Plan to Protect Endangered Wildlife While Allowing Logging to Continue in Oregon’s Forests Advances

The Western Oregon Habitat Conservation plan, which was first developed by the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) in 2018, would provide protection for 17 federally listed endangered species while ensuring logging in other parts of the forest to limit the potential of harm to those species.

The plan would protect the ODF from potential lawsuits and ensure compliance with the federal Endangered Species Act for land management activities such as timber harvest, construction, and maintenance in the state forests over a 70-year period. It would also improve forest conservation strategies and create a fund that could generate an average of $1 million per year to help pay for habitat conservation and enhancement projects for protected species, which includes the coastal marten, red tree voles, Northern spotted owl, and Oregon coast coho.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Fish and Wildlife Service released a draft environmental review of the plan and are currently accepting public comments. The agencies will review public comments submitted through May 17, 2022, and issue a final plan sometime next year. Then the plan will go to the Oregon Board of Forestry for final approval.

ODF’s Deputy Division Chief of Policy and Technical Support Michael Wilson said he believes this is the agency’s best effort to come up with a plan that provides a balance of conservation, species protection, recreation, and continued timber harvest in state forests. “It’s essential that we provide a foundation that provides certainty that we can still make the forest accessible in all those ways going forward,” he said.

ODF spokesperson Jason Cox said the plan is designed to provide cleaner water and high-quality habitat conservation while allowing for timber harvest, which also funds the agency’s state forest programs, and benefits local counties and rural communities. Cox said the plan represents a “middle-of-the-road approach” because of how much input there’s been from conservation groups, the timber industry, and residents in counties where the state forests are located.

Conservation groups agree the plan does strike a balance, but more could have been done to increase environmental protection.

County Commissioners in the proposed areas and the Association of Oregon Loggers concerns are somewhat different. The counties fear losing logging tax revenues, which help support schools and other county projects. While the logging association concern is how limited their access in the forest might become and its impact on the people working in the industry.

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