State Fails Rogue Streams

The Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) has failed to protect the clear, cold streams and fish in our region by excluding them in their decision to expand stream buffers for Western Oregon’s forests. ODF granted limited protections for streams to the north but left out almost the entirety of the Siskiyou region (essentially the Rogue Basin) in their policy decision.

The Department heard from their own associated federal agency, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and independent scientists about the RipStream study; this study focuses on the riparian zone along timberland streams and its importance for the preservation of healthy waterways. The study identifies 100, but preferably 120 feet as the minimum buffer size that meets water quality protection requirements. The new ODF rules call for only 60 ft. wide buffers on small fish-bearing streams and 80ft wide buffers on medium sized fish-bearing streams, and while this is an improvement for some northern streams, our salmon streams were left out of the policy decision completely.

Many local streams are already suffering from temperatures too high for cold-water fish like the native Coho, Dog and Chinook Salmon. Oregon’s water quality restoration plans, crafted by the Department of Environmental Quality (called TMDLs), highlight temperature problems in the Rogue and throughout the state. Removing streamside trees and warming headwater streams increases the temperature of waterways downstream that salmon depend on --something that the Board’s decision fails to address. In order to mitigate these harmful impacts, our public waterways that flow through forestlands deserve wider stream buffers in order to protect cold waters and the fish that depend on them.

People in the Rogue Basin are attached to local salmon populations, and the clean, cold water which makes this a special place to live. Locals look forward to fishing season in the fall, hiking down to Rainie Falls to watch the salmon jump, and taking the kids to see these magnificent fish swim Bear Creek on their journey home. Salmon have lived in these rivers for generations because of the pristine, crisp water that is provided by our healthy forests and stable snow packs. We at Rogue Riverkeeper are making an effort to convey to the Department of Forestry the importance of this issue, and submit that they extend the area protected under the Riparian Rule Decision to include the Siskiyou region. We hope that the Department of Forestry will be willing to protect our waterways in the manner in which they deserve.