July 23, 2015 —
Salem, Ore. — The Oregon Board of Forestry refused to take action today to increase tree buffers along rivers and streams on Oregon’s private forests, leaving water quality in Oregon below state standards.
“The Oregon Board of Forestry has a duty to meet state water quality standards, and today they failed. They have seen the science, and they know that tree buffers along streams on private forests need to be at least 120 feet wide to keep water cool for fish. Instead, the board punted their decision, meaning fish and other aquatic wildlife will continue to decline because the water is too warm for most of them,” Haller said.
The so-called RipStream study from 2003 clearly demonstrates that 120-foot buffers along small- and medium-sized streams are necessary to maintain enough shade and keep water cool for fish and wildlife. Today the board only considered buffers of 70 feet or 90 feet, and even then failed to act.
“Why is the board even considering options that the science shows will not protect cold water for fish? And even then, the board punted and took virtually no action today,” Haller said.
Climate change exacerbates the problem, raising air and stream temperatures higher than ever before and causing severe droughts throughout the region. The lack of buffers compounded by climate change and drought has contributed to fish kills this year in numerous rivers throughout the state including the Willamette, Klamath, Umpqua, John Day, and Deschutes.
Today’s decision would have only affected a small percentage of streams in Oregon – small and medium streams with salmon, steelhead, or bull trout. Virtually no streams in Oregon have adequate buffers, and very few have any buffers at all.
“The board considered changes that will only apply to a small fraction of Oregon’s streams. And when it comes to cool, clean water, every stream matters – perennial or seasonal, with fish or without,” Haller said.
Moreover, the board has yet to take up other issues affecting water quality on private forests, including use of pesticides and logging on steep slopes. Oregon’s standards are less protective of fish, wildlife, and human health than California, Washington, or Idaho. Oregon needs comprehensive reform on private industrial forests. Comprehensive reform is most likely to occur via the legislature.
Comprehensive reforms needed on Oregon’s private industrial forests include:
- Adequate buffers on all streams, not just some.
- More limits for logging on steel slopes prone to landslides and erosion.
- Better rules and enforcement of rules regarding pesticide use.
What are buffers?
Streamside buffers are the land along streams where little or no harvest can take place in order to provide shade, keep water cool, and filter pollutants. Buffers also serve to prevent excess sediment from entering the stream, and they provide a source of large trees that can fall into the river to create habitat for fish and other aquatic species.