By Chris Smith, State Forest Conservation Program Coordinator
The last eight months has seen Oregonians express significant support for the effort to create “High Value Conservation Areas” on state forest land. The formal process began at a Board of Forestry meeting last July (with roots extending beforehand) where members of the Sierra Club, Oregon Trout Unlimited, the Association of Northwest Steelheaders, the Wild Salmon Center, and the Association of Northwest Guides & Anglers, along with other conservationists and elected officials expressed support for unprecedented Conservation Areas–areas classified to highlight and clarify lands that offer conservation values. The Board responded favorably to testimony and voted 4-2 to direct the Department of Forestry to begin drafting language for the new classification.
Since the Department drafted the new rule language, public comments supportive of HVCAs have been pouring in. As these areas will help improve fish and wildlife habitat, protect clean drinking water sources, maintain recreation areas, and mitigate landslide risk, favorable comments have come from a variety or perspectives.
The recent highlight of this process were extremely well-attended public hearings in Cannon Beach and Hillsboro. Testimony was overwhelmingly in favor of conservation areas and attendees included Washington County Commissioners Schouten and Malinowski, Clatsop County Commissioners Scott Lee, Debra Birkby, and Peter Huhtala, Wheeler City Mayor Stevie Burden, Cannon Beach Mayor Mike Morgan, and Cannon Beach City Councilor Melissa Cadwallader.
The hearings were a great success for the conservation community and we hope that the rule will be ratified at the June 5th Board of Forestry meeting in Salem. Comments can be submitted to the Department of Forestry until 5 pm on April 19th. Click here to voice your support!
Until June, we hope to continue to gather support and educate Oregonians about the management and values of our state forests. Visit the North Coast State Forest Coalition’s website for more information.