One of the most important benefits Oregon’s working forests bring to the state is the protection of water resources.
Changes to harvest practices, forest road management, the retention of standing trees for shade, and careful insertion of woody debris for in-stream habitat have nearly eliminated water impact as an outcome of harvest.
The State of Oregon has completed two studies that show modern forest practices create almost no temperature variation following harvest, and where detectable, those impacts disappear quickly both at the harvest site and downstream.
According to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, forestland produces higher water quality than any other land use in Oregon. A 2009 Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW) study concluded that the best habitat for juvenile fish exists on private forestland.
In data produced through the Coastal Landscape Analysis and Modeling Study, ODFW found that “only 68% of the area in Coho salmon buffers is currently being managed for forest uses.” While some continue to focus on a forest-centric solution to stream temperatures, state fish biologists remind us that a third of the land base where salmon reside have lower quality habitat for their survival.
Beyond harvest, another issue that has required management improvement is forest roads. Today’s forest roads are more often located away from streams, which helps drain runoff onto the forest floor, and they’re often located on ridgelines. Forest roads are engineered to lessen impacts, maintained for the long run, and account for protecting fish and water. One of the recent changes to forest practice rules added requirements for roads used during very wet weather whereby roads not up to the standard cannot be used during heavy rain.
Oregon’s private forestlands are driven by science and adaptive management, and studies now show practices are protecting water resources. The best way to ensure the long-term quality of our state’s water resources is to protect the viability of Oregon’s working forests.