OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Survey: stream protection rules are strict enough

02/04/1997

CORVALLIS - Woodland owners, forest industry personnel and loggers say that, in general, they can live with the new, stricter rules for stream protection in Oregon, a recent survey indicates.

Just so long as they don't go much further.

Among these groups directly affected by the more stringent land management practices that began in 1994, there was 61 percent overall support for the new rules, according to an analysis done by the Department of Forest Engineering at Oregon State University.

But despite voicing general support, more than 90 percent of respondents say the guidelines are now strict enough or have already gone too far.

"The study suggests that, for the people who have to deal with them, the rules now in place may represent the tolerable limit for regulation on private lands," said Paul Adams, an OSU professor of forest watershed Extension. "There might be very strong opposition to anything beyond this."

An expanded and more complex set of rules for stream and riparian zone protection was implemented by the Oregon Department of Forestry about two years ago, and the OSU survey sought to find out how they were being received.

Despite the complexity - more than 60 pages of directives, seven new stream classifications - one somewhat surprising finding of the survey was that loggers and landowners said they preferred added flexibility and fairness in land management, even if it added to the regulatory maize.

These private landowners are a diverse group, Adams said, ranging from those who intensively manage land for maximum timber production to people who only occasionally want to cut a few trees. Many are engaged in some form of multiple use land management, he said.

Written surveys were sent to 848 nonindustrial private forest landowners, industry foresters, and logging operators who had harvested timber under the new rules, and a very high response rate of 67 percent was achieved.

"I think the response reflects that a lot of people want their voice to be heard," Adams said.

"In some follow-up interviews, some viewed the rules as the best of bad alternatives, and feel the rules should be supported to avoid even more restrictions in the future," he said.

Among the findings of the survey:

-Industry foresters, at 73 percent, most strongly support the new rules.

-The nonindustrial private landowners, a diverse group, have both the largest percentage of strong support, 18 percent, and strong opposition, 17 percent.

-Less than 10 percent of all respondents thought the current rules were inadequate, and more than half of logging operators thought they had gone too far.

-There was some sentiment that the stream protection rules unfairly targeted forestry, but this sentiment didn't overly affect support for the rules.

-The highly public and inclusive process by which the rules were created had modest positive effect, and in some cases a negative impact on support for the rules.

-The single most important factor affecting support for the rules was the lack of compensation or incentives for timber owners.

-Nonindustrial private landowners most often felt the new rules had cost them 10-19 percent in lost harvest value, while a strong majority of industry foresters said their losses would be 9 percent or less.

-Favorable capital gains treatment, tax credits or direct compensation were cited as the most effective ways for government to influence forest practices on private land.

The survey showed clear differences in policy knowledge, training and process involvement between industry foresters and smaller private landowners, Adams said. This may have affected their support - or lack thereof - of the new rules.

Expanded programs for education and assistance, such as some of those already being provided by the OSU Extension Service and the Oregon Department of Forestry, may help reduce some landowner concerns, he said.