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Stream Protection Rule Approved For Southern Oregon

Rogue Riverkeeper
Map of private forest land in the Siskiyou Region of southwestern Oregon.

The Oregon Board of Forestry has unanimously approved new standards for fish habitat protection on private timber land in the Siskiyou region of Southern Oregon.

About 1 million acres of timber land will now have modestly increased buffers that restrict timber harvest around small and medium-sized streams where salmon, steelhead and bulltrout live.

The Board of Forestry voted unanimously to approve the new temporary regulation, along with support from both conservation and timber groups.

The change brings southwestern Oregon’s Siskiyou region to the same standards as the rest of private timber lands in western Oregon, according to Stacey Detwiler, conservation director with Rogue Riverkeepers.

“Our communities here have really been pushing for the Board of Forestry to address this [issue] that basically leaves Southern Oregon streams with a weaker standard that’s been shown to not meet water quality standards for temperatures,” Detwiler says.

Removing timber near streams reduces shade, which increases water temperatures and harms fish.

Under the new regulation, 10 feet will be added to buffers on either side of small and medium-size fish-bearing streams. Small streams previously had buffers of 50 feet per side and medium-sized streams had 70-foot buffers, Detwiler says. The increase is in line with past regulations in the region from 2017.

“This decision means that nearly 320 miles of salmon and steelhead streams that flow through about 1 million acres of private forest lands in the Rogue watershed are no longer left with that weaker standard,” Detwiler says. “We’re finally up to speed with the rest of western Oregon.”

The stream buffer agreement is the result of collaboration between timber industry and conservation groups. It was created during Oregon’s 2020 legislative session, but the session ended before lawmakers could address it.

Board of Forestry members said they hope the new regulation will be implemented by the fall, but the deadline to put it in place is Jan. 2021.

Erik Neumann is JPR's news director. He earned a master's degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and joined JPR as a reporter in 2019 after working at NPR member station KUER in Salt Lake City.