News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Forestry board to meet on rules after a ‘disturbance’

The Oregon Board of Forestry meets in a virtual session on Friday, Feb. 23 to finalize a discussion on rule making in forested areas that have experienced disturbances such as the 2020 wildfires in the Santiam Canyon.

The rules on post-disturbance harvesting cover both state forest properties and private lands under Oregon Department of Forestry oversight.

The meeting runs 1 – 3 p.m. and interested parties can view the session on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/c/OregonDepartmentofForestry/. Public comment will be the first item on the agenda, with sign-ups required and instructions to provide live testimony at https://signup.com/login/entry/62472364096.

Registration for the public comment period closes at noon Wednesday, Feb. 21. Written comments can be submitted before or up to noon on Feb. 21 at [email protected]. Those who require special accommodations should contact the Oregon Department of Forestry at forestryinformation@
odf.oregon.gov or call 503-945-7210.

After the public comment period Josh Barnard, Nicole Stapp and Kate Thompson of the ODF will make a presentation to the board, which is expected to act on the new rules.

The new rules are mandated by state legislation passed in 2022. Senate Bills  made substantial changes to the Forest Practices Act and required the board to conduct the post-disturbance rule making exercise while incorporating the recommendations of the Private Forest Accord Report into the process.

Natural forest disturbances include events such as fire, floods, debris flows, insect infestations, disease outbreaks, and seismic events such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. These disturbances can change forest ecosystems’ vegetation structure and species composition.

In the Pacific Northwest, notable historical disturbances have included the Tillamook Burns between 1933 and 1951, the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980, and the storms and subsequent landslides in 1996. More recently, the 2020 Labor Day fires burned more than 1 million acres of forestland, primarily in the western Cascades. Nearly half of the burned area was in private timberland.

As part of these statutory changes, the Oregon Legislature mandated that the ODF complete post-disturbance harvest rulemaking by Nov. 30, 2025 .  

Riparian area remedies after catastrophic events are currently provided in rule only for situations where there is not enough vegetation remaining after a disturbance for a streamside forest stand to protect fish and wildlife or water quality over time. These measures are meant to provide stream shade, large wood, bank stability, and quick and healthy stand establishment in riparian areas after a catastrophic disturbance.

Several key findings about stream shade emerged from the literature the ODF reviewed while engaged in the rule-making process. In the absence of live trees, dead trees provide more stream shade than no trees. Rapidly growing hardwoods, particularly red alder, provide better stream shade than slowly growing conifers in the time period immediately after a disturbance. Impacts on water temperature resulting from post-disturbance harvest depend on the percentage of live and dead trees present after a disturbance, the level of stream flow, and whether streams interact with groundwater. 

With respect to large woody debris and bank stability, the location of large wood in a stream network determines how it interacts with the stream. Pre-disturbance conditions and the nature of the disturbance type affect whether it is appropriate to retain or remove large wood from riparian areas. 

Several studies showed that post-disturbance harvest can deplete the large woody debris supply in ways that impair riparian and aquatic ecological function. When riparian buffers are applied, disturbance type appears to have a greater effect on bank stability than post-disturbance harvest. 

Both soil erosion and bank instability from disturbances and post-disturbance harvest were, in turn, found to have negative effects on water quality and aquatic habitat. Stands that were healthy before fire, however, were found to regenerate on their own and, through sprouting, could begin to stabilize banks within two to five years.

With respect to stand regeneration, the ODF found that pre-disturbance conditions and the nature of the disturbance affect stand regeneration outcomes. “No-cut” zones near streams mean that post-disturbance harvest and replanting are less likely to occur in those areas. Unmanaged riparian stands tend to be dominated by hardwoods rather than conifers.

An additional option considered was to not take rulemaking action and keep the existing rule. However, based on the findings, the desired level of protection may not be achieved. 

Another option considered was to repeal the existing rule rather than amend it, which would result in no alternative vegetation retention solution. This alternative would be the most burdensome to landowners and timber owners as they would have to seek approval for plans for alternate practices.

The proposed rule could be considered a non-regulatory alternative in that it provides operators with an additional option and does not establish regulations for those not applying it.

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