The 2022 Oregon state legislative short session ended last week. In years past, the Oregon legislature produces little good news for the environment because conservation advocates spend more time and effort trying to beat back bills that would degrade the environment than championing policies that would enhance the health and resilience of our waters, native wildlife, forests, and communities. This year was a stark departure from the norm, with significant victories! Check out our breakdown of the short session below.
And a huge round of applause for Oregon Wild advocates, environmentally-minded individuals and organizations, and legislators for all their efforts this session, without whom these victories wouldn’t be possible!
Probably the most significant progress during the session was for Oregon’s forests, moving two long-simmering forest issues - the state’s lax private logging laws and the future of the Elliott State Forest - forward. While significant work remains on both fronts, passing out of the legislature ensures progress will continue.
- SB 1501 - PASSED: The passage of the Private Forest Accord means that across 10 million acres of private forests in Oregon we will have bigger riparian buffers, more protections against steep slopes logging, an upgraded road system that won’t bleed sediment into streams, and a whole lot more. When you add it all up, Oregon will finally be catching up to our neighbors in Washington in adequately protecting our aquatic ecosystems from the impacts of logging. Learn more.
- SB 1546 - PASSED: The 82,000-acre Elliott State Forest is the only state-owned forest left in Oregon that still contains significant mature and old-growth forest and supports 20% of all wild Oregon Coast coho salmon. Unfortunately, the forest has also been degraded by aggressive logging enabled by its link to the Common School Fund – essentially clearcuts to fund education. Only a few years ago, this link put the Elliott in danger of being entirely privatized. This bill not only decoupled the Elliott from the Common School Fund, but established it as a research forest with a 34,000-acre permanent old-growth reserve on the west side of the forest along with smaller reserves elsewhere.
All in all, the 2022 legislative session was a success for those who care about Oregon’s wildlife! We defeated problematic legislation at the same time we advanced policies that safeguard vulnerable wildlife. Here’s a quick recap of those bills.
- HB 4130- PASSED: This bill will allocate $7 million from the general fund for safe wildlife crossing structures. Not only do wildlife crossing structures help support wildlife migration and movement, but it also increases human safety by reducing animal-vehicle collisions.
- HB 4128- PASSED: Zoonotic diseases (ones which come from animals) are on the rise. Oregon needs to be better prepared. This legislation will help prevent and respond to zoonotic disease outbreaks linked to the import, trade and handling of wildlife by strengthening state agency coordination and improving prevention, monitoring and response plans and reducing avenues for zoonotic disease transmission.
- HB 4127- DEFEATED: Livestock industry lobbyists and their friends in the legislature asked for an additional $1 million for the wolf compensation program, in part, to pay for missing livestock. Not only is this program in need of major review and reform, but using precious taxpayer dollars to pay for missing livestock is a misuse of public funds. Luckily, this bill did not pass.
- HB 4080- DEFEATED: If it had passed, it would have authorized the formation of special government districts to raise money to pay federal “Wildlife Services” (the wildlife killing arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture) to kill wildlife deemed a threat to private property, without requiring consideration of non-lethal alternatives. The cherry on top is that it would have also barred public oversight and judicial review of the district’s activities. No thank you.
- Budget bill - INCLUDED: $1 million for the Department of State Lands to research and monitor nearshore keystone species including sea otters, marine ecosystems, kelp and eelgrass habitat, and sequestration of blue carbon. This is incredibly helpful and important in setting the stage for a potential sea otter reintroduction effort on the Oregon coast.
Unfortunately, one of the most significant bills to directly address climate change did not receive enough support to move forward in the legislature.
- SB 1534 - FAILED: The bill would have encouraged better stewardship practices across Oregon’s natural and working lands like our forests, farms, and wetlands, enlisting them in the fight against climate change. This bill was based on the Oregon Global Warming Commission’s Natural and Working Lands Proposal and supported by a wide array of farmers, forest owners, and ranchers, as well as climate and conservation advocates. This bill will be put forward again in the 2023 session, and will hopefully incorporate far more recommendations from the original OGWC proposal.