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Forestry Board seeks to highlight conservation areas in state-owned forests

Oregon Department of Forestry News Release
July 26, 2012
Major media distribution
Contacts:Dan Postrel, (503) 881-3453, dpostrel@odf.state.or.us
Kevin Weeks, (503) 689-6879, kweeks@odf.state.or.us
TILLAMOOK – The state Board of Forestry moved Thursday to more explicitly indicate which portions of state-owned forests are managed with an emphasis on fish and wildlife habitat, mature forest conditions, and other conservation values.

“State law requires that we manage these lands to produce a full range of benefits,” said board Chair John Blackwell of Portland. “That includes timber harvest, recreation, and habitat for a diversity of fish and wildlife. We should be able to clearly indicate to Oregonians those places on the landscape where conservation values are the top management priority.”

On Thursday, the board set in motion changes intended clarify the language used to describe conservation-emphasis lands across forests under board jurisdiction.

State Forester Doug Decker said the board is beginning a fresh look at all aspects of its forest management, seeking to more effectively achieve a range of environmental, economic and social goals.

“Increasing the visibility of current conservation-emphasis areas—and highlighting the vision for these areas within a broader forest management context—is an important first step," he said.

Land classification language is embedded in state administrative rules. Current language labels conservation-emphasis lands according to specific attributes, such as wildlife forage or fish habitat, or designates lands where timber harvest would be impractical or would put natural resources at risk due to steep slopes, rocky soils or other characteristics.

The board agreed Thursday to group the variety of conservation priority areas under a classification called “high value conservation areas.”

The board also discussed ways of making land classification decisions, now made by Department of Forestry staff with public input and board policy guidance, more durable, such as by elevating some or all decisions to the board level.

However, board members agreed to fold this topic into the coming, broader review of the management of Board of Forestry lands.

Department staff are scheduled to consult with interested parties and return to the board in November with proposed rule language that would more clearly highlight conservation-emphasis areas. With the board’s approval or modification, the staff would then begin a formal rule-change process, including public comment, and would bring recommended new language to the board in July 2013.

The change would apply to all Board of Forestry lands—the Tillamook, Clatsop and Santiam state forests in northwestern Oregon, the Gilchrist and Sun Pass state forests east of the Cascades, and scattered small parcels throughout Oregon.

The management plan for the Elliott State Forest near Coos Bay already includes designated conservation areas as one strategy to achieve overall plan objectives. Most of the Elliott is under jurisdiction of the State Land Board, made up of the governor, state treasurer and secretary of state. An agreement is in place under which the Department of Forestry provides management.

State-owned forests cover more than 820,000 acres, about 2.7 percent of Oregon’s forest landbase. Net revenue from timber sales helps to support county government, schools and other local public services.

Among other agenda items Thursday, the board heard an update on a cooperative effort to weigh the feasibility of developing a recreation corridor along a historic rail line in the Northern Coast Range’s Salmonberry River canyon, north of Tillamook. The department has joined the state Parks and Recreation Department, Cycle Oregon, the Port of Tillamook Bay and others to conduct the feasibility study.

“Although we’re very early in the process, this corridor is clearly of immense value to our state,” Blackwell said. “There’s potential of many kinds, including economic revitalization for this part of the north coast, and helping to reconnect Oregonians with their forests.”

Port President Bill Baertlein said a bike, pedestrian and horse trail adjoining the rail line, linking up with the existing Banks-Vernonia trail and with routes that could reach the Portland area, would enhance livability and help recruit new businesses to local communities and the port.

With will and foresight, Baertlein said, transformation of the Salmonberry River corridor could “make Tillamook County a world-wide destination for bicyclists.”