The Oregon Department of Forestry is responsible for managing the state forests to maintain the "greatest permanent value" for Oregonians, providing them with social, economic and ecological benefits from the forest.

In 2001, the department adopted a forest management plan and a 10-year implementation plan. Under these plans, foresters are using a strategy called structure based management to move the forest from a dense carpet of same-age, same-species trees to a more varied, complex landscape.

To accomplish this, loggers will conduct clear cuts and thinnings to open up stands, then replant trees. After those trees grow to a certain height, foresters might conduct another thinning, to allow an additional generation of trees to grow. The desired final condition, which the foresters think they can reach in 80 to 120 years, is one in which there is a mixture of old trees, young trees, shrubs, dead snags and fallen wood.

The foresters' goal is to have half of the forest in a more mature stand type at any point in time. Then, as more of the forest grows into these complex conditions, other areas can be harvested for timber production.

Although the department's plan has restrictions in place to protect endangered and threatened wildlife species, there are no permanent reserves.

Ballot Measure 34 would change this.

It would allow management activities to continue as they are on half of the forest, but would set the other half aside in permanent reserves for the purpose of creating and preserving old growth habitat. Although harvesting would be allowed on these lands to protect against fires and other natural threats, timber production would not be a goal in these forests.

The locations of the reserves would be recommended by a team of scientists, chosen by the chairs of the biology departments at Portland State University, Oregon State University and the University of Oregon. The science team would make recommendations to the Oregon Board of Forestry, who would hold hearings on the subject and then adopt a new management plan.

The measure states that schools would still receive the same amount of money from timber revenue as they did in the 2002-2003 budget period, even if the total timber revenues fell. It also states that 10 percent of the revenue will go towards implementing the plan and 5 percent would go to the Common School Fund.

For additional information about the ballot measure, see Friday's stories.

- Kate Ramsayer

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