October 16, 2002
REFORESTATION LAW IN OREGON AND SELECTED OTHER STATES
By: Paul Frisman, Associate Analyst
You asked about (1) an Oregon law requiring that landowners replace trees they cut down, and (2) similar laws in other states.
Oregon requires landowners to replant trees after harvesting timber from forestland. The number of seedlings that must be planted depends on the land's productivity. The more productive the site, the more seedlings must be planted. The law does not apply to the harvesting of trees for personal use (such as for firewood), or to property being converted from forestland to another use (such as housing or commercial development). Several states have similar laws. We have briefly summarized reforestation laws of Alaska, California, Idaho, Maryland, New Jersey, and Washington. Maryland's law applies only to trees removed during road construction; New Jersey's applies only to state-owned or maintained land.
OREGON'S REFORESTATION LAW
Reforestation in General
Oregon first required reforestation as part of its Forest Practices Act, adopted in 1972. By law (ORS 527.745) and rule (OAR 629-610-0000 et seq.), landowners must restock forestland after harvesting timber if the number of remaining trees falls below specified levels. For the purposes of the law, forestland is land used for the growing or harvesting of forest tree species, regardless of how the land is zoned or taxed or how any state or local laws, ordinances, rules or regulations are applied (ORS 527.620). Forest tree species are those whose logs, fiber, or other wood materials are used in the production of lumber, sheeting, pulp, firewood, or other commercial forest products (except Christmas trees). The law does not prevent the conversion of forestland to other uses (ORS 527.730). However, such conversion is unlikely beyond Oregon's urban growth boundaries, or "UGBs" (see below).
The amount of re-seeding depends on how productive the property is. Two hundred trees per acre must be planted in the most productive areas, 125 trees per acre in moderately productive areas, and 100 trees per acre in the least productive areas.
Landowners must begin replanting within 12 months of the harvest and complete it by the end of the second planting season following the harvest. The seedlings must be healthy and out-competing surrounding vegetation ("free to grow") by the end of the fifth growing season.
Only marketable tree species suitable for local site conditions are acceptable, but other, non-native species may be grown with prior permission of the state forestry department. Landowners may either re-seed or allow replacement through natural regeneration. Landowners who want to rely on natural regeneration must submit a written plan to the department.
The department reviews replanted sites and may cite, fine, or order the reforestation of sites that are not complying. The forestry department examines reforestation compliance annually.
Oregon law also requires that a certain density of trees remain after harvesting of timber along designated scenic highways (ORS 527.755). It requires at least 50 healthy trees, each at least 11 inches diameter, be left temporarily on each acre within the "visually sensitive" corridor. (A tree's diameter is measured at a point four and a half feet (54 inches) above ground level). These trees may be removed when the layer of trees immediately beneath them reaches (1) an average height of 10 feet and (2) the appropriate minimum number of trees per acre. Reforestation in these cases must be completed by the end of the first planting season after harvesting.
Local Ordinances and UGBs
Local ordinances also may regulate tree removal. For example, a Lake Oswego, Oregon ordinance (attached) requires property owners to replace each tree (except for dead or dangerous trees or those less than 10 inches in diameter) they remove from single-family building lots. The ordinance requires the property owner to replant trees on the property, or, if there is insufficient space, on other property within the city. If replanting within the city is not feasible, the property owner must contribute to the city's tree fund.
However, Oregon law prohibits a local ordinance from regulating tree removal beyond the municipality's UGB (ORS 527.722). UGBs surround each of Oregon's 240 cites and represent the point to which each city is expected to grow over about a 20-year period. Lands beyond the UGB are generally protected from urban development.
REFORESTATION REQUIREMENTS IN OTHER STATES
The following summaries (except for New Jersey and Maryland) are taken from "Regulation of Private Forestry Practices by State Governments," published in 1995 by the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station.
Landowners must reforest after a harvest unless the land is to be converted to another use, or if the harvested stands were significantly composed of diseased or fire or wind-damaged trees. Reforestation must be achieved within five years of harvest both in the state's coastal zone and in its interior, and in each case the replanted trees must survive for at least two years. Landowners must replant an average of 300 trees per acre in the coastal zone, and an average of 450 in the interior (Alaska Admin. Code 11 § 95.375).
A harvested area must have a replanted tree count of 300 per acre in highly productive sites (150 per acre for lower productivity sites) five years after the harvest is completed. For these purposes, trees less than four inches in diameter count as one tree; trees between four and 12 inches in diameter count as three; and trees more than 12 inches in diameter count as six. In addition, the trees must meet certain density
requirements (Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 4561-4563.5). A landowner seeking to build on land designated as timberland must first obtain permission and an exemption from the restocking requirements.
Forest land must be reforested within five years of harvest. The law specifies acceptable stocking and spacing for ponderosa pine and mixed forest tree species. (For example, 150 3-inch or smaller ponderosa trees per acre must be spaced 17 feet apart; 105 3- to 5-inch ponderosa trees must be placed 21 feet apart. Noncommercial forest land, forest land to be converted to a non-forest use, ownerships of fewer than 10 acres, and forest practices on large properties affecting a total of 10 acres or less during a period of five consecutive years are exempt (Idaho Administrative Code, Department of Lands, 20.02.06)
Maryland enacted its reforestation law to require "an acre for acre" replacement of forest removed during road construction. It affects state agencies and state-funded projects clearing one acre or more of forest land for such construction. Replacement must take place, first on the construction site or project right-of-way; secondly, on any public land in the county and watershed where construction occurred, and lastly on other land in the county or watershed where the activity took place. If all opportunities for reforestation have been exhausted, then the constructing agency must pay the state's reforestation fund 10 cents for each square foot of the area requiring planting (Maryland Code § 5-103)
The law applies only to state-owned or maintained land of at least one-half acre. It requires replanting with native species on the state property from which trees have been removed, or if that is not feasible, then in descending order (1) on state or municipal property in the town where the cutting occurred; (2) on state, county or municipal property within five miles of the cutting; or (3) on other state-owned property. A formula determines the number of replacement trees.(N.J. Rev. Stat. § 13:1L-14.2).
The law sets out different replanting standards for eastern and western Washington. For western Washington, the law requires 190 "vigorous, undamaged, well-distributed" seedlings per acre; east of the Cascades, it requires 150 such trees (Wash. Admin. Code § 222-34). The law does not apply to land converted to other uses or likely to be converted to urban uses. It requires that competing vegetation be controlled to allow the seedlings to thrive. Clear-cut harvests must be reforested within three years of the harvest, or up to 10 years in the case of approved natural regeneration plans. Landowners or timber operators must file a reforestation report when they finish planting and state officials must inspect the reforested land within 12 months of the report's filing.