Two Big Wins for Oregon Forests!

Thursday was a historic day for Oregon’s Forests. A huge THANK YOU to all of our members and activists who have fought to protect Oregon’s incredible forests.

On Thursday morning the Oregon Legislature passed Senate Bill 1501 which creates strong new stream protections under the Oregon Forest Practices Act (OFPA) which regulates more than 10 million acres of private forest land in Oregon.

Bird Alliance of Oregon has fought for decades to strengthen the OFPA. We are proud to have been part of the 6 person environmental negotiating team that worked with six timber industry representatives, in a process facilitated by the Governor’s office, to develop the OFPA agreements. The other environmental groups directly involved in these negotiations were Wild Salmon Center, Oregon Wild, KS Wild and Trout Unlimited. The legislation will provide much stronger protections on both fish and non-fish bearing streams to benefit federally protected species such as salmon, steelhead and bull trout, as well as other species such as stream dwelling amphibians. You can read the full legislation here and the nearly 200-page Private Forest Accord report here. SB 1501 passed with strong bipartisan support on 22-5 vote in the Senate and 43 -15 in the House.

A Northern Spotted Owl perches on a mossy branch, while looking up towards the upper tree canopy.
Northern Spotted Owl by Scott Carpenter

Later in the day, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 1546 and allocated $121 million to create the Elliott State Research Forest with strong new protections for the Elliott’s old growth forests, imperiled species, and water quality. The 82,000-acre Elliott State Forest is one of the crown jewels of the Oregon Coast Range and stronghold for federally listed Marbled Murrelets, Northern Spotted Owls and coho.
For decades, it has also been one of Oregon’s most conflicted landscapes. Over the past decade, Bird Alliance of Oregon along with Cascadia Wildlands and Center for Biological Diversity have brought three lawsuits to prevent illegal clearcutting and liquidation of the Elliott. Bird Alliance of Oregon and a coalition of conservation groups also successfully fought an effort by the State to sell the Elliott to private timber interests circa 2016/17.

For the past three years we have been part of a stakeholder advisory group that included conservation groups, tribes, timber interests, recreational interests, rural counties, the Oregon School Board, the State of Oregon, and OSU that have been working intensively to develop a new collaborative path forward for the Elliott.

The Elliott State Research Forest locks in strong protections for the Elliott’s older forests, streams, and imperiled species. It creates the largest reserve in the Oregon Coast Range at 34,000+ acres plus smaller reserves throughout the rest of the forest. The legislation advanced with unanimous support from the stakeholder advisory committee (something that seemed virtually impossible three years ago), strong support from more than 25 conservation groups, and bipartisan support in the legislature on a 22-4 vote in the Senate and 50-9 vote in the House. You can see the legislation here and learn more about the process here.

There is still much work ahead on both the Elliott and OFPA, and much work still to be done to protect Oregon’s forests in general. However, this week, in a time of extreme polarization, we transcended decades of conflict and advanced the Elliott and the OFPA riparian management into a new era of conservation, collaboration and science-based management.

Thanks for all that you do to protect Oregon’s forests and the wildlife that depends on them!