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Rallying troops over Labor Day, environmental group is trying to get parts of Tillamook Forest set aside for conservation

NEWS-TIMES PHOTOS: CHASE ALLGOOD - Chris Smith and members of other environmental groups are working to spread the word about two areas theyd like to see set aside for conservation as the Oregon Board of Forestry tries to forge ahead with a new plan for managing state forests.About 40 people spent time over the Labor Day holiday weekend heading out into the rain to pick up trash.

But at least they got to enjoy the Tillamook State Forest, because the trash-clearing event was organized by the North Coast State Forest Coalition (NCSFC), the Sierra Club and the Oregon Department of Forestry. The volunteers also shared a meal and took part in fishing, hiking and photography clinics.

The NCSFC is an organization that prioritizes protecting wildlife and habitat in local forests. Its leaders hope to draw out citizens willing to work for forest preservation and enjoy the forest’s recreational opportunities because those people are usually the forest’s strongest conservation allies.

As the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) prepares an overall management plan for the Tillamook State Forest, NCSFC staff have identified two sections as ideal candidates for conservation zones.

Staff and volunteers have canvassed forest visitors all summer to spread the word. They want supporters to learn more about the forests, write to their local legislators and offer public comment to the Oregon’s Board of Forestry to give the conservation interests more of a voice (See box, Page A4).

They worry that timber interests, which help fund the ODF, will have more influence over the process and will lead to more forestland being dedicated to timber harvests than habitat for wildlife and healthy streams for clean drinking water, said Chris Smith, who works for NCSFC.

The millions of dollars made from timber harvesting on state lands help fund not only the ODF but also county services and schools, so the logging piece is important.

“It seems like the [Oregon Department of Forestry] is not showing any interest in increasing conservation,” said Smith. “I was initially more optimistic, but I’m a little disheartened.”

An Oregon Department of Forestry spokesman could not be reached for detailed comment on the latest planning discussions, but the department has not yet come to any final conclusions about conservation and timber harvests.The Kilchis & Wilson Rivers Conservation Area has lot of streams and rivers that foster healthy salmon.

That means there’s still time for people to add their voices to the process.

Kings Mountain a target

In 2012, then-Gov. John Kitzhaber called for a new state forest management plan that would increase both conservation and financial stability.

Last fall, an Oregon Board of Forestry subcommittee began focusing on a “Land Allocation Approach” that loosely divides the forest into two separate zones — either for prioritizing timber harvesting or conservation.

That approach requires at least 30 percent of state forestland to be dedicated to conservation, although conservationists are hoping for more.

One of the two areas they’ve identified is the well-traveled Kings Mountain Recreation & Conservation Area, which includes 8,000 acres of “habitat land” about halfway between Tillamook and the Portland metro area. The acreage has very few roads, which usually disturb habitat, and is a popular spot for hiking and biking.

The NCSFC also identified the Kilchis & Wilson Rivers Conservation Area for “some of the best salmon runs and older coastal forest in Oregon,” according to their support materials.

The Kilchis & Wilson River area is 33,000 acres, a small portion of the Tillamook forest’s 364,000 acres total. That’s a lot of land, but the 33,000-acre section has a few different owners, including the state, Tillamook County and the national Bureau of Land Management.

So while dedicating this land would set aside thousands of acres for conservation, it wouldn’t all be state forestland, leaving room to bring other acres into that precious 30 percent. In addition, the ODF would have to manage only a portion of it.

Rallying the troops

Smith and his coworkers have been spreading the word about the conservation areas at the Forest Grove Farmers Market, in the woods, at the Tillamook Forest Center and online.

Among the concerns he’s heard from forest users, Smith said, are complaints about too much clear-cutting, degraded water quality and too much state reliance on the timber industry.

NCSFC staff have gotten about 630 people to pledge their support for the two potential conservation areas.

The NCSFC is also promoting recreation in these areas and along the Wilson River Corridor by creating lists of easily accessible spots and spreading the word online and at farmers markets in hopes that more people will appreciate the forestlands and advocate for their preservation.

These areas lend themselves particularly well to this purpose because they are family friendly, close to a highly populated area and accessible without any special equipment or skills.

The areas feature creeks and rivers for fishing and swimming, hiking, biking and more.

NCSFC staff hope popular support for these areas will help call attention to their push for conservation areas — an effort they are worried will be pushed aside in the pursuit of important timber-harvest dollars.

Forest favorites

- Check out these areas, which are beautiful and colorful in the fall, at

- Visit to sign a letter addressed to Sen. Ron Wyden, Sen. Jeff Merkley, Rep. Suzanne Bonamici and Gov. Kate Brown in support of these conservation areas.

- Visit to learn more and sign up for action alerts.

- Make comments to Oregon’s Board of Forestry at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; Oregon Board of Forestry, 2600 State St., Salem, OR 97310. Comments can also be faxed, attn. Board of Forestry, to 503-945-7212.

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