State Senators David Smith (R-Port Orford), Fred Girod (R-Stayton), and Lynn Findley have introduced a bill to transfer up to 500,000 acres of land from the Clatsop and Tillamook State Forests to their respective counties (R-Vale).
Senate Bill 795 was introduced while the Oregon Department of Forestry worked on a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for managing Oregon’s State Forests over the next 70 years.
The HCP would align the State more with the Federal Endangered Species Act while improving protections for fisheries, critical wildlife habitats, and endangered species. The HCP was made with a lot of public input, and it gives about half of the budget to protecting natural resources and the other half to cutting down trees.
Betsy Johnson, a former state senator from Clatsop County and an independent candidate for governor in 2022, was very critical of the Habitat Conservation Plan at a recent meeting of the Oregon Board of Forestry in Corvallis.
As the plan is fully implemented over the next two years, the number of trees that can be cut down on State forest land could decrease by 28%. This made Johnson upset. Over the 70 years that the HCP will be in place, it is unlikely that the amount of wood that will be cut down will stay as low as expected in 2023 and 2024.
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The $550 million North Oregon Coast recreation economy paid $52 million in State and local taxes in 2019, according to the Wild Salmon Center. Hundreds of fishing guides, outfitters, and commercial fishermen depend on healthy fish runs in the Tillamook State Forest. This is because the forest is home to endangered species like Coho Salmon.
The Wild Salmon Center also said that counties don’t have the skills and money to properly manage hundreds of thousands of acres of forest land. Most likely, these lands would be sold to private interests, leading to more clear-cutting, habitat degradation, and habitat fragmentation. This could also hurt water quality in streams that supply more than 500,000 Oregonians’ drinking water.
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In 2018, researchers at Oregon State University led by forest ecologist Beverly Law found that industrial timber production in Oregon is responsible for about 33 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year. These emissions come from logging, slash burning, disturbing forest soils, and milling, which breaks up the wood and releases carbon.
Other scientists reviewed this study from Oregon State University and then put it out by “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” one of the world’s strictest journals. The Oregon Forest Practices Act says land must be replanted after logging, but younger forests absorb much less carbon than older ones.
This study found that a significant amount could cut Oregon’s total carbon emissions if trees were cut on a more extended rotation schedule instead of the 40-year rotation joint on the millions of acres of corporate-owned commercial timber land.
Late in 2022, the Oregon Employment Department said that 62,000 people, or 3% of the State’s total workforce, worked in the forest industry in 2021. The vast majority of these people worked for private companies.
Even though timber jobs only made up 3% of all jobs in the State, they made up an average of 7% in many rural counties. Crook, Douglas, Jefferson, and Lake Counties comprised 10% of all jobs, and Grant County comprised 20%. Forestry jobs in Clatsop County paid an average of $78,000 yearly, while all other jobs paid an average of $45,000 annually.
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