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Oregon's North Coast Forests & Salmon

Oregon's North Coast Forests are Some of our Last Salmon Strongholds

The many rivers and streams in Oregon's North Coast forests are especially important habitat for salmon and steelhead. The Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests are home to some of our favorite rivers: the Wilson, Salmonberry, Nehalem, Miami, Trask, and Kilchis, as well as the Tillamook and Nehalem bays. As the State plans for how these forests will be managed for the next seventy years, it's important they provide strong habitat and water quality protects for salmon.

A Habitat Conservation Plan to Protect Salmon in the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests

The Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) manages Oregon's state-owned forests to generate annual income to support rural counties and school districts by harvesting trees. In an effort to develop a long-term management strategy that allows timber harvest without causing additional risk to endangered fish and wildlife, including many salmon and steelhead runs, ODF is developing a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP). The draft HCP uses a balanced approach of conservation and harvest: giving the timber industry a reliable wood supply, sustained employment, and guaranteed annual harvests while also protecting rivers and streams, steep slopes and other important fish and wildlife habitat.

The HCP covers almost 85% of the State's forest land, roughly 640,000 acres in Tillamook, Clatsop, Santiam, and Washington counties. Currently, the draft HCP protects nearly half of that area in Habitat Conservation and Riparian Conservation Areas, while the other half remains open for timber harvest, balancing the often competing interests, providing long-term certainty for rural communities and endangered fish, and reducing overall conflict.

In the remaining plan area outside of the HCAs and RCAs, the State will be able to harvest timber, plant trees, spray pesticides and fertilizers, build and obliterate roads, mine quarries, manage fire, and operate outdoor recreation facilities.

Take Action: Write a Letter to the Editor

Do you feel strongly about protecting our state forests? Write a letter to the editor speaking up for our forests, rivers, salmon, and steelhead. We've put together some helpful resources for you to get started, but don't wait. Discussion on the habitat conservation and forest management plans are well underway and speaking up for what you value most can positively impact our forests for the next 70 years.

What Would the Habitat Conservation Plan Mean for Salmon and Steelhead?

Protected Areas

The plan designates 43% (273,000 acres) of the permit area as Habitat Conservation Areas (HCAs) and an additional 12% (77,000 acres) of the area as Riparian Conservation Areas (RCAs). These areas have limited forest operations to improve landscape connectivity by protecting forests and stream habitat for endangered species.

Stream Buffers

The plan includes larger buffers to protect streams than we have seen in other plans: 120-feet on each side of a stream and in these areas, harvest is restricted to reduce the risk of sediment washing into the rivers and the stream bank eroding. It also increases shade along the stream, reducing water temperatures and providing resting spots for salmon.

Habitat Improvements

The plan establishes a Conservation Fund to support aquatic habitat improvement projects throughout the area over the coming 70 years, including improving fish passage, restoring rivers and streams, and removing roads.

Equipment Restrictions

The plan identifies equipment restrictions zones that prohibit any ground equipment within 35 feet of rivers and seasonal streams.

A Plan to Manage the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests

In conjunction with the Habitat Conservation Plan, there is also a Forest Management Plan (FMP) being developed. The HCP is endangered species-focused and more directly related to salmon and steelhead recovery, while the FMP is where drinking water and water quality will be focused on more heavily. That being said, it still has a primary focus on endangered species as it dictates with more detail how the forests and land will be managed. For example, it specifies that Species Assessments will be conducted during the development of the implementation plan to inform whether certain species need special consideration or if the existing plan’s conservation strategies are sufficient. However, the habitat conservation areas and riparian conservation areas outlined in the HCP are primarily where salmon and steelhead are focused on. Increasing streamside buffers and ensuring longer rotations will help water quality in addition to their intended benefits for endangered species.

What Would the Management Plan Mean for Salmon and Steelhead?

Habitat Protection

The Forest Management Plan includes an explicit goal to protect, restore, and maintain dynamic, resilient, and functioning aquatic habitats through various strategies like enhancing streams and watersheds that will support cold water refuge and allowing for the creation of new wetlands to form.

Salmon and Steelhead Recovery

The plan commits to complying with state and federal ESA requirements and adopts management strategies that recover threatened and endangered species. It also commits to conducting species assessments to determine which species require special consideration and if current conservation measures are sufficient.

Continual Research

There is a commitment to partnering with other agencies, tribes, universities, and NGOs to continually monitor aquatic habitats and conduct research on them to supplement and fill gaps in the current, best available science.

Landslide Resilience

Natural disturbances like landslides are planned for and management practices are implemented to create aquatic habitat and protect water quality.
Western Oregon State Forest HCP - Habitat Conservation Areas, Astoria, Forest Grove, and Tillamook Districts. Map by ICF.