Oregon Board of Forestry’s new rules will not protect clean water, fish

Oregon Board of Forestry’s new rules will not protect clean water, fish

Nov. 6, 2015 — 

Salem, Ore. — The Oregon Board of Forestry adopted new rules Nov. 5, 2015 that fail to protect fish from the harmful practices happening along small streams in Oregon under the Oregon Forest Practices Act.

The Board adopted to increase tree buffers to 60 feet on small fish-bearing streams and 80 on medium fish-bearing streams.

·      This is far short of the 100 to 120 feet that the most scientists, including those from state and federal agencies, say is needed to protect salmon, steelhead and bull trout swimming in streams flowing though private timberlands.

·      The new buffers still fail to meet state water quality standards, and may still fail to meet federal water quality standards.

·      The board excluded the entire Siskiyou region from the rule, despite the fact that some streams there are not meeting water quality standards. The Siskiyou is a slightly drier ecosystem in southwest Washington with very diverse fish and wildlife ecosystems.

“After a decade of analysis and deliberation, the Oregon Board of Forestry chose to adopt rules  based on political expediency rather than science. These new buffer requirements, will not provide the shade that science and the law say is necessary to keep streams cold for salmon, steelhead and bull trout,” said Greg Haller, conservation director for Pacific Rivers.

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.

Climate change and its affect on stream temperatures will pose challenges to fish in the decades ahead. Inadequate buffers  little precipitation resulted in high stream temperature and fish kills this summer in numerous rivers throughout the state including the Willamette, Klamath, Umpqua, John Day, and Deschutes.

Campaign to reform the Oregon Forest Practices Act

Pacific Rivers has launched campaign to comprehensively reform the Oregon Forest Practices Act, and has released a 30-minute film titled Behind the Emerald Curtain to expose the harmful practices happening on Oregon’s 10 million acres of private timberlands. Those practices include: aerially spraying of very toxic pesticides and herbicides on land, waterways, and sometimes people; clearcutting on steep slopes; and logging through small streams. The film is touring throughout the state to raise awareness and inspire Oregonians to help protect public and environmental healthy by demanding that our legislators and the Board of Forestry implement comprehensive reform of the Oregon Forest Practices Act.

Yesterday’s decision by the Board of Forestry is only one small piece of the puzzle. The decision affects 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 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:

1)   Adequate buffers on all streams, not just some.

2)   More limits for logging on steel slopes prone to landslides and erosion.

3)   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.

Contact: Greg Haller, greg@pacificrivers.org, 208-790-4105
Natalie Bennon, natalie@pacificrivers.org, 503-778-0072

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