PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — After years of partisan bickering and lawmaker walkouts over how to handle Oregon’s forests, Governor Kate Brown signed the Private Forest Accord package into law Wednesday morning.
The historic agreement marks the most comprehensive update to the Forest Practices Act since 1971 and includes massive investments in habitat protections for fish and wildlife.
Citing the Timber Wars of the late-90s, Brown acknowledged the nearly 30 years of conflict surrounding the issue during her speech Wednesday, stating, “In many states, this would not be possible. To be honest, I thought at one point it wasn’t going to happen here in Oregon.”
But throughout nearly two years of negotiations, 13 conservationist representatives and 13 timber industry representatives were able to reach an agreement under the mediation of the Governor’s office, which helped inform the three bills signed into law on May 18.
As part of the Private Forest Accord package, Brown signed three bills into law including (SB 1501) which updates the Forest Practices Act and governs logging activity on private forestlands, (SB 1502) which offers small woodland owners a tax credit for participating in conservation efforts, and (HB 4055) which updates the Harvest Tax to include investments in habitat improvements for aquatic species.
“Through science-based forest management, we can strike the right balance between protecting the health of our forests and creating jobs and economic growth in our rural communities at the same time,” Brown said. “And that’s a win for Oregon.”
The three bills, which gained overwhelming bipartisan support during the 2022 legislative session, are the result of multi-year negotiations between timber industry representatives and fish, forest, and wildlife conservationists.
“We wanted stronger protections for salmon streams, and we got them,” said Bob Van Dyk, Oregon Policy Director for the Wild Salmon Center . “We’re proud and excited that we came to an agreement with industry, and our salmon will benefit from colder water and better habitat for generations.”
Chris Edwards, President of the Oregon Forest & Industries Council told KOIN 6 News, “This agreement ensures that the timber industry will have a viable future in the state of Oregon while protecting cold clean water and fish habitat.”
The representatives told KOIN 6 News that the new compromise not only updates Oregon’s forest laws to some of the strongest in the nation, but the agreement has also built a bridge between two sides of a historically contentious debate — now joined with the common goal of protecting Oregon’s forests (and the habitat they provide) for years to come.