibit conflicts of interest for state forestry board appointees, who today can set policies that benefit their own companies.

But the Secretary of State’s elections division last week rejected the initiatives proposed by environmental advocates, including the group Oregon Wild, saying they related to more than one subject. The Oregon constitution says each ballot initiative can only address a single policy topic.

“When you have things with all sorts of things to do with a forest – setbacks and sprays and rivers – that’s more than one subject,” Secretary of State Bev Clarno said in an interview. “When you’re talking about creating an advisory board, and issues about how you can spray and set aside, that’s a lot of different subjects on how to manage a forest.”

Former Oregon lawmaker Richard Vial, Clarno’s deputy, also played a role in the decision. He is considering a campaign for Clarno’s spot in 2020; she has said she will not run.

Two elections attorneys called the rejection unprecedented and Clarno’s decision to perform her own legal review unusual.

The rejection delays proponents, who now must refile shorter initiatives while potentially challenging Clarno’s decision in court. The petitioners need the secretary of state’s approval before they can start collecting more than 100,000 signatures to qualify for the November 2020 ballot.

In each rejection, the secretary adopted arguments advanced by opponents of the initiatives. Those groups immediately celebrated Clarno’s action, which had been sought by the recently formed group Timber Unity and by Greg Chaimov, an attorney who has represented timber and pesticide interests.

On its Facebook page, Timber Unity called it “AMAZING NEWS!”, saying the initiatives were “trying to kill private forestry in Oregon.”

Kristina McNitt, president of the Oregon Forest and Industries Council, said the state’s existing forestry protections are sound and the initiatives “will face considerable constitutional hurdles and vehement objections by our industry.”

The initiative’s backers said they were stunned by the rejection, calling it evidence that Clarno and Vial are not as committed to running a politically agnostic office as the two Republicans have claimed. They said the explanation is clear: A political system fueled by timber industry dollars.

“It’s an office that says it wants to be nonpartisan doing something that is explicitly partisan,” said Sean Stevens, executive director of Oregon Wild. “It calls into question the confidence that people can have in their government. The grip the industry has on things is extending everywhere.”

As a lawmaker, Oregon House Speaker and candidate for state treasurer in the 1990s and early 2000s, Clarno took more than $36,000 in donations from timber interests. Vial took $19,000.

Then-Rep. Richard Vial, R-Scholls, in the House of Representatives chamber in 2017. (File/The Oregonian)

Clarno, when asked whether her decision was linked to party politics or her past backing by the timber industry, responded simply: “Bull.”

“I really do believe, in this office, partisanship has no business,” she said.

The attorney general typically provides a written opinion explaining why an initiative doesn’t pass legal muster. That opinion is typically made public, as a way to allow petitioners to redraft their initiative and ensure it complies with the law.

This time, the secretary of state didn’t ask for an opinion in writing, and the attorney general’s office didn’t draft one. Instead, an assistant attorney general met in person with officials in the secretary of state’s office. No one will disclose what the attorney said about the legality of the initiatives.

Clarno refused to waive attorney-client privilege to allow the attorney general to speak about it with a reporter. Vial at first refused to release even the name of the assistant attorney general who discussed the initiatives with him, saying her identity was protected by attorney-client privilege.

“Why would the public need to know that?” he asked, before eventually providing assistant attorney general Amy Alpaugh’s name.

Clarno, in an interview with The Oregonian/OregonLive, said she based her decision on analysis conducted by her own staff — Vial and elections director Steve Trout. “I thought I was in good hands,” she said.

Clarno said “we did not get a yes/no” from the attorney general about the initiatives’ legality, rather an assurance “that if I ended up in court they would defend me.”

A spokeswoman for Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, a Democrat, said she could not discuss the measures because the secretary of state would not waive attorney-client privilege. The spokeswoman, Kristina Edmunson, confirmed that the Department of Justice was “involved in conversations” with Clarno’s office about the initiatives. But she also contradicted part of Clarno’s account.

“We have not said (and were not asked) whether we would, or would not, defend their office in case of a lawsuit,” Edmunson said in an email. She said the late Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, who was elected in 2016, had changed the initiative review process, asking the Department of Justice only to review initiatives upon request.

To qualify for the ballot, initiatives must pertain to a single subject. The same ballot initiative couldn’t ask voters to create campaign donation limits, permit grocery stores to sell liquor and outlaw the death penalty. It’s called the single-subject rule.

Oregon courts have strictly interpreted the single-subject rule for proposed constitutional amendments. But they’ve treated it far more permissively for changes to often-complicated state statutes, like those the forestry initiatives seek to change.

“It is a very lenient test,” said Dan Meek, a Portland elections attorney. “It is very difficult to violate the single-subject requirement.”

It’s so hard to violate that Meek and another attorney who has written multiple ballot measures said they didn’t think the Secretary of State had ever rejected an initiative to change state law on single-subject grounds.

“It just raises eyebrows to me,” said Margaret Olney, a Portland attorney who has drafted ballot initiatives for progressive groups including Our Oregon and Planned Parenthood. “It’s extremely surprising that there isn’t at least a short letter of explanation for purposes of transparency to allow the chief petitioners to fix any problems. That has been the standard.”

Meek read the ballot proposals and said they clearly relate to the same subject.

“It’s weird,” Meek said. “When the proponents take this to court, they will win – easily.”

Clarno’s office released a deeper explanation late Thursday night, after inquiries from The Oregonian/OregonLive about discrepancies in the reasons separately provided by Clarno, Vial and Trout.

In the news release, Clarno said questions about aerial spraying in forests and “how the Oregon Forest Council manages forests” are very different. “These aspects of the proposed measures would potentially confuse voters,” she said.

Oregon forest laws are in fact managed by the governor-appointed, seven-member Board of Forestry.

The Oregon Forest Council does not exist, though the Oregon Forest & Industries Council is a lobbying group that has donated to both Clarno and Vial’s campaigns.



Oregon Board of Forestry Grants Petition to Protect Coho Salmon from Private and State Logging

News from Cascadia Wildlands
July 26, 2019

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.”

Who’s Following The Forest Practices Act? Oregon Can’t Say For Sure: OPB News Story

June 13, 2019
by Tony Schick

Click here for full story

On Feb. 26, 2019, Oregon State Forester Peter Daugherty sat in front of lawmakers during a budget hearing and reported his agency’s sterling compliance rate with the laws that govern private logging.

“The audit showed an overall rule level compliance rate of 98%,” Daugherty told them.

Others aren’t so sure about that.

“We don’t know if it’s 98, 99 or 50,” said Brenda McComb, a retired Oregon State University professor who serves on the board overseeing Daugherty’s agency, the Department of Forestry.

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.

A contractor sorts logs on Oregon Board of Forestry land in southern Oregon. 
A contractor sorts logs on Oregon Board of Forestry land in southern Oregon. Oregon Department of Forestry

“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.”