80% of Oregon’s residents and communities draw their drinking water from rivers and streams that begin in a forest; but current logging practices threaten both the quantity and quality of water available (photo by Andrew Kumler).

Cascadia Wildlands is part of the Forest Waters Coalition, which is a statewide network of community and conservation organizations working to update protections for our rivers, streams, and forested watersheds.

We are overdue and in urgent need of modernization of the way private industrial forestlands are managed in order to ensure clean water, human health, jobs, and the critters of our region.

Protected Forest Waters = Clean Water = Healthy Communities
— now and into the future

Read about the Oregon Forest Waters Protection Act
More information about the effort can be found at: ForestWaters.org

Current Situation

80% of Oregon’s residents and communities draw their drinking water from rivers and streams that begin in a forest.

Oregon Forest Practices Act of 1972, the current policy for the state, allows for intensive logging and aerial spray near streams, homes, and schools. Oregon has failed to keep up with best practices established in Washington, Idaho, and California, where streamside clearcut logging and aerial spray practices are prohibited. There have been NO significant changes to Oregon logging rules since 1994, failing to evolve along side of the best available science, modern understanding of our environment, and the needs of society.

Stream buffers ensure the health of forest waters. Laws requiring that trees be left as buffers along streams protect water quality and fish habitat. Forested buffers shade streams and keep the water cool. Trees naturally fall into streams and form aquatic habitat. Buffer widths vary depending on state, stream size, and whether the streams contain fish or provide drinking water. Current logging practices threaten both the quantity and quality of water available because Oregon’s no-cut buffers around waterways are too small and in some cases non-existent.

Narrow streamside buffer surrounded by clearcut logging in the Oregon Coast Range (photo by Tim Giraudier).

The dangers posed by aerial spraying is clear. Aerial sprays drift onto homes and schools and are washed into rivers and streams as runoff, putting people and wildlife — like imperiled salmon — at risk. Water sources in communities such as Rockaway Beach, Corbett, and Salem have been already experienced this contamination. Companies spray toxic chemicals from the air two to four times after logging. More than 800,000 pounds of herbicides were sprayed on forestland in 2008, the last year Oregon required amounts to be reported.

What do forestland owners and foresters think? We all use and enjoy wood products, and some foresters and loggers know what we need to do to properly and responsibly care for the land. A number of them are helping to change their industry by leading the way to sustainable practices, but many more still have yet to catch up.

“The water that I drink comes from a stream above our farm that is completely unprotected from logging and was clearcut right up to the edge a few years ago.” – Chief Petitioner Micha Elizabeth Gross, Coos County. “Dirt and pesticides from that clearcut runoff directly into the water my family and business rely on. We need modern laws that protect our streams and rivers so that more communities don’t lose their precious water supplies.”

What We Hear

With systematic regularity, the Cascadia Wildlands office phone rings with a panicked rural land owner on the other end: “I just got a notification that X timber company is going to clearcut the stately forest next to me and then aerially spray herbicides all around us. What can be done to stop this?” The sad, short answer is — not much.

In Oregon, loggers can cut right up to the streams edge on non-fish streams, impacting water quality downstream (photo by Wild Salmon Center).

The archaic Oregon Forest Practices Act sanctions logging on private and state lands in Oregon and has about as much teeth as a newborn. The mudslides, the bulldozing of roads, the massive clearcuts, and the poisoning of waterways and communities are just some of collateral damage of this outdated policy. You’ve seen the carnage driving through the Oregon Coast Range or the low elevation foothills of the Cascades. And although Oregon’s rules define and identify “high landslide hazard locations,” there is no requirement to limit logging that could threaten forest waters in such areas.

Sadly, there has been little success over the years to change this reckless law at the state’s capitol. Although a Democratic super-majority reigns in Salem, legislation to reform forest practices on private and state lands dies on the vine, session after session. Big Timber’s stranglehold on policymakers on both sides of the aisle is ever apparent, and rural communities across western Oregon that bear the brunt of this policy are at their wit’s end.

The Solution

Cascadia Wildlands and coalition partners are advocating for comprehensive reforms to Oregon’s weak logging laws. Our chief priorities are to:

  • increase the width of streamside buffers to safeguard imperiled salmon and steehead runs
  • prohibit aerial herbicide spraying over streams and waterbodies to protect drinking water and aquatic habitat
  • redirect timber harvest tax revenue from funding Big Timber’s propaganda (you’ve likely seen the greenwash TV ads) to instead fund the enforcement of our logging laws
  • remove the conflict of interest exemption from the Oregon Board of Forestry — the timber-dominated, Governor-appointed body that oversees private and state forest management

February 10, 2020: Cascadia Wildlands joined 11 other organizations around the state in signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with 12 timber companies that sets up a process to update Oregon’s logging laws. The involved parties agreed to pass a bill that expands forested stream buffers in the Rogue-Siskiyou region of Southwest Oregon, and require timber companies to notify rural Oregonians about nearby aerial spraying. The bill, which passed in June of 2020, also increases spray buffers around streams and begins a process for comprehensive rule changes to protect salmon habitat on private timberland in Oregon — with the goal of completing a federally recognized Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP). A similar HCP process in Washington State two decades ago led to better protections on more than 60,000 stream miles.

In the coming months, representatives from logging companies and environmental groups will be working with state and federal agencies to develop this new HCP. Stakeholders and land managers will utilize the best available science to develop a series of reforms to Oregon’s current logging regulations regarding steep-slope logging, logging roads, and logging near streams.

As the HCP process plays out, impacted communities and forest waters advocates will need to continue to speak up in favor of our forests, water, and wildlife during public comment opportunities, hearings, and other venues for citizen feedback. The work is just beginning!

What can you do?

Tell our decision makers we need to do better.

#protectforestwaters #keeporegongreen #protectgreenoregon