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Northwest Forests & Salmon

Protecting and restoring stream habitat

The North Coast region of Oregon is an especially vibrant area of activity for salmon and steelhead, making them a high priority for protection in order to foster and preserve their populations and the angling communities that depend on them.

As fewer fish return from the ocean to spawn in Oregon’s North Coast streams, protecting and restoring stream habitat is more important than ever before. That’s why the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) is developing a Western Oregon State Forest Habitat Conservation Plan in an effort to implement conservation strategies that allow timber harvest using methods that minimize the risk of harm to fish and wildlife.

The Western Oregon State Forest Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP)

Oregon’s State-owned forests are managed by the Department of Forestry (ODF) and the State Land Board. The state is responsible for generating sustainable timber harvest revenues from these forests to support the counties in which they are located, while also protecting habitat used by threatened and endangered species and providing recreation opportunities.

The HCP would cover roughly 640,000 acres of state-owned land in several counties, including Tillamook, Clatsop, and portions of Santiam and Washington counties. If approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries, the State would be issued an Incidental Take Permit for 70-years to ensure compliance with the Endangered Species Act (ESA), protection for listed species, and certainty in long-term harvest and revenue. Currently, half of the plan area is designated for conservation efforts and half for timber harvest in order to balance the interests of both industries and provide certainty that both will be accommodated.

How will the HCP protect streams & salmon?

43% (273,000 acres) of the permit area would be designated as Habitat Conservation Areas with specific protections:

- Limit forest operations to outside the breeding seasons of endangered species
- Protect old-growth forests
- Improve landscape connectivity

The HCP would protect 12% (77,000 acres) of the plan area as Riparian Conservation Areas to protect the health and well-being of fish-bearing and some non-fish bearing streams. How these areas protect fish:

- Restrict tree cutting to a minimum buffer of 120 feet from fish-bearing streams and up to 120 feet from some non-fish-bearing streams
- Reduce the risk of sediment washing into the rivers and stream bank erosion
- Increase shade on streams and reduce water temperatures by preserving tree cover

By restricting timber operations and ensuring forest management in RCAs and HCAs are aimed at habitat improvement, the State believes there will be minimal impacts to endangered and threatened species within the plan area. Riparian and Habitat Conservation Areas would provide greater protections than the remaining forest area, but overall, the plan proposes substantially larger buffers than other forest plans, including:

- Equipment restrictions zones that prohibit ground equipment use within 35 feet of many seasonal streams.
- Aquatic habitat improvement projects, ranging from stream enhancement to decoupling roads from streams
- Replacing half of the culverts blocking fish passage over the next 70 years

What will the HCP allow?
Some of the management activities that would be allowed under the HCP include:

- Harvesting timber and reforestation
- Spraying pesticides and fertilizers
- Building and vacating roads
- Mining quarries
- Managing fire
- Creating and maintaining recreation opportunities

Will the HCP impact fishing opportunities?

The HCP is habitat-focused and does not have any direct impact on recreation regulations. However, this plan will provide many protections for the rivers and streams we love, reducing negative impacts on salmon and steelhead populations and offering more certainty of fishing opportunities.

Western Oregon State Forest HCP - Habitat Conservation Areas, Astoria, Forest Grove, and Tillamook Districts. Map by ICF.