We are in a historic time of a paradigm shift in the collective approach to forest policy in Oregon. The forest products industry and the environmental community have often been seen as being at odds with one another. But they are invested in the same resource: Oregon forests.
In 2020, the two groups made a concerted effort to move past their differences and create a more collaborative path forward, which has come to be known as the Private Forest Accord. The Private Forest Accord is the result of a long-term process that brought together representatives from both sides through a mediated process. The purpose was to modify the Oregon Forest Practices Act (OFPA) to identify key goals that should allow Oregon to receive federal approval of a Habitat Conservation Plan.
A Habitat Conservation Plan and accompanying incidental take permit on private forestlands would offer assurances of protected habitat for fish and other aquatic species, and provide future regulatory stability for Oregon’s forestry and forest products sector.
Over an 18-month period, representatives from the timber industry and environmental groups took time to meet, listen to scientific experts, and dive into research and data in an effort to find common ground. In October, 2021, with the leadership of Gov. Kate Brown, representatives of the Accord signed an agreement on proposed changes to state regulations governing logging and other forest practices on private forestland.
The group identified the goals pursued during the process as aiming to provide:
• greater business certainty
• greater environmental certainty
• greater regulatory certainty
• science-driven adaptive management processes
• alternatives for small woodland owners
The full Private Forest Accord report was released to the public in order to provide an in-depth look at proposed changes to Oregon’s forestry laws as agreed upon by the groups. Those agreements were put before the 2022 legislative process as Senate Bills 1501, 1502 and HB 4055.
The primary topics of those bills were identified as:
• Stream buffers. Updated stream buffers are 10% to 100% larger based on stream type and geography.
• Forest roads. New standards for road design, inventory, maintenance, management, and culvert design.
• Unstable slopes. Retaining trees in key areas as a means to reduce landslide risk, and develop new modeling.
• Protections of aquatic resource habitat. Expanded riparian buffers for a variety of riparian-dependent species, including salmon, steelhead, bull trout, and amphibians. (Includes additional reporting requirements for managing beaver activity.)
• Compliance monitoring. Expands monitoring programs to evaluate whether new rules are implemented as intended.
• Adaptive Management Program. Creates a new stakeholder committee, which will work with an Independent Research and Science Team to advise the Board of Forestry on recommendations for ongoing rule changes ensuring that the goals of the Habitat Conservation Plan are met.
• Mitigation and implementation costs.
• Tax credit to compensate small forestland owners.
There are also special accommodations for small woodland owners to address disproportional impacts they could face as a result of changes to Oregon’s forest practices regulations. Provisions for alternative practices and state funding are intended to help lessen the burden for small forest landowners, who make up about 12% of the state’s forestland and 36% of the private ownership.
There are still numerous steps to be taken, by the Private Forest Accord and the legislation associated with it, before the rules and habitat conservation plan are finalized. But the hope is that the long-term regulatory certainty and an HCP for private forestlands will better protect stream habitat for fish and other sensitive wildlife while keeping Oregon private forests forested, rather than converted for other uses. This is how we will ensure that Oregon’s forest sector can thrive into the future.
To learn more about the Private Forest Accord and upcoming changes to Oregon’s forest practices regulations, go to OregonForests.org/private-forest-accord.
Acting Director of Forestry