The first week of summer is a good time to reflect on the importance of water, water-quality, and where our water comes from.

The forest products industry generally gets a bad rap for water quality. The Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) has published an issue of “Forest Facts” that debunks myths about poor water quality as a result of managing forests. Oregon’s forestlands currently have the highest level of water quality of any type of land use in the state. The disturbance in forest streams from forestry operations is significantly less than in urban and agricultural streams, as shown in the chart below.

Oregon was the first state in the nation to regulate forest use with the 1971 Forest Practices Act. Recent revisions to the Act reflect the desire to improve water quality by protection measures directed at roads and aquatic and streamside resources. There is an ongoing diligent research effort focused on monitoring and improving water quality on state and private forestland.

In Oregon, about 75% of our public water comes from our forests. Healthy forest soil absorbs rain and runoff, acting as a natural filtration system. In time, the water is released into nearby streams or groundwater-bearing rocks, gravel, and sand. This natural cycle results in clean healthy water, requiring little chemical treatment. The Oregon Forests Resources Institute website has a short crisp video on water quality facts.

As for the fish, several years of study on the Hinkle Creek watershed, one of three Oregon areas in the Watersheds Research Cooperative, shows growth rates in young fish between pre and post timber harvesting periods were unchanged in the watershed where timber harvesting took place. Overall results from studying local watersheds will help in designing, implementing, and regulating future forest practices.

Hampton’s Forestry Team has participated in a variety of water quality projects on our own timberland to promote healthy fish and wildlife habitat and ensure water quality. (i.e. Big Creek channel restoration/move; Agency Creek riparian management; forest road management to protect streams; among others and more on this later.)

As I have quipped many times in the past, “I will compare the water quality in our forests to Portland river water quality anytime.”

Steve Zika
CEO, Hampton Lumber