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Representatives of timber and environmental groups struck the deal last year.

MATUESZ PERKOWSKI/CAPITAL PRESS FILE - The Oregon Senate voted 22-5 to approve Senate Bill 1502, which enshrines the Private Forest Accord into law. The legislation would enact larger no-harvest buffers around streams and stricter road-building requirements, among other changes.

The Oregon Senate has voted overwhelmingly in favor of new logging standards negotiated by timber and environmental groups under the Private Forest Accord compromise.

Senate Bill 1501, which enshrines the deal into law, was approved Wednesday, March 2, by the Senate 22-5 after a brief discussion during which no objections against the legislation were raised.

Representatives of timber and environmental groups struck the deal last year after a year of talks mediated by the office of Gov. Kate Brown, who convened the panel in 2020 to avoid competing ballot measures on forestry regulations.

The 44-page bill expands no-harvest buffers around streams, implements stricter requirements for road-building, prioritizes non-lethal control of beavers and creates a new modeling system to avoid and mitigate the effects of landslides.

The legislation is expected to set the stage for a federal Habitat Conservation Plan for the state's private forests, which would shield landowners from liability under the Endangered Species Act when harvesting trees.

Several forest products companies and the Oregon Small Woodlands Association signed onto the Private Forest Accord with the understanding that it would provide more regulatory certainty and reduce the likelihood of disruptive lawsuits and ballot initiatives.

The agreement is costly for the timber industry, not only financially but also in terms of its unity, since some companies remain opposed to the new regulations, said Chris Edwards, president of the Oregon Forest & Industries Council.

However, there is too much at stake for the timber industry to roll the dice and move forward without the deal, he said during a legislative hearing on SB 1501.

"At its core, the Private Forest Accord is about protecting a future for forestry in Oregon," Edwards said. "It's also about turning the page on the timber wars of the past."

Support for the deal is not unanimous in the timber industry — critics argue that it complicates forest management, excludes excessive amounts of land from logging and was developed without sufficient transparency and public input.

Many members of the Oregon Farm Bureau who own forestlands believe the agreement is unworkable, said Lauren Smith, the organization's director of government affairs.

"With the new harvest buffers in place, some of our members risk losing up to 50% of their harvestable timber and have stated they're likely to sell their woodlands to larger owners or sell the minimum parcel sizes for home sites," she said.

Under the agreement, small forestland owners are subject to less rigorous logging restrictions in recognition of their tendency to grow trees on a longer rotation cycle.

Small woodlands owners who choose to manage their properties under the standards required for larger landowners would be eligible for tax credits under a companion bill.

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