The Oregon Legislature is currently considering, in its February 2022 session, three bills that form a comprehensive package of amendments to the Oregon Forest Practices Act (Senate Bill 1501), create a tax credit for small forest owners (Senate Bill 1502), and updating the tax on forest harvesting (House Bill 4055).
The bills stem from negotiations between private logging companies, small forest owners, conservation groups and fisher organizations. The negotiations were facilitated by the Governor’s office and resulted in an agreement known as the Private Forest Accord. The group produced a detailed report Private Forest Agreement Report which was presented to the Oregon Legislature along with three draft legislative concepts. The proposed statutory changes, if enacted, are intended to meet approval requirements for a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) and a Subsequent By-Law Permit (ITP) under the Endangered Species Act which would cover certain species of fish and amphibians such as native salmon and trout, bull trout, mountain whitefish, green sturgeon, the coastal giant salamander and the coastal tailed frog. The HCP and PTI 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 forest lands in Oregon State.
Senate Bill (SB) 1501 acts as the main 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 set of rules. Under the current draft legislation, the Commission would be required to adopt the set of rules by November 20, 2022. The rules would require, among other things, the following:
- A watercourse classification system on private forest lands that corresponds to timber harvest limits and prescribes other management activities in riparian buffer zones (riparian management zones). The set of rules would establish much larger buffer zones, with varying lengths depending on the watercourse classification.
- New limits on timber harvesting on steep slopes. Oregon law currently regulates timber harvesting in landslide-prone areas based on the risks posed to public safety. The rule set will expand on this by adding sediment sources and debris flow pathways that impact aquatic habitat and riparian management areas to the slope regulations.
- A 20-year logging road inventory and assessment system that will be used to regulate logging 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 be required to be followed by an annual report each year until the inventory and the assessment is complete.
- A program for small forest owners for owners of less than 5,000 acres of forest land who do not harvest more than an average annual volume of two million board feet on average over the previous three years. These landowners will have different shoreline, slope and road management options, different reporting requirements and the ability to participate in incentive programs.
SB 1501 also directs the Forestry Board to adopt rules for post-disturbance harvesting (i.e. salvage logging) by November 30, 2025 and to initiate the development of logging rules attached within three years.
Finally, SB 1501 would also prohibit commercial beaver trapping, with some exceptions.
Senate Bill 1502
SB 1502 works in conjunction with SB 1501 by adding a tax credit for qualifying small timber owners (less than 5,000 acres of timber land in the state that have not harvested more than an average annual volume of two million board feet of merchantable forest products averaged over the previous three years) that follow the standard riparian timber harvesting restrictions that will be set out in the ruleset, instead of electing a minimum smallholder forest owner option that will be made available thereunder.
House Bill 4055
House Bill (HB) 4055 extends and increases the Preferred Taxes on Merchantable Forest Products Harvested from Forest Lands currently applicable under ORS 321.015 and provides for the imposition of an additional Preferred Tax on Merchantable Forest Products harvested from forest land.
The preferential tax on merchantable forest products harvested from forest lands for the purposes of forestry research, experimentation and studies under ORS 321.015(1) would be extended to calendar year 2023 and increased by 90 to 102.49 cents per thousand board feet.
The preferential tax on merchantable forest products harvested from forest lands for the purposes of administering the FPA under ORS 321.015(3) would also be extended to calendar year 2023 and increased from 138.72 to 207.02 cents per thousand board feet.
The preferred tax on merchantable forest products harvested from forest lands for the purpose of investing in professional forestry education at 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.
Specifically, HB 4055 would add an additional preferential tax on merchantable forest products harvested from forest land for the purposes of funding mitigation of the effect of forestry practices on aquatic species. This tax is conditional on the approval of an HCP by the federal National Marine Fisheries Service or the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the subsequent issuance of an ITP.
SB 1501 was unanimously passed by the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Wildfire Recovery and is now part of the Joint Ways and Means Committee. SB 1502 was also passed unanimously by the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Wildfire Recovery and is now with the Senate Finance and Revenue Committee. HB 4055 is currently with the House Revenue Committee.