Oregon's Forest Protection Laws and BMPs

Good stewardship, good compliance

Taking extra care in planning and conducting forest management activities is not only the foundation of good resource stewardship, but it can go a long way in meeting your responsibilities under Oregon’s forest protection laws. This section highlights a variety of key requirements for forest practices in Oregon, including how to plan and implement operations for timber harvesting, reforestation, roads, site prep, and fire and smoke control.  Also featured are many practical guidelines, also known as “best management practices” or BMPs, for forest management that can help enhance your property while also maintaining high water quality, productive soils and other valuable forest resources.

Learn about what’s required and more

The following resources provide both general and detailed information about how to comply with Oregon’s forest protection laws and apply BMPs for good resource stewardship. If you are new to this topic, consider viewing Watersheds and Forestry: An Introduction, which covers basic soil and water conservation concepts for forestlands and some examples of Oregon’s forest practice requirements.  Likewise, the first chapter of Oregon’s Forest Protection Laws: An Illustrated Manual is a good place to start.  Or, if you have a specific project in mind, such as a new spur road, check out the chapter on roads.

Oregon’s forest protection laws

Highlights of the Oregon Forest Practices Act (OFPA) are listed below. All laws under the Oregon Forest Practices Act apply to privately owned forestlands in Oregon and are regulated by the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF). 

Private Forest Accord

The Private Forest Accord (PFA) is a compromise agreement made between representatives of the timber industry, small forest landowners, and prominent conservation and fishing organizations. The Private Forest Accord proposed modifying parts of the Oregon Forest Practices Act. Key goals were outlined in the PFA that may allow Oregon to receive federal approval for a Habitat Conservation Plan for certain species of fish and amphibians. The signatories of the PFA proposed state legislation to update the Forest Practices Act that passed and was signed into law in 2022. Forest practice rules as a result of this legislation that went into effect  July 1, 2023, can be found here and rules that go into effect  January 1, 2024, can be found here.

Water and fish

The state regulations that are in place to protect water and fish include requirements to leave trees standing along streams to shade the water and provide better aquatic habitat for fish in designated riparian management areas (RMAs), also called “stream buffers.” In these areas, which vary in width depending on the size of the stream and whether it contains fish or certain species of fish, timber harvesting is either prohibited or restricted. Please see the resources listed below:

     Technical Guidance for Equipment Limitation Zones

     Stream Classification and Vegetation Retention

     Western Oregon Stream RMA Matrix

     Eastern Oregon Stream RMA Matrix

     Streams and Steep Slopes Data Viewer

Steep slopes

This regulation is for large forest landowners and is related to logging operations on steep slopes and requires retention of trees in certain areas with the intention of supporting conservation of stream habitats below the slopes. Please see the resources listed below:

     Harvesting on Steep Slopes

     Technical Guidance for Identifying Slope Retention Areas

     Streams and Steep Slopes Data Viewer


Forest landowners are required by Oregon law to establish the next generation of trees after harvesting timber. State requirements that landowners must meet for reforestation include replanting within a certain time frame from when the timber was harvest, ensuring successful reforestation, planting a certain number of trees per acre and selecting tree species that are suited to the region where they will be planted. Ensuring success with reforestation is simply a way to state that the trees are “free to grow” within six years of being planted. Free to grow means that the young trees are no longer hindered by competing vegetation because they’ve grown sufficiently tall and vigorous. Depending on the site, the trees per acre (TPA) requirement is 100 TPA that have survived after reforestation. The species planted must be suitable for the site and capable of producing logs that can be used for wood products in the future. Most landowners will plant a mixture of suitable species for biodiversity and plant 300 TPA or more.

Wildlife habitat

Forest landowners need to be aware of sensitive wildlife habitat that may be on their property. Wildlife that falls into this category include fish, amphibians, birds and other species identified as threatened or endangered by federal and/or Oregon law. There are specific guidelines provided by ODF for each species, which include restrictions on logging during certain time periods such as when protected bird species are nesting. For a complete list of threatened and endangered species that receive special protections under state and federal law, check here.


Some crucial state rules that apply to logging include limiting the size of clearcuts to 120 acres and requiring that clearcuts not be closer than 300 feet to another clearcut. For logging operations of 25 acres or more, there must be two live trees or two dead standing trees left, and two down logs must be present where trees have been cut to provide habitat for wildlife. Clearcuts that are greater than 25 acres must be replanted with at least 200 trees per acre within two years. Laws that pertain to no-cut stream buffers (RMAs) are enforced during all types of logging operations.

Chemical application

Since forest landowners are required by law to ensure that trees are “free to grow” within six years, some landowners will apply herbicides to control vegetation on their land that is competing with tree seedlings that they have planted or have come from natural regeneration after a timber harvest. Herbicides are chemicals that can be hazardous to humans, animals and wildlife, so there are federal and state laws that limit herbicide use in forests and require landowners who use them to take special precautions.

Forest roads

State regulations for forest roads include requiring landowners to have a written plan for road construction projects, locate forest roads as far from streams as possible, use favorable contours of the forestland and avoid placing roads on steep, unstable slopes. Forest roads must be engineered to lessen their impact on the landscape, maintained for the long run, and must account for fish and water by engineering sound stream crossings such as culverts and bridges. Weather is another factor forest landowners must consider when using forest roads and there are additional requirements on roads that are used during very wet weather. Please see the resources listed below:

     Road Condition Assessment

     Road Construction and Inventory

Visual management

Any timber harvesting operation that is along a scenic highway must have a buffer of trees that is 150 feet wide along the roadside containing at least 50 TPA. When the trees that have been planted behind the buffer have reached at least 10 feet tall, the 150-foot buffer can be harvested. This practice can be done in reverse, but either way, the harvest needs to be done in two parts. In a scenic corridor, reforestation needs to be completed within one year.

Public notification

The Oregon Department of Forestry has an e-Notification system known as the Forest Activity Notification and Reporting System (FERNS). The Oregon Forest Practices Act requires forest landowners (or someone working on their property such as a consulting forester, logger or pesticide applicator) to notify ODF at least 15 days prior to the start of any forest operation. Forest operations include logging, road construction, logging debris burning and chemical applications. Notifications of aerial chemical applications using helicopters must be submitted to ODF 30 days prior to the start of these operations. This gives time to notify those who signed up to receive alerts through FERNs about planned helicopter pesticide use within one mile of their home or surface water intake. All operations notified under FERNS will now be required to do year-end reporting.

Small forest landowners

Small forest landowners (SFOs) differ in capabilities and property locations and size from industrial forest landowners. To be defined as an SFO the landowner must meet the following criteria:

     -Owns wholly or in part less than 5,000 acres of forestland in Oregon.
     -Has harvested no more than an average of 2 million board feet of timber per year for the past three years.
     -Does not expect to harvest more than an average of 2 million board feet per year over the next 10 years.

The Small Forestland Owner Office is administered by ODF and was created to help landowners that meet the SFO criteria. Below are SFO Assistant Programs:

     Small Forestland Investment in Stream Habitat Program (SFISH)

     Forest Conservation Tax Credit Program (FCTC)


More information pertaining to the subjects above, and all other regulations that are set by the Oregon Forest Practices Act, is available here.

Download a set of fact sheets about the Private Forest Accord and changes to the Oregon Forest Practices Act, here.

 Find an ODF Forester, here.


For more information, please contact:
Julie Woodward, Director of Forestry, Oregon Forest Resources Institute




  • Oregon's Forest Protection Laws: An Illustrated Manual Third Edition. Details and illustrations of Oregon’s forest protection requirements as well as available voluntary programs and assistance. Created by the Oregon Forest Resources Institute.
  • Oregon's Forests and Water Discusses forest management and water quality, and highlights related research, regulatory and voluntary programs
  • Oregon forest Practices Administrative Rules and Forest Practices Act Actual resource protection rules and legal statutes for forest practices in Oregon
  • Westside Forest Stream Protection Diagrams This booklet includes a set of diagrams intended to help forest landowners planning a timber harvest to interpret current riparian management area prescriptions required under the Oregon Forest Practices Act. The new forest practice rules for expanded riparian protections for forest landowners who own 5,000 or more acres went into effect on July 1, 2023. All private forest landowners will be required to follow the new rules starting January 1, 2024.