Photo: Conrad Gowell with flight assistance from Lighthawk

Board of Forestry Grants Petition to Protect Coho Salmon Sites from Private and State Logging

For Immediate Release, July 29th, 2019

Contacts: Conrad Gowell, Native Fish Society, Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, and Mary Scurlock, Oregon Stream Protection Coalition

SALEM, Ore.— Late Wednesday afternoon after hours of deliberation, the Oregon Board of Forestry voted 5-2 to accept a petition for rulemaking on coho salmon. The petition was brought by 22 different conservation and fishing groups under a rarely used portion of the Forest Practices Act which requires the Board to evaluate forest protections on private and state land when species are listed under state or federal endangered species acts. The Board is required to identify “resource sites” for listed species and subsequently develop rules to protect these species if threatened by state and private logging practices.

While coho salmon have been threatened with extinction for decades, the Board of Forestry has until now never initiated a state-mandated review of its rules to protect the fish. “The Oregon Forest Practices Act requires the Board of Forestry to address conflicts between logging and habitat for species at risk of extinction,” said Nick Cady, Legal Director with Cascadia Wildlands. “The major ongoing conflicts between logging practices and coho salmon habitat are finally getting the hard look they deserve.”

The Board has only undertaken such efforts for a handful of bird species and had never done such work for coho salmon, which are listed as threatened by the federal National Marine Fisheries Service. The petition specifically asked the Board to (1) collect and analyze the best available information on coho salmon; (2) conduct a resource site inventory; and (3) adopt rules to protect resource sites and to develop a process to identify new sites in the future.

“This resource site process allows the state of Oregon to take a wholistic look at the many ways logging practices harm salmon and perpetuate poor freshwater habitat conditions, like intensive logging too close to streams and on landslide-prone areas, sediment from forest roads, and large areas dominated by clear-cuts and young plantations.” said Mary Scurlock with the Oregon Stream Protection Coalition. “Oregon’s rules for water protection on state and private timberlands are the weakest in the Pacific Northwest, and it is encouraging to see the Board take this first step towards bringing our rules in line with the needs of coho.”

Oregon has relied heavily on voluntary measures by timber companies to protect coho. Between 1995 and 2017, the public invested $65 million dollars of public funds on in-stream habitat restoration efforts. However, Oregon’s weak forest practices rules limit the effectiveness of these efforts because they still allow logging to degrade aquatic habitat critical to the recovery of coho salmon. Conrad Gowell, Fellowship Director with the Native Fish Society notes “It is an obvious case of one step forward, two steps back. We need to address the root causes of fish decline. The public’s investments in habitat restoration activities cannot keep up with the pace or scale of the ongoing degradation from poor forest practices. The Board has a perfect opportunity now to address these inefficiencies and meaningfully address salmon recovery where it matters most.”

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