Oregon’s Forest Protection Laws are a-Changin’

Cover of Oregon's Forest Protection Laws - An Illustrated Manual

Like the tumultuous times sung about by Bob Dylan in 1964, Oregon’s forest protection laws and rules promulgated in the early 1970s are a-changin’. And by quite a bit.

The Oregon Forest Practices Act is the law that governs how forestry is practiced on state and private forestlands in Oregon. The law was originally passed by the Oregon Legislature in 1971, with the first rules created in 1972.

Since then, the forest practices rules outlined in the law have changed 38 times to ensure the regulations are in line with the latest scientific findings. The most recent changes were made in 2016 and 2017. They include setting no-spray buffers for aerial herbicide use around homes and schools; increasing the size of tree and vegetation buffers that loggers must leave around many salmon, steelhead and bull trout (SSBT) streams; and revising the bald eagle rules to match science and the successful recovery of their once-declining populations.

A 200-foot-long section of a Medium Type SSBT stream with tree retention for a clearcut harvest.
A 200-foot-long section of a Medium Type SSBT stream with tree retention for a clearcut harvest.


The graphic above shows the newly revised requirement to leave a wider buffer of trees on either side of a medium-sized SSBT stream in what’s known as a Riparian Management Area (RMA). There are several required zones in the SSBT stream buffer where varying degrees of timber harvest are allowed. All the trees must be left in a “no-harvest zone,” located 0 to 20 feet from the stream’s high-water level. In the “inner zone,” located 20 to 50 feet from the high-water level, and the “outer zone,” located 50 to 80 feet from the high-water level, some trees can be harvested.

Compared to a non-SSBT fish stream, the RMA is 10 feet wider and the leave trees need to be split between the inner and outer zone, with a minimum number of trees per acre and basal area in each zone. The Oregon Board of Forestry created these SSBT rules in 2017 to prevent an increase in stream temperature, which can negatively impact salmon, steelhead and bull trout.

In 2002, the Oregon Forest Resources Institute published the first edition of Oregon’s Forest Protection Laws – An Illustrated Manual. OFRI published a revised second edition in 2012.

A newly revised third edition is now available. It includes the new rules for aerial spray buffers, SSBT stream buffers and bald eagles. It also includes an update to the Industrial Fire Precaution Levels (IFPL), which dictate fire-season restrictions on logging and other forest work.

You can download or order the new third edition of the Illustrated Manual through the publications page on OFRI’s website. In addition to the print version, which can be ordered, and the full electronic version, which can be downloaded, we provide downloadable individual chapters as low-resolution PDFs. These chapter PDFs are easily accessed on a tablet or other mobile device.

Copies of the updated Illustrated Manual will be available at all Oregon State University Extension Service Tree Schools this year, and at the Oregon Small Woodlands Association Annual Meeting in June. I will be teaching a class on Oregon’s forest protection laws, using the third edition of the Illustrated Manual, at Tree School – Clackamas on March 24 and Tree School – Lane on June 2.

I hope you enjoy this newest edition of the manual, which is often found dog-eared and grimy in the vehicles used by those whose work is hands-on forestry. In addition to OFRI’s support for this project, I want to give a shout-out to the Oregon Department of Forestry for helping fund the printing of this highly useful publication.

For the forest,

Mike Cloughesy

Director of Forestry


9755 SW Barnes Rd., Suite 210        
Portland, OR 97225        
Phone: 971-673-2944        
Fax: 971-673-2946

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