Agreement sets course for overhaul of private forest management in Oregon


An undated file photo shows a mosaic of second-growth clearcuts and lumber in Oregon.

Todd Sonflieth / OPB

Forestry and environmental groups have struck a deal that sets Oregon on a path to overhaul the management of 10 million acres of private forests in the state.

The deal, announced by Gov. Kate Brown’s office on Saturday, concludes more than a year of negotiations between often-disagreeing parties to develop a plan to strengthen protection for vulnerable fish and wildlife while protecting the ability to the timber industry to be exploited.

Friday was the deadline for both sides to reach consensus, abandon the process, or move the deadline. The negotiators worked all day Friday and closed the deal shortly after 1 a.m. on Saturday. Brown and his team helped bring the negotiations to a successful conclusion.

“Today’s historic agreement is a perfect example of the Oregon Way – coming together at the table to find common ground, for the mutual benefit of all,” Brown said in a statement. hurry. “Together, this agreement will help ensure that Oregon continues to have healthy forests, fish and wildlife, and economic growth for our forest industry and rural communities, for generations to come.” I would like to thank everyone involved for their role in making this agreement a reality today. “

Jim James of the Oregon Small Woodlands Association also praised the compromise.

“We have been able to put an end to the contentious situations that we have had in the past and we have had an ongoing agreement to move forward,” said James. “I think this is extremely positive for the state of Oregon.”

In 2020, the parties each planned a series of competing ballot measures that could have turned into a costly political fight. Environmental groups have called for, among other priorities, strict limits on aerial pesticide spraying and better protection of forest waters. Meanwhile, the lumber industry demanded compensation for private landowners when state regulations limited their ability to operate.

Instead, Brown pushed the two sides to negotiate, and their agreement to do so has already been hailed as historic, even if it was only a start.

Representatives from the lumber industry and environmental groups have been tasked with setting the conditions for pursuing a statewide habitat conservation plan to protect fish, wildlife and the quality of the land. ‘water. A Habitat Conservation Plan, or HCP, is a tool that allows practices such as logging or irrigation to continue while minimizing damage to wildlife habitat.

Saturday’s deal sets in motion what could be a long process, if not years, to develop, approve and pass an HCP into law and begin its implementation.

“There is no doubt that there will be challenges ahead,” said Sean Stevens, executive director of the Oregon Wild Conservation Group. “But I think this agreement provides a different kind of foundation than we’ve ever had before to meet these challenges ahead.”

The next step will be to introduce a bill to the Oregon Legislature to make significant changes to the Forest Practices Act to protect the banks and banks of waterways, improve forest roads and allow adaptive management of private forests. The state will then pursue an HCP, which will require a rule-making process overseen by the Oregon Forestry Council (which has just approved a new state forester). After that, state leaders can present the plan to federal regulators.

Speaking on behalf of the Timber Coalition, Adrian Miller of Florida-based forest products company Rayonier said Saturday’s deal gives loggers a sense of security for the future.

“I think we’re all very proud to be part of a new era of forestry in Oregon,” Miller said.

Correction: This article has been updated to clarify that the Oregon Board of Forestry has selected a new state forester.

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