Oregon Forestry officials – Under the gun to turn things around in state forests – private lands too.
Lincoln County Commissioners got a visit from top regional state forestry officials this week. And it was easy to see that they’re under a fair amount of stress. On the one hand they’ve got to get enough trees cut to provide revenues for local county governments, the state general fund and schools, yet do more to help endangered species recover, reduce sediment run-off into fish producing streams, reduce herbicide and pesticide exposures to residents, keep recreation and other forest user fees low, and still produce enough revenue to keep forestry agents in the field to make it all work.
Forestry officials say the state Board of Forestry is working on a plan to practice more intensive forest conservation while getting more trees to market to keep the cash flow up. At that point Commissioner Terry Thompson retorted, “Good luck with THAT!” The forestry folks chuckled along with him, although somewhat nervously.
They said they rely on the Board of Forestry to chart the course and make it work and that their overhaul of the state’s forest management plan is due out the first of July.
Agents admitted that there has been substantial public push-back on the way herbicide and pesticide sprayings have affected communities and watersheds adjacent to and inside state forestry areas and that there is new legislation pending in Salem to tackle those concerns. They also briefly cited the pressure they’re under by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration to do more to protect water quality in local forest rivers and streams – not only in reducing rising water temperatures but also sediment coming off logged areas which is clogging fish spawning runs.
In a recent report the EPA and NOAA minced no words about how they feel about Oregon dragging its feet on forestland protection and environmental health – announcing that Oregon is the only coastal state in the country that, despite repeated warnings, still does not not have a workable water quality plan for its rivers and streams – that there is still too much contamination from logging run-off, herbicide and pesticide spraying, agricultural pollution and inadequate city storm drain water treatment all running down hill to the sea. Millions of dollars in federal grants and program funding has been withdrawn in a further effort to prod state agencies to take action.
State foresters also touched on the fact that fire seasons just seem to be getting worse and worse – last year’s wildland fires amounting to one of the worst on record. They said there have been some bright spots in efforts to do land clearing in and around forests to protect them from small fires that can grow to big fires in mere minutes. Cleaning and control burn projects at Salishan and in the Harlan area of east Lincoln County were highlighted as successful operations. But they also indicated that prescribed or control burns can be risky as we saw last weekend in the Waldport area when a prescribed burn got away from a property owner and the fire took off. Fortunately local firefighters jumped right in and got it back under control before it could do any more damage.
Forestry officials said the trick might be to put state forests on a tighter growing cycle – not waiting so long between cuts – cutting trees that are merely 50 years old rather than 75 to 100. They say the younger trees still produce good wood – even harder wood than older trees produce which put on weight with more, but softer wood, as the trees fatten up. Faster rotation harvesting is being tried in Eastern Oregon in Malheur County as a lumber mill there re-tools to accommodate younger trees being harvested because most of the older stands have been cut.
Forestry officials also mentioned that State Forestry has outgrown their local headquarters in Toledo and are shopping for a new site for upgraded and more efficient facilities. They say it appears that based on their review of possible locations, they’re likely to be relocating from their current Toledo site to one just east of Newport. No specific timeline was offered on the move.