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‘Historic’ deal reached to overhaul Oregon’s private forest management

Oregon Wild

'We're all really proud to be part of a new era of forestry in Oregon'

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — An agreement has been reached between timber and environmental groups to overhaul management of 10 million acres of private forestlands in Oregon.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reports the deal, announced Saturday by Gov. Kate Brown’s office, concludes more than a year of negotiations to develop a plan to boost protections for vulnerable fish and wildlife while shielding the timber industry’s ability to log.

Friday was the deadline for both sides to either reach consensus, abandon the process or move the deadline.

“Today’s historic agreement is a perfect example of the Oregon Way –– coming together at the table to find common ground, to the mutual benefit of us all,” Brown said in a statement.

Jim James with the Oregon Small Woodlands Association similarly praised the compromise.

“We were able to put down the contentious situations that we’ve had in the past, and we had a continuous agreement to move forward,” James said.

Speaking on behalf of the timber coalition, Adrian Miller with the Florida-based forest products company Rayonier said Saturday’s agreement gives timber operators a sense of security going forward.

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

In 2020, the sides each planned a series of competing ballot measures that could have turned into a costly political fight.

Environmental groups sought strict limits on spraying of aerial pesticides and improved protection for forest waters. Meanwhile, the timber industry sought compensation for private landowners when state regulations limited their ability to log.

Brown instead pushed for the two sides to negotiate.

Representatives from the timber industry and environmental groups were charged with setting terms to pursue a statewide habitat conservation plan to safeguard fish, wildlife and water quality. A habitat conservation plan, or HCP, is a tool that allows practices like logging or irrigation to continue while minimizing damage to wildlife habitat.

Saturday’s deal sets in motion what could be a lengthy, possibly years-long process to craft, approve and adopt an HCP into law and begin implementation.

“There’s no doubt that there’s going to be challenges ahead,” said Sean Stevens, executive director of the conservation group Oregon Wild. “But I do think that this agreement provides a different sort of foundation than we’ve ever had before for tackling those challenges ahead.”

The next step will be to introduce a bill in the Oregon Legislature to make significant changes to the Forest Practices Act to protect riverbanks and streamsides, improve forest roads and allow for adaptive management of private forests.

Then the state will pursue an HCP, which will require a rulemaking process overseen by the Oregon Board of Forestry. After that, state leaders can pitch the plan to federal regulators.

News release from Gov. Kate Brown's office:

Governor Kate Brown Announces Historic Timber Agreement

Proposed changes to Forest Practices Act to be brought before Legislature

 (Salem, OR) — Governor Kate Brown today announced that nearly ten months of negotiations between private forestry representatives, small forestland owners, conservation leaders, and fishing organizations has resulted in a historic proposal for new protections for sensitive species on over 10 million acres of forestland in Oregon. The proposal seeks to meet the federal standards for a statewide Habitat Conservation Plan. The changes to the Forest Practices Act agreed to by the parties will be brought before the Legislature.

“Today’s historic agreement is a perfect example of the Oregon Way––coming together at the table to find common ground, to the mutual benefit of us all,” said Governor Brown. “Together, this agreement will help to ensure that Oregon continues to have healthy forests, fish, and wildlife, as well as 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.”

The parties agreed on a framework for:

  • Riparian buffers for streams, rivers, and bodies of water;
  • Steep slopes protection to minimize erosion and protect habitat;
  • An approach moving forward to improve forest roads; and
  • A path forward to make adjustments and adaptation to forest practices in the future.

In February of 2020, Governor Brown brokered an agreement between numerous conservation and fishing groups and timber and forest products entities to abandon a costly and divisive ballot initiative fight in exchange for proactive legislation supporting collaboratively developed changes to forest practices. This agreement, called the Private Forest Accord, led to bipartisan legislation that passed with overwhelming majorities in June 2020. The legislation codified the historic agreement, funded the negotiating process now underway, and enacted a set of significant reforms to the Forest Practices Act, some of which went into effect January 1. These new laws addressed aerial applications of pesticides on forestland within 300 feet of homes, schools and drinking water, and created a new, first-in-the-nation real-time neighbor notification and reporting requirement.

“This is truly an exciting time to be a part of the Oregon forest sector,” said David Bechtold, representative of the coalition of forest companies. “We’re extremely proud to have started a process for more constructive engagement on forest policy issues. This is a new era that will produce the best outcomes for Oregon’s private forests and the communities that depend on them to provide clean water, recreation, renewable wood products and year-round, family-wage jobs.” 

Bob Van Dyk, Oregon Policy Director at Wild Salmon Center said, “We are thrilled to join the Governor and timber industry counterparts on a new path for Oregon’s forests and for our organizations. The measures announced today provide significant new protections for our fisheries, for cold clean water, and for the people who rely on these resources.”

On January 12, 2021 the parties began a series of meetings in which they discussed proposed changes to forest practices, pursuing a statewide Habitat Conservation Plan from federal agencies for threatened and endangered species, which would provide more regulatory certainty for landowners and long-term conservation benefits to designated wildlife species. The parties worked intensively throughout the year towards formalizing an agreement to bring before the Legislature.

The Governor’s office worked with signatories to identify the negotiating teams and appointed experienced mediator Peter Koehler. With the assistance of Peter Harkema from Oregon Consensus and the Governor’s Office, the parties worked tirelessly toward a deal.

The conservation and fishing side representatives are Bob Van Dyk (Wild Salmon Center), Sean Stevens (Oregon Wild), Chrysten Lambert (Trout Unlimited), Bob Sallinger (Portland Audubon), Joseph Vaile (Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center), and Dr. Kelly Burnett (Aquatic Scientist). Also joining in the agreement are the Beyond Toxics, Cascadia Wildlands, Northwest GUides and Anglers, the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, the Oregon Stream Protection Coalition, The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Rogue Riverkeeper, and Umpqua Watersheds.

For the timber sector the representatives are Adrian Miller (Rayonier), Diane Meyers (Weyerhaeuser), Cameron Krauss (Seneca Sawmill Company), Heath Curtiss (Hampton Lumber), Eric Geyer (Roseburg Forest Products), and Jim James (Oregon Small Woodlands Association). Also joining in the agreement are Hancock Natural Resource Group, Lone Rock Resources, Greenwood Resources, Campbell Global, Starker Forests, and Port Blakely. 

Legislation will be brought forward to the Oregon Legislature to solidify the Private Forest Accords in statute. The State will bring forward the proposal for consideration by NOAA Fisheries and the US Fish and Wildlife Service as a Habitat Conservation Plan.

News release from Oregon Wild:

Agreement Reached on New Rules for Oregon Forest Practices Act

October 30, 2021

Late last night, representatives from conservation and angling organizations and the timber industry reached an agreement over new rules for the Oregon Forest Practices Act. 13 conservation and fishing groups joined 13 timber representatives to negotiate these new rules beginning in early 2020.

The parties agreed on a framework for: 

  • Riparian buffers for streams, rivers, and bodies of water; 
  • Steep slopes protection to minimize erosion and protect habitat; 
  • An approach moving forward to improve forest roads; and 
  •  A path forward to make adjustments and adaptation to forest practices in the future

The Governor announced this agreement in a press release today.

Bob Van Dyk, Wild Salmon Center on behalf of the conservation and angling negotiators in the Private Forest Accord:

We are thrilled to join the Governor and timber industry counterparts on a new path for Oregon’s forests and for our organizations. The measures we announced today provide significant new protections for our imperiled salmon, recreational and commercial fisheries, and for the communities that rely on these resources. 

Of equal importance, the agreement provides long-term certainty for landowners, large and small, who can continue to manage their lands with confidence that regulations are stable and that a strong and collaborative science process will drive future changes.

Given the increasingly damaging effects of climate change, the strategies we agreed on are even more urgent.

It will be no surprise that this was a difficult process for everyone. We all had to stretch. We all made painful compromises. No one got everything they wanted. We deeply appreciate the hard work and commitment of our industry counterparts and the Governor and her facilitation team.

We look forward to building on the new, collaborative spirit of this agreement to pass it into law in the short term and to implement the agreement in the years ahead.

Article Topic Follows: AP - Oregon-Northwest

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