SALEM, Ore. (CN) - Oregon has added new restrictions on logging, doubling the buffer zone around streams to protect salmon and trout - restrictions environmentalists say don't go far enough.
The Oregon Board of Forestry added rules under the Forest Practices Act, to make streams more friendly for coldwater fish, particularly threatened and endangered salmon, steelhead and bull trout, which require clear, cold water to travel upstream and spawn.
The agreement will bring Oregon streams closer to compliance with Clean Water Act rules on preventing human activities from increasing stream temperatures.
The board voted to restrict logging within 60 feet on both sides of small streams and 80 feet on both sides of medium-sized streams in the western half of the state. That's more than double the previous buffer zones. The rules will apply to logging on private and public land.
The board sought to balance environmental goals with concerns of private landowners.
"From the beginning of this process, the board has been focused on developing streamside buffers under the Oregon Forest Practices Act that meet the Department of Environmental Quality's temperature requirements and the federal Clean Water Act, but that also allow for landowners to be stewards of their private land," said Tom Imeson, chairman of the Oregon Board of Forestry.
Environmentalists said the attempt at balance had kept the board from making a decision that would truly benefit fish.
Mary Scurlock, coordinator of the Oregon Stream Protection Coalition, a collaboration of environmental and fishing industry groups, said the board was hamstrung by the need to prevent even a very small affect on the logging industry.
"We don't think the rules go far enough, given the clear water quality target that we were trying to meet and the sound analysis that demonstrated that the size of buffer here does not provide a high level of certainty that we will meet that standard under the Clean Water Act," Scurlock said.
"A majority of board members wanted to accept more risk that we wouldn't meet the water quality standard in order to get less impact on landowners, even though the effect would have been very small," she added. "It leaves us scratching our heads a bit on how we are going to get from where we are now to where we need to go."
The board will decide on rules for implementation of the new guidelines in coming months.
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