Oregon Forest’s Habitat Conservation Plan Ready To Move Forward Despite Objections

A controversial plan that will change the way the state’s logging activities comply with the federal Endangered Species Act is moving ahead but will reduce logging on Oregon’s state lands west of the Cascades.

Oregon forestry officials are moving ahead with the Western State Lands Habitat Conservation Plan after Oregon State Forester Cal Mukumoto recommended to the Oregon Board of Forestry that they go ahead with the current draft of the Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) but with minor adjustments.

Covering 640,000 acres of state lands west of the Cascades- mostly in Tillamook and Clatsop counties.

The Western Oregon State Forests HCP draft sets out protections for 17 species of mammals, fish, amphibians, and birds for the next 70 years. Species that rely on mature and old-growth forests, the northern spotted owl, the marbled murrelet, several salmon species, and the coastal marten are part of the HCP. Protections also include larger buffers around streams to protect water quality and maintain cooler temperatures.

Because of projections showing timber harvests could be reduced by 15-25%, many timber companies oppose the plan. At the meeting on Thursday, a group of loggers showed up to protest.

Local services in counties and special districts, such as schools and rural firefighting are allocated much of the revenue from state timber harvests.

Subsequently voting 4-to-3 to continue moving forward, the Board of Forestry accepted the plan as drafted. The state could finalize the plan by the end of the year, and then receive federal input in 2025 if no major hurdles are encountered.

Representing the region that will be most impacted by this plan- Tillamook and Clatsop counties, Rep. Cyrus Javadi, R-Tillamook, confirmed that communities in the district depend on their livelihoods for the forest. He said, “They’re third-, fourth- and fifth-generation loggers whose lives are going to be turned upside down because of the dramatic reduction in harvest levels.”

Allowing- to a certain extent, a project that could harm specific endangered species during activities like timber the HCP also outlines ways the project will otherwise protect those same species. Oregon currently complies with the U.S. Endangered Species Act through c what is called “take avoidance.” Biologists survey the habitat for any protected species and outline ways to protect it during logging before the area is logged. But this method has historically opened the agency up to lawsuits alleging that the department harmed protected species despite its survey efforts.

Mukumoto said that it would be easy to kick the can down the road for the next state forester or future board members to have to deal with, but that wouldn’t help the forestry department or communities that rely on state forest lands.

Elliott State Research Forest, the Private Forest Accord and other forests will also be affected as the state pursues forestry plans for other projects.

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