The Oregon Forest Practices Act (FPA) is up for renewal in 2020. According to the State of Oregon, the FPA “sets standards for all commercial activities involving the establishment, management or harvesting of trees on Oregon’s forestlands.

Oregon law gives the Board of Forestry primary responsibility to interpret the FPA and set rules for forest practices.”

Assistant Professor Kevin Bladon has a vested interest in the FPA because of his work in and with harvesting in riparian areas. He says this practice is one of the reasons the act exists. “In the 1950s and 60s, before FPA, logging companies were harvesting next to streams, and a lot of sediment was ending up in the water.”

This had negative impacts on water sources, quality,  temperature and more. To prove this, scientists at the Oregon State College of Forestry conducted a study of the Alsea Watershed in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

For six years, scientists made pre-harvest measurements and observations. Next, over a two-year period, they observed harvest and the change that occurred in respect to the nearby streams. Bladon says the stream temperature rose from a standard 13.9 degrees Celsius to up to 29.4 degrees Celsius.

“That’s more than double the original temperature,” Bladon says. “That has major impacts on fish habitat and the laying and survival of eggs. There was also increased sediment. None of the results were good, and all of this information was built into FPA.”

FPA passed in 1971. Major amendments were made in 1992 with added water and geographic classifications.

“It’s cool to look back on that time and the regulations that have been developed and know this study happened just down the road from us,” Bladon says.

He had a chance to return to the Alsea Watershed when it was harvested again in 2009 and 2015 to conduct a one-of-a-kind study. Work like this will influence FPA and other policy decisions in Oregon and beyond.

“Going back to the same watersheds, it’s clear the FPA had a positive impact,” Bladon says. “We were able to show that based on the stream temperature and amount of sediment, FPA regulations are appropriate and working well for the landscape.”

A version of this story appeared in the spring 2019 issue of Focus on Forestry, the alumni magazine of the Oregon State University College of Forestry. Learn more about college research here

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