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Oregon looks at private timberlands logging rules
Study looks at impact of stream temperatures on salmon populations
Herald and News 1/10/12
A study finding that logging on private timberlands is making streams warmer, potentially harming salmon, has prompted the Oregon Board of Forestry to consider tightening state logging standards.

Board of Forestry chairman John Blackwell said Monday that he expects the changes would amount to a “tweaking” of the Oregon Forest Practices Act, which sets standards for timber harvest on state and private lands. He added that the board was mindful of the need to protect salmon, which need cold water, but did not want to impose regulations that would prompt timberla nd ow ners to sell their lands for vacation home and resort development.

‘Will not be onerous’

“It’s certainly going to tighten regulations on landowners, but it will not be onerous, and we will do it in such a way that landowners understand the value of it,” Blackwell said.

The study by the Oregon Department of Forestry and Oregon State University found state logging standards on private lands were “inadequate” to meet the state water quality standard for protecting cold water.

Temperature increases

Based on 33 sites on state and private lands in the Coast Range dating to 2002, the study found an average increase of 1.26 degrees Fahrenheit after logging on private lands. There was no increase on state timberlands, where more trees are left standing along streams. The temperature increases were prompted by less shade thrown on the water by trees.

After hearing the study results last week, the board voted 5-2 to direct the department to start preparing new rules for protecting streamside buffers on private lands. The process is likely to take months. Board member Jennifer Phillippi, whose family owns a mill and timberlands in southwestern Oregon, said she voted against moving forward on new regulations because the study results are not all in, and the changes in water temperature were small.

Study continues

“ Everybody agrees the Rip Stream study is a good study, but it’s not finished,” she said. “I would expect as we gather the rest of the information, that we’re going to find solutions that are effective and efficient.”

Dave Powers, regional manager for forestry of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Portland, said Washington state has had much stronger protections for streams on private timberlands than Oregon for a decade, and he expected the board to give the issue serious consideration.

“EPA also would like to see lands continue in forest production,” he said. “We do not believe protection of water quality and aquatic species is inconsistent with producing timber.”

Aiding industries

Bob Van Dyk of the Wild Salmon Center in Portland said improving stream protection would help the sport and commercial fishing industries.

He noted it has been 17 years since state and federal regulations significantly cut back logging to protect fish and wildlife, and new science is prompting some of those decisions to be reconsidered.


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