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Oregon timber reps and environmental groups praise new compromise agreement

The 'memorandum of understanding' addresses three issues, but doesn't appear to impact the coming collision over cap-and-trade.

Posted: Feb 10, 2020 12:04 PM
Updated: Feb 11, 2020 6:35 PM

SALEM, Ore. — In a statement issued on Monday, Governor Kate Brown's office said that she has brokered an "unprecedented" agreement between Oregon's timber industry and environmental groups on several issues of potential friction.

"This pact proves that when we work together with a willingness to compromise, we can create a better future in Oregon," said Governor Brown. "Oregonians want healthy forests and fish, a vibrant forest sector, and prosperous rural communities. These are not mutually exclusive goals. The conversations that brought forth this agreement, coupled with sound science, will bring certainty for everyone involved while protecting Oregon's environment and endangered species."

Brown's office said that the agreement would focus on science-based forest management in Oregon — taking a step toward greater cooperation between environmentalists and the timber industry and "leaving behind the conflicts of the past."

Of the three issues Brown's office outlined, however, none appeared to touch on the increasing conflict over a cap-and-trade bill aimed at reducing the state's greenhouse gas emissions. Governor Brown has pushed hard for the bill, while the timber industry has all but gone into open revolt.

Instead, the "memorandum of understanding" (MOU) signed between the two sides focuses on finding a process for Oregon to update its timber practices, supporting legislation on aerial spraying of pesticides, and expanding forest stream buffers in the Rogue-Siskiyou region to further protect fish.

"The timber industry could have lost all possibility of spraying, which isn't the case now," said David Schott, the Executive Vice President of Southern Oregon Timber Industries, "This is an example of what can be done when both sides come to the table and understand each sides perspective and go from there."

The agreement also obligates both sides to drop any forestry-related initiative petitions and litigation after the relevant laws pass during this legislative session. Both timber industry advocates and environmentalists have filed several such initiatives in hopes of making the 2020 ballot, each aimed at reining in the other.

"This MOU is shared recognition of the diverse benefits Oregon's forests provide, and the need for more meaningful dialogue around forest issues across the state," said Greg Miller, a long-time timber industry executive and representative of the coalition of forest companies. "Oregon is one of the best places in the world to grow and harvest trees sustainably; we lead the nation in wood products manufacturing, and we are proud of our record of environmental stewardship."

Under the MOU, Oregon will look for endorsement from federal wildlife agencies to ensure that the state's forestry practices protect threatened and endangered species, working toward a Habitat Conservation Plan. It will also work to establish a "state-of-the-art" system to give real-time notifications of when aerial spraying will occur. Finally, it would align forest stream buffers in the Rogue-Siskiyou area with the rest of western Oregon.

"This is really important," said Stacy Detwiler, the conservation director at Rogue Riverkeeper, "If you're logging too close to streams, you're removing trees and that removes shade and increases water temperature."

"Today's agreement is a critical step toward modernizing Oregon's forest rules," said Bob Van Dyk, Oregon policy director at the Wild Salmon Center. "Oregonians are rightfully proud of our forests and what they provide, including some of the best salmon runs in the Lower 48 and drinking water for most of the state. It's our collective duty to make sure that a healthy timber industry doesn't come at the expense of fish, wildlife, and public health."

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