PRIVATE LOGGING RULES FACE HEARING JANUARY 30
Water Coalition Says Proposed Rules Fail to Protect Cold Water for Salmon
Portland, OR: New stream protection rules proposed by the Oregon Board of Forestry are the subject of a final public information session and hearing in Portland on Monday, January 30 at Ecotrust from 4-7 p.m. The State Forester will attend, and conservation and fishing representatives are expected to testify.
The Board is close to finalizing new logging rules to prevent stream warming because a major monitoring study found current rules allow logging of shade trees too close to fish-bearing streams to reliably comply with statewide limits on stream warming. These limits are part of the state’s water quality standard for stream temperature developed to meet the federal Clean Water Act.
Adequate stream buffers are also important for a host of other ecological reasons and to protect public health by keeping chemicals used to treat clearcuts during replanting away from streams.
The proposed rules will apply to “small” and “medium” salmon, steelhead & bull trout streams on Western Oregon private lands, with the exception of those in the Siskiyou Region.
Although the rule change is heralded as the first improvement to stream protection standards in almost a quarter-century, conservation and fishing interests have serious concerns, including:
- None of the buffer options effectively protects cold water and salmon
- The new buffers should extend much farther upstream from reaches with salmon and steelhead
- The Board had no compelling reason to exclude the Siskiyou region from the rule
- The rule’s allowance for reduced stream protection for landowners most heavily affected (“equity relief”) sets too low an eligibility threshold.
“It is the Board’s sworn legal duty to ensure Oregon’s logging rules meet the water quality standards that protect our public waterways and the valuable fisheries that rely on them,” said Mary Scurlock, Coordinator of the Oregon Stream Protection Coalition comprising 25 conservation and fishing groups. “This rule simply does a little less harm than the status quo, which is not acceptable.”
Scurlock maintains that the Board should have crafted a rule that is consistent with its own scientific analysis and which prioritizes the public’s broad interest in clean water and salmon over the narrow economic interests of a single sector. “This rule falls far short of what the water quality and fish experts at DEQ, EPA and NMFS were recommending.”
Chris Smith, leader of the North Coast Forest Coalition emphasized that the proposed rules still don’t come close to the stream protection standards in neighboring states: “Washington and California have thriving timber industries despite much stronger stream rules. All we want is to protect water quality and fisheries for Oregonians, too.”
SUMMARY OF THE RULE PROPOSAL
The rule provides for four buffer prescriptions. The two main ones are: “no harvest” and “partial cut” (aka “variable retention”). Both options apply within 60 feet of small and 80 feet of medium “salmon, steelhead and bull trout” (SSBT) streams. A third “north-sided” option applies only to stream reaches longer than 200 feet that run east-to-west. However, some landowners who are impacted the most by the new rule will be allowed to use a fourth even less restrictive “equity exemption” option.
- No cut buffers of 60 and 80 feet on small and medium SSBT streams, respectively. The new buffers will extend upstream to the end of the unit on the mainstem stream, as defined in the rule.
- Partial cut buffers of 60 and 80 feet keep the small 20 foot no cut zone we have now and requires that more trees be left (measured in conifer and hardwood basal area) outside this area.
- Because the Board directed that the unlogged trees be “well-distributed,” the rule requires that the basal area be calculated according to 500 foot lengths of stream instead of the 1000 feet now allowed, and the trees must be spread around within the outer 40 and 60 feet. For example, the rule establishes “floors” of 50% for the amount of total required basal area must be in the middle zone, with a 25% minimum in the outer zone.
- Unlike current rules, both conifers and hardwoods are counted for basal area calculations on the theory that hardwoods also provide shade to streams.
- The currently required minimum number of live conifers will also be calculated per 500 feet of stream. Trees need only be 8 inches in diameter to count, which is pretty small. (We did not succeed in getting a “largest tree” requirement).
- Smaller “north-sided” buffers on stream reaches that run in an east-west direction. A 40-foot no cut buffer is considered adequate on the north side of these stream reaches. The minimum length of stream to which such a prescription may apply is 200 feet – there is no maximum reach length.
- Equity Exemption Option. Landowners who will have 8% or more of their land affected by the new rule can use smaller buffers that will not protect coldwater.