Plan to logging Oregon state forests while protecting endangered wildlife progresses


A state forest plan that aims to protect endangered species on 640,000 acres of forest land west of the Cascades while providing logging certainty is nearing its final stage.

Proposal Western Oregon Habitat Conservation Plan would ensure the protection of 17 federally endangered species and ensure logging in other parts of the forests to limit potential harm to these species. The list of species includes coastal marten, red voles, northern spotted owl, and Oregon coast coho.

Coho salmon like these are listed as endangered salmon species, as noted in the 2021 State of Salmon in the Watersheds report.

US Bureau of Land Management –

The planfirst developed by the Oregon Department of Forestry in 2018, would protect the agency from potential lawsuits, and ensure compliance with federal endangered species law for land management activities such as harvesting, construction, and maintenance of timber in state forests over a period of 70 years. It would also improve forest conservation strategies and create a fund that could generate an average of $1 million a year to help pay for projects to conserve and improve habitats for protected species.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Fish and Wildlife Service have released a draft environmental review of the plan and are now accepting public comments. The agencies will review public comments and release a final plan sometime next year, then the plan will be submitted to the Oregon Forestry Council for final approval.

Michael Wilson, deputy head of ODF’s policy and technical support division, said he thought it was the agency’s best effort to come up with a plan that strikes a balance between conservation, protection of species, recreation and continued timber harvesting in state forests.

“It is essential that we provide a basis that gives certainty that we can still make the forest accessible in all these ways in the future,” he said.

ODF spokesman Jason Cox said the plan is designed to provide cleaner water and high-quality habitat conservation while allowing for timber harvesting, which also funds the forestry programs of the state of the agency and benefits local counties and rural communities.

Cox said the plan represents a “middle-range approach” because of the amount of input from conservation groups, the timber industry and residents of counties where state forests are located.

Conservation groups agree that the plan strikes a balance, but that more could have been done to increase environmental protection.

Brett Brownscombe, of the environmental group the Wild Salmon Center, said while the plan offered a vision for more conservation, he expected the ODF to reform its business model to reduce the agency’s reliance on revenue wood.

Jon Haas, CFO of Breitenbush Hot Springs, looks at the wooden bridges along Highway 46 toward Breitenbush, March 5, 2021.

Jon Haas, CFO of Breitenbush Hot Springs, looks at the wooden bridges along Highway 46 toward Breitenbush, March 5, 2021.

Kristyna Wentz-Graff/OPB

“There just has to be something more robust than just relying on logging to serve the broader public values ​​that people want to see on their public lands,” he said.

Brownscombe said the public wants to see conservation as well as new opportunities for communities that have not been at the center of state forest management. He said the state could get more money from the general fund for rural school districts and departments to ease their reliance on logging in state forests.

Benton County Commissioner Nancy Wyse said many counties depend on timber harvesting for revenue, and currently local government spending is growing faster than it’s happening.

“Several county commissioners have expressed concern that their revenues may be negatively affected due to reduced timber harvests,” Wyse said.

But she said the state has an “ethical” obligation to prioritize the conservation and protection of species and, ultimately, she hopes the plan will help guide the state through the challenge. find a balance that works for everyone.

Amanda Sullivan-Astor, forest policy manager at Associated Oregon Loggers, said the balance can be achieved by creating meaningful outcomes for protected species like the northern spotted owl while maintaining employment in the forest sectors of Oregon.

She said one strategy would be to stabilize the northern spotted owl population on state forest lands. One way to do this, she said, would be to manage the population of the barred owl, which covers the same territorial range and is a known competitor to the spotted owl.

The northern spotted owl is on a slow but steady trajectory towards extinction.

The northern spotted owl is on a slow but steady trajectory towards extinction.

Todd Sonflieth/OPB

“The custodians of these forests, who cultivate, harvest and protect them, will be irreversibly harmed by the reduction of forest management in all alternatives, and I fear the health of the forests will suffer with them,” said Sullivan-Astor.

The draft plan currently proposes actions and alternatives that the federal government can choose from, including taking no action to increase conservation or increase timber harvesting. But Sullivan-Astor said that upon closer examination, none of the alternatives stabilize or increase logging.

The public can comment Western Oregon State Forest Habitat Conservation Plan until May 17. There will also be a virtual public meeting on April 6 where comments will also be accepted.


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