It would be a mistake to let enforcement of Oregon's Forest Practices Act lapse because of budget cuts. The Oregonian raised that prospect in an article published recently. The staff of the private forests staff, who are called stewardship foresters, has already been cut from 70 to 30. If the January ballot measure to repeal the 2009 Oregon Legislature's tax increases succeeds, enforcement staff could be cut to the bone, and Forest Practices Act compliance would become voluntary.
Oregon led the nation in 1971 by enacting the Forest Practices Act. Other states looked to our law as a model of how to require reforestation following logging, how to insure streamside buffering and other elements of forest health. Today, Oregon is one of 13 states with such forest laws.
It is easy to take Oregon's forest products economy for granted. When technology employment pulled ahead of forest products, it was fashionable to diminish the importance of the timber sector. But Oregon remains just as forested as it was before the likes of Intel and other Silicon Valley companies moved into Oregon. Only Alaska has a larger percentage of its terrain covered by forests. Moreover, Oregon produces 15 percent of all wood products nationally.
As part of a series of landmark environmental acts nationally (Clean Water Act, Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act), Oregon's Forest Practices Act recognized that timber lands lie at the heart of environmental health.
The logic of the Forest Practices Act is like preventive health care. If there is adequate reforestation after harvest and if streamside buffer zones are maintained and if other measures are implemented on schedule, catastrophes will be avoided.
This is not the time to stint on enforcement of a law of which all Oregonians should be proud.
This editorial is from the Dec. 8 Daily Astorian, a sister publication of the Blue Mountain Eagle.