On Monday, petitioners of opposing ballot initiatives designed to change forest regulations in Oregon announced that they had signed an agreement to work together via the legislature rather than the initiative process. Twenty-six groups signed the cooperative memorandum. One side of the debate included groups like Oregon Wild, the Audubon Society of Portland, and the Oregon League of Conservation Voters. The other side included timber companies like Stimson Lumber, Roseburg Forest Products, and Weyerhaeuser. Both groups had filed citizen initiatives targeting the 2020 ballot.
The meetings over the past month between the two sides were facilitated by Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s office. The agreement focuses on passing changes to the Oregon Forest Practices Act of 1971 with the goal of enacting new legislation by the February 2022 legislative session. The agreement sets up an 18-month process to establish a federally approved habitat conservation plan, which would take into account the Endangered Species and Clean Water Acts and the interests of the timber industry. Additionally, the two sides agreed to support a bill that would limit aerial pesticide treatments and allow regulations that would restrict logging near streams in southern Oregon’s Siskiyou region.
At the press conference announcing the agreement, Bob Van Dyk, Oregon and California policy director for the Wild Salmon Center, said, “Today we’re starting a new approach … It’s a path of collaboration toward stronger conservation measures and more certainty for the timber industry.”
Conservation proponents were behind the Oregon Forest Water Protection from Pesticides and Logging Initiatives (Initiatives #45-47) and filed the petitions on October 2, 2019. Earlier versions of the initiatives (#34-36) were rejected by Oregon Secretary of State Bev Clarno based on Oregon’s single-subject rule for petitions. The initiatives were designed to regulate the use of aerial pesticide treatments and logging near forest water bodies.
Proponents of the Oregon Scientific Standards for Forest Regulation Initiative, the State Board of Forestry Oversight Changes Initiative, and the Compensation for Loss of Property Value Due to State Regulation Initiative (Initiatives #53-56) filed the petitions on November 5, 2019. The measures were designed to add a review process for the State Board of Forestry to determine if forest regulation complies with current science; increase the number of members on the State Board of Forestry and supply rules for filling vacancies and term limits; and amend Oregon’s Constitution to add that landowners must be compensated if they lose all economic value of their property due to state laws that go into effect after January 1, 2020.
Neither side of the agreement has formally withdrawn their petitions from the Oregon Secretary of State.