The Conservation Column
By Pepper Trail
Good News and Bad News for Oregon Forests
First, the good news: the Oregon Forest Practices Act.
In March, the Oregon Legislature passed the Oregon Forest Practices Act (OFPA) (Senate Bill 1501). This creates strong new stream protections covering more than 10 million acres of private forest land in Oregon.
Six environmental groups worked for months with six timber industry representatives, in a process facilitated by the Governor’s office, to develop the OFPA agreements. The environmental groups were Portland Audubon, Wild Salmon Center, Oregon Wild, KS Wild, and Trout Unlimited. The legislation will provide much stronger protections on both fish and non-fish bearing streams to benefit federally protected species such as salmon, steelhead, and bull trout, as well as other species such as stream dwelling amphibians. You can read the full legislation here. SB 1501 passed with strong bipartisan support on a 22-5 vote in the Senate and a 43-15 in the House.
After the passage of the OFPA, Governor Kate Brown issued the following statement: “Thank you to legislators from both parties for coming together to pass this historic legislative package. The Private Forest Accord is a perfect example of the Oregon Way – Oregonians coming together to find common ground, to the mutual benefit of us all. Together, this agreement will help to ensure that Oregon continues to have healthy forests, fish, and wildlife, as well as economic growth for our forest industry and rural communities, for generations to come. I would like to thank every-one involved for their role in making this agreement a reality today.”
“This is truly a paradigm shift and a moment in our state’s history of which all Oregonians should be proud,” said Chris Edwards, President of the Oregon Forest & Industries Council. “This demonstrates it is possible to put differences aside and work together on viable solutions to tough problems. Today we leave the Timber Wars in the past and embark on a new collaborative era of forestry that ensures a future for sustainable active forest management and wood products manufacturing.” “This is great news for Oregon,” said Bob Van Dyk, Oregon Policy Director for the Wild Salmon Center. “Our fisheries, our forests, and our communities will all benefit, not only from the measures adopted today, but also from the spirit of compromise that made this possible.” “The Private Forest Accord recognized, for the first time, the precarious position family forest landowners have to balance [including] economic viability, biological capacity, and social acceptance of active forest management on their smaller forest parcels,” said Ken Nygren, President of the Oregon Small Woodlands Association. “Sustaining family forestland ownership is a critical element in a balanced approach to forest land management, and we will work to help family forest landowners understand the complexity of the new regulations and to successful implementation on the ground.”
“The passage of the Private Forest Accord legislation today marks a significant moment in Oregon’s history,” said Sean Stevens, Executive Director of Oregon Wild. “I’d like to again thank the many parties that came together to
make the Accord a reality. And I would also like to recognize the countless community members, companies, and advocates that pushed for this moment. Collectively, we have created a new foundation for the practice of forestry in Oregon – one where science, cooperation, and a willingness to engage in sometimes difficult conversations will drive future decision making.”
Now, the bad news: Medford BLM Poised to Log Old-Growth Reserves
From KS Wild (https://www.kswild.org/conservation-efforts/2022/2/23/ivm): “Integrated Vegetation Management for Resilient Lands” (IVM) sure sounds great doesn’t it? Unfortunately, those flowery words are agency-speak for logging old-growth forest reserves down to 30% canopy cover and creating four-acre mini-clearcuts across the landscape in southwestern Oregon. In 2016 the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) finalized a Resource Management Plan that established several forest land use allocations including: (1) the Harvest Land Base in which timber production was to occur; (2) Streamside Riparian Reserve forests that were to be managed to protect aquatic values; and (3) Late-Successional Reserves that are intended to provide – you guessed it – late successional old-growth habitat for at-risk wildlife species. Timber planners within the BLM have never really embraced the idea that there are forests on public lands that should be reserved from timber production in order to protect wildlife and watersheds. So, to undermine the idea of forest reserves the BLM has developed the “Integrated Vegetation Management for Resilient Lands” plan that will open the reserves to logging that removes old-growth forest canopy and results in four-acre “openings.” For scale, a four-acre clearcut is approximately the size of three football fields. Such logging prescriptions remove the exact wildlife habitat and riparian forests that the reserves were designed to protect. The BLM will not tell you that they intend to “clearcut” the reserves. What you or I would call clearcutting the BLM euphemistically refers to as creating “open seral habitat.” The BLM’s intention to convert intact late-successional forests in the reserves into “open seral habitat” renders the forest reserve system meaningless. Essentially the BLM intends to place both the old-growth and riparian reserves into the Harvest Land Base and log them with harvest prescriptions that mirror how they log in the timber base. Given that the BLM is already engaged in widespread logging of the old-growth and riparian reserves, why are they even bothering with the IVM planning process? The answer is because they hope to do away with meaningful public review and site-specific analysis of their old-growth logging agenda. IVM is intended to provide the over-arching analysis and authority for the BLM to log the reserves without the bother of writing an Environmental Assessment or consulting the public about the management of old-growth forests. Instead, the BLM would conduct a brief internal checklist called a Determination of NEPA Adequacy (DNA) for old-growth timber sales of any size within the reserves.
BLM timber planners are chomping at the bit to start logging the reserves without public involvement or environ-mental analysis. The agency’s single-minded focus on logging makes the forthcoming timber sale decisions under IVM inevitable. For instance, the BLM has already laid out the boundaries for the first two IVM timber sales that are located within old-growth reserves. The Penn Butte and Late Mungers timber sales, both in the Apple-gate, are identified on the BLM’s 2022 “annual forest product sale plans” with the exact date that the BLM will offer the forests for sale and the exact amount of timber the BLM intends to log. There is no circumstance in which the environmental impacts of the proposed logging or the content of public comments can influence the BLM whatsoever. An IVM decision was issued on March 2, 2022, and the Penn Butte and Late Mungers forest reserve timber sales are likely to follow shortly. KS Wild and our allies intend to challenge the BLM logging plans.
To close: the abiding good news: it’s spring!
Despite all the troubles of the world, spring returns, bringing with it wildflowers and butterflies, warblers and tan-agers, swallows and swifts. Be sure to get out there and enjoy the natural treasures that we all are working to protect. See you on the trail!