New Streamside Buffer Rules

New Streamside Buffer Rules

Last month, a modification of the Oregon Forest Practices Act’s (FPA) stream buffer rules went into effect. Below is a brief discussion summarizing the new regulations, and how it may affect Trout Mountain Forestry clients.

The main change to the current FPA was the creation of a subset of fish-bearing streams. This subset is known as the Salmon, Steelhead, and Bull Trout (SSBT) category. This means that for any small or medium sized fish-bearing stream on a property (or in some cases adjacent to a property) that is known to have salmon, steelhead, or bull trout, the changes in the table above on the right-hand column will be applicable.

The new rules aim to better protect salmon, steelhead, and bull trout by increasing the riparian buffers, increasing the basal area to be retained, and requiring the “well-distributed” spacing of residual trees, among other things. Hardwoods can now be counted for residual trees as well. All of these steps are meant to put more shade on the stream, cooling the water for fish.

One potential problem comes with the north-side stream buffer option. In the new ruling, if an SSBT stream flows within ±30° of an easterly/westerly direction, and flows for at least 200’, the buffer on the north side of the stream may be reduced to 40’. This is because the trees on the north side of the stream are not providing shade to the stream. The problem of course comes with the concept of sinuosity, or the natural curves of a stream. In the northside buffer scenario, consider the following:

Medium SSBT.JPG

In the diagram above, which buffer takes precedence over the other? The 40’ or the 80’? At the time of the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) training, officials did not have an answer.

A concern for landowners and practitioners alike is the increased workload for the already understaffed stewardship foresters of ODF. Under the new ruling, the ODF forester will need to come out to each operation, measuring and recording the lengths of stream reaches impacted, the proposed residual basal area in the riparian zone, and the live tree count to insure compliance. Due to the seasonality of working in the woods here in Oregon, this process could create a bottleneck for getting projects approved and running before the rains return.

Several components of the new ruling are meant to provide flexibility. A relief clause for smaller landowners was worked into the new rules. In essence, if buffers created by the new ruling impact more than 8% of the landowner’s total forestland, that landowner is entitled to a reduced riparian buffer or reduced basal area targets and live tree requirements. Additionally, if a landowner or forester has an alternate prescription that meets or exceeds the protection of the resource in the opinion of the ODF stewardship forester, they may submit it in writing for approval.

In closing, it remains to be seen how practical implementation will be for landowners and operators, or if they will simply avoid managing the riparian zones altogether due to the increased red tape. While this discussion has been focused on the changes and challenges to implementation, it also remains to be seen if these improvements will actually benefit salmon, steelhead, and bull trout. For that, only time will tell.

For more information on the FPA, as well as additional resources, please refer to: http://www.oregon.gov/ODF/Working/Pages/FPA.aspx

11th Annual 'Run for the Hills' Benefit

11th Annual 'Run for the Hills' Benefit

Trout Mountain Forestry is pleased to sponsor Greenbelt Land Trust's 11th annual Run for the Hills benefit race taking place on Saturday, June 10, 2017.

This event features 30K and 8K trail runs, a 2-mile run/walk, and a 1/4-mile kids fun run. Proceeds benefit Greenbelt Land Trust's Trails Fund to help maintain and enhance the public trail systems in the Corvallis area. Over $50,000 has been raised in the last eight years through this benefit, with a portion of these proceeds directed towards trail maintenance at Bald Hill and for the construction of the new Mulkey Creek to Fitton Green trail. 

Registration is now open online. For more information about this race, visit gltrunforthehills.com

Canadian softwood tariff

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Canadian softwood tariff

Steps have been taken by the Trump Administration to impose a new 20% tariff on Canadian softwood lumber coming into the U.S. These steps are the culmination of complaints that have been levied at Canadian lumber producers and exporters for years. The Department of Commerce determined last week (at least preliminarily) that the Canadian government subsidizes their timber industry through the way that timber is harvested there. A second investigation is underway to determine if allegations of past Canadian “dumping” of subsidized lumber on U.S. markets has hurt the U.S. timber industry in the past.

In Canada, timber companies can harvest on Crown lands by paying a fee to the government, while harvesting in the U.S. has been largely relegated to private lands since the early 1990’s. This “subsidy” has allegedly allowed the Canadians to sell lumber in the United States at a lower cost than domestically produced lumber, causing many here in the U.S. to cry foul.

A protective tariff on Canadian softwood lumber is meant to shift demand to domestic sources. This would theoretically benefit family forestland producers, loggers and foresters, mills, etc. here in the Northwest. However, the National Association of Homebuilders is claiming that the tariff will increase the cost of housing construction, hurting their industry and making it harder for home buyers to get financing.

While we have seen steady to modest increases for log prices even before the announcement of the new tariff, it is still too early to see if and just how much the anticipated higher log prices will benefit our clients here in Oregon and Washington.

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Northwest forest study aims to examine various management treatments

Northwest forest study aims to examine various management treatments

A recent proposal filed jointly by the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the University of Washington (UW) announced a new forest management study set to occur on the Olympic Peninsula. The study aims to experiment with various forest management treatments within the 270,000-acre Olympic Experimental State Forest which is owned and managed by DNR. What is interesting about this study is the scale of it- covering approximately 21,000 acres of land over 16 watersheds. Criticism of ecologically-based forest management in the past has been in part due to issues of scale. This study, if approved, would attempt to provide relevant data illustrating just how profitable various silvicultural techniques may actually be when stacked side by side and considering ecological and social factors.

Besides helping gain a better understanding into the economics of various forest management approaches, the experiment may also be useful for state and federal land managers in the broader region. DNR is charged with managing forests for a variety of interests, notwithstanding endangered species and rural communities (the latter having been historical beneficiaries of timber tax revenue). Given the recent controversies here in Oregon swirling around the proposed sale of the Elliott State Forest and our O&C lands management, testing solutions that appease seemingly opposed groups of stakeholders may provide valuable insights.

The experiments themselves aim to test four different treatments which vary in intensity and spatial arrangement. Silvicultural treatments include different types of variable density harvests and thinnings, similar to those that Trout Mountain Forestry utilizes for our clients. The study plans to experiment with more alder interplanting and management, testing of wind firmness of residual trees, as well as utilizing hardwoods to increase nutrient loads to salmon-bearing streams (among other things).

While the first treatments may not occur until as early as 2018, the prospect of such a wide-reaching and relevant experiment to the work that we currently do here at Trout Mountain Forestry is exciting.

Variable density harvest in a coastal hemlock forest, managed by Trout Mountain Forestry

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Record December rains challenge forest roads

Fill slope erosion where the culvert was blocked with soil and debris washed downstream by the record December rains. 

Fill slope erosion where the culvert was blocked with soil and debris washed downstream by the record December rains. 

December 2015 saw some serious rainfall and storm events, far exceeding the previous record for precipitation in that month, and with that record rainfall came some major challenges to forest road infrastructure in northwest Oregon. During the most intense periods of rainfall, small landslides were a common occurrence on steep slopes, particularly where high cut-banks along roads became saturated. As small headwater streams became raging torrents, they sometimes overwhelmed culverts at stream crossings, particularly where soil and rock were being carried downstream and filling catch-basins. In such situations, the downhill side of the road fill is very vulnerable to erosion as the stream is flowing across the road and finding its way down the other side. Seen here is a picture of such a situation in the North Tualatin Mountains, west of Portland. 

Of course, no one knows what the rest of the winter and spring holds in store for us, but the break in heavy rain we are experiencing now (minus the snow and ice) presents a good opportunity to get out and survey forest roads and culverts for damage and assess whether maintenance is needed to keep them functioning properly for the remainder of our rainy season. 

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Watershed Tour

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Watershed Tour

Watershed Tour A Feast For Tree Lovers

Excerpt from  JAMES DAY Corvallis Gazette-Times

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Stop 1 included a new wrinkle for the tour, now in its ninth year. A short trail was carved off to the side of a rutted forest road to get participants closer to some of the forest’s older trees. The ground was crunchy and mulchy, with a fat slug perched on dead wood and black-and-yellow millipedes moseying about among the moss.

As the tour moved down the ridge Charlie Bruce of the watershed board spotted a bald eagle flying overhead. Mark Miller of Trout Mountain Forestry, which manages the watershed for the city, pointed in the direction of the bird’s nest … then talked some more about the forest.

“Our stewardship plan calls for three types of forests: middle-aged, plantation and old growth and older,” Miller said, while pointing toward a 180-year-old Douglas fir, the oldest tree in this stand.

“We have some trees that are 300 to 500 years old, but you only get one or two of those per acre.”

The city has been receiving drinking water from the area since 1906, but it wasn’t until after the start of the 21st century that the city put a plan in place to manage the forest. Miller notes that the first harvesting of trees took place in the 1920s and 1930s, “with the practices of the time: clear-cutting.”

“Our goal is forest health and resiliency from fire, wind, insects and disease,” Miller said. “Without a forest we don’t have good water quality. And a healthy forest needs timber harvests.”

Read the entire article at the Corvallis Gazette-Times

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