PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Governor Kate Brown announced a landmark compromise between environmental groups and representatives from the timber industry Monday.
The governor provided details on a new memorandum of understanding signed by both the state’s leading timber companies such as Weyerhaeuser and environmental organizations like Oregon Wild.
“Over the last four weeks, representatives from the forest industry, and major environmental groups have come together to chart a collaborative, science-based course to forest management in Oregon,” announced Brown. “Healthy forests and a vibrant forest industry are not mutually exclusive, and Oregonians need both for prosperous and sustainable communities.”
Brown cited three major components to the agreement. The first was participation in a mediated process aimed to improve the Oregon Forest Practices Act. The end goal is to create a statewide habitat conservation plan on all private timber land in Oregon, according to Brown. She said the move would protect endangered species and provide certainty for the timber industry.
For the first time, Oregon will also strive for the endorsement of federal wildlife agencies, signifying that the state’s forest practices are protective of threatened and endangered species, including Oregon’s iconic salmon.
The second element was an agreement on immediate legislation for the 2020 short session related to pesticide notifications and buffers for streams in Southern Oregon.
“The legislation will significantly expand protected spray buffers around drinking water, homes, schools and forest streams,” Brown said. Real-time notifications would be provided to anyone near aerial spraying operations before they take place. Additionally, more protection would be provided to streams that support salmon, steelhead and bull trout in the Rogue-Siskiyou region.
Brown said the third component of the deal was arguably the most important. Stating that both sides have agreed to walk away from forestry-related initiative petitions and related litigation after the passage of legislation this session, Brown said, “All key voices will be heard in the process including our vital, small woodland owners and Oregon’s federally-recognized tribes.”
“All sides have agreed this process of improving the Oregon Forest Practices Act will be informed by science and driven by science.”
Long-time timber industry executive Greg Miller and Oregon policy director at the Wild Salmon center Bob Van Dyk joined the governor at Monday’s press conference to represent both sides of the agreement.
“Now as we move forward into a new era of cooperation and transparency, forest policy should continue to rely on the best available science,” said Miller. “The 60,000 Oregon families who work in the forest sector — indeed all Oregonians — expect that level of rigor and thoughtfulness when it comes to forest management. With this MOU, we are hopeful that we have found a pathway forward that meets those expectations and sets Oregon up for the most comprehensive, forward-thinking forest policy in the nation.”
“Today’s agreement is a critical step toward modernizing Oregon’s forest rules,” said Van Dyk. “Oregonians are rightfully proud of our forests and what they provide, including some of the best salmon runs in the Lower 48 and drinking water for most of the state. It’s our collective duty to make sure that a healthy timber industry doesn’t come at the expense of fish, wildlife, and public health.”