CANNON BEACH — After 13 months of meetings, debates, open houses and policy votes, the Ecola Creek Forest Reserve Advisory Committee finally has a plan.

Well, the draft of a plan, that is.

The 44-page document outlines policies and a five-year action plan to manage the 1,040-acre Ecola Creek Forest Reserve in Cannon Beach’s watershed.

It discusses the current status and potential conservation opportunities for forest habitat, fish and streams and wildlife. It also recommends how the public should be able to use the forest reserve as a recreational resource.

Among the more controversial items in the draft plan are proposals to thin some stands of trees and encourage forest and wildlife diversity, to prohibit hunting for at least five years and to consider asking the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to prohibit fishing in Ecola Creek.

A public hearing on the draft plan will be conducted at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 13, in City Hall. It will be the last time for the advisory committee to hear public comments before the plan is sent to the City Council. The council will conduct more public hearings before the plan becomes final.

More work, however, needs to be done before the advisory committee sends it off. Discussion about which trails or old logging roads bicyclists may use needs to occur, and another vote on the hunting issue may come up.

Advisory committee members who met Wednesday night to tweak the document before it is submitted to the public called it a “good plan.” Written by the committee’s consultants, Trout Mountain Forestry, with assistance by City Planner Rainmar Bartl, the plan is a compilation of discussions and votes taken by the committee, since it started meeting last April.

Committee member Bruce Francis said he especially liked the statement in it that says, “There is no ‘right way’ to manage a forest to enhance older forest qualities.”

The statement, he said, reflected the committee’s philosophy that managing a forest reserve required flexibility.

“We’re not setting everything in stone,” Francis said. “There’s no concrete way of doing things.”

While member Nadia Gardner said she liked the forest restoration portions of the plan, she felt that fish restoration wasn’t being addressed strongly enough.

She also questioned why “exclosures” were being proposed to prevent elk from certain areas of the reserve. Originally suggested as a means to allow trees and shrubs to grow without being grazed on by elk, the exclosures would have enabled researchers to determine what native plants would grow back and how soon. They may also have encouraged beaver to return to streams in the reserve.

But Gardner said the city shouldn’t have to pay for such exclosures. “It’s a cool research project, but is that necessary?” she asked.

Committee member Barb Knop questioned why a bridge, being considered on the west fork of Ecola Creek as part of a loop trail, would cost $80,000, especially when the proposal calls for it to be kept “as small and rustic as possible.”

City Planner Rainmar Bartl noted that the creek is subject to “incredibly large floods.”

“We want it to be a substantial bridge so it won’t be washed out, but we want it as simple as possible,” he said.

Bartl said he would talk to U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service representatives about the bridges they build.

“They have rustic bridges that go across substantial rivers,” Bartl said.

Among the 17 action items listed in the plan are:

• Conifer thinning: Thinning of the trees would create bigger trees, more plant and wildlife diversity and provide more dead wood to put into streams to enhance fish restoration. All revenue from timber sales would be used to restore the forest reserve.

The first thinning pilot project is slated for 2013. It would occur on a 60-acre site in the northeastern portion of the reserve. About 20 percent of the timber would be removed. An estimated $30,000 to $50,000 in estimated net income could be generated.

• Cedar planting: Cedar trees could be planted in areas where thinning has occurred.

• Large woody debris placement: The debris would enhance fish restoration.

• Culvert removal: A failed culvert on Waterhouse Creek, would restore habitat on the Ecola Creek floodplain.

• Beaver forage recovery: Improve the growth of brush and small trees to enhance the presence of beaver and improve stream habitats for fish.

• Conduct education programs about the protection of fish and wildlife habitats.

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