Oregon Forest Accord Signed: Op-ed in Oregonian

The bipartisan Private Forest Accord not only lays out a science-based approach for improving aquatic habitat and protecting clean water, but it also represents a path forward out of gridlock for how forests are managed. Jamie Hale/The OregonianJamie Hale/The Oregonian

Here’s a link to the op-ed written by Governor Kate Brown, Chris Edwards and Bob Van Dyk.

Perhaps we’ve discussed this before? It sounds pretty impressive. We can all wish for a lasting peace on private forest management in Oregon. But this Forest Accord be able to do that? What do Oregonians here at TSW think?

Here’s an excerpt:

The new legislation covers a gamut of actions: increasing no-harvest zones next to streams for shade and water filtration; forest road upgrades that improve fish migration upstream; state-of-the-art computer modeling to protect landslide-prone hillsides; millions of dollars of state and private sector investment for creation of wildlife habitat.

But perhaps most impressive is the process of good faith collaboration and compromise that got us here.

During a time of deep political division, 24 organizations representing two sides with a history of high-stakes conflict set aside their differences and agreed to sit around the table, take a hard look at the latest science, have difficult conversations, and find common ground.

The success we celebrated last week demonstrates how opposing sides can work together on viable solutions to some of the toughest problems facing Oregonians today.

While all Oregonians should take a moment to celebrate – the work is far from over. The rules that implement these changes still require approval by the Board of Forestry and need to be communicated to more than 65,000 forest landowners in every corner of Oregon. This will be followed by years of scientific monitoring and fine tuning on the ground to ensure the changes have the desired outcomes we all set out to accomplish.

The agreement also establishes a framework for future changes to forest practices that keeps the spirit of collaboration alive. This process prioritizes sound science and gives a diverse set of Oregonians a voice in how our forests are managed on a regular basis. This will help to ensure that future generations of Oregonians can continue to enjoy renewable Oregon-grown building products, cold and clean water, wildlife habitat, clean air and the unique recreational opportunities our lush Oregon forests provide.

32 thoughts on “Oregon Forest Accord Signed: Op-ed in Oregonian”

  1. The Oregon Forest Resources Institute has an explainer here.
    https://oregonforests.org/private-forest-accord

    An excerpt:

    The full Private Forest Accord report was released to the public in order to provide an in-depth look at proposed changes to Oregon’s forestry laws as agreed upon by the groups. Those agreements were put before the 2022 legislative process as Senate Bills 1501, 1502 and HB 4055.

    The primary topics of those bills were identified as:
    • Stream buffers. Updated stream buffers are 10% to 100% larger based on stream type and geography.
    • Forest roads. New standards for road design, inventory, maintenance, management, and culvert design.
    • Unstable slopes. Retaining trees in key areas as a means to reduce landslide risk, and develop new modeling.
    • Protections of aquatic resource habitat. Expanded riparian buffers for a variety of riparian-dependent species, including salmon, steelhead, bull trout, and amphibians. (Includes additional reporting requirements for managing beaver activity.)
    • Compliance monitoring. Expands monitoring programs to evaluate whether new rules are implemented as intended.
    • Adaptive Management Program. Creates a new stakeholder committee, which will work with an Independent Research and Science Team to advise the Board of Forestry on recommendations for ongoing rule changes ensuring that the goals of the Habitat Conservation Plan are met.
    • Mitigation and implementation costs.
    • Tax credit to compensate small forestland owners.

    There are also special accommodations for small woodland owners to address disproportional impacts they could face as a result of changes to Oregon’s forest practices regulations. Provisions for alternative practices and state funding are intended to help lessen the burden for small forest landowners, who make up about 12% of the state’s forestland and 36% of the private ownership.

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  2. Thanks, Steve! From your link, here’s what’s next.

    “WHAT’S NEXT?

    The next long-term process will be developing and pursuing a statewide Habitat Conservation Plan for private forestlands in Oregon. The Oregon Board of Forestry will oversee the plan, and then present it to federal fish and wildlife agencies for approval under the Endangered Species Act.

    Most of the rules and programs developed as a result of the PFA and legislative action roll out in 2023-24. Additional rules will be developed in the coming years. A Habitat Conservation Plan is targeted to be completed by the end of 2027.”

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  3. Having worked as a Fed early in my career in Oregon, I was impressed with the Forest Practices Act. I also got to work with OSDF on several projects, and even married one of their employees.🤠. At that time, I wished all states had something similar. You didn’t have to look too far (in other states) to see practices that little to do with sustainable forestry. I don’t know how many states have similar protections, but is certainly not a universally accepted principle.

    Collaboration is great; 4-FRI and White Mountain Stewardship in AZ proved that. However, it only takes one entity to throw the proverbial monkey wrench into the process. Maybe the cooler heads of the collective can smooth out any rough edges, I certainly hope so!

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    • The accord was developed with input from the major environmental groups in Oregon — those most likely to object to harvesting. Time will tell how this agreement works.

      What about a forest accord for all of the national forests in a state or region?

      Steve

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      • I think that may have been what the NW Forest Plan was about.. but I wasn’t there. Certainly we should have enough data to talk about how well it worked.

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        • It certainly was about that for the national forests within the range of the northern spotted owl. And the Eastside Screens was the equivalent for the forests on the eastside of the Cascades in OR and WA. There was a NWFP equivalent planned for the Columbia Basin, but it was never completed.

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  4. Most of the riparian increases will be the responsibility of the small land owners who’s farm and ranches, and forest lands are along the main fish bearing waterways. Of course they weren’t invited to the discussion. The large timber companies get to keep on using herbicides and clear cutting creating Douglas fir plantations. From my perspective as a small land owner along a fish bearing stream, it is just more of the same. Oregon Wild, the Wild Salmon Center and Weyerhaeuser are more than willing to compromise and have the rural population bare the brunt of the regulations. Kind of like the Northwest Forest plan.

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    • Living in CA, it’s kind of surprising to see folks missing this point. Our Forest practice rules are ten times more complicated than Oregon’s, and the burden is disproportionately on small land owners. Larger ones can afford the multiple consult visits with agencies to ensure compliance. Those on a tighter budget are hard pressed to find the funds to do even basic fuels work.

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        • There are, but state representatives who do so have the usual difficulties to overcome-overworked, underfunded and widely spread across the state. And in a market where operators go for more than grant funding will cover, they have to get real creative to secure contractors to do the work.

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  5. Here’s an “explainer” from a law firm. Odd that nobody seems to want to acknowledge that this success story is the result of the Endangered Species Act:

    “The statutory changes are intended to meet the requirements for approval of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and a National Marine Fisheries Service habitat conservation plan (HCP) and a subsequent incidental take permit (ITP) under the Endangered Species Act that would cover certain fish and amphibian species such as native salmon and trout, bull trout, mountain whitefish, green sturgeon, coastal giant salamander, and the coastal tailed frog.” https://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/the-private-forest-accord-oregon-7560515/

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    • The accord wouldn’t have been written without a handful of legislative proposals (such as to ban clearcutting) and the threat of litigation.

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    • Hi Jon: I agree that this political action is a direct result of ESA, but I would hardly call it a “success.” More government over-reach resulting in predictable rural poverty, wildfires, wildlife mortality, and air pollution, if history is a teacher.

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  6. I attended a webinar last week (sponsored by several environmental groups) about “Letting Trees Grow for Wildlife”. Oregon Wild and Portland Audubon were the two main presenters. They bragged some about the Oregon Accord that was signed. And they very much want all logging to stop in old-growth and mature forests (they defined mature as >80 years old). They were not concerned that production of wood products would shift to other countries or areas in the US with fewer forest harvesting restrictions and tried to minimize the impact it would have. They were not concerned that many “mature” forests are overly dense due to lack of indigenous management for more than 100 years.

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    • It is amazing how many millions of wildlife have been killed in western Oregon over the past 30 years in wildfires fueled by anti-logging lawsuits brought by those two organizations. Now they are trying to get State and private lands in on the action. I remain confused as to why the USFS and BLM keep promoting HCPs, streamside buffers, snag retentions, Wildernesses, and roadless areas in the Douglas Fir Region when the results are so predictable and so well documented. Wildfires, rural unemployment, air pollution, and dead animals have been the story since spotted owls first became “protected” by these folks in 1990. You could look it up.

      Also, for wildlife diversity and abundance, it his hard to beat forest meadows and prairies. Even clearcuts. These are not foresters, they are political activists, and their claims continue to be self-serving and disproven. It is hard to find any actual animals (there are a few) that actually do better in 80-year-old Douglas fir forests. Yet, the Portland and Eugene “environmentalists” continue getting away with this because the media and public somehow swallow their promotions. No idea why.

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      • National forests are not to be managed for unqualified “wildlife diversity and abundance” or to create meadows and prairies. NFMA requires “steps to be taken to preserve the diversity of tree species similar to that existing in the region controlled by the plan.” With regard to wildlife, the regulations implementing NFMA require species composition and diversity to occur within the “natural range of variation” that is sustainable. Preserving 80-year-old forests seems to be the only way to get to the truly old forests needed to sustain some species. So these “political activists” are much closer to wildlife reality than a relict forester. That might be why they have a bigger audience.

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          • Steve: Is ANYONE doing a study of the correlation between “Late Successional Reserves” establishment and subsequent wildfires? HCPs, streamside buffers, roadless areas, Wildernesses?

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            • This paper, “Cumulative effects of wildfires on forest dynamics in the eastern Cascade Mountains, USA,” has some info. Can’t get the entire paper, but this line is in the abstract:

              “LSRs were more prone to wildfire than the region as a whole, and experienced slight declines in seral conditions.”
              https://www.jstor.org/stable/26623148

              I’d like to see data about the entire NW Forest Plan zone. Maybe someone is working on that….

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              • I’ve been trying to work on that very issue for western Oregon for several years, but no apparent interest (“funding”) for some reason. I would have thought this would be front-and-center many years ago. And especially after the Labor Day Fires!

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        • Jon: “Bigger audience,” and bigger wildfires, too, as predicted. There is a huge difference between “creating” meadows and prairies, and “restoring” meadows and prairies. And then you can talk about diversity: http://nwmapsco.com/ZybachB/Articles/Magazines/Oregon_Fish_&_Wildlife_Journal/20190320_Forest%20Restoration-II/Zybach_20190320.pdf

          So far as the “natural range of variation” is concerned, that has been characterized by a series of arbitrary determinations with significant errors. Please note that the “larger audience” folks have been in control during this period of predictable (by following their acronyms and legal arguments) catastrophic wildfires. Not good for wildlife. Growing old-growth is pretty straightforward — the problem is that current methods almost guarantee their destruction by wildfire. “Preserving” 80-year-old forests won’t work (read the newspapers), but actively managing them often will. Or even starting with seedlings. Lots of examples. Here is a “NRV” example: http://nwmapsco.com/ZybachB/Articles/Magazines/Oregon_Fish_&_Wildlife_Journal/20160300_Forest_Science/Zybach_20160300.pdf

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          • So you were basically challenging the model used to determine HRV, which is a legitimate thing to do. But your main concern seems to be about the extreme ages (>600 years), which I don’t think would necessarily invalidate the decision to increase the amount of forest >200 years to get closer to the amount of that present historically. But congratulations – they apparently didn’t include this in their final plan (or cite the paper you criticized).

            I assume you are aware of this paper that collects everything there was to know about HRV in 2009, and was cited in the 2016 BLM EIS (and it was used in development of the Forest Service Planning Rule). https://www.fs.fed.us/rm/pubs_other/rmrs_2009_keane_r001.pdf

            Also – elk ≠ diversity

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            • Hi John: Actually, I have written on this very issue for more than 30 years. The popular desire to “increase the amount of forest >200 years to get closer to the amount of that present historically” is really (really) poorly understood.

              Do you mean “historically” to mean after Indian populations were decimated by disease before the arrival of whites in western Oregon? My research shows very little old-growth on the Oregon Coast Range in the 1600s, for example. Before or after Mt. St. Helens? The Bretz Floods? Etc.

              Forests are dynamic, and so are their ages. The argument that some animals “need” (maybe “preferred?”) old-growth is not based on fact or even research. It has always seemed more of a personal value or popular political issue. From my perspective, the more important issue is to mitigate the occurrence and damages caused by the predictable wildfires of the past 30 years — and to better manage the presence of old-growth trees in the process. http://nwmapsco.com/ZybachB/Articles/Magazines/Oregon_Fish_&_Wildlife_Journal/20180320_Millicoma/Zybach_20180320.pdf
              http://nwmapsco.com/ZybachB/Articles/Magazines/Oregon_Fish_&_Wildlife_Journal/20180621_Old-Growth/Zybach_20180621.pdf

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              • I guess you’d better tell the Forest Service that spotted owls and marbled murrelets don’t need old growth, because their 2020 “Bioregional Assessment of Northwest Forests” says otherwise: “Better alignment is needed between designated critical habitat for spotted owls and the late-successional old-growth portion of the late-successional reserve network; this could help simplify management direction and better protect high quality habitat for owls and other old growth-dependent species, such as marbled murrelet.” https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/9ffb7d38ee6a44a08ee7953a65c24ea0

                HRV and NRV have to be based on spatial and temporal scales relevant to disturbance regimes, and I don’t think volcanoes and glaciers typically part of that.

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                • I have always been concerned with the phony claims that spotted owls and marbled murrelets were “old-growth dependent” for more than 30 years.

                  Murrelets live in the ocean and eat fish. Tens of thousands of them live in Alaska — where they lay eggs on rocks and cliffs — no trees, much less “critical” old-growth. The “300-year-old” tree in Lincoln County with a murrelet nest that was reported by a wildlife biologist in “peer reviewed” literature and got this story started, turned out to be a 100year-old 2nd growth. Never mind — we’ve already made the sale..

                  The Elliott State Forest is mostly defined by second-growth Douglas fir and alder that followed the 1879 “Big Burn” and the subsequent seeding in of pastures, meadows, and landslides.

                  In 1989 the Elliott had 1,000 acres of old-growth bordering Mill Creek and four pairs of owls in that area. Then, a systematic inventory was put in place and the owls were discovered everywhere, including 2nd-growth Douglas fir as young as 60 years. One spotted owl lived more than 20 years in a garage. They are adaptable and maybe even producing viable young with their brown-eyed cousin “hoot owls.”

                  It is bizarre that this racket continues, and that people are still referring to a common Alaskan seabird and a variety of brown-eyed owl as “old-growth dependent.” After 30 years of factual information to the contrary! Not to mention the widespread unemployment, massive wildfires, dead animals, and polluted air that has predictably followed.

                  http://nwmapsco.com/ZybachB/Articles/Magazines/Oregon_Fish_&_Wildlife_Journal/20180923_Murrelets/Zybach_20180923.pdf

                  http://nwmapsco.com/ZybachB/Articles/Magazines/Oregon_Fish_&_Wildlife_Journal/20200620_Spotted_Owls/Zybach_20200620.pdf

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                  • Accidentally went anonymous there, but maybe you saw through it. Here’s the 2021 spotted owl critical habitat language used by the official experts, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service: “‘suitable’’ habitat (in this context meaning the types of older, more mature stands preferred by the northern spotted owl for nesting, roosting, and foraging when available in an area). For marbled murrelets, they say, “Marbled murrelets generally nest in old-growth forests characterized by large trees, multiple canopy layers and moderate to high canopy closure… In the non-forested portions of Alaska, murrelets can also nest on the ground or in rock cavities.” Maybe that doesn’t say every individual requires old growth, but they “prefer” it, and the species as a whole clearly needs enough preferred habitat to persist.

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                    • Owls do not find a lot to eat in old growth stands. Also, roosting is more about ‘edge effect’ than contiguous old growth. People seem to ALWAYS misunderstand the nature of how owls live, hunt and reproduce. Remember, owls are territorial, and the old growth acres serve only one pair of birds. Not to mention that northern goshawks also compete for scarce nesting habitats, as well as actual nests.

                    • People “prefer” McMansions in safe neighborhoods, and people who live in those circumstances consider these habitats as “suitable” places to raise a family.

                      These terms are being promoted by government workers and academics shooting for job security and tenure at the cost of tens of thousands of human jobs (“families”), predictable wildfires, and millions of dead animals.

                      This is not a reasonable arrangement and it is long past time that the birds were allowed to move to less comfortable neighborhoods and taken off public welfare. The cost is too great, and there is little — if any — evidence that these efforts are having the results that were promised.

    • I suspect that, on a particular site, if “overly dense” means that there is a high risk of losing the forest because of the trees, they would actually be concerned.

      Reply

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