The Oregon Board of Forestry voted unanimously Nov. 5 to proceed with a new plan to create specific timber harvest and conservation zones on 600,000 acres of state-owned forests west of Portland and along the north coast.
The Oregon Department of Forestry currently uses a single management strategy to pursue both timber revenue and conservation goals, but officials concluded in 2012 that approach was not generating enough money. The new concept is known as land allocation. It grew out of recommendations from a stakeholder group that included representatives from the timber industry, environmental organizations, anglers and county governments.
During the board meeting in Portland, some of those stakeholders said they are concerned at the lack of detail in the proposal. State officials said that will spend the next eight months filling in details of the plan and forecasting how it would affect timber harvest revenue and conservation goals.
The forestry board would still need to give final approval to a detailed plan, before it could take effect.
“What’s before you here is not a management plan,” State Forester Doug Decker said. “We do have the broad contours of a management plan.”
A year ago, Gov. John Kitzhaber asked the board to look for opportunities to increase conservation in the northwest region, which includes the Tillamook, Clatsop and Santiam state forests.
The Oregon Department of Forestry also needed to increase revenue from timber harvests, which have not kept up with the cost to manage the state forests over the last decade. Financial Analyst Joan Tenny said the department’s $27.9 million annual state forest budget is approximately $6 million short of what the department needs.
As a result, the department has cut back on forest thinning, research and monitoring and improvements related to recreation, Public Affairs Program Manager Dan Postrel said.
State officials have not determined how much of the state forests might be designated for conservation or for timber harvest, despite an earlier version of the plan developed by the committee that would have roped off 30 percent of forest land for conservation and 70 percent for logging. Officials said there also might be more than two types of management zones.
One difficult question state employees face is how to divvy up timber harvest revenue among counties, if the state shifts to land allocation management. The state keeps one-third of the timber revenue to cover its management costs, and sends the remaining two-thirds to the county governments where the forests are located. If some forests are designated as conservation land where logging is reduced or banned, those counties would lose revenue unless the state and counties find a way to share timber money among counties.
Tim Josi, a Tillamook County commissioner and chairman of the Council of Forest Trust Lands Counties, said the council supported the land allocation concept. However, Josi said, “there are still some trust issues with some of the counties about changing the revenue sharing formula.”
W. Ray Jones, vice president of resources for Stimson Lumber Company, said the new management proposal would likely meet the goals to increase both conservation and revenue. However, Jones said he is concerned about proposals by Oregon Department of Forestry employees to include habitat conservation plans and expanded no-cut buffers along streams in the new plan.
“I’m having a hard time connecting the dots of why those no-cut zones would be expanded,” Jones said.
Bob Van Dyk, forest policy manager at the Wild Salmon Center, said at this early stage, the new management plan is like a Rorschach test: because there are few details, everyone who looks at it finds different potential problems.
“We support continued exploration of this,” Van Dyk said. “There’s at least a chance we can find something not anyone’s happy with, but everyone’s happy enough with.”
State officials currently plan to bring a detailed version of the plan back to the forestry board in June.