From: Timber Harvesting Staff

The Oregon Board of Forestry voted in early November to double the no-logging buffer zone along small- and medium-sized streams in western Oregon in response to a lawsuit that state forestry regulations don’t do enough to protect water quality for trout and salmon. In early 2015, as part of a lawsuit filed by Northwest Environmental Advocates, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and NOAA Fisheries Service issued a decision that Oregon’s forest rules weren’t strong enough to meet water quality standards required under the Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Program, a provision of the National Coastal Zone Management Program.

The new Oregon Forest Practices Act rules increase no-logging buffers around medium-sized streams to 80 ft. and buffers around smaller streams to 60 ft. The rules apply in western Oregon to private, county and state lands, with the Siskiyou region in southwest Oregon exempt. Timberland owners and logging groups protested the move, citing the economic impact and calling it arbitrary and political with no evidence to back it up. Supporters of the new rules say wider buffers increase shade to keep water cool and reduce runoff from logging sites and roads.

Associated Oregon Loggers Executive Director Jim Geisinger says his group’s concern with the new rules is the decision was not based on biological science but political science, driven by a “concocted, arbitrary ‘cold water standard’ that’s unattainable in the real world.” Data shows there can be a short-term, localized increase in water temperatures after logging, Geisinger says, “But the question should be, ‘How are the fish doing?’ not ‘How wide does a buffer need to be?’ Oregon’s fish are doing great. We are experiencing record runs of fish. This was nothing more than an attempt to placate environmental activists with an insatiable appetite for destroying the forest products industry.”

Federal fisheries officials say Washington and California stream-side forestry regulations do a better job protecting fish and water quality than Oregon and hope the new rules in Oregon can boost habitat improvements that will lead to removing the Oregon coastal coho salmon off the threatened species list.