Streams Need Trees
Retaining trees in streamside areas is incredibly important to keeping streams cool and water clean. A healthy riparian buffer where logging is limited adjacent to streams serves a number of important functions. The shade from trees prevents the water from getting warmer, something that will be more and more important in the face of climate change. An intact riparian area filters runoff as it flows into the stream, removing sediment, bacteria and other pollutants that often come from adjacent roads and logging units. Riparian forests provide critical wildlife habitat for species that make the forest their home, and as trees age, die and fall into streams they contribute to freshwater ecosystems by creating important cover for fish and other aquatic creatures.
Sadly, Oregon’s rules don’t adequately protect our streams and riparian forests during logging operations. Oregon’s standards have fallen behind those of California and Washington, and don’t meet minimum standards or avoid harm to imperiled salmon. For example, our rules allow harvest that removes shade trees necessary to prevent stream heating beyond the limits set by state and federal law. Most streamside forests may be clear-cut as close as 20 feet from a fish-habitat stream and those along our smallest streams may be completely removed. These practices cannot continue if Oregon wants to reach its goals for healthy stream habitats and fisheries.
Because our riparian protection rules are so weak, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and NOAA Fisheries recently denied approval of Oregon’s program to protect important coastal watersheds from impacts to water quality. Specifically, the federal agencies and scientists call out Oregon’s failures to protect riparian areas from logging along all small and medium-sized streams, reduce the sediment impacts of logging roads, adequately protect against increased landslide risk from tree removal, and ensure that herbicides are not sprayed directly into streams.
Oregon has a clear opportunity to protect our waterways and satisfy federal requirements for the state to continue receiving millions of federal water quality restoration dollars. The Oregon Department of Forestry is currently evaluating new stream buffer rules for some small and medium fish-bearing streams that could meet some key federal demands, so now is the perfect time to make sure your voice is heard!
You Can Help! Letters are needed to the Board of Forestry urging them to draft a rule that will protect both fish and non-fish bearing streams with substantially larger protected buffers from logging, herbicide application, and to ensure that the Rogue Basin is included in any proposal. Visit our website at rogueriverkeeper.org/action for more details or to send a letter online.