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Siskiyou streams get new protections

Southwest Oregon streams will get the riparian protections on private lands that streams in the rest of Western Oregon have had the past three years, under a new agreement between timber interests and wild fish advocates announced Monday.

The agreement, brokered among 20 different interests by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, puts timber companies and conservationists together in collaborating for the current Oregon legislative session to help enact changes to the state Forest Practices Act.

That includes adding the Siskiyou Region to Western Oregon’s norm of 60-foot-wide no-cut buffers on both sides of small fish-bearing streams and 80 feet on both sides of medium fish-bearing streams, both on private and commercial timberlands governed by the state act.

The current rules here have required 20-foot setbacks, but the region now joins the rest of Western Oregon in streamside setbacks adopted in 2017 but deemed exempt in the Siskiyous for largely technical reasons.

“This is the first step, getting rid of that exemption,” said Stacey Detwiler, conservation director for the Ashland-based Rogue Riverkeeper and one of the signers of Monday’s memorandum of understanding. “It gets us up to speed with the rest of Western Oregon. But we really see this as a first step.”

The setbacks are designed to provide streambank stabilization and shade on streams where salmon and steelhead spawn and rear.

The decision means conservationists and private timber interests will support amending the state Forest Practices Act to reflect those changes. It does not impact streams on public lands, which fall under different buffer restrictions.

The Siskiyou Region is defined as running between the Cascade and Coast range crests, the California border to the south and the Rogue-Umpqua Divide to the north.

Western Oregon’s streamside protection rules on private lands were finalized in July 2017, but the state Board of Forestry at the time exempted the Siskiyou Region from the newer restrictions.

At the time, state forestry officials said the board relied on specific data collected from northwest Oregon, coastal areas and the Willamette Valley streams to adopt its rules. It exempted the Siskiyou Region from rulemaking because the board believed it was incorrect to extrapolate data from other state regions with different environmental realities onto southwest Oregon.

Data about stream temperatures weren’t enough, nor was the state Department of Environmental Quality’s so-called “shade-a-lator” computer model used to predict changes in stream temperatures with riparian growth used on projects in the Rogue River Basin, state forestry officials said at the time.

The Siskiyou Region setback agreement is part of a new overall pledge for timber and environmental interests to work together in the legislative session toward what Brown called “meaningful, science-based forest management in Oregon,” a Monday news release stated.

Also, the agreement will create a registry for rural landowners to receive notification the evening before whenever helicopter application of pesticides or fertilizers will be sprayed in their areas. The agreement also seeks to expand spray buffers around homes, schools and drinking water sources.

It also lays out a $1,000 civil penalty for anyone interfering with helicopter pesticide applications.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.

Mail Tribune File Photo Alexis Larsen, project manager with the Rogue River Water Council, walks along a restoration project on Little Butte Creek.