In 2013, the Oregon Board of Forestry decided to examine alternative approaches to managing the Tillamook & Clatsop State Forests for improved conservation and financial viability. The decision to open the existing plan up stemmed from a lack of confidence in the long term financial viability of the Department of Forestry State Forest Division, which is currently almost entirely funded by logging on state forest lands.
The Board convened a group of stakeholders from the conservation community, timber industry, and counties to provide possible alternatives for managing the forests. These alternatives underwent review by a team of scientists who issued an assessment report. The Board then recognized that a better understanding of the inventory of the forest (how much wood is on the landscape) was necessary to continue. As inventory modeling was underway, the Linn County clearcut lawsuit abruptly interrupted the planning process.
Now, the Board is picking up where they left off. On August 3rd, members of the Alternative Forest Management Plan Subcommittee will be reminded of the process to date and choose how they want to proceed.
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 speakup 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!
On October 19th, a subcommittee of the Board of Forestry met to discuss alternative management plans for the Tillamook & Clatsop state forests. Any new plan needs to improve conservation AND make the Department of Forestry financially viable. This ongoing process has been dominated by a timber industry proposal to manage the forest as two zones: 70% for industrial clearcutting and 30% for conservation.
The Board directed the Department to model this proposal and the results are…not good.
Conservation: Under the current plan, 51% of the forest is open to clearcutting, 18% is thinned to create complex forest habitat, roughly 27% is not logged because it buffers streams, provides habitat to endangered species, or is too steep. The remaining 4% is roads, campgrounds, rock quarries, and power-line right-of-ways.
Financial Viability: It turns out that when you liquidate your asset by intensive clearcutting, the returns don’t last long. The model showed that the plan would pay for itself for about 25 years, after which costs far outpace revenue, leaving the Department worse off than it is now.
There are additional concerns. Based on district level groundtruthing, Department staff hinted that implementing this plan would result in less harvest than predicted. Moreover, there is a likelihood that counties and forest district would face drastic boom/bust cycles rather than steady, predictable income.
What’s next? Some timber industry modeling experts hope that there is more inventory than is currently assumed and that the forest will grow faster in the future with better stocks of wood. However, there is also reason to be pessimistic as the recent modeling didn’t account for likely forest disturbances such as wind storms or floods.
The Department is moving forward to refine their model, but so far it seems that a 70/30 fails to improve financial viability and drastically reduces conservation on our state forests.
The Board of Forestry subcommittee that is exploring new management plans for the Tillamook & Clatsop state forests met on August 12th. While the subcommittee did not make any big decisions, there were still some alarming outcomes worth noting.
The Subcommittee is charged with exploring alternative plans that would bring about improved financial viability for the Department of Forestry AND improved conservation on the forests. It would seem that this can only be achieved if there is a favorable comparison with the current plan. However, subcommittee member Mike Rose indicated that he is not concerned with comparing an alternative plan with the existing plan to determine if either is better for conservation or revenue. He is already focused on an approach in which 70% of the forest is managed like an industrial forest, including short-rotation clearcutting and intensive pesticide spraying.
If Tim Josi is not representing you, tell your county commissioners!
Perhaps of most concern is the continued lack of conservation improvement concepts. Department staff brought forward another framework that shows decreases in conservation acreage rather than an increase compared to the current plan. This framework included significant loss of High Value Conservation Areas.
Last month, the Board of Forestry refused to endorse a proposal that would have seen drastic increases in clearcutting across the landscape. Our supporters drove hundreds and hundreds of thoughtful, personalized comments to Governor Brown asking her to reject this plan. Thank you for your support—we were heard loud and clear!
The search for a new Forest Management Plan continues as the Board instructed Department of Forestry staff to engage in shuttle diplomacy with stakeholder groups in an attempt to find areas of agreement among the timber industry, county interests, and the conservation community.
The Board Subcommittee in charge of a new plan meets on April 8th with a lot of work to do. Tasked with improving conservation and stabilizing ODF’s funding, it is becoming more evident that the Board needs to seek alternative revenue streams rather than continuing to rely solely on logging to manage these public lands.
Fortunately, a conservation-minded member of the Board blocked this initial proposal, but ODF leadership have clearly made a power move to expand their budget as the Governor changes. The Department was directed to seek alternative revenues for their state forest program, but are clearly focused only on increasing harvest levels dramatically.
A parcel of forest only needs to be clearcut once to destroy most of its ecological value for decades and decades. On the other hand, conservation requires constant, long-term, robust protection. That is why, as the Board of Forestry writes a new plan for managing the Tillamook & Clatsop state forests, conservation commitments need to be real–long-lasting, appropriately managed, and mapped.
Current “High Value Conservation Areas,” which we fought hard for for several years, represent an important step forward for the Oregon Department of Forestry. Their designation (covering 140,000+ acres state-wide) has helped to frame the process that will result in a new Forest Management Plan. In part because of these new designations, the Board is strongly pursuing a “land allocation” approach, which will see a conservation zone, a timber-emphasis zone, and possibly other zones that, contrasting the current approach, do not move around the landscape. Governor Kitzhaber recently promoted this type of plan.
A land allocation approach has the potential to succeed in improving conservation. Clearly, a large portion of the landscape would need to fall into the conservation zone in order for wildlife habitat and clean water to be adequately protected. What’s even more important though, is how that allocation is managed and where it is. Current conservation areas are too often managed to produce some timber volume–heavily thinned or even clearcut. In the new plan, conservation areas need to be managed for conservation without any expectation of producing timber. That means forests, left largely untouched, intended to grow old and complex. Not wilderness, but wild.
Another crucial factor in the success of this approach is maps. Public awareness and transparency are of the utmost importance for conservation. Protected areas should not be moved and changed at the discretion of ODF staff on a yearly basis. These areas need to be on long-term, publicly available maps. Oregonians deserve to know where these areas are, and for the sake of healthy salmon runs, wildlife habitat, carbon sequestering old trees, and clean drinking water, these areas should be in the public eye and the public conscience.
Conservation does not work at the whims of political tides and timber projections. It requires durable and robust commitments for the foreseeable future.
The Oregon Board of Forestry continues to explore new Forest Management Plans that will both provide financial viability to the Department of Forestry and improve conservation outcomes on the Tillamook & Clatsop state forests. On September 29th, the Board weighed two options developed by ODF. A “Land Allocation” proposal suggests putting at least 30% of the forest into a conservation zone and managing other portions of the forest for different degrees of timber production. A “Landscape Management” proposal is similar to the current forest management plan, with various types of forest structure moved around the landscape over time. Either proposal has the potential to succeed or fail. There is room in each framework to improve conservation, but there is also the potential for harmful environmental outcomes. The latter proposal suggests sacrificing habitat in smaller forest districts, such as the Santiam.
Counties Won’t Play
The Trust Land Counties (CFTLC), which receive a significant portion of revenue from state forest timber harvests, rejected both proposals and did not offer alternatives. County representatives implied that they would not support any new plan that did not dramatically increase clearcut levels. The Counties’ unwillingness to meaningfully participate in the process does not bode well for a new plan being created.
Speaking against the Department working with federal scientists to negotiate a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP), the CFTLC expounded on the “risk of an aging forest,” warning that, “as forest ages and begins to provide habitat for listed species, the ability to continue timber harvest may decline dramatically. ODF and the Board of Forestry must not let this situation develop on the Trust lands.” These forests are crucial to providing habitat for listed fish and wildlife. Efforts to prevent habitat from improving are misguided and show an alarmingly single-minded view of these forests simply as tree farms.
The Timber Industry Shows Its Colors
Dave Ivanoff, of Hampton Lumber, also objected to the pursuit of a Habitat Conservation Plan and warned ODF of the “perpetual issue of creating habitat.”
When asked why he came up with the 70/30 split, Mr. Ivanoff said that it was based on “what is the level of harvest that’s going to be needed to maintain the family-owned forest manufacturing sector in NW Oregon,” what is needed to “support our company’s needs, our competitors’ needs.” The harvest level “would come close to replacing that lost fiber that is no longer coming from Washington.” It’s clear that the timber industry’s calculations of what should be cut don’t consider the forests many values, but instead stem from their own needs.
Rex Storm, representing the Associated Oregon Loggers, urged the Board to curtail public input and not seek public approval when devising a new plan, stating that the timber industry and even the Board are more important stakeholders than the Oregonians who own these lands. The Board, of course, is supposed to manage these forests on behalf of all Oregonians. Ironically, Mr. Storm delivered his alarming message during the public comment period.
Conservation Improvements Needed
The North Coast State Forest Coalition urged the Board to move forward keeping conservation improvements in mind. In order to improve conservation outcomes, any plan would likely need to improve riparian buffers to provide adequate shade and wood delivery to streams, increase the amount of older forest on the landscape, reduce clearcutting on steep slopes, and decrease the forest road network, which currently is very expansive and can lead to sediment problems in streams. Both ODF proposals include expanding no-cut buffer zones on fish-bearing streams to 115 feet, reflecting current scientific literature that suggests little or no riparian management is best for stream health. 115 feet is a good start, but it is unclear that it is adequate. Non-fish bearing streams would benefit from a no-cut buffer of at least 75 feet. Current standards are much less protective.
The success of either plan hinges on balance, public input, and the best science available. Dollars cannot be the only driver determining the future of these forests. These lands have been over-logged and burnt. They are just beginning to recover, and their protection is crucial to Oregon’s economy and environment.
The Board Acts
The Board moved a motion to explore/pursue a land allocation proposal, but did not move any specifics such as those in the ODF proposal. Board members Gary Springer and Mike Rose, both employees of the forest products industry, voted for a zoned approach that sees much of the landscape treated like industrial timber land. Chair Tom Imeson followed the timber representatives’ vote. The only “no” vote to this proposal came from Sybil Ackerman-Munson, who was rightfully doubtful that a zoned approach would work without any cooperation from the Trust Counties.
ODF will now move forward exploring a zoned approach, but without any sideboards for conservation and with the Counties refusing to enter dialogue, it is doubtful that a good plan will come to fruition.
Late summer is a magical time in the Tillamook & Clatsop Forests. Refreshing swimming holes provide families fun relief from the heat; spring chinook and summer steelhead head up the north coast rivers and streams, offering anglers the opportunity for iconic pursuit; and hikers rejoice on trails to University Falls, up Kings Mountain, and along the Wilson River. Mountain bikers are found throughout the forest. Hunters gear up for the Fall deer season.
These yearly rituals are all the products of forests that are hanging in the balance. The Board of Forestry is in the process of writing a new Forest Management Plan. In early September, the Board will receive science reviews indicating the best way forward. We are hopeful that the best available science will guide the Board towards a plan that protects fish & wildlife habitat, clean drinking water, and abundant recreation opportunities. Along with good science, it will be crucial that the public weighs-in over the next few months, explaining to the Board what we value on these lands. Sign up for our email list to receive important action alerts!
In the meantime, here are some good ways to be involved in the future of these forests:
The Salmonberry Corridor Coalition is group of public and private partners (including OregonParks and the Oregon Department of Forestry) that is working to develop a new trail through the Tillamook State Forest along the old Salmonberry Railroad. We and our state forest protection partners (Northwest Steelheaders Association, Northwest Guides & Anglers Association, Trout Unlimited, and the Wild Salmon Center) think it’s a terrific vision with great promise. It would be a tremendous boost to the region and would improve recreation opportunities on Oregon‘s north coast. But it has to be done in a way that does not harm the Salmonberry River and its iconic steelhead run. Click here to share your comments in support of a primitive trail through the Salmonberry canyon!
Trygve Steen is a professor of Forest Ecology, Environmental Sustainability, and Photography at Portland State University. Trygve has joined several North Coast State Forest Coalition outings, generously contributing his contagious energy and knowledge of our forest landscapes. On Thursday September 18th, Trygve will be sharing his thoughts on Forest Ecology and Photography at the Sierra Club’s monthly program night. This evening should prove to be a fascinating and beautiful introduction to forest ecology and the numerous ways that forest management impacts us. Click here for more details!