Forestry Practices Act changes pose challenges for loggers
November 23, 2022
Local foresters and loggers will be faced with new rules on forest practices following the Oregon Board of Forestry’s approval of more than 100 changes to the Forest Practices Act at a special board meeting Oct. 26.
The rule changes are a result of the mediated and groundbreaking Private Forest Accord that brought together representatives from conservation groups and the timber industry.
The changes will impact timber harvest activities on more than 10 million acres of private and non-federal forests in the state.
The Private Forest Accord is an agreement between representatives from Oregon’s timber industry, small woodland owners, and prominent conservation and fishing organizations, to modify parts of Oregon Forest Practices Act and forest practice rules in a way that expands protections for fish and amphibians.
The Accord was signed in 2021 by 13 conservation and fisheries groups, 11 timber companies and the Oregon Small Woodlands Association, which represents the owners of small forested properties.
It set new standards for forest roads and culverts to remove barriers to fish traveling upstream, and expanded the width of required buffers along streams where logging is prohibited in order to help keep water cold and clean, among other regulatory changes aimed to enhance protections for aquatic habitat.
Milt Moran, president of Cascade Timber Consulting, which manages 100,000-plus acres of local timberland, said the new rules will definitely affect local logging.
“It will change things with the operators,” he said, adding that the new rules may mean some areas don’t get logged that would be under the current regulations. “We will have to pay attention to more things.”
Jim Kelly, chair of the Oregon Board of Forestry, said the changes are intended to “advance how Oregon protects its natural resources and responds to the climate change crisis, while also providing some stability for the communities and economies that rely on the forest products industry.”
“This agreement captures the spirit of cooperation and negotiation we have in this state, where we move past our differences to find solutions.”
The goal of the PFA and the Forest Practices Act rule changes is to provide long-term certainty to industry while providing enhanced protection to critical aquatic species.
“The timber industry is vital to many rural Oregon communities,” Kelly said. “This agreement balances these critical social and economic components with the need to better protect critical forest habitat, which is also incredibly beneficial for Oregonians.”
The Oregon Department of Forestry worked closely with the PFA authors to write the new rules that cover several key areas including:
-- New and wider stream buffers to protect stream habitat that supports salmon, steelhead, bull trout, and amphibians.
-- New design standards and requirements to inventory, maintain and manage forest roads, with an emphasis on replacing culverts on fish-bearing streams.
-- Steep slopes will have more trees retained to improve slope stability and reduce sediment that can impact fish habitat.
-- Enhanced monitoring to better evaluate rule compliance.
-- A new adaptive management program to advise the Board of Forestry on future rule adjustments.
In addition to rule changes, recent legislation also funded the creation of a small-forestland-owner assistance office, establishment of tax credits to small landowners, started the development of a habitat conservation plan for aquatic species and made investments in training and outreach.
Craig Pettinger, ODF unit forester in the Sweet Home office, said his staff was still working through the details of the new rules, some of which are yet to come.
“We’re still figuring it out,” he said. “We don’t know all the pieces yet. There are different implementation dates for some of the rules. This coming spring, we’ll be training employees so they understand them. It’s going to be a change. It’s going to be interesting.”
He said impacts for local loggers will “definitely” include changes to stream buffers, and in-andout waivers are going to be a thing of the past.
“It used to be you could walk in the door and ask for a waiver,” Pettinger said. “Now you’re probably going to be stuck with a 15-day waiting period. Fish and Wildlife might have to come and look at the situation. It’s going to require better planning.”
Moran said CTC will continue logging operations as normal through July 1 of next year, but then will need to implement the new rules, which kick in in 2024.
“We will be spending a lot more field time in timber sale planning and layout, marking up new stream boundaries,” he said, adding that the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will be relied upon to determine fish populations in streams.
“It’s a slow process. They’re not hiring a lot of people and there’s a lot of work to be done,” Moran added.
Pettinger noted that the new rules provide options for small landowners, with operations under 5,000 acres, which provide “unique tax credits if they choose to go with the new rules.”
“It’s not quite as big a hit to small landowners,” he said. “Large owners have to stick with the rules the way they’re written.”
Also, he said, the added restrictions on steep-slope logging will be implemented, primarily in areas where there are roads or houses below a logging operation.
Clearly, Pettinger said, there’s going to be more work involved, “more verification.”
Legislators have made it clear they want verification, which will require spot checks from time to time on finished projects, he said.
“There’s going to be additional follow-up. They want to know if it’s working.”
Moran said he was pleased that Oregon Forestry Industry Council representatives were able to incorporate “fire protection mitigation” into the new rules.
“We’re encouraged about that,” he said. “They do not just leave some of those areas unmanaged.”
It’s going to require a lot more work for the logging industry, he said, adding that he’s considering adding to his staff, and CTC will be training its subcontractors on how to comply with the rules.
“It’s going to create a lot more field time, a lot more expense for us, getting timber sales ready to go, making sure we have the right employees doing that work. We’re buying a lot more ribbon, special ribbons with lettering that help loggers understand. A lot more training, a lot more implementation on the ground.
“It’s going to take time learn how the new rules go, get guys up to speed.”
But, he added, the goal is to have healthier forests as well as keep the local wood products industry “healthy.”
“We still want to create lots of clean air, habitat for wildlife, clean water. But we also want to keep logging community going.”
For more information on the Forest Practices Act and Private Forest Accord visit ODF’s PFA website