Oregon’s forestland owners are overwhelmingly following regulations aimed at managing and harvesting timber, though they’ve fallen short on some counts, state regulators found.
Landowners had a compliance rate of 97 percent with 57 key rules related to logging, road building and water protection under the Oregon Forest Practices Act, according to a study by the Oregon Department of Forestry.
For example, the timber industry strictly avoids removing vegetation along streams during harvests.
“Ninety-nine percent of the time, we get it right,” said Paul Clements, ODFA’s training and compliance coordinator, during the Oregon Logging Conference Feb. 23 in Eugene, Ore.
Most of the impacts from non-compliance were minor, but there were certain rules where the timber industry had room for improvement, he said.
Minimizing the amount of waste slash in waters of the state had a compliance rate of 76 percent, Clements said.
Other areas of low compliance included leaving vegetation around small wetlands, which may not be readily apparent during the dry season, he said.
A rule requiring landowners to use properly sized culverts on roads crossing streams was only properly followed about half the time, Clements said.
A rule requiring removal of petroleum product containers from landings only achieved 58 percent compliance, prompting Clements to tell the audience to “take your oil jugs home.”
While most erosion impacts from non-compliance were small — involving less than a cubic yard of dirt in a stream — those that were larger usually involved “legacy conditions,” he said.
Many roads were built before forestry regulations were enacted, so soil piled up a half-century ago may be prone to “blowout” into a waterway, he said.
Forestland owners should also try to prevent sediment from roads from washing into waterways through culverts, Clements said.
This problem was the subject of a 2013 Supreme Court decision that was favorable to the timber industry — as runoff from culverts wasn’t found to be industrial pollution — but only after years of litigation.
Oregon’s rules for forestry and logging are intended to minimize the effects of disturbances, Clements said. “You can’t go get logs without disturbing something.”