In remarks to the Oregon Board of Forestry Nov. 3, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber outlined a vision that included the creation of areas on state forests managed primarily for conservation values. The Governor urged the Board to "establish areas managed primarily for conservation on state forests" and to "consider ways of establishing and managing these areas that provide certainty and improved habitat and species recovery outcomes, restoration jobs and other economic benefits such as recreation." The Governor issued a challenge to the Board to "provide a visible and durable conservation area commitment in a scientifically meaningful manner."
The remarks came before a Board discussion on 2012 state forest work plan, used to focus agency planning and management activities. During the work plan discussion, Steelheaders and our allies testified in support of protections for high-priority conservation areas in the Tillamook, Clatsop and other state forests in the 2012 state forest work plan. Steelheaders are advocating that the Board use its authority to designate protected areas around key areas that provide high-quality habitat for salmonids.
The Board of Forestry and State Forester had been discussing the creation of conservation areas, and after public testimony and discussion, they agreed to include the issue in the 2012 work plan to put a higher emphasis on the issue.
Also during the meeting, the Board agreed to maintain the current definition of Greatest Permanent Value (GPV). In early 2012, the board will conclude a three year process in which some members of the board had tried to change the definition of GPV to place timber harvest above all other values of Oregon's state forests, including environmental and recreational values.
Currently, the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests contain no significant tracts of land off limits to logging to protect fish habitat. Earlier this year, an independent science review by Oregon State University's Institute for Natural Resources said the Department of Forestry's plans to increase clearcutting and reduce protections for fish was not based on the best available science.
"Fishing is a key economic driver in Northwest Oregon," said Russell Bassett, executive director of the Northwest Steelheaders. "Unless we strategically protect key salmon streams and the forests that nourish them, we can't ensure the health of these fisheries for the long term. Thankfully, Governor Kitzhaber has provided the right direction to the Board to better protect key salmon streams."
A 2009 research report funded by Travel Oregon and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife called "Fishing, Hunting, Wildlife Viewing, and Shellfishing in Oregon shows that outdoor activities created $136.5 million in economic activity in Tillamook and Clatsop Counties in 2008 alone.
Congruent with Steelheaders' messaging, Gov. Kitzhaber also called for more timber harvest on federal lands.
In addition to anchoring globally important wild salmon and steelhead runs, the Tillamook and Clatsop state forests provide abundant wildlife habitat, air and water purification, flood and climate regulation, carbon sequestration, wetlands, air quality, world class recreation opportunities, and diverse forest products. More than 400,000 people get some or all of their water supply from rivers flowing from the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests.
The full text of Governor Kitzhaber's speech to the Board of Forestry can be HERE.