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Fish habitat restoration on Gales Creek is a project funded in part by revenue from timber harvests on state land.

PMG FILE PHOTO: - Washington County received $8.8 million from timber harvests on state-owned forestland in 2020.Washington County and local taxing districts received $8.8 million from timber sales on state-owned timberland in the 2020 fiscal year, according to a recent report by the Oregon Department of Forestry.

It was the lowest distribution since 2017, when Washington County received $3.7 million from timber sales. In 2019, the county set a five-year high after receiving a $14.1 million distribution.

For the third consecutive year, Washington County's 2020 distribution was the third-largest in the state. Clatsop County received the largest distribution ($22.7 million) ahead of Tillamook County, which received $22.2 million.

Washington County's distribution came from timber harvests in the 357,000-acre Tillamook State Forest. A nearly 47,000-acre portion of the state forest is in Washington County.

Additionally, a portion of state forestland in Columbia County managed out of ODF's Forest Grove District generated $376,759 for the county.

About 19 million board feet were harvested in Washington County in 2020, compared to nearly 90 million in Clatsop County.

Statewide, counties and local governments received $69.2 million in 2020 from timber sales.

Differences in the number of board feet harvested year-to-year come from variations in the actual amount of board feet contained within sold timberland, which state foresters try to keep constant, according to the ODF. Differences in harvests year-to-year can also be influenced by the choices of timber purchasers, according to ODF's annual Council of Forest Trust Land Counties report.

"Counties and local service providers receive approximately 64(%) of net revenues from timber harvests on state forests," ODF said in a statement announcing the release of the report. "The remaining revenues finance virtually all aspects of state forest management, including ODF's recreational offerings, environmental enhancement projects, replanting after timber harvest and forest road maintenance."

Each year, ODF releases its report, which highlights the economic, environmental and social contributions from nearly 730,000 acres of managed state forestland. It includes a recap of timber sales and revenue distribution, conservation and forest health activities, as well as recreation use, including the number of visitors, among other statistics.

This year, the agency highlighted several environmental achievements, including the restoration of 4.9 miles of fish access, removal of 20 fish barriers and maintenance of 389 miles of trail.

One project the agency specifically highlighted this year was a collaboration between ODF and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to improve fish habitat along Gales Creek.

COURTESY PHOTO: OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FORESTRY - Gales Creek, where forest management is helping to create large wood pieces in the waterway to make pools and side channels where fish can spawn, in 2018.The project seeks to plant 1,000 western redcedar seedlings on a mile-long stretch of the creek.

As trees grow old, die and fall over into streams, the fallen trees create pools and side channels where fish can spawn. The process is called "wood recruitment."

Fish offspring can then use the fallen trees to find shelter from predators and refuge from strong winter creek flows.

The process generally occurs naturally, but the particular area of Gales Creek where the project is taking place doesn't have the volume of older trees found in other areas, according to ODF. That's because the area burned in a series of devastating fires known as the "Tillamook Burn," which occurred in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.

COURTESY PHOTO: OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FORESTRY - Garrett Armstrong of the Oregon Department of Forestry climbs a steep embankment to plant a Western red cedar tree in the bank of Gales Creek."As trees grow they will provide shade to help maintain cool water — vital to native upper Willamette steelhead listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act," ODF said.

In April 2020, Gov. Kate Brown said, "We know that climate change will continue to ravage the natural resources that make Oregon a beautiful and bountiful place to call home … which is why it's so incredible to see collaboration between state agencies to recover what we've lost in the Tillamook Burn. Because of the work in the Tillamook State Forest, Willamette steelhead will swim and spawn in Gales Creek again."


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