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Forestry board revises harvest and habitat goals for Tillamook, Clatsop state forests
The state Board of Forestry voted Wednesday to revise management on the Tillamook and Clatsop state forests, reducing the goal for developing older forests and allowing for greater economic returns through timber harvest.
 
By a 4 to 2 vote, the board accepted the Oregon Department of Forestry’s recommendation to reduce the long-term goal for older forest types from 40-60 percent of the landscape to 30-50 percent.
 
The board, in an amendment, also directed ODF to prepare a review of the administrative rule for state forest management policy and planning. This rule includes definitions of greatest permanent value, known as the “purpose” of state forest lands, and forest management planning, the framework for developing a plan. The Board asked to have draft concepts prepared for a revision process by April 2010.
 
All the board members expressed interest in revisiting the greatest permanent value rule. Most saw the revision proposed by ODF as an interim step in a more complete rewrite of a forest management plan.
 
Board members voting no were Jennifer Phillippi and Peter Hayes. Phillippi said she preferred not having species of concern strategies tied to structure-based management. Hayes said he wanted a goal of 40 percent older forest – instead of 30 percent – until a peer review of the species of concern strategies was conducted.
 
According to recent modeling estimates, a goal of 30 percent older forests would result in an annual timber harvest of 196 million board feet. This represents a 5 percent increase over the planned harvest level – 186 million board feet – for 2009.
 
The board also approved implementing new strategies for species of concern to protect a list of 40 species identified by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The list includes threatened and endangered species. The species of concern strategies replace a draft habitat conservation plan that had been used to supply protective guidelines.
 
The revision retains many aspects of the original plan, including a structure-based management approach that emulates diversity of stand types historically associated with conifer forests. A goal of 30 percent of the landscape in older forest types is consistent with the historic pattern, which suggests that the percentage of older stand types ranged over time from 30 percent to 70 percent.
 
In the context of this plan, older forests have some larger trees mixed with smaller trees (two or more canopy layers) and an understory of shrubs and herbs. About 13 percent of the Tillamook and Clatsop state forests currently falls into this category. Most stands on the forests currently are single canopy stands about 50-60 years old, dating from extensive replanting following large fires and heavy harvesting that occurred in the early to mid-20th century, before the lands became public.
 
Since the forest management plan is an administrative rule, the revisions will require formal rulemaking. This process provides for public review and participation in the adoption of the revised plan.
 
The revision process could take up to a year. The first on-the-ground effects of the board’s decision would likely come in the 2012 annual operations plans.
 
The revised plan seeks to achieve 20 percent older forests across the landscape in 20 years, reaching 30 percent in 80 years. This is a change from the original plan, which had been implemented with a 50 percent long-term goal for older forests.
 
The board pursued a higher return through timber harvests because it believed the management plan for these two state forests was underperforming economically.
 
When the plan was approved in 2001, it was seen as an economic and environmental win-win. At the time, forest modeling showed that – even with the development of diverse habitat – the plan would produce nearly as much timber harvest volume as a more intensively managed industrial forest.
 
But the timber harvests have been consistently lower than expected and significantly less when compared to industrial forest management. The revised plan, at 196 million board feet, represents about 70-75 percent of what the forests are capable of producing – an estimated 272 million board feet – under an industrial model.
 
The board’s decision is seen as a move to make management more consistent with the purpose of these state-owned forestlands – a new balance among economic, social and environmental benefits, with greater emphasis on the economic.
 
The purpose – called greatest permanent value – is defined in state law and administrative rule. It seeks a full range of social, economic and environmental benefits.
 
Examples of these benefits include timber harvest with resulting revenues for public services in local counties, healthy streams, wildlife habitat and recreation. The rule doesn’t specify how much of each benefit is appropriate. That determination falls to the Board. The management task changes as forest modeling and inventory techniques improve, and as public needs and interests change.
 
Economic outputs are important because revenue is distributed to the counties where harvesting occurs. Counties, schools and local taxing districts, like rural fire departments, depend on this revenue to provide public services.
 
The counties receive this revenue because they deeded these lands to the state many decades ago. There was agreement at the time that when the overcut and burned lands grew into productive forests, the counties would receive a share of the revenue.
 
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