Blog, Campaigns, Nehalem, State Forests, State Scenic Waterway

Protecting Oregon’s Nehalem River

Campaign Update: We did it! A 17-mile stretch of Oregon’s Nehalem River is now officially a state scenic waterway. Governor Kate Brown signed the designation summer 2019, after receiving messages of encouragement from hundreds of WSC supporters and thousands of Oregonians.

The Scenic Nehalem River

The Nehalem River is an Oregon Coast gem that includes critical habitat for some of the best wild salmon and steelhead runs left in the Lower 48. It has long attracted Oregonians to hike, fish, camp, and float its clear waters. It’s also the North Coast’s longest river, aside from the mighty Columbia, and the Nehalem watershed includes important tributaries like the crystal clear Salmonberry River.

The Oregon Forest Conservation Coalition is working to designate the stunning 17-mile river segment from Henry Rierson Spruce Run Campground to the Cougar Valley State Park as a State Scenic Waterway.

Photo by Justin Bailie

The Scenic Waterways program was passed by ballot measure in 1970 in response to dam construction, suction dredge mining, and increasing development pressures on Oregon’s iconic rivers. It allows the state to reserve our natural waterways for their scenic, habitat and recreation values. After several rivers were initially designated, the program became largely dormant until 2016. Currently, only 22 river segments are designated as State Scenic Waterways in Oregon, which equates to less than 1% of the state’s rivers and streams.

The Nehalem is an ideal candidate for the designation, with old native forests, stunning trails, scenic waterfalls, and fish and wildlife habitat. The Nehalem is the largest “wild fish only” river on the Oregon Coast and is home to an unusually rich diversity of salmonids: three races of Chinook, some of the last chum on the coast, cutthroat trout, coho, and a race of extra large winter-run steelhead. Older forests along this stretch are also important habitat for endangered marbled murrelets, which nest on the limbs of big, old trees.

Danger of Clearcuts

Unfortunately, the Oregon Department of Forestry has recently proposed a large timber sale which would clear cut sections of the proposed scenic stretch. The Oregon Forest Conservation Coalition has asked the Department of Forestry to defer the timber sale in the river corridor and further review the proposal to open more than 750 acres of older forest to clearcutting in the region. If the Department of Forestry pursues the timber sale in the proposed Nehalem Scenic Waterway, it would not only be harmful to important salmon and marbled murrelet habitat, but also to the public who hike, fish, camp, and float the clear waters. Our partners at Trout Unlimited and Wild Salmon Center have also been asked to sit on an Oregon Parks advisory committee, which will help develop a management plan for the potential Nehalem Scenic Waterway designation.

We will continue to work to further our conservation efforts and ensure that our rivers and forests are protected for clean water, wildlife habitat, and special places to recreate in. The designation of the Nehalem River as a State Scenic Waterway will be an important step on that journey.

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Blog, Video

Help Protect Oregon’s North Coast Forests with Give!Guide

A core member of the Oregon Forest ConservationCoalition has been selected for Willamette Week’s Give!Guide campaign. Through December 31stmake a contribution to Wild Salmon Center and you’ll earn exciting giving incentives through Give!Guide and a 40% off coupon to Patagonia Portland, WSC’s business partner.

Your Give!Guide donation will support the Oregon Forest Conservation Coalition’s work to safeguard wildlife habitat and clean drinking water in the Tillamook, Clatsop, and Elliott state forests. Every dollar you give will help protect critical salmon habitat, some of the last remaining older foreststands on the north coast, and our access to outdoor recreation.

Help us take advantage of this opportunity by making a Give!Guide contribution today, you’ll not only get a 40% off coupon to Patagonia Portland, you’ll also be entered to win a $500 shopping spree to Powell’s Books!

Visit WSC’s Give!Guide profile to read more and to view WSC’s video.

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Introducing the Oregon Forest Conservation Coalition

Notice something different? We had a bit of a makeover! For about five years, the North Coast State Forest Coalition has worked almost exclusively on protecting the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests. Recently, the groups in our coalition have taken on some additional pressing forest issues in Western Oregon: we dove into the work to keep the Elliott State Forest public, helped push through the new (still not enough!) riparian buffer rules on private forestlands, and several of our member groups helped introduced legislation that would reform the Oregon Forest Practices Act. We thought that a new look and new name would better reflect all that what we’re up to. So here we are, the Oregon Forest Conservation Coalition.

Below you’ll find quick updates on some of the work we’ve been doing:

We haven’t left the Tillamook & Clatsop behind. In fact, last week we submitted public comments on the 2018 Annual Operations Plans for those forestsClatsop - Medium. There are certainly some concerning trends:

1) The Oregon Department of Forestry is decreasing service levels despite record levels of timber harvest revenue. This indicates that funding state forest programs nearly entirely by logging is a structural problem.

2) Over 5,000 acres will have potentially harmful pesticides applied to them. Much of this is done by helicopter, which means that pesticides can drift, affecting public health and habitat.

3) Many older forest stands in the Clatsop State Forest are slated to be clearcut. Less than 0.1% of state forest lands in northwest #Oregon are considered old growth and yet we are logging those trees which are oldest.

Click here to read our full comments.

After intense public pressure (thanks to all who called or emailed Treasurer Read!), some timely polling, and perhaps time to reflect, members of the State Land Board pulled the plug on the process to privatize the Elliott State Forest. On Tuesday, Governor Brown and Tobias Read (who had previously favored selling the forest) voted to find a public ownership solution that will hopefully see much of the older forest stands protected. The details are still yet to be hashed out and there’s plenty of work to do. The next two months will be especially critical as the legislature needs to do its part to help along the public ownership plan. We’ll be keeping you in the loop!

Elliott Mist

OFCC-Private Forest-Riparian Buffer-SmallOn April 26th, the Oregon Board of Forestry finally formally adopted new rules for stream buffers on private forests. The new rules will become effective on July 1. This is a welcome and modest step in the right direction towards better forest management, but there is a lot left to be desired:

1) Buffers are at least 20-40 feet too small to meet the DEQ temperature standard with reasonable certainty according to scientific analysis.

2) A smaller, 40-foot, “north-sided buffer” is still allowed on some stream reaches

3) The rule does not protect upstream reaches from salmon, steelhead and bull trout streams.

4) The Siskiyou Region (Southwest Oregon) has been entirely left out.

Oregon's Forest Practices Act: failing to protect our water since 1972 (photo by F. Eatherington)

Oregon’s Forest Practices Act: failing to protect our water since 1972 (photo by F. Eatherington)

For the very first time, the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee of Oregon’s House of Representatives held a hearing to discuss comprehensive reform of the outdated Oregon Forest Practices Act. Working with Rep. Holvey, Pacific Rivers and  Center for Sustainable Economy put forward legislation that would reform the laws that allow the timber industry to degrade fish and wildlife habitat and put human health and  drinking water at risk. Though the bill didn’t pass out of committee, the hearing provided supporters of the bill a venue to make a strong case for reform. Panels of experts and small woodlot owners testified that Oregon’s Forest Practices Act promotes harmful logging by multinational corporations when it should instead incentivize sustainable logging that restores and protects the environment.  The hearing was the first step in a long-term plan that seeks to restore Oregon as a leader in sustainable forestry and conservation. Stay tuned!

We’ll continue to support local communities that are working on forest issues. Columbia River Estuary Action Team (CREATE) continues to foster forest conservation in Astoria through their Forest Interest Group. Check out Roger Dorband’s latest words of wisdom in this April’s Hipfish Monthly: “Of Forests and Clean Water” on page 14. Finally, the Citizens of Rockaway Beach for Watershed Protection are releasing a book called “May the Forest Be With You.” Join them for the release celebration on Friday, May 12th!

Photo by Brian O'Keefe, courtesy of Wild Salmon Center

Photo by Brian O’Keefe, courtesy of Wild Salmon Center

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Blog, Board of Forestry, State Forests

This Monday: Speak up for Oregon’s streams and salmon

Did you know that of all the West Coast states, Oregon has the least protective rules regarding logging on fish-bearing streams? This Monday (1/30), there is a unique opportunity to speak up for clean cool water for fish and people. Join other advocates to take a stand for the water we all care about from 4:00-7:00 pm at the Ecotrust Building (721 NW 9th Ave) in Portland.

Oregon’s logging rules lag behind the best available science. Right now, the Board of Forestry is nearing the end of an eight-year-long process to update buffer rules for some of Oregon’s streams after finding that current forest practices cause excess water pollution and that the current rules need strengthening. However, the proposed new rules don’t go nearly far enough to protect our aquatic habitat and clean water sources.

We need you to join us, and others from your community, in sending a loud message to the Board of Forestry that they can do better, and we demand it!

Click here for additional background and click here for talking points.

If you can’t make it to the hearing, you can submit public comment by emailing Use the subject line “Private Forest SSBT Rulemaking”.

Photo by Tom Lange


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Blog, State Forests

10 reasons counties and taxing districts should opt out of the Linn County lawsuit

The Linn County state forest lawsuit seeks $1.4 billion in alleged damages from the State of Oregon for not maximizing revenue from state-owned and managed forestlands. For decades, the state has sought a varied and balanced mix of management approaches that produce timber revenue, provide for conservation of watersheds, and recreation.  Linn County claims the state was required to maximize industrial timber harvest for the counties to the exclusion of other values. Linn County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Murphy granted class action status to the dubious lawsuit. Counties that do not want to see our state forests turned into industrial tree farms have until January 25, 2017 to opt out. Here are 10 reasons why they should:

  • This lawsuit seeks to increase logging levels on state forests. Linn County’s attorneys have consistently misled the public as to the true nature of this lawsuit., claiming it is only a contract dispute between the counties and the state. If that were the case, why would the logging industry have developed and paid for the lawsuit? Hampton Affiliates, Stimson Lumber, and the timber lobbying group Oregon Forest Industries Council are licking their chops for a bigger piece of the pie. They are hoping that, as part of a settlement, state forest clearcutting levels increase. Or, they rightly assume that, if the lawsuit succeeds, the state will be forced to depart from its current, balanced approach to avoid being sued again.
  • Drastic harvest increase is not economically sustainable. As part of a process to examine new approaches to managing state forest lands, the Oregon Department of Forestry modeled what an increase in clearcutting would look like. The results were not promising. It turns out that when you liquidate your asset by intensive clearcutting, the returns don’t last long. The model showed that such an approach would pay for itself for about 25 years, after which costs far outpace revenue, leaving the Department financially insolvent. Additionally, Department staff noted that implementing this plan would result in less harvest than predicted and that there is a likelihood that counties and forest district would face drastic boom/bust cycles rather than steady, predictable income. This is what a moderate harvest increase looks like, a drastic increase would no doubt be far worse.
  • Increased harvest presents serious ecological problems. During the process to explore new management approaches to state forests, a third-party science review of several approaches was conducted. The industrial timber approach is modeled as the “Timber Harvest Optimization” (THO) alternative. Findings indicate that this approach result in 1) “lower carbon stocks in the forest;” 2) “reduced amount and diversity of vegetation;” 3) increased stream temperatures and sediment; 4) decreased non-motorized recreation, non-timber forest products, and fishing; 5) decreased habitat for nearly all types of wildlife (including threatened and endangered species); and 6) increased herbicide us. (See series of tables (4-4 to 4-10) for many of these indicators).
  • The Oregon Board of Forestry currently has a collaborative, science-based process to explore new management approaches. For several years now, the Board of Forestry’s “Alternative Forest Management Plan Subcommittee” has been hard at work on re-examining how to manage state forests for long-term financial viability and improved conservation. The subcommittee has consistently sought public input, the best available science, and input from the forest trustland counties. These counties have a “special” seat at the table with the Board of Forestry and the Department of Forestry. By staying in the lawsuit, counties would be forgoing a seat at that table in exchange for a seat on the timber industry/Linn County funride through the court system, where input is likely limited and forest plans are not typically written.
  • Our fisheries economy will suffer. A move towards industrial style timber production would have a severe impact on the local fisheries economy. On the north coast, recreational, and sport fishing are a cultural touchstone and a serious economic engine. In 2008, sportfishing ALONE in Tillamook and Clatsop Counties amounted to a $49 million dollar industry without counting equipment expenditures, which are significant. Many guides and fishing shops rely on healthy forested watersheds for their livelihood.
  • Recreation will suffer. The Tillamook State Forest provides critical, publicly accessible recreation opportunities for coastal communities along with residents of Washington County, which is growing rapidly. These forests provide the closest hiking and biking trails, low-cost campgrounds, rivers for fishing, swimming, and boating, hunting access, and wildlife viewing. In Clatsop County, the Clatsop State Forest represents the only large piece of public land for recreation. Increasing clearcutting, roads, and logging activities will be detrimental to these activities which improve quality of life and are a key economic engine for Oregon.
  • The lawsuit could be devastating to Oregon’s already stressed budget. Our state currently faces an approximate budget shortfall of $1.7 billion in the next biennium. If Linn County and the timber industry gets their way, that number would nearly double. Linn County and its attorneys pretend that the case is simple but they offer no solution on how the state’s taxpayers would generate an extra $1.4 billion without raising taxes, clearcutting more, and shutting down crucial state programs. As of the end of October, the lawsuit had cost the state roughly $503,000 not including Department of Forestry staff time.
  • The lawsuit is an attempt to make a few people wealthy at the cost of all Oregonians. While we don’t know where settlement money would come from, we know where a lot of the money will go if the lawsuit succeeds: John DiLorenzo and his law firm stand to make out with $210 million for representing Linn County and the timber industry. Add this to the increased clearcutting that companies like Stimson and Hampton are hoping for, and it’s clear that Oregonians—all of us—whether through increased taxes, lower water quality, environmental degradation, or loss of forest opportunities, will be left holding the bill.

It’s time to opt out of this destructive, misleading lawsuit.

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