"Ballot Measure 34 is about restoring balance, and finding the right balance between the economic needs of our states and the environmental stewardships that Oregonians know we need to retain our natural amenities," said Mari Anne Gest, campaign director of the Yes on 34 Political Action Committee, which is promoting the measure.
The measure would redefine the greatest permanent value rule that state foresters must use in making management decisions. Under the measure, the department must balance restoration and protection of the forest with timber production and "Consider the conservation of land for drinking water, recreation and fish and wildlife habitat to be as beneficial to the state as timber harvests."
To achieve these goals, the measure calls for the establishment of reserves over half of the Clatsop and Tillamook state forests to restore old-growth forests. In these areas, foresters could only thin trees if it is necessary to create this old growth, to protect drinking water and wildlife habitat or to prevent "catastrophic damage" from natural events like fires, floods and disease.
"We're not saying that you cannot cut in the 50 percent, we know that some of it needs to be cut to keep the forest healthy," said Gest.
The forest outside of the reserves would be managed for sustainable timber production in a manner that is just as protective of habitat, water quality and recreation activities as the current forest management plan.
A panel of scientists selected by the chairmen of the biology departments of Portland State University, Oregon State University and the University of Oregon would recommend where the reserves should be located. The measure states that this Independent Restoration Science Team should have expertise in a range of forestry and ecology-related fields. In addition to using multiple criteria to decide which areas would be best suited for the reserves, they would make recommendations as to how the department of forestry should thin or do restoration work on these protected areas.
If the measure passes, the science team would present its recommendations to Oregon's Board of Forestry, which would then hold hearings and come up with a new plan. The board would need to justify any deviations from the science team's recommendations.
"We're trying to put the science back in and take the politics out," said Gest.
Taking timeChanges in regulations and management strategies take time and money to implement, and the ballot measure allocates 10 percent of the timber revenues over the first 10 years of implementation to fund the planning process.
The money will come from the counties' share of the revenues, unless commissioners vote against providing the funds, which both sides of the issue predict will be the case. The money will then be taken from state's portion of the timber revenue, according to the ballot measure. These funds will also go to support an apprenticeship in restorative forestry, which Gest said is a rapidly growing field that trains people in how to manage forests to create old-growth habitats.
Timber revenues will likely fall if reserves are established, but the ballot measure states that schools will continue to receive the same amount of funds that they received in the 2002-03 budget period.
In addition, 5 percent of the revenues from Tillamook and Clatsop state forests will go to the Oregon Common School Fund.
Other sections of the act state that bidders for restoration forestry work should be participants in the apprenticeship program, that workers involved with the timber sales and restorative forestry projects should be paid at the existing rate for public work projects, and that any challenge to parts of the act or its implementation should be given expedited attention by the Marion County Circuit Court.
- Kate Ramsayer