PFA strikes a balance

Dec 20, 2023 | Author: Mike Barsotti, LCSWA President | Editor: Nancy Hildebrandt


Evaluation process is part of Oregon Private Forest Accord

A week-long series on the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was aired in December on KGW, Channel 8’s “The Story” to see if the ESA is working.

The first day dealt with the spotted owl. It featured people with conflicting views on how the ESA was helping a species recover. Wildlife biologist Fran Cafferata provided the landowner’s perspective. While I didn’t catch the name of the person representing an environmentalist perspective, one of his comments still rings in my ears.

He said if we would just stop logging for 100 years, the spotted owl population would recover. His view sure doesn’t represent an attempt to balance ecological concerns with the social and economic values and products our forests provide.

For me, the Private Forest Accord (PFA) is the best example we have of working to find that balance.

Here is why. I latched on to the view that all that our forests can provide comes under the umbrella of economic, social and environmental banners. In considering and balancing these products and values, we will have healthy, sustainable forests.

Back in the 1970s when I was at Oregon State University, forest sustainability was defined as economic sustainability. In fact Oregon’s Board of Forestry contracted with OSU College of Forestry’s Economics Professor John Beuter to determine what harvest levels would provide the state forest sustainability.

I think it is now clear that to the best of our abilities forest management must consider all that forests provide. We do this by balancing the economic, ecological and social components. While I have felt comfortable in thinking this, I hadn’t given much thought to how we arrive at this balance.

Assuming everyone is honest in attempting to find the balance, gathering individuals with an interest and expertise in these three major categories to agree on a balance seems to me a sound strategy.

We all come with a bias, leaning toward what we know. The PFA is the product of such an effort.

This balance is elusive and will be different in various geographic areas because the social values, environmental issues and economies are different.

I continue to hear large and family forest landowners criticizing the PFA for “giving up” too much land along streams. That complaint is only natural.

There are also environmentalists that are not at all happy with the results. Who is an expert in all aspects of what forests provide; and therefore, has no bias?

I sure don’t know if the PFA hit the correct balance. So much of what we understand about managing our forests comes from evaluating past actions or listening to experts representing the other natural resource areas and listening to the public.

The PFA recognizes that time will help us better understand if the decisions were correct so it established a formal evaluation process. It is called the Adaptive Management Committee. It is made up of individuals with expertise it the various social, economic, and ecological disciplines.

Stop logging for 100 years is not the solution for recovering the spotted owl. Killing 4,000 barred owls may also not be the solution.

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