Landmark Bill Seeks Modernization of Oregon’s Forest Practices Act

Landmark Bill Seeks Modernization of Oregon’s Forest Practices Act

February 28, 2017 —

Salem, Ore. – Today, Representative Paul Holvey (D-Eugene) introduced HB 3226 to modernize Oregon’s Forest Practices Act (OFPA) in order to reverse decades of catastrophic damages to the State’s waters, fish, wildlife and soils from clearcutting and other industrial logging practices. The proposed legislation would make the OFPA consistent with best available science and best practices already in use by sustainable forestry leaders and mark the first substantial overhaul of the OFPA since it was enacted in 1972.

“For decades, Oregon law has permitted the timber industry to manage its lands at the expense of clean water, fish and wildlife, and the health and safety of Oregonians,” said Greg Haller, Conservation Director for Pacific Rivers. “This long overdue legislation would rebalance the equation and restore Oregon as a leader in sustainable forest management and conservation by protecting ecosystem values that benefit all Oregonians.”

 

The legislation targets well known weaknesses and omissions in the OFPA noted by scientists, conservation groups, and public agencies for decades by including provisions that:

  • Require corporate forestland owners to file ten-year forest management plans that describe how they plan to protect water, fish, wildlife, and neighboring properties from their logging plans;
  • Permit state agencies and citizens the opportunity to review, comment on, and challenge plans that fail to protect public trust resources;
  • Limit the amount of logging that can occur at any one time in sensitive watersheds;
  • Establish science-based buffers along all rivers, streams, and wetlands;
  • Protect Native American cultural sites, historic resources, and plant and animal community diversity;
  • Prohibit logging on sites with high landslide risk;
  • Require restoration of late successional and old growth forests on a portion of lands now managed as short rotation timber plantations;
  • Provide counties, cities and water districts the flexibility to strengthen restrictions as needed to protect drinking water, and;
  • Require closure and obliteration of hazardous logging roads.

According to Dr. John Talberth, President and Senior Economist for Center for Sustainable Economy, “The timber industry has wrecked Oregon’s rural economy for decades by decimating the resources it needs the most to diversify and capitalize on new demands for high quality living environments, productive fisheries, sustainably certified timber, clean water, scenery and recreation. This legislation will help reverse the damage and allow rural communities to move beyond the boom and bust cycles of unsustainable logging and layoffs.”

Oregon has the most lax rules for protecting rivers, water, and human health from the impacts of private timberlands than any of its neighbors – California, Washington, and Idaho – all of which turn a profit in timber. The proposed legislation is based on best practices established by these other states, federal forestland managers, and sustainable foresters. Recently the efficacy of the OFPA has been called into question with leaks of DEQ reports linking clearcutting and chemical sprays to water quality issues in 50 coastal communities. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has withheld federal coastal zone management funding from Oregon because of the State’s failure to modernize its stream protection rules under OFPA.

According to Richard Chasm, a sustainable forester based in Douglas County, “This legislation is based on practices that responsible foresters have been using all their lives. Steady income streams result from including all of the values of a thriving forest and not externalizing the damage done. Competition from big timber companies who only know how to strip the land and cash out their holdings is undermining our way of life. This legislation will help level the playing field so we can effectively compete and prosper but the big winner will be future generations of Oregonians.”

 

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