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.


ODF Needs Revenue Diversification

March 25, 2014

The Oregon Department of Forestry is almost totally reliant on timber dollars to manage our state forests. This model of funding is failing to provide sufficient revenue for ODF. Moreover, it forces the Department to log at unsustainable levels that do not allow for adequate conservation, leaving the state susceptible to messy and expensive ESA lawsuits.

Pennoyer Creek Falls

Timber harvest is a critical revenue source for the Department and provides important family-wage jobs to Oregonians. However, it should only be a part of the equation to provide solvency for ODF. The Tillamook and Clatsop forests provide a range of values to all Oregonians–clean drinking water, diverse recreation, fishing and hunting opportunities, scenic beauty, and wildlife habitat. If the Department’s revenue continues to come wholly from timber dollars, these other values will eventually be lost.

Tell Governor Kitzhaber to lead the effort to diversify ODF funding!


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!


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