Conservation Committee Update: Fall 2023
During the last few months, the Conservation Committee followed up with several state and federal projects.
In July, the Forest Service held an information meeting via Zoom to update the public on the progress of Executive Order 14072. The order directs the Forest Service (FS) and Bureau of Land Management Lands (BLM) to define mature and old-growth forests and complete an inventory, identify threats, coordinate conservation, develop policies to address the threats, and develop climate-informed forestry practices and reforestation plans. The key is to pursue science-based, sustainable forest and land management. Stakeholders include state, local, tribal, private sector, non-profits, unions, and the scientific community. Assessing and acting on all federal forests is a daunting, slow task. In April 2023, the FS released a 68-page document describing regions and forest types. Looking at it gives one a perception of the scope of this project. The speakers explained the identification process thus far. A final report is expected this winter. The meeting was not recorded, but for more information, go to www.fs.usda.gov/managing-land/old-growth-forests.
In August, the OSBF (Oregon State Board of Forestry) Zoom meeting provided updates on the FMP (Forestry Management Plan) and the HCP (Habitat Conservation Plan). They outlined their emphasis as greatest permanent value, sustainability, revenue, climate change, and adaptive management incorporating new ideas and adjustments. Objectives outlined are food, fuel, timber, forest products, mineral resources, clean air and water, regulating services such as water, climate, carbon, and disease, nutrient cycling soil formation, biodiversity, cultural, recreational, spiritual, and scientific. Performance measures are adaptive management capacity of forests, aquatic and terrestrial habitat, carbon storage, community engagement, finances, economic opportunities, finances for counties, harvest and inventory, recreation, and education. The target for performance measures is spring 2024. Meetings and slides are recorded and posted on the Oregon Department of Forestry website. The next meetings are Sept 6 & 7 on the department’s YouTube channel. This meeting is important because the conservation community communicates that the timber industry is pressuring the OSBF to weaken the HCP and make more forests available to loggers. Public participation and comment are essential. Raise your voice! A website where you can read the FMP and HCP is www.oregon.gov/odf
At the August Elliott State Research Forest (ESRF) meeting, an update was given on formulating the FMP and HCP. They were discussing various plans for logging and wildlife protection. A quick overview of the Elliott: Since 2019, the Department of State Lands (DSL) and Oregon State University (OSU) have worked together at the DSL Board’s direction to transform the Elliott State Forest into a publicly owned state research forest. The Oregon Legislature in 2022 passed Senate Bill (SB) 1546, which established an independent public agency to oversee the forest, set expectations for public accountability and transparency, and lock in ESRF’s ongoing contributions to conservation, economic growth, recreation, education, and forest research. DSL and OSU continue collaborating to establish the ESRF and meet the 2023 SB 161 deadlines. The ESRF board is composed of conservation and timber interests. The conservation community is advocating for preserved habitats and less logging. OSU needs to sell timber to meet expenses managing the forest, and grants will fund some research establish the ESRF and meet the 2023 SB 161 deadlines. The ESRF board is composed of conservation and timber interests. The conservation community is advocating for preserved habitats and less logging. OSU needs to sell timber to meet expenses managing the forest, and grants will fund some researchthe forest, and grants will fund some research. The next meeting is Thursday, September 21, at 6 p.m. Zoom links to join the listening sessions and more information about the forest management planning process can be found on the OSU College of Forestry website. Also, here’s the link to the DSL website: www.oregon.gov/dsl/Land/Pages/Elliott. Cascadia Wildlands organized an ESRF field trip led by Francis Etherington. UW members Sally Brown and I attended. Francis provided important information on potential actions in the ESRF. The Conservation Committee advocates for no new roads and some decommissioning, generous buffers on fish-bearing waters, and areas of reserves with no logging. Keep tuned in to the opportunities for public comment.
Most recently, Conservation received a disappointing decision for the East Elk Timber Sale on the BLM. The final Environmental Assessment (EA) and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) were released on August 22, 2023. UW and other conservationists made field trips, took photos, and wrote comments. The conservation community requested Alternative 4, which would have met the BLM threshold Allowable Sale Quantity (ASQ) and provided protections. The BLM selected Alternative 3, which includes thinning and clear-cuts, more roads, and impacts the Spotted Owl (NSO) home range. Five hundred twenty-two acres of NSO habitat will be clear-cut, and 466 acres will be affected by thinning. The two oldest units we and other conservationists commented on for protection will be thinned. UW commented on the negative impact on the network of fish-bearing streams in the project. The remaining avenue is to file an appeal to the decision to the Interior Board of Land Appeals, a complicated process.
UW President Janice Reid signed UW on to the coalition letter for the Northwest Forest Campaign regarding the Northwest Forest Plan Revisions. Also, UW signed a letter by the Forest Climate Alliance to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Congress regarding air quality standards for prescribed burns. As you can see, a small group at UW multitasks for the environment. If you are motivated, let us know if you want to help.