In 2012, over 100 Oregonians attended a Board of Forestry meeting in Tillamook asking that the Board protect critical fish & wildlife habitat, clean drinking water, and recreation resources by classifying some state forest lands as “High Value Conservation Areas.” In a 4-2 vote, the Board listened to the people and in 2013, the new conservation rule went into affect, protecting some 120,000 acres on the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests and 140,000 acres total statewide. This was a major step for our state forests, and the Board and Department of Forestry deserve credit.
However, the durability and visibility of these areas is in serious doubt. Unfortunately, the location of the conservation areas are not set, so older forest areas can be put on the chopping block and recently clearcut areas can take their place as “conservation areas.” Additionally, most Oregonians don’t know where these special places are and what they protect. The Department of Forestry has not adequately highlighted or promoted the areas.
Now, as the Board of Forestry considers plan revisions, these special areas are again threatened. Conservation commitments need to be long-lasting, and visible so that Oregonians have confident in their ability to protect valuable resources.
We continue to work to promote these areas and ensure that they remain on the landscape.