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State Forests

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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Board of Forestry, State Forests

Tillamook & Clatsop Planning Process Waking from Hibernation

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.

Wilson River, Oregon North Coast. Photo by Tyson Gillard, Outdoor Project.

Wilson River, Oregon North Coast. Photo by Tyson Gillard, Outdoor Project.

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Elliott, State Forests

Tell our Oregon leaders not to sell off public forest lands!

Governor Brown supports a public option for the Elliott State Forest – one that will protect access and recreation, critical habitat types, and produce a sustainable supply of timber. She needs help from our leaders in the Oregon Legislature. Let Treasurer Read and your state representatives know you support the Governor’s vision to keep the Elliott public.

The proposed sale of the Elliott would:

  • Limit public access to half of the forest and potentially introduce fees for hunters, anglers, and other users
  • Open thousands of acres of rare older forests to industrial-style clearcutting and pesticide spraying
  • See the state lose habitat for fish and wildlife that can’t be replaced

Governor Brown’s vision includes a) public ownership, b) protection of fish & wildlife habitat, c) a sustainable timber harvest along with a Habitat Conservation Plan, and d) tribes regaining ownership of ancestral lands.

We need you to:

  • Keep the pressure on Treasurer Tobias Read: Continue to call his office (503-378-4329) and write him emails (oregon.treasurer@state.or.us) asking him to keep the Elliott State Forest public, accessible, and protected.
Photo by Francis Eatherington

Photo by Francis Eatherington

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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 RiparianRule@oregon.gov. 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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