Last week, the Oregon Board of Forestry voted 5-2 to increase clearcutting on 600,000 acres in Tillamook and Clatsop state forests. The new plan lowers protections for older forest and increases the target for clear cutting. As a result, 50,000 acres of currently protected stands will be opened to clear cutting. Under the current plan, no more than 15% of the forest can be a recent clear cut. Under the new plan, up to 25% will be a recent clear cut.
From OPB: Brian Pasko of the Sierra Club said, “We are disappointed by this decision – the Board of Forestry ignored overwhelming public comment against their plan to increase clearcutting and reduce protections for older forests and salmon streams. Of all days, you’d think on Earth Day they might try to align themselves with the majority of Oregonians who want more protection for our forests, but again and again this Board has shown it doesn’t reflect the mainstream.”
Bob Van Dyk of the Wild Salmon Center expressed concern about the scientific underpinnings of the plan changes. “State law requires the state forest plans to protect and restore fish habitat. The high levels of clear cutting allowed by this change need an independent scientific review before being implemented,” he said.
The effects on endangered species were also a concern. “Today’s decision to increase cutting on the Tillamook State Forest will harm water quality and place coho salmon, spotted owls and numerous other fish and wildlife species in jeopardy. These changes are not in the interest of Oregonians,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director for the Center for Biological Diversity.
Some of the key salmon watersheds identified by Oregon Fish and Wildlife are predicted to have very high levels of clear cutting under the approved changes. An internal review by the Department of Forestry noted that under the new plan some watersheds would be at a “high risk” of changing watershed function due to extensive clear cutting, with potentially negative effects on salmon.