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

Habitat conservation plan for private forests on track

Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) officials continue to move forward with its habitat conservation plan for private forests.

The ODF also is working on a habitat conservation plan for state forests. That process is running on a different but similar track to the private forest one.

The HCP process, whose genesis dates to the 1990s, seeks to ensure compliance with the federal endangered species act while implementing a forest management plan for the timber under ODF supervision. The goal is to preserve forest-dependent species such as coho salmon, the northern spotted owl and the marbled murrelet. 

Both the private forest and state forest plans will include a mechanism called the incidental take permit, which would recognize that the harming or killing of aquatic species protected by the endangered species act can occur even when the forest practices involved are legal. 

ODF officials face a 2027 deadline to finalize the permitting process for the  private forest habitat conservation plans. No such deadline exists for the state forest project, but ODF officials told The Canyon Weekly it should be completed long before 2027.

The private forest habitat conservation plan was discussed Monday, April 15, in Salem at the semi-annual meeting of the Northwest Regional Forest Practices Committee, with Jennifer Weikel, an ODF wildlife biologist, making a presentation to the panel.

Weikel said that the “end goal” of her work group is the incidental take permit. 

”It sounds like a small job,” she said, “but this document will be pretty long by the time we’re done.”

Weikel characterized the process moving forward as “meeting, meetings, meetings and revisions, revisions, revisions.”

The ODF hopes to have a draft HCP ready for review by the end of June. Public outreach will be scheduled once the plan reaches the draft stage. A parallel process by the federal government is taking place, mandated by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The NEPA process ultimately will lead to a biological opinion that will help inform the structure and language of the incidental take permits.

The federal agencies are involved because the species are listed under the endangered species act.

Unlike the state forest HCP process, the Oregon Board of Forestry will not play a role in the private forest HCP process. The extra layer is part of the state forest review because the proceeds from logging in state forests are shared by the 15 timber counties. 

The draft HCP, which the ODF board approved on a split 4-3 vote on March 7, covers the 640,000 acres west of the Cascades that are ODF-managed state forestlands. Overall, the ODF manages a total of about 745,000 acres statewide. All of the forestlands managed by ODF are public lands. The timber counties, which include Marion and Linn, receive about two-thirds of the revenues from harvests on state forestlands. The revenues are distributed to the county in which the harvest takes place.

ABOUT THE COMMITTEE

The Northwest Regional Forest Practice Committee is a panel of citizens that advises the Oregon Board of Forestry on current forestry issues and forest management approaches. There are three such committees, which are mandated by the 1971 Oregon Forest Practices Act. Under the law, a majority of committees members must be private forest landowners or work for logging/forest companies.

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