This Survey Could Modernize State Forests!

Tillamook State forest logging road overtaken by sorrel photo by Arran Robertson
Overview of the Western Forest Management Planning Process and Why It’s Important

Oregon’s Western Forest Management Plan (FMP) covers approximately 613,000 acres and represents a model for how the Oregon Department of Forestry approaches public forest management. These forests, including the Tillamook, Clatsop, and Santiam state forests, have the potential to be transformed to prioritize clean water, abundant fish and wildlife, and climate change response. Please take this survey to ensure these values are prioritized over outdated practices focused on logging and natural resources extraction. While this survey takes time to fill out, the Oregon Department of Forestry’s last survey only had 50 responses! Every single response helps influence the process! 

Survey Instructions: 

This Oregon Department of Forestry public survey covers Draft Strategies associated with each Goal under the Western Forest Management Plan. These strategies are intended to provide specific direction for the management of west-side state forests. The survey will first ask you to select the goals most important to you, then ask for your relative sense of satisfaction with the current strategy language tied to a given goal, and offer you a chance to input specific comments (and move on to other goals/strategies). Please look over the survey and provide feedback on the goals and strategies that are most important to you — you do not need to fill in feedback for every Goal and Strategy. Use your best judgment to rank each strategy as sufficient or insufficient; if you don’t have a strong opinion, you can select the “don’t know” option. You will be given a chance to write specific comments under each Goal — this comment text is the most important feedback.

Below is an outline of the goals we find most important and/or need the most work, with recommendations for what you could helpfully input into the comment box under each goal. Feel free to copy and paste (or adapt) this text for your own use in the comment boxes. I very much appreciate your time and effort on this survey — the results are critical for determining the ODF’s future direction in managing Oregon’s State Forests. Responses are due by Friday, January 7, 2022.

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Provide Feedback for Managing State Forests with a Climate and Resilience Focus

Forest Resilience Goal 1: Bullets for input into Survey Comment box:

  • Manage to promote mature and old-growth forest characteristics as these have higher genetic, species, and ecosystem diversities, resilience to climate extremes, and increased water availability (Law et al. 2021)
  • Minimize the use of pesticides as application can weaken an ecosystem's ability to recover from disturbances.
  • Ensure post-fire logging is focused on hazard trees, keeps as many trees on the landscape as possible, and retains green trees. Post-fire logging hinders natural recovery and increases the risk of erosion and flooding (it also helps keep carbon on the landscape for decades). 
  • Promote plant species diversity as forest resilience and adaptive capacity increase with increasing plant species richness (Morin et al. 2018, Watson et al. 2018).

Climate Change Goal 2: Bullets for input into Survey Comment box: 

  • Establish a formal process for tracking GHG emissions from State Forest lands and estimating transfer of carbon between different carbon pools. Without this baseline, ODF will not be able to track progress on reducing carbon emissions.
  • I recommend including also an annual estimate of “unrealized sequestration” — an estimate of what sequestration/emissions would have been without harvest that year. These estimates could be helpful for near-term cost-benefit analyses that wouldn't require long-term simulations to account for natural disturbance. 
  • Strategy 2.1 should be under the Carbon Goal, as it is focused on sequestration rather than GHG emissions. 
  • I strongly support ODF identifying (and protecting) climate-sensitive habitats and utilizing an internal carbon price to inform management decisions. 

Carbon Goal 3: Bullets for input into Survey Comment box:

  • ODF’s carbon sequestration plans should be focused on the landscape rather than wood products as the associated carbon storage in products is beyond the scope of ODF’s control and authority. 
  • Estimate standing inventory of carbon in State Forests. This baseline will be needed to grow the State Forests carbon stock (live and dead plant materials and their roots and soil carbon). This standing inventory would be a subset of the process for tracking GHG emissions. 
  • Protect mature and old-growth forests and manage forests for old-growth characteristics, as these forests store the most carbon in biomass and soils and are the most resistant to the impacts of climate change. 
  • Promote longer logging rotations as mature forests are more resilient to the impacts of climate change, store more carbon and produce more fiber. 
  • Promote more green tree retention and bigger riparian buffers as these can also ensure more carbon is stored on the landscape and reduce the risk of damage to watersheds.

Wildfire Goal 4: Bullets for input into Survey Comment box:

  • ODF’s Wildfire goals should protect homes and communities by focusing on fuel reductions from the home outward and improving emergency communication systems. In western Oregon’s Cascade forests, there is no scientific basis for attempting to reduce fuels, as they just grow back rapidly and it is not possible to reduce their flammability.
  • Wet forests with natural stand-replacing fire regimes are inherently resilient to severe wildfires; therefore, it is difficult to “increase” their long-term resilience through vegetation treatments commonly used in dry forests, such as fuel reduction and fire management.  (Halofsky, et. al. 2018)
  • That said, dense/homogenous plantations burn at higher severities than naturally regenerated forests, so the FMP could prioritize natural reforestation, or planting diverse tree varieties, after disturbance to decrease fire severity. 
  • Prioritize inclusion of environmental justice communities in fire planning efforts and ensure wildfire risk information is distributed in multiple accessible languages and formats, especially to non-English speaking community groups.

Restoration Goal 5: Bullets for input into Survey Comment box:

  • Managers should focus efforts on the restoration or maintenance of essential ecosystem functions, such as:
    • Carbon storage and sequestration (e.g. promoting old-growth forest characteristics), 
    • Hydrologic function — Water quality and quantity (e.g. preventing soil erosion and avoiding tree plantations), 
    • Soil productivity (e.g. ensure burned vegetation remains on the landscape), and 
    • Biodiversity (e.g. preserving habitat for at-risk wildlife).
  • I strongly support the strategy of allowing for endemic levels of native insects and disease, and suggest you expand this frame to also allow for post-fire / post-disturbance landscapes to recover naturally wherever possible. 
  • Include a strategy that calls for “modeling priority areas where longer-rotation forestry could prove most beneficial to the enhancement of instream flow/water quantity, and prioritize longer rotation management in those areas.”  Longer rotations in production areas adjacent to riparian buffers would be most likely to improve streamflow and reduce sediment and pesticides reaching the creek.
Provide Feedback to Support Biodiversity, Fish and Wildlife

Generally speaking, the Wildlife and Aquatics / Riparian Goals seem well crafted. There are, however, some areas where improvement is needed through revision.

Wildlife Goal 6: Maintain, protect, and enhance functional and resilient systems and landscapes that provide the variety and quality of habitat types and features necessary for the long-term persistence of native wildlife species.

  • Strategy 6.5 should say “passive and active management” instead of just “active.” 

Pollinators & Invertebrates Goal 7: Provide suitable habitats across the landscape that contribute to maintaining or enhancing native, sensitive, and endangered pollinator and other invertebrate populations. 

  • Strategy 7.1 should include protection of foraging sources and specifically call for minimizing ground disturbances to protect pollinator nesting habitat.

Aquatics & Riparian Goal 9: Protect, restore, and maintain dynamic, resilient, and functioning aquatic habitats, including high water quality and healthy stream flows, that support the life-history needs of aquatic and riparian-dependent fish and wildlife species. 

  • Strategy 9.4 should state ODF will avert human-induced landslides. 
  • Strategy 9.6 should add “best available science” as the basis for habitat restoration efforts. 
  • Strategy 9.8 should say “no loss” of wetlands on state forest lands (instead of “no net loss”). Further, instead of saying “allow” for new wetland creation, it should say “support, and where possible, plan for new wetlands.”
Provide Feedback to Protect Drinking Water and Prevent Erosion

Drinking-Water Goal 10: Bullets for input into Survey Comment box:

  • Prioritize protection of water quality as well as quantity. Streamflow was 50% lower in young plantations relative to mature forests (Segura et al. 2020).
  • For strategy 10.4, ensure the State Forest Division also works closely with DEQ on monitoring and protecting drinking water supplies, in addition to collaborating with the Private Forests Division.
  • Ensure the ultimate goals of the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Plan is to avoid, or aim to eliminate, the use of chemical pesticides and minimize risks to human health and the environment.

Soil Goal 12: Bullets for input into Survey Comment box:

  • Utilize precautionary principles and best management practices to protect against soil loss and erosion during logging operations, especially where risk of landslides or erosion is high.

Transportation System Goal 15: Bullets for input into Survey Comment box:

  • Strongly recommend that these strategies be reviewed and revised by the staff working on the Wildlife and Aquatics & Riparian Goals.
  • Minimize and new road building as this causes carbon loss (from biomass and soils) and increases the risk of erosion.
  • Commit to reducing the current road density on state forests so as to (a) promote Aquatic, Water-Quality or other goals, and (b) ensure the road system is better scaled to the costs associated with maintaining it.
  • Strategies 15.3, 15.6, 15.7, 15.10 “Construct, design, improve, and maintain roads….,” should include the practices of decommissioning roads wherever possible to restore ecological function.