The collaborative effort to protect the Oregon’s state forests is gaining momentum, primarily due to the effort of volunteers and activists in northwest Oregon. Last July, a group of activists traveled to Tillamook to push the Board of Forestry to create the new High Value Conservation Area classification. Their work was a fruitful first step. In March, hundreds of conservationists, including Columbia Group Sierrans, attended two ODF hearings on the new Conservation Area rule. Testimony at these hearings was overwhelmingly supportive of the new designation. Aside from these hearings, the Sierra Club helped to drive over 2000 public comments to the ODF. The case for Conservation Areas was made abundantly clear.
This April, the Washington County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution in support of state forest conservation areas and a sound forest management plan. The Tualatin City Council expressed similar support in the form of a City Proclamation. On the coast, the Cannon Beach City Council unanimously passed a resolution in support of Conservation Areas. We are hopeful that cities including Hillsboro, Beaverton, Banks, Sherwood, and Tigard follow these examples. Governor Kitzhaber recently re-emphasized his support for our state forests with a letter to the Board of Forestry. These political entities join nearly 100 businesses and organizations that have endorsed the effort to restore balance to Oregon’s state forests.
Having earned our seat at the table, we intend to use it to fight for the environmental values that have recently been ignored in favor of an increasing timber harvest. Conservation Areas are the tool with which we hope to achieve balance on these treasured lands. In Salem on June 5th, the Board of Forestry will vote on whether or not to ratify the new High Value Conservation Area classification. We sincerely hope that they consider the massive outpouring of support as they take a key step in shaping Oregon’s forest legacy. A conservation presence at this meeting will further signal our message to the Board, so email Chris Smith if you’d like to join us at this meeting.
For our part, as the weather warms up, there will be ample opportunity to be involved in our campaign and to enjoy our state forests. Along with tabling at farmers markets, building our collection of state forest photos, and tracking the forest management plan, there are also opportunities to get into the forest for fun, education, and service. Our outings calendar is updated frequently and already has some great opportunities on it.