Oregon was the first state to adopt a Forest Practices
Act. The widely supported 1971 Act was intended to
protect forest streams against potential negative timber
harvest impacts. It required the maintenance of
sufficient undisturbed forest buffers alongside streams
to reduce water pollution and soil erosion.
Over the ensuing twenty years, both the purpose and the
implementation of the Act changed dramatically. Forest
buffer zones were widened by rule in 1987 and then
extended by the 1992 Northwest Forest Plan to require
the maintenance of 150 foot wide buffers of undisturbed
forest vegetation. Those required forest buffers have
been enforced for more than two decades.
The purpose of the forest buffers now is allegedly to be
to protect cold water fish habitat. Government paid
biologists have theorized that maintaining the buffer
zones would reduce stream temperatures and result in
better fish production in the protected streams. Studies
by the Department of Environmental Quality (Department)
measured stream temperature and forest buffer widths,
but did not evaluate other factors including the fish.
The Department established their “Protection of Cold
Water Standard” criterion based on those assumptions and
It appears that those “Department scientists” based
their assumptions, and the future of both the forest
products industry and our salmonid fisheries, on modeled
studies that often contradicted empirical research. The
government paid biologists never bothered to actually
measure the fish production in those protected streams.
Worse, they ignored several studies that reported a
general increase in fish productivity where clear cuts
extended to the edge of the water.
Oregon State University forestry professor emeritus Mike
Newton has been researching the actual benefits of
streamside forest buffers for more than 20 years. Dr.
Newton has measured and evaluated data collected on
streams that have no forest buffer zones, streams that
have various widths of forest buffers, and streams that
have never been logged. He has accumulated years of
empirical data on stream temperatures and fish food
production. He has counted the actual number and size of
fish and calculated fish production volumes in the
Dr. Newton’s data emphatically contradicts the
conventional wisdom that shaded streams are necessary or
even beneficial for salmonid fish production.
His long-term empirical data proves that fish actually
grow more numerous, and grow larger, in areas with
little or no streamside vegetation, compared to streams
with carefully maintained forest buffers that shade the
stream surface. His measured data shows that fish
reproduce and grow better in sunlit streams because the
sunlight creates conditions that grow more food for the
fish. One of those beneficial effects is increased water
temperature! Any warming of the water that occurs in
those sunlit areas is rapidly dissipated, as the water
Clear-cuts extending to the water’s edge, with no
streamside forest buffer, produced the highest and
largest fish counts in Dr. Newton’ study area. Moreover,
streams affected by all different kinds of logging
activities consistently produced more fish compared to
stream segments passing through unlogged forests.
Dr. Newton’s twenty years of carefully collected on-site
data simply destroys the veracity of the Department’s
modelled “Protection of Cold Water Standard”. In fact,
his data proves that the entire effort to protect the
cold water standard may be misguided and actually
counterproductive to optimal fish production.
Once again, the adoption of a false assumption by
government paid biologists has wrought serious harm on
both the timber industry and our fisheries.
Most government paid scientists appear to shun spending
time in the field to actually observe, measure and
collect real data. They seem to be wed to the practice
of supporting their assumptions with modeled data. Too
often the information used to calibrate their models is
also based on assumed data points.
One could assume that these biologists are either
uninformed regarding appropriate scientific methods, too
lazy to gather and evaluate empirical data, or that they
have an agenda other than the protection of fish. In my
opinion, the latter is too often true. The execution of
the Forest Practices Act is a clarion example. It has
devolved into a pretense of science that targets the
future existence of the forest products industry.
The myth that mercurial additives to vaccines causes
autism was the most damaging medical hoax of the
century. The British scientist that initiated and
perpetuated that hoax was found guilty of three dozen
charges by the General Medical Council, including
dishonesty, irresponsibility and abuse of
developmentally challenged children. He was stripped of
his science credentials, struck from the Medical
Registry and barred from medical practice.
Those scientists that misrepresent and adulterate forest
science for political gain deserve no less.
Please remember, if we do not stand up for rural Oregon
no one will.