Habitat Conservation Plans – A Tool for State Forests

April 23, 2014

Over the next year, the Department of Forestry will be reviewing and possibly re-writing the administrative rules that dictate management of Oregon’s state forests, defining the future of some of our state’s most vital natural spaces. Pressures to increase logging on the Tillamook and Clatsop forests is intense. Populations of marbled murrelets, spotted owls, Coho salmon, red tree voles, and other species already struggle to thrive within those borders without the threat of increased timber sales and management that prioritizes short-term profits over long-term forest health. Those most vulnerable species are only signposts for the vibrancy of the entire temperate eco-systems in these emblematic forests.

Coho Salmon are listed under the Endangered Species Act

Coho Salmon are listed under the Endangered Species Act

Every citizen of Oregon has a strong interest in the management of our entrusted state forest land, and a duty to advocate for prudent land use! In the past, the relationship between conservationists and timber companies and their proponents has been defined by embittered conflict and hostility – and often lawsuits. While seeking injunctions can be a strategic method for halting dangerous and illegal practices, there are other methods for pursuing conflict resolution and creating viable strategies for species preservation.

The Endangered Species Act contains a provision for Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs) – a series of permits and mitigation planning that is usually pursued by non-federal entities that want to build on or log land where endangered species reside. Permits allow the construction or other activity, and the Habitat Conservation Plan explains how the party will help the population grow in other ways. Without vigilant oversight from citizens and non-profits, HCP’s can become unwieldy and risky management plans that harm endangered species.  However, they can also be a powerful tool.  The State of Oregon could seek an HCP on state forest land to limit the potential for messy and expensive lawsuits, create important wildlife habitat, and provide certainty around timber revenue.

Read more here to learn more about the history of Habitat Conservation Plans and what they might mean for Oregon’s state forests.


State Forest Conservation Area Open Houses!

March 10, 2014

The Department of Forestry is marking the implementation of High Value Conservation Areas with a series of open houses. These events are to celebrate and understand this classification and to explore the areas themselves. There will be self-guided tours, Google Earth maps, and ODF staff to answer questions.

These are great opportunities to pack the room and show support for Conservation Areas on State Forest lands. Make clear to the Department of Forestry that we value these areas and want them to stay!

  • March 17: 6:00 – 8:00 pm, Forest Grove ODF District Office, 801 Gales Creek Rd, Forest Grove
  • March 20: 6:00 – 8:00 pm, Astoria ODF District Office, 92219 HWY 202, Astoria
  • March 22: 10:00 am – Noon, Tillamook ODF District Office, 5005 3rd St, Tillamook

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Stakeholder Group Sends Ideas to the Board of Forestry

February 14, 2014


The first milestone towards a new Forest Management Plans for our North Coast State Forests has concluded with a stakeholder group sending a variety of proposals to the Board of Forestry for further consideration. In total, five plans were formally presented and a number of other elements were discussed. Not surprisingly, sawmill representatives pushed forward some alarming ideas, including a plan that places timber production over all other values, a plan to treat 70% of the forest like a tree farm, and even a plan to sell our public land to the highest bidder! While ideas like this may indeed provide immediate financial benefit to some, their effect on fish and wildlife habitat, water quality, and recreation opportunities would be devastating.

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

Clearcuts: better for the environment?  (photo by F. Eatherington)

Clearcuts: better for the environment?
(PRIVATE LAND. photo by F. Eatherington)

Tillamook County Commissioner Tim Josi did not provide a plan of his own, but endorsed all three of the above proposals and called for more clearcuts instead of thinning. He stated that clearcuts have less impact on the environment than thinning operations, though he admitted to a lack of evidence. The Commissioner also rejected the notion that the Department of Forestry should diversify its revenue, instead insisting that the Agency should remain addicted to logging as its only means of funding. Such a path is not a sustainable option for a healthy ODF or healthy forests!

One other proposal, a variation of the current Forest Management Plan, called for modest increases to conservation outcomes and timber harvest levels. Our allies put forward a plan that would achieve the goal of increasing conservation values while partially decoupling the Department’s finances from timber revenue by diversifying its funding. This vision would drastically help to create better fish and wildlife habitat and recreation opportunities while also allowing the forest to be actively managed.

Considering the recently concluded litigation on the Elliott State Forest, which resulted in some exploratory land sales, the Board of Forestry should strongly consider obtaining a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) moving forward. An HCP would provide predictability and certainty for timber revenue, by preventing lawsuits and would secure habitat for endangered and threatened species. The big timber representatives rejected this notion, though even Tim Josi is open to the idea.

Even as some sawmill interests attempt to wipe conservation areas off the map, the Oregon Department of Forestry is planning a series of open houses to explain and celebrate new High Value Conservation Areas. These events will include self-guided tours, Google Earth maps, and ODF staff answering questions, so mark your calendar:

  • March 17: 6-8pm, Forest Grove ODF District Office, 801 Gales Creek Rd, Forest Grove
  • March 20: 6-8pm, Astoria ODF District Office, 92219 HWY 202, Astoria
  • March 22: 10am-noon, Tillamook District Office, 5005 3rd Street, Tillamook

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To find out more about our effort to protect the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests, visit forestlegacy.org, check out the Facebook page, or email Chris Smith.


Wolf Creek Conservation Area

February 5, 2014

A group of Oregonians from Astoria, Banks, Hillsboro, Beaverton, Portland, and Jewell recently went about exploring part of the Wolf Creek Terrestrial Habitat Anchor in the Tillamook State Forest. The 4,203 acres of this area are soon to be formally classified as “High Value Conservation Area,” a designation which thousands of Oregon Chapter Sierra Club members worked hard to create. Our hike took us through some diverse management areas, plenty of promising and recovering wildlife habitat, and the headwaters of the Salmonberry River.

We were exceptionally fortunate to be joined by Jim Thayer, whose knowledge of the Oregon Coast Range is nearly unmatched. His website, foresthiker.com, offers great trail descriptions, historical anecdotes, pieces of Indian lore, and some beautiful pictures. Jim is also the author of Portland Forest Hikes: Twenty Close-In Wilderness Walks.

Jim Thayer and his loyal, forest-exploring companion.

Jim Thayer and his loyal, forest-exploring companion

Thinned forest in the Wolf Creek area

Thinned forest in the Wolf Creek area

Our walk began just west of the Salmonberry headwaters in an area that had been logged in the last 10 years–a thinning operation that will hopefully help to achieve more complex forest structure by opening portions of the canopy without the tree-farm tactic of thickly replanting of seedlings. Overall, the amount of thinning in the Conservation Area was eye-opening and the Club will be vigilantly monitoring future timber sales to ensure that logging operations in this area are ecologically positive.

Though the latter part of our trek was spent bushwhacking, the massive network of logging roads and the very old elk-made pathways throughout the forest greatly expedited our cross-country travel. In the future, it would be great to see more recreational trails in the area (and fewer roads).

After some easy going on the elk trails, we took lunch after crossing a tributary creek of the Salmonberry. Along with some promising looking Steelhead spawning ground, the lunch spot offered a look into the Tillamook State Forest’s history and future: an old growth nurse stump which was likely a victim of the Tillamook burn or the salvage logging that followed, with a young tree blossoming out of the mossy top:

From death comes life...

From death comes life…

To find out more about the new Conservation Areas and our effort to protect these public lands, visit forestlegacy.org, like facebook.com/forestlegacy, or email campaign coordinator, Chris Smith.


North Coast State Forests in 2014

January 2, 2014

Happy New Year!

2014 will be a hugely important year for the future of the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests. It’s possible that, by the end of the year, the Board of Forestry will have a new Forest Management Plan to consider implementing in Northwest Oregon. The process that will dictate what an alternative plan looks like currently revolves around a stakeholder group that includes our allies. However, later in the year, we will call on you to ensure that the Board understands that conservation values need to be improved in any new plan. There will be important opportunities to testify before the Board and provide public comments to the Department of Forestry as soon as this February, so if you don’t yet receive North Coast State Forest Coalition action alerts, sign up here!

Wilson River Winter

The beautiful Wilson River

Along with crucial advocacy opportunities, we welcome you to join us as we explore, document, and promote the newly classified High Value Conservation Areas on the North Coast. These areas feature wildlife and fish habitat and some of the rare older-growth left in these State Forests. Unfortunately, though the Board of Forestry approved these areas in June of 2013, the Department of Forestry has done nothing to promote these commitments, despite direction from the Board to make the areas visible.

There are 11 large terrestrial habitat conservation areas to explore and we will begin outings on Saturday, January 18th at the Miami Terrestrial Anchor. Maps of all the HVCAs can be found here and you can find out about all of our outings here.

Last summer, a group explored the Bastard Creek area and had a blast. Consider joining us in the forest this year as we continue our effort to protect these threatened lands!

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Our North Coast State Forests Deserve Better

November 21, 2013

Tell Governor Kitzhaber that our State Forests are more than just logs!

The Board of Forestry is considering alternative Forest Management Plans that would shape how the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests are managed for the next decade and beyond.  Any new plan needs to improve conservation values on these public lands: fish and wildlife habitat, clean drinking water, and recreation opportunities cannot be left by the wayside in favor of increased clear-cuts.

The Board should reject any plan that resembles an industrial forest model. Industrial clear-cutting is not appropriate on our State Lands! Rather, any balanced forest plan should include several key elements:

  • Wildlife, Aquatic, and Riparian Habitat needs to be explicitly protected by the next Plan. This includes but should not be limited to current High Value Conservation Areas and it is crucial that protections should extend to all critical habitat for the spotted owl or murrelet as designated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

    Trask River

    Trask River

  • Riparian Buffers need to be adequate to filter sediment, cool rivers, and distribute woody debris into fish habitat. A good model for riparian management can be found on Federal Forests, where buffers extend 2-3 tree heights on large streams and one tree height on small streams.
  • Stand Age should reflect a more diverse and complex forest and the average stand age should be increased across the landscape.
  • Iconic Recreation Areas such as Kings Mountain, Elk Mountain, the Salmonberry Corridor, Cedar Butte, University Falls, Buster Creek, Gnat Creek, and Aldrich Point should be off-limits for clear-cutting. Rather, any management should aim to minimize disturbing the special values provided by these areas.
  • Roads should be removed from High Value Conservation Areas except where essential for restoration activities.
  • Habitat Restoration should be funded by timber harvests that occur near wildlife habitat.
  • Pesticide Use should be limited to manual application. Herbicides shown to contain carcinogens should be prohibited. Pesticides should be prohibited within 200 feet of drinking water sources.
Aerial application of herbicide

Aerial spraying

Revenue from these lands is crucial in creating family-wage jobs and keeping the Department of Forestry solvent, and a sustainable timber harvest is part of the mandate for these forests. However, the timber harvest should not poison our drinking water, destroy wildlife habitat, wipe out our salmon runs, or ruin recreation spots. These forests are capable of providing for social, environmental, and economic needs. Timber over everything will not achieve a balance.

Take action: pass this vision on to the Governor!


State Forest Management and Oregon’s Drinking Water

August 15, 2013
Trask River, Tillamook State Forest

Trask River, Tillamook State Forest

Sometimes it’s easy to think of Oregon’s forests as distant and removed–places meant for weekend escapes. The realities of how much our forests mean for our day-to-day lives can be striking. When we’re grilling salmon, breathing clean air, building additions to our homes, we’re using forest products. One of the most important forest products in Oregon is clean drinking water.

Most of the faucets, taps, and spigots in northwest Oregon have connections to the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests. Having a publicly-owned, temperate rainforest in our State is unique to Oregon, and this landscape provides drinking water to over 400,000 people. However, mismanagement of these lands threatens the quality of that water, our health, and our quality of life. Herbicides, silt, and high temperatures can all be attributed to inadequate stream buffers and an over-ambitious timber harvest program. While logging is an important part of Oregon’s economy, culture, and history, overdoing it compromises the other amazing benefits we receive from our State Forest lands. Our State Forests need a balanced management plan!

Roughly 75% of Washington County residents get their drinking water from the Tualatin Valley Watershed, which begins in the Tillamook State Forest and flows into the Willamette Valley. Hillsboro, Oregon’s 5th most populous city receives its water from Barney Reservoir on State Forest land. Other recipients of State Forest-influenced water include Beaverton, Forest Grove, Banks, Tigard, Tualatin, North Plains, and soon Sherwood. Oregon’s north coast communities, deeply tied to the forest product economy, also rely on these forests. Cities including Tillamook, Seaside, Garibaldi, Bay City, Manzanita, and Nehalem also collect water downstream of State Forest watersheds.

Barney Reservoir

Barney Reservoir

Post clear-cut herbicide application can lead to carcinogens entering water sources. Timber harvests on steep slopes produce water-blocking landslides and can dirty waterways with sediment. Small stream buffers mean an inadequate amount of shade and woody debris in  our rivers and streams. An expansive, expensive, and ill-maintained logging road system means silt and water flow disruption. These are just some of the water quality problems stemming from a timber-centric management plan.

Failed culvert at the Wolf Creek headwaters

Failed culvert at the Wolf Creek headwaters

In order to provide Oregonians with the Greatest Permanent Value, our State Forests need to be managed with an eye towards all of their inherent qualities, not just timber. Clean water requires adequate stream buffers, protection for steep slopes, and special consideration for important reservoirs. In short, our State Forest landscape needs permanent Conservation Areas that provide water quality assurances, support healthy fish and wildlife habitat, and allow us to recreate in places of spectacular natural beauty.

Tell Governor Kitzhaber and the Board of Forestry that any new Forest Management Plan needs superior conservation outcomes!


State Forest Terrestrial Anchors are worth exploring!

August 2, 2013

On July 16th, a group of adventurous hikers trekked into the Bastard Creek Terrestrial Anchor in the Tillamook State Forest near Nehalem.  The 5,021 acre area provides critical habitat for marbled murrellet and wild salmon. Without path or plan, we embarked to see what this area had to offer in terms of wildlife, flora, sounds, sights, and challenges. Here are some images of our jaunt:

Map of the Bastard Creek Terrestrial Anchor. Our trek took us to the northeast corner.

Map of the Bastard Creek Terrestrial Anchor. Our trek took us to the northeast corner.

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Forest Ecologist Trygve Steen filled the expedition with knowledge. Here he cores a 110-year-old Western Hemlock.

Greg Jacob clambers over blown down trees.

Greg Jacob clambers over blown down trees.

The Bastard Creek area is newly classified “High Value Conservation Area” but its future is uncertain. The Board of Forestry is re-examining their Forest Management Plan and there is no guarantee that Conservation Areas will gain the long-term protection that is needed to support healthy fish and wildlife habitat and clean drinking water.

Oregon’s State Forests need a balanced plan that includes long-term conservation commitments. Click here to do your part for Oregon’s forest legacy!

Click here to check out other opportunities to get into the North Coast State Forests!


You own Oregon’s largest known tree-let’s keep it that way!

July 1, 2013

Tell State Forester Decker not to trade Oregon’s largest tree to a timber company!

Oregon's largest known tree is owned by you and me!

Oregon’s largest known tree is owned by you and me!

The “Arcadia Cedar,” Oregon’s largest known tree, is on publicly owned State Forest land just off of Highway 101 south of Cannon Beach. Hug Point, the parcel containing the giant, along with other rare examples of north coast old growth, has been identified as a “high priority” to be traded from public ownership in a Land Acquisition and Exchange Plan. The reason for its priority status is the parcel’s “favorable position relative to Lewis and Clark Oregon Timber LLC’s ownership and road pattern.” This kind of old-growth stand is extremely rare on Oregon’s north coast, thanks to decades of logging and the logging-induced Tillamook Burn fires.

Landscape 1920     Landscape 1940

The Department of Forestry’s readiness to explore trading iconic, rare, culturally and ecologically important places like Hug Point to timber companies is more easily understood when one “follows the money.”

  • First, because the Department is funded almost exclusively through timber sales from the State Forests, it is inclined to make decisions with timber as a priority. ODF provides for itself by intensively harvesting our public land, so they resist efforts to ensure long-term conservation. This lack of diversity in the Agency’s funding creates a bias towards timber production over other values that the State Forests offer.
  • Second, the Department is strapped for funds. Inaccurate timber projections, down markets, and legislative raids on past timber proceeds have left ODF exploring new Forest Management Plans to improve their financial status.

Over the long term, we must thus stop ODF from trading or cutting critical environmental places, and we must also support those Board of Forestry leaders who are serious about diversifying funding for ODF, in order to reduce their bias to just cut more to pay the bills.

The Arcadia Cedar and the Hug Point parcel are excellent candidates for long-term protection rather than trade. With the Board of Forestry having confirmed the “High Value Conservation Area” classification, the Department has a tool to help ensure the  conservation of this important piece of public land.

Tell State Forester Decker not to trade Oregon’s largest tree to a timber company!

Join the North Coast State Forest Coalition on a trip to see the tree on  July 14th!


Board of Forestry Affirms Conservation Areas, Reopens Forest Management Plan

June 6, 2013
Elliot Creek, Tillamook Forest (photo by Gigi Peek)

Elliot Creek, Tillamook Forest (photo by Gigi Peek)

On June 5th, the Board of Forestry unanimously affirmed a new state forest land classification called “High Value Conservation Areas.” The Sierra Club has been involved in creating unprecedented Conservation Areas on the Tillamook and Clatsop state forests for several years and we are glad to see the new classification finalized after a long process–a process that saw overwhelming public support for protection for fish and wildlife habitat, clean drinking water sources, and recreation areas.

Unfortunately, the Board did not ensure that these areas would be protected long-term despite over 2,000 public comments that specifically called for durability. As the Board deliberated whether or not to explore new forest management plans with the goal of achieving financial viability for the Department of Forestry, the opportunity to set aside Conservation Areas was discussed but ultimately dismissed. Instead, it’s possible that the Board will consider reopening these areas for timber harvest.

The Sierra Club will be very involved as the Board examines alternative management plans that aim to secure better environmental protections and more revenue from the timber harvest. We are skeptical that these two goals can both be achieved. The Board’s commitment to upholding long-term environmental health on these forests will be tested and we hope they are up for the challenge.

Our work to achieve balance on Oregon’s state forest landscape is far from over. The intense pressure to increase harvest levels continues to threaten crucial salmonid populations, water temperatures, wildlife habitat, scenic views, recreation opportunities, clean water sources, and a healthy forest legacy in northwest Oregon.  To get involved, “like” us on Facebook, visit our website, join us for an outing, or contact Program Coordinator Chris Smith.


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