A Salmon Anchor Habitat Strategy for the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests
Section 1: Executive Summary
Section 1: Executive Summary
Ecotrust, Oregon Trout, and the Wild Salmon Center have developed a specific strategy for restoring salmon runs in the coastal Pacific Northwest region. It is based on watershed-specific evaluations that result in the creation of a system of anchor habitat areas that nourish the most productive portions of the stream. When combined with other management tools, these anchor habitat areas create a strategy that is both ecologically and economically viable for the watersheds of the Northwest. We propose that this strategy be implemented in the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests.
This report describes the details of this salmon restoration plan and discusses economic and legal issues related to it.
A plan for restoring salmon on the tillamook and clatsop state forests using anchor habitat strategies
The current situation
Scientists estimate that salmon populations currently hover at less than 5% of their historic productivity and occupy only a fraction of their historic range and distribution in coastal watersheds. This status prompted an unprecedented state-initiated coho salmon recovery effort which culminated in the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds (Oregon Plan) and an executive order issued by Governor Kitzhaber in 1999. This status also resulted in the listing of Oregon coastal coho as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1998. State and federal authorities now share responsibility for coho salmon recovery.
In the State of Oregon, the current salmon restoration strategies as proposed in the Forest Management Plan (FMP) by Oregon Department of Forestry are based on a timber management approach (known as structure-based) combined with a "riparian leave" strategy. While salmon "focus areas" are being discussed, no site specific proposals have been made.
A new salmon anchor habitat strategy
Ecotrust, Oregon Trout, and Wild Salmon Center propose an ecologically and economically viable strategy that would restore salmon runs while allowing for predictable and stable timber harvest and forest management. This approach would 1) establish anchor habitat areas for salmon, 2) protect high-risk slopes from landslides, and 3) establish streamside protections to ensure riparian habitat protection for salmon. The approach would allow for some careful timber management within these three areas, and scheduled commercial timber harvest on the rest of the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests consistent with other management objectives and legal restraints.
Establishing salmon anchor habitats
The groups propose an anchor habitat-based strategy for recovering watersheds and Pacific salmon which protects the most critical areas for salmon, while allowing for some timber harvest. Critical areas have been specifically identified to be established as anchor habitat for salmon. Current salmon survey information reveals that only 16.6% percent of the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests contains critical anchor habitat areas.
How are anchor habitat areas identified?
The first step in defining anchor habitat areas is to determine the distribution and abundance of each salmon species in the basin. Because the damaged watersheds restrict salmon to particular areas, determining where the salmon are becomes crucial. Not all portions of the basin are equally productive. The most critical reaches are those being used by salmon for spawning and rearing, as well as the areas immediately upstream.
The first pass at determining distribution and abundance was done by reviewing existing information and by a systematic snorkel count of juvenile salmon throughout most of the Tillamook and Clatsop region. Through these intensive stream surveys, areas of high salmon production were identified in each watershed.
How should anchor habitat areas be managed?
We suggest that the watershed above each of the identified areas of high salmon production be designated as an anchor habitat area. These are then managed to maintain their high value for salmon productivity, reestablish healthy watershed function, recover old growth characteristics, and minimize landslide risk. Anchor habitats remain protected until other parts of the watershed have recovered and are able to contribute towards salmon productivity. While higher protections exist for anchor habitat, these areas would not be permanently removed from the timber base. Some timber harvest (thinning) would be allowed within the same watershed and management to reduce negative impacts from roads and stream crossings would also be a priority.
Protecting against landslides
Outside of the anchor habitat areas, we suggest that steep unstable slopes, identified as being at high risk for landslides into salmon-bearing water, remain off limits to timber harvest activities. Our analysis shows that high-risk slopes account for 7% of Tillamook and Clatsop State Forest lands. If steep slopes are not protected, watersheds will not properly recover. In these areas, roads and stream crossings should be upgraded to reduce stream impacts. Though landslides will still occur, the goal is to reduce the occurrence to a size and frequency natural for the area.
Protecting streamside habitat
Within 100 feet of streams, we suggest that only activities that restore aquatic and riparian function be permitted. This could include thinning and replanting consistent with the function restoration objective. Outside the 100 foot riparian area, certain forest practices would be allowed with the objective of retaining and growing large trees and establishing a diverse and healthy forest structure that includes large snags, large downed woody debris and a multiple-layer canopy.
The economic context
Achieving sustainable & harvestable salmon population numbers
As compared to the existing management regime and NMFS's 1998 forest practices analysis, modeling indicates that our anchor habitat strategy would result in the largest coho and chinook harvest counts. If implemented today, the anchor habitat plan would allow for 3,000 coho and 8,000 chinook to be caught within 20 years, and 21,000 coho and 10,000 chinook to be caught within 120 years. Under current market conditions, an increase of 3,000 in the number of catchable fish available to anglers would be worth about $600,000.
Timber harvest, revenue, and job growth
Projected timber harvest levels and job growth under the anchor habitat strategy would not be altered from existing projections. This finding is based on analysis that assumes that the aggressive swiss needle cast disease abatement program and anchor habitat strategies of the current proposed plan are both implemented. While the anchor habitat strategy will result in a reduction in access to timber, this will be offset by newly projected timber harvest increases to treat swiss needle cast disease. Annual harvest volumes will increase from 113 MMBF in 2001 to 188 MMBF in 2010. Because overall timber volume harvested from the forest would not be reduced, job growth projections in the affected counties (projected at an increase of 400 local jobs in the next ten years) would remain constant.
Recreation revenues and alternative forest products
It is possible that forest-related revenues from sources other that timber sales could increase with the adoption of an anchor habitat strategy. Increases in recreational fees, for example, might be instituted, or forest managers may collect addition revenues from the sale of forest products other than timber.
For example, a recent analysis in southern Oregon of the potential positive and negative aspects of designating a national monument concluded that, if expenditures by visitors to the monument from outside the local area increased 3–10 percent, the employment impact would be an increase in 210–700 jobs, more than offsetting the loss of 65–70 jobs in the timber industry. Similar opportunities are available to the managers of the two state forests and the residents of Clatsop and Tillamook counties.
Value-added forest products
Value-added wood processing essentially derives greater value in products, jobs, wages, and the tax base than exporting raw materials to other counties for processing. Currently only 50% of harvested timber remains in Tillamook and Clatsop counties. Doing more with less is a successful economic development strategy that increases the level of community equity in the outcomes of forest management through business ownership, higher wage jobs, greater local flow of revenue dollars, and increased personal assets. For example, if 25% more MMBF could be captured by local processing in the counties, about 390 total local jobs would be created. At average salary rates for the sector, $23,500, this would translate into approximately $9,650,000 annually to community economies.
The legal context
Based upon legal and scientific research, it is our conclusion that an anchor habitat strategy offers the best opportunity for the State of Oregon to meet their salmon recovery obligations on state forest lands under state and federal law.
Traditionally, the state has retained management authority for native fish species of the state. This authority is exercised in trust by the state for the benefit of its residents. This authority is well recognized and has been upheld by the courts. State law further requires that the state prevent the serious depletion of indigenous species, such as native salmon.
Additionally, the state must comply with the federal Endangered Species Act with regard to species such as Oregon coastal coho salmon, which are listed and protected under the Act. Forest management planning documents must incorporate practices and measures that ensure conformance to the requirements of this law or be subject to potential enforcement action.
State law recognizes timber production as one of the purposes of state forest management and requires that a portion of the revenues generated from forest management activities must be distributed to local counties. However, there is no legal requirement to maximize timber production and revenue generation on every acre of state forest lands. It is fully within the Board's discretion to manage some areas, such as the salmon anchor habitats proposed in this report, primarily for fish and wildlife productivity. This authority also extends to other non-timber production uses such as recreation, municipal water supply protection, or watershed protection. These uses are consistent with the statutes authorizing the creation and rehabilitation of the state forest system.
An anchor habitat strategy for the Tillamook and Clatsop Forests will allow for scheduled timber harvest and predictable payments to counties under state law. It will assist in ensuring compliance with the federal Endangered Species Act and state laws protecting salmon. Reducing state exposure to potential liability for violation of state or federal law should be a high management priority for the state during its present planning process. Our proposal is intended to help facilitate the use of management strategies that will protect salmon and highly productive habitat, while allowing for other forest activities to commence in a timely way and continue without interruptions caused by legal violations.
An anchor habitat plan for the restoration of salmon on the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests is the most ecologically and economically sound way to manage these forests. We view anchor habitats as imperative to real recovery of salmon populations. Without them no progress will be made. They are economically viable, based on the best estimates of current and future timber harvests, revenues, and the acreages required for anchor habitats.
If all the major elements of this forest practices framework are included in a salmon restoration plan, we believe that it has a high likelihood of success. However, if anchor habitats are not protected as the core places where already declining salmon populations exist, salmon will decline further thus foreclosing on any future restoration.