The Oregon legislature is currently considering, as part of its February 2022 session, three bills that form a comprehensive set of changes to the Oregon Forest Practices Act (Senate Bill 1501), create a small forestland owner tax credit (Senate Bill 1502), and update the forest harvest tax (House Bill 4055).
The bills stem from negotiations between private forestry companies, small woodland owners, conservation groups, and fishing organizations. The negotiations were facilitated by the Governor’s office, leading to an agreement known as the Private Forest Accord. The group produced a detailed Private Forest Accord Report that was presented to the Oregon legislature in accompaniment with three draft legislative concepts. The proposed statutory changes, if passed, are intended to meet the requirements for approval of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service habitat conservation plan (HCP) and a subsequent incidental take permit (ITP) under the Endangered Species Act that would cover certain fish and amphibian species such as native salmon and trout, bull trout, mountain whitefish, green sturgeon, coastal giant salamander, and the coastal tailed frog. The HCP and ITP for fish and amphibian species would likely be for periods of 50 and 25 years respectively.
Senate Bill 1501
The Forest Practices Act (FPA), codified as Oregon Revised Statutes 527.610–527.770 and implemented by regulations found in Oregon Administrative Rules Chapter 629, regulates operations on private forestlands in the state of Oregon.
Senate Bill (S.B.) 1501 acts as the primary driver of changes to the FPA by requiring the State Board of Forestry to adopt rules consistent with the Private Forest Accord Report in a single rule package. Under the current draft bill, the Board would be directed to adopt the rule package prior to November 20, 2022. The rules would require the following, among other items:
- A stream classification system on private forestland that correlates to the limits on timber harvest and prescribes other management activities in riparian buffers (riparian management areas). The rule package would establish substantially larger buffer zones, with varying lengths based on stream classification.
- New limits on timber harvests on steep slopes. Oregon law currently regulates timber harvesting in landslide prone areas based on risks posed to public safety. The rule package will expand on this by adding sediment sources and debris flow runout paths that impact aquatic habitat and riparian management areas to the slope regulations.
- A 20-year forest road inventory and assessment system that will be used to regulate forest roads. During the first five years, landowners will be required to submit an initial road inventory to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, which will have to be followed by an annual report each year until the inventory and assessment is complete.
- A small forestland owners program for owners of less than 5,000 acres of forestland who harvest no more than an average yearly volume of two million board feet when averaged over the three preceding years. These landowners will have different riparian, slope, and road management options, different reporting requirements, and the ability to partake in incentive programs.
S.B. 1501 also directs the Board of Forestry to adopt rules related to post-disturbance harvest (i.e., salvage logging) by November 30, 2025, and initiate rulemaking related to tethered logging within three years.
Finally, S.B. 1501 would also prohibit commercial beaver trapping, with limited exceptions.
Senate Bill 1502
S.B. 1502 works in conjunction with S.B. 1501 by adding a tax credit for qualifying small forestland owners (less than 5,000 acres of forestland within the state who have harvested no more than an average yearly volume of two million board feet of merchantable forest products when averaged over the three preceding years) who follow the standard riparian timber harvest restrictions that will be set forth in the rule package, as opposed to electing a small forestland owner minimum option that will be made available under the same.
House Bill 4055
House Bill (H.B.) 4055 extends and increases the privilege taxes on merchantable forest products harvested on forestlands currently applicable under ORS 321.015 and provides for an additional privilege tax to be imposed on merchantable forest products harvested on forestlands.
The privilege tax on merchantable forest products harvested on forestlands for forest research, experimentation, and studies under ORS 321.015(1) would be extended through calendar year 2023 and increased from 90 to 102.49 cents per thousand board feet.
The privilege tax on merchantable forest products harvested on forestlands for the purpose of administering the FPA under ORS 321.015(3) would similarly be extended through calendar year 2023 and increased from 138.72 to 207.02 cents per thousand board feet.
The privilege tax on merchantable forest products harvested on forestlands for the purpose of investing in professional forestry education at the Oregon State University College of Forestry under ORS 321.015(4) would also be extended through 2023, and the amount will remain at 10 cents per thousand board feet.
Most notably, H.B. 4055 would add an additional privilege tax on merchantable forest products harvested on forestlands for the purposes of funding mitigation of the effect of forest practices on aquatic species. This tax is conditioned to approval of an HCP by federal National Marine Fisheries Service or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and subsequent issuance of an ITP.
S.B. 1501 passed unanimously out of the Senate Natural Resources and Wildfire Recovery Committee and is now with the Joint Committee on Ways and Means. S.B. 1502 also passed unanimously out of the Senate Natural Resources and Wildfire Recovery Committee and is now with Senate Committee on Finance and Revenue. H.B. 4055 is currently with the House Revenue Committee.
This article summarizes aspects of the law and does not constitute legal advice. For legal advice for your situation, you should contact an attorney.