Blog

Aug18

Cascadia Wildlands Seeking Umpqua Regional Director

Time marches on and things change.  Francis Eatherington who has been a champion working in the Umpqua watershed for decades to protect its forest, water and wildlife from harm is heading towards other adventures in her life.  This October she will move from full-time to half-time in order to make room for her replacement and at the same time fill that new person's head with as much as she can about this precious region, our partners in conservation and risks we face in keeping what we protect as wild and wonderful as we can.  We know that we cannot replace Francis and she will never be truly gone from this region she has worked so long to protect, but we are going to do the best that we can and with her help and mentoring we can continue to be an organization that advocates strongly for this region.  
 
Umpqua Regional Director
Position Open Until Filled: Umpqua Regional Director (Title is Flexible)
Cascadia Wildlands  
Eugene, Oregon
Reports to: Executive Director 
 
Definition 
The Umpqua Regional Director (URD) is responsible for Cascadia Wildlands’ programs to monitor and protect public lands and associated waterways in the greater Umpqua Watershed (including the Roseburg and Coos Bay BLM Districts, Umpqua National Forest, Elliott State Forest and Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area) from destructive practices such as harmful logging, unreasonable off-highway vehicle use; irresponsible herbicide application; and energy developments that destroy habitat and foster the use of fossil fuels here or abroad.  In addition, the URD will join with other staff members in assisting with administrative, outreach and fundraising tasks as needed.  
 
Duties 
Monitoring and Commenting on Public Lands Policies, Management, and Projects
•    Demonstrate presence and engagement by frequently interacting with agency personnel, attending field trips and public meetings associated with the program area and engaging with diverse stakeholders
•    Monitor agencies, land management projects and websites on the state and federal levels—particularly Bureau of Land Management planning updates, US Forest Service schedule of proposed actions, and the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Annual Operations Plan for the Coos District—to keep abreast of upcoming projects and changes to policies and management
•    Create and maintain tracking system to ensure that all significant actions are addressed, workloads are manageable and that comment and appeal deadlines are met
•    Identify and document those actions that require written comment, appeals or administrative protests—mainly associated with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)—or other actions to urge corrections or cancelations on the part of agencies and also build the legal record if the agencies prove unwilling to make needed adjustments
•    Occasionally, as needed, submit comments on or provide support for other critical actions on federal or state forests lands outside of the greater Umpqua watershed
 
Litigation Support 
•    Provide support and documentation for the Legal Director and our retained attorneys pursuing lawsuits associated with the greater Umpqua Watershed 
•    Work with expert witnesses, provide declarations, review legal briefs, and recruit declarants  
 
Education and Communication
•    Create and maintain web content (pages, posts and blogs) for program area
•    Draft press releases, op-eds and letters to the editor on notable actions and issues
•    Conduct media interviews and lead press tours of focus areas
•    Write relevant pieces for e-newsletter and Cascadia Quarterly
•    Promote issues in social media and other appropriate venues
•    Host educational events and participate in community presentations, forums and conferences about pressing issues
•    Work with concerned landowners impacted by agency actions
 
Partnership Development and Outreach 
•    Lead legislative actions when opportunities arise 
•    Develop partnerships with other grassroots and larger groups to leverage our impact on federal and state issues including signing on to letters, comments and protests, sharing information and planning events together
•    Help recruit, educate and empower activists though presentations, monitoring, trainings and internships
 
Fundraising and Donor Recruitment   
•    In cooperation with the ED pursue likely foundation opportunities
•    Identify and cultivate supporters, major donors, and businesses with interests in the greater Umpqua watershed and larger Cascadia bioregion
•    Participate in fundraising events such as the Wonderland Auction, Ancient Forest Hoedown and house parties
 
Philosophy and Values
Cascadia Wildlands is a small, community-based organization that places huge emphasis on the wellbeing of our employees, our relationships with the community, and our role in the greater environmental movement.  Candidates must have:
•    A passion for wild places, wildlife, and grassroots movements
•    Professional etiquette and a high standard of accountability
•    An ability to form meaningful relationships with diverse constituencies, especially donors and volunteers
•    A commitment to building a movement through cultivating volunteers, creating personal connections with community members, and supporting fellow staff members in their work
•    A commitment to minimizing our organization’s environmental footprint
•    A commitment to preventing and/or resolving conflicts and communicating openly and honestly
•    A positive, solutions-oriented approach to work and a sense of humor
 
Qualifications 
The URD must have excellent organizational and interpersonal skills as well as an ability to prioritize tasks in often chaotic settings.  
 
Required Qualifications*:
 
Experience
•    Familiarity with applicable state and federal environmental laws and regulations, like NEPA, NFMA, ESA and the Northwest Forest Plan and land management agencies like the Oregon Department of Forestry, US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service
•    Experience planning and implementing conservation campaigns
•    Experience engaging the public and building successful relationships with activists, donors, foundations, conservation partners and non-traditional stakeholders
•    Experience using modern office and communication systems
    
Education
•    College degree in relevant field; graduate degree preferred 
•    Deep understanding of Pacific Northwest ecology and environmental threats
 
Abilities
•    Exceptional communication skills, including efficient, error-free writing abilities and eloquent, compelling verbal communication skills
•    Obsessive about securing necessary information and data from action agencies
•    Excellent judgment and confidence to make decisions
•    Initiative to take on challenges and develop creative, resourceful solutions to problems and obstacles; a positive, can-do attitude
•    Ability to work as part of a dynamic, fast-paced team and commitment to support volunteers and fellow staff members
•    Efficient computer skills, including fluency in social media, internet research, email programs, Microsoft Office programs, and WordPress or other blogging/web platform 
•    Willingness and ability to travel for events and meetings
•    Enthusiasm for asking for volunteer help, donations and sponsorships
•    Willingness and ability to work at weekend events on occasion
•    A valid driver’s license or other reliable mode of transport 
•    Likes to have fun
 
*Applicants must meet all required qualifications to be considered. 
 
Salary and Benefits
The URD position is a full-time, salaried position. Ideally, the position is based in Roseburg, OR, but other nearby locations will be considered.  Salary is commensurate with experience.  Health and vision benefits are available after three months of employment.  Hours are flexible.  Generous paid vacation time. 
 
Application Procedures
This position is open until filled, but due to high competition and demand, candidates are encouraged to apply as soon as possible.  Please follow the application instructions exactly.  No phone calls please. Thank you for your time and interest!  Email a cover letter, resume, and references to Executive Director, Bob Ferris, at bob@cascwild.org as a single .pdf file. Please do not submit any additional materials.
 
Cascadia Wildlands is committed to cultivating a diverse, empowered, and respectful community in the workplace and beyond. We do not discriminate against individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, disability, age, parental status, marital status, veteran status, ancestry, or national or ethnic origin (PDF version below).
 
 
 

Aug17

Wolf Control in Idaho by Rubber Stamp and Shortsightedness

By Bob Ferris
 
 
As I look at the announcement from last month that Idaho Governor Butch Otter appointed the last two people to his wolf control committee, I am quite frankly torn. I am torn not because I want to support his good faith effort to follow science and do what is right for wildlife, but over which video clip I will use to parody this transparent attempt to make the human equivalent a rubber stamp that says “kill the wolves” look like a legitimate determinative body.
 

In the end I decided to use all three (so enjoy). I did so because each is as ridiculously silly as this shameful process in Idaho and each plays on the theme of too many people with the same name which mimics the Governor’s wolf team that is philosophically monolithic and congruently myopic when it comes to wolves.
 

Certainly this team gets the idea that wolves eat elk and certainly eat cattle and sheep occasionally, but the idea that wolves are driving this system becomes an interesting exercise when one looks at the relative numbers of players on the landscape. I have expressed the below verbally on numerous occasions but it seems to not hit home until you see it graphically and see the scale of it.
 
Cattle and Wolf Numbers in Idaho
 
 

Aug09

Of Farmers, Hunters, Oil Money and the Double Secret Déjà Vu Shuffle

"The trophy-recreationist has peculiarities which contribute in subtle ways to his own undoing. To enjoy he must possess, invade, appropriate. Hence the wilderness which he cannot personally see has no value to him. Hence the universal assumption that an unused hinterland is rendering no service to society. To those devoid of imagination, a blank place on the map is useless waste: to other, the most valuable part. (Is my share in Alaska worthless to me because I shall never go there? Do I need a road to show me the arctic prairies, the goose pastures of the Yukon, the Kodiak bear, the sheep meadows behind McKinley?)"  Aldo Leopold in the Conservation Esthetic.
 
By Bob Ferris
 
As I perused the news and Facebook feeds earlier this week I found myself reading a story about the AmericanBuck Rising unit 3 Farm Bureau Federation opposing regulation of fertilizers and other chemicals that would help prevent drinking water disasters like what we recently saw in Toledo, Ohio.  Just after that I spied a post about a study that once again demonstrated that energy development and wildlife are not compatible.  
 
The first piece threw me back 15 years—hence the initial déjà vu—to a time when I was part of a team that went head-to-head with the Farm Bureau.  We engaged in a nearly two-year exercise in opposition research–catalyzed by the AFBF Yellowstone wolf lawsuit–that was purposely complicated by the Farm Bureau’s bizarre and contradictory for-profit and non-profit structure.  The end result was an award-winning publication called Amber Waves of Gain that transmuted into a 60 Minutes expose—all followed closely by a change in presidents at AFBF.  
 
Sage GouseThe second piece is where the double déjà vu comes in.  Because the energy and wildlife study brought to mind the fact that not all hunting and angling groups are alike nor do they all subscribe to this oft-proven notion of energy development harming habitat and displacing critters (1, 2,3,4) or to a number of other broadly endorsed scientific findings such as climate change and the harmful effects of grazing.  These hunting and angling groups ignore science when it conflicts with their platforms in a very similar manner to what we observed with the Farm Bureau ergo déjà vu two.
 
But what about the secret part? The all-important secret part of all this comes from the Farm Bureau and this small collection of sporting groups publicly purporting to be the friends of family farmers and sportsmen, respectively, while their actions frequently harm the interests of the very folks they claim to represent.  They want their projected images and carefully crafted tag lines to shower down upon the public, but would rather that a good number of their actions stay secret or unobserved.  
 
In Amber Waves of Gain we busted apart the myth of the Farm Bureau being the friend of family farmers and correctly portrayed them as the voice of agribusiness.  It strikes me that it is high time that someone took the time to separate the wheat from the chaff in terms hunting and angling groups as well.  I have done a little of that in my past blogs, but more of it in more places is need. 
 
Now before I continue, I want to make a few things clear.  I personally come from a hunting and fishing culture.  I grew up hunting and fishing and became a wildlife biologist because of my passion for these outdoor pursuits.  My first attempt at dating was to ask a girl to go fishing with me (perhaps this is why I was in my 50s before getting married?).  And I first walked alongside my father chasing pheasants with a friend's expensive, but notriously, gun-shy dog in the rice checks of my mother’s home town of Willows, California in the late 1950s.  
 
I will add that much of who I am today and my ethical standards came from this well-developed culture reinforced by a nearly formalized curriculum taught by my father, uncles and other relatives or pseudo-relatives while tromping through fields, climbing mountains, standing in ice-cold streams and sitting quietly in stands or blinds.  I may not participate in these pursuits as much now as I have in the past, but that does not diminish for me the value of this pathway or my sense of vesting in this hunter and angler ethos.  
 
So this exercise I suggest now does not grow out of my need or desire to end hunting or angling, but rather from my concern that some groups are compromising and perverting a culture and tradition that I personally value.  These groups have forgotten or never cared that hunting and angling, in this context, are about much more than just trigger pulls and hook setting.  
 
And those who perceive an inherent conflict between actions to preserve biodiversity such as being in opposition to an additional spring bear hunt in the absence of information and rationale or concern over the fate of lead bullet fragments in raptor and scavenger territory might want to dial it back a few notches, because responsible hunting and fishing—as opposed to shooting and snagging—involves a complex ethical decision making process that should involve the near and far future ramifications of your actions.  
 
Being from this culture and seeing life through this lens has caused me challenges throughout my career and has forced me to walk an often difficult tightrope.  When I worked for Defenders of Wildlife in the 1990s I was continually educating people (internally and externally) and making sure that programs were scientifically sound but also not anti-hunter.  And at the same time I was being characterized as an animal rights activist by those who did not know me or could not understand that there is huge difference between an animal rights organization and one that forwards biodiversity preservation.  And I am sure my current staff and board have incurred a little psychological sunburn from me on this issue.  
 
So what is the landscape out there and how does one tell one set of players from another?  It is complicated but if you think of the entire range of the entities that currently operate in the realm of natural resources and wildlife policy as a spectrum with the left representing the protectionist view point and the more animal rights end of the spectrum and the right holding down the exploitation end of the range exemplified by the trophy-focused hunting and angling groups you are correct.  The middle ground or the center of this construct is anchored by the hunting-neutral groups that tend to be driven mostly by issues of biodiversity (see below graphic).  All are different and individual.  Conservation SpectrumMany of the characteristics of these organizations are as expected.  The animal rights groups for instance are fueled a lot more by passion and emotion and less by science.  They tend to oppose trapping across the board and are less inclined to see the distinctions between the ecological value of native species and those that were introduced.  The animal welfare conservation folks tend to hold tighter to science, but be more automatic in their opposition of hunting.  
 
The hunting neutral crowd embraces science even more tightly and is sensitive to the concerns of hunters and anglers.  And while many of their supporters might have animal rights and anti-hunting leanings that reflect the views of the general population, the group’s scientific and field staff more than likely come from a hunting and angling culture or have that exposure.  Cascadia Wildlands lands in this class of groups.
 
The pro-hunting and angling conservation groups are simply that—they are people who live and work to hunt and fish.  They are largely science driven, but often see conservation biology as a newer and less proven discipline than traditional wildlife biology.  These folks like most of the folks to the left of them are pretty much as advertised and their rhetoric, actions and public messaging are consistent.  I may not always agree in the particulars of their positions from a biodiversity perspective but their actions can clearly be argued from the perspective of current and future hunters and anglers.  (In point of fact, I would not have likely seen the energy development piece had I not seen it on the Backcountry Hunters and Angler’s Facebook feed)
 
Where the problem arises is with what I am calling the pro-hunting and angling exploitation groups (I have identified these previously as wedge groups) because they are defensively and self-righteously pro-hunting and angling, but their actions and inactions bespeak a different, darker purpose.  And when someone catches them at their game these groups immediately characterize those in opposition or those who even question them as anti-hunters.   If that fails or they need a larger attack posse they then ring the Second Amendment bell loudly, which is tantamount to throwing chunks of red meat to a guard dog you want absolutely focused on something other than vigilance.
 
There was a time when I would cut them some slack and think that perhaps they were just uninformed or Oil wellprogrammatically clumsy, but the unwavering consistency of their actions paints a pattern of hardly ever lifting a finger or raising an eyebrow when ranching, timber and energy interests ride “a-whompin' and a-whumpin’” through the West.  The unfortunate answer to the reason why this is happening and what really creates the dividing line between the pro-sporting factions of conservation and exploitation is really money.  Now I will be the first to admit that running a non-profit is a tough game; it takes both guts and principles.  And we all make compromises in our own way, but there is a huge difference between being accepting from and being beholding to.
 
“Nonetheless, they usually stick to conservation—"We like to stay back in the bushes, and make sure those bushes are healthy," he says—unless a key revenue stream depends on defending the companies that pay its bills. "We rely on the outdoor industry, because that's how we exist," Holyoak says. "Our funds do come from somewhere." Quote from RMEF Director of Public Relations in Hunters Have an NRA Problem by Lydia DePillis in New Republic February 2013 
 
When considered in the light of this large monetary “tail” (or tails) wagging the organizational “dog,” a lot of the policy missteps and puzzling lack of action start to make perfect sense.   One litmus test in this is climate change.  Scientists and conservation groups who were watching recognized that climate change was going to have a devastating impact on wildlife even before Bill McKibben published his book The End of Nature in 1989.  I participated in a number of talks with energy industry representatives in the early 1990s about projects that would simultaneously benefit wildlife and sequester carbon.  
 
SCI Energy and Wildlife Project
And while the environmental community has been geared up and vocal on this issue since before the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, broader and more public acceptance of this was slower in coming from many of the professional groups like The Wildlife Society that dedicated an entire publication to this issue in 2008 at about the same time an influential element of the hunting and angling community issued a collective statement called Seasons’ End: Global Warming’s Threat to Hunting and Fishing.  Nearly everyone in the spectrum described above was on-board with doing something significant about climate change except a few organizations (see project description above from Safari Club from their consultant).
 
“As the oil and gas industry generously support sportsmen’s groups, they appear to be turning away from their constituencies in favor of the energy industry’s causes — specifically, mining, drilling, and logging in areas previously preserved for wildlife.” In NRA Abandons Hunters In Favor Of Oil And Gas Corporations by Lulu Chang in The National Memo April 2014
 
“The CAP report details show how oil and gas companies are leveraging three groups in particular—Safari Club International (SFI), Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation (CSF), and the National Rifle Association (NRA)—to attain "an increasingly active and vocal role in advancing energy industry priorities, even when those positions are in apparent conflict with the interests of hunters and anglers who are their rank-and-file members." In Public-Land Protests and Their Big-Energy Puppet Masters by Mary Catherine O’Connor in The Current May 2014
 
"Draw your own conclusions, but keep a few facts in mind: Before she went to work for the Safari Club International, [Melissa] Simpson worked for a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm. One of her clients was the oil and gas industry, and one of her assignments was to counter the concerns of sportsmen's groups, which had voiced concerns about oil and gas exploration running roughshod over America's hunting and fishing grounds." in Beware of Wolves Cloaked in "Access" by Ben Long in High Country News September 2011 
 
When you looked at those organizations reluctant to embrace climate change an amazing thing came to light: Those who did not see climate change as a serious problem were also those who received significant finding from or were involved in partnerships with the oil industry.  Groups like Safari Club International (SCI 1,2), Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF 1,2) the National Rifle Association (NRA 1,2) were doing well financially while casting doubt on the phenomenon, running interference for oil companies, or just turning a blind eye to whole thing.
 
“Here’s the core point I’d like to make: When we follow Bill’s lead and set aside the politics and the rhetoric, it’s obvious that sportsmen and scientists are on the same page. It’s almost impossible to be a hunter or an angler here in the Rockies and not see the empirical evidence that Bill [Geer], who is a respected biologist, documents in his presentation.” Todd Tanner in Field and Stream’s The Conservationist March 2011
 
Perhaps they just didn’t get the climate change memo?  Maybe, but my sense is that it relates to the above root of a myriad of problems (i.e., money makes the world go around).  Part of my feeling—at least where RMEF is concerned—is reinforced by their casual and immediate rejection of the Olaus Murie legacy from their culture. Moreover, when I look at the very credible and needed work done by Bill Geer in the climate change realm at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and later with Climate Hawks, I really have to question why he was summarily ejected from RMEF during their massive personnel massacre around 2000.  Now all personnel issues are admittedly tricky, but when I compare Mr. Geer’s accomplishments, academic grounding and reputation in the wildlife arena to the current crop of senior managers at RMEF working on the conservation end of things, he stands head and shoulders above this lot. 
 
Senator-Barrasso
Now if this were just about climate change, I would probably just shake my head, take a chill pill and walk calmly away, but it is not.  The NRA, Safari Club and RMEF also took an uninformed and anti-wildlife position on the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act, H. R. 1581 in 2011  Please see image of Wyoming Senator John Barrasso—above, at right—co-author of this road bill and also the bill to extend the length of grazing leases.  He is pictured at a RMEF banquet where the image of a cowboy on the range overshadows the elk.  Is it possible to have too much irony in a single photograph?.  
 
RMEF later withdrew their support for this legislation citing member feedback and a closer examination of the science as rationales for the reversal.  OK, but if there is one constant maxim in deer biology it is that elk and roads do not mix well.  How could an elk organization miss that?  
 
Conservation is and should be a passionate field, because the stakes are so high for so many.  So where is the outrage from these groups over legislative proposals to double the length of grazing leases given that cattle displace and compete with deer and elk?  Where are the prudent questions from these organizations challenging the efficacy of extending these already too long leases that have broadly degraded lands—particularly during a time of climatic uncertainty?  Where are they on wildlife diseases like Chronic Wasting Disease, Hair Loss Syndrome and this whole issue of elk hoof rot in southwestern Washington (1,2)?  And do not even get me started on supplemental feeding, Brucellosis management and bison on public lands.
 
And now with public land ownership once again under serious attack (thank you again extractive industries), where are their campaigns to protect these lands from privatization at a time when our growing population base and fluctuating climate demand that we expand the public estate and create a little margin for ourselves and wildlife?  Even as I ask the above questions an image of the three monkeys that cannot see, speak or hear evil come to mind as these groups have sold indulgences to the extractive industries and left the hard task of fighting for our public lands to those of us willing to stand up for wildlife diversity and healthy fisheries. 
 
 "Our community has never felt comfortable wading in there," says an executive with a conservation-oriented hunting group who requested anonymity in order to speak frankly about the NRA. "They are so ruthless, and carry such a big hammer, that very few in our community are willing to get in there and risk their wrath."  In Hunters Have an NRA Problem by Lydia DePillis in New Republic February 2013 
 
But there is more.  Their moneyed presence on the landscape and their tendency to tar those that question their stances as anti-hunter stifles those groups that want to raise these issues and should in the cause of legitimate public policy examination and debate.  In addition while they stifle the responsible, their actions also empower the fringes and create even more harmful mimics like Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, Big Game Forever and a host of smaller, self-styled voices of the hunter and angler.  
 
This brings me back full-circle to the value of an ethics-based hunting and angling culture, which seems to have evaporated in the above exploitive conglomeration.   Some of my friends and colleagues will argue that I am describing an oxymoron and smile at me knowingly, but many will also nod in agreement. For they too learned their code of behavior and sense of fair-play hanging with the gruff and grizzled visages they trod behind, listened to and emulated on frosty fall days.  Looking back on those lessons—while they were certainly about outdoor skills, bullets and hooks—they also acted to instill a respect for our fellow travelers on this planet (human and not), built a behavior pattern of making no sounds and leaving no traces and created a near compulsion to obey our country’s laws whether someone was watching or not.  
 
It was here in this crucible that we also got exposed to moralistic writers like James Fenimore Cooper and Zane Grey moving on eventually to the likes of Aldo Leopold and Olaus Murie.  Here too were our heroes and models handed to us from Theodore Roosevelt (1,2) and Ernest Thompson Seton to Joseph Bird Grinnell and John Muir.
 
Now many on all sides of the hunting and angling debates—both pro and con—can point to examples of bad behaviors associated with sportsmen and gun owners. (I will stipulate here that there are also bad behaviors on the other extreme, but that is for another day.)  These range from outrageously disrespectful and near criminal comments on Facebook to the actions of the participants in the still-unfolding Affair Bundy in the Southwest and other similar events.  I would hope by now that there is a seed of understanding that these obviously do not come from this outdoor culture that I have repeatedly described and also that the hunting and angling community—just like the environmental community—is not monolithic.
 
I would hope also that those in the hunting and angling realm as well as those in the broader environmental community will take time to look at both the rhetoric and actions of organizations to know more selectively which groups to support and which they should chastise.  I look forward to the day when people grasp that their best conservation partner might not be the person who looks, dresses, talks, votes and even smells like them, but the person who values wildlife, clean water, wilderness and more public lands for all to enjoy as much as they do.   
 
 
 

 

Aug07

Wanda’s New Wolf Pack Survived the Fire But All Wolves Still Need Your Help

 

We were so pleased this morning to receive confirmation that OR-7, Wanda and the three pups are surviving the fires in southern Oregon.  We would breathe a huge sigh of relief, but the skies of Oregon are still filled with a little bit ofWolf Pup smoke.
 
This situation highlights the fact that wolves live in a dangerous world and face many natural challenges as well as man-made ones too.  Cascadia Wildlands works on the larger natural challenges through our forestry efforts by protecting the very wildlife corridors that enabled Journey and Wanda to get together.  
 
We also work on the man-made challenges too that are protecting these wolves and others in Oregon, California and Washington.  Please think about giving a special gift to our wolf work in honor of Journey, Wanda and the pups—it is such good news, but we have so much more work to do.
 
Thank you,
bob's signature
 
 
 
Bob Ferris
 
 

Jul31

Finding Common Ground with the BLM at Rickreall Creek

By Rory Isbell, Cascadia Wildlands Legal Intern
 
More often than we prefer, those of us in the conservation world are at odds with our public lands agencies and managers.  We want them to protect and restore the watersheds in which we live, and keep intact those that have evaded development or resource extraction.  But the onward march of an economy rooted in natural resource extraction carries forth.  Here in the Cascadia bioregion, the ghost of a century-old, scorched-earth timber economy still haunts those charged with managing our public lands, and has created an interesting dichotomy between the public agency and the conservationist.  Former ruthless clearcutting has left our federal forests lands full of dense Douglas-fir plantations, fire-risks largely devoid of the imperiled older forest species.  Variable density thinning can restore diversity back into these plantations, creating openings for hardwood species, and give the remaining trees ample room grow and mature.  Such sales are regularly conducted commercially, and timber companies routinely make money in our federal forests off these sales.  However, too much of a focus on making such thinning projects commercially inviting can lead to the thinning of older, native forests that would not benefit from thinning in order to allow the logging of bigger older trees.  Or the sale could log too much, and leave too few trees so that the remaining trees simply blow over in the next big storm and we are left again with a clearcut.  Like all things in life, management of these forests requires balance.
Tall Trees
Over the last few years, Cascadia Wildlands has been forced to sue the Salem District of the Bureau of Land Management for irresponsible sales that were focused too heavily on the commercial aspect.  One of the sales was a thinning sale, but was removing far too many trees in areas known to be occupied by imperiled mature forest species.  After one win in court and one loss, it became clear to both the BLM and folks at Cascadia, that leaving the end game of these forests up to the whims of the courts was not working well for either party.
 
As a result, when the BLM announced the Rickreall Creek timber sale, Cascadia immediately noticed some significant problems with the sales, but also saw some room to allow the BLM to thin in the plantations involved in the project.  So early in the project process Cacsadia staff and interns, along with the good folks at Oregon Wild and the Benton Forest Coalition began meeting with the Salem District BLM Field Manager for the Mary’s Peak Resource Area, Rich Hatfield.  After numerous field visits to the various sales involved it was clear that there was room for middle ground with these sales, and clear that all parties wanted to avoid the expense and gamble of litigation.   
 
As a legal intern at Cascadia Wildlands, I expected our interactions with the public lands agencies that often sell our forests to timber companies to be purely adversarial, so I was frankly surprised to see a public lands manager seeking a cooperative solution.  Rich was genuinely interested in appeasing our concerns with the Rickreall Creek projects, and genuinely committed to altering the projects so as to prevent further legal liability on behalf of the BLM.  After extensively touring the tree stands slated for harvest on two separate field visits, we developed a list of “asks.”  We asked the BLM to forgo any unneeded thinning of mature and naturally biodiverse stands.  We asked to enlarge a no-cut buffer surrounding a patch of snags crucial to late-successional habitat development.  We asked to drop the building of new roads unnecessary to the goals of the project.  We asked the BLM to conduct additional voluntary surveys for threatened red tree voles to ensure this imperiled species is not put at further risk.  Cascadia Wildlands is happy to announce that a settlement agreement with the Salem District BLM that includes these changes to the Rickreall Creek projects was recently finalized. 
BLM and Conservation Staff (800x533)
The cooperative solution for Rickreall Creek highlights the power of the courtroom as the great equalizer.  Through member supported litigation campaigns, we have inspired a culture change in our public lands agencies.  When our public lands managers work with the public to find common ground and ensure their projects comply with the law, we all win.  We can only hope that the BLM’s faithful execution of the law continues to be voluntary, and not by court order.  After hard fought campaigns to enact the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Northwest Forest Plan, and other pieces of legislation crucial to our environment, it is clear that our country has spoken to protect healthy and beautiful natural areas.  Fulfilling the dream of our environmental legislation is much easier when our public lands managers seek the same goals.
 

Jul28

Two Talking Wolves, Conservation and Ted Turner—conversations with Todd Wilkinson and Bob Ferris

We–Todd Wilkinson (at right) and Bob Ferris (at left below)–are in the planning stages for a speaking tour tentatively scheduled for a one or two-week period sometime between October 15th and Todd-Wilkinson1-284x300November 15th in 2014 and covering the geography from San Francisco north to Vancouver, British Columbia.  
 
Our reasons for doing this are many but revolve around promoting model approaches to conservation action that come from our respective, multi-decade work as a journalist covering conservation issues and a wildlife biologist working in species restoration, habitat conservation and sustainability.  
 
Our tour is timed to coincide with the release of the paperback version of Last Stand: Ted Turner's Quest to Save a Troubled Planet, and the approaching 20th anniversary of the first wolves being captured and then released into Yellowstone and central Idaho.  This latter event also marks the beginning of our long association and friendship.  
Todds cover350
What we are hoping to do in the next two months is schedule a collection of radio interviews, bookstore events, class discussions, college lectures and speaking engagements where we can talk about the successes and failures of past conservation actions as well as the biodiversity challenges and opportunities that we face in the present and future.  In all instances we are looking for activities where we can tell these important stories and fully engage audiences the discussions. 
 
Bob Talking
We are currently considering stops at the following cities: San Francisco (CA), Sacramento (CA), Ashland (OR), Eugene (OR), Corvallis (OR), Portland (OR), Seattle (WA), Bellingham (WA), and Vancouver (BC).   Suggestions of other locations along this general path or additional events at these stops will be welcomed and considered.   
 
If you have suggestions about venues we should investigate or people we should contact, we would be most appreciative.  We are also flexible in terms of presentation format and audiences.  Carolyn Candela at Cascadia Wildlands will be helping with logistics on this tour, but please feel free to contact any of us about opportunities or interest (bob@cascwild.org), (tawilk@aol.com) or (carolyn@cascwild.org).   
 
Thanks for your help and interest,
 
Todd Wilkinson and Bob Ferris 
 

Jul28

Cruising Through a Three Dog (Pup) Night

By Bob Ferris
 
In conservation there are always turning points. Yo-YoFor instance, I remember working on a swan project in the 1990s that involved ultra-light aircraft and imprinting young Trumpeters to teach them a migration route.  My boss at the time, Rodger Schlickeisen (below left at left), turned to me the morning of the first leg of the trial migration and said: Do you think this is going to work? 
 
In the time leading up to that point I had not given failure much thought, but I did then.  We had invested more than two hundred thousand dollars in the project and I was getting more and more nervous as the ultra-light cruised back and forth and none of the swans rose to follow.  All our months of efforts selling the Atlantic Flyway Council on the idea, getting the permits, and training the swans came down to this one moment in time. 
 
And then Yo-Yo the swan (at right above) took flight and the others followed.  I was ecstatic.  The project had pivoted on the wing beats of a young and improbably named swan who simply did what swans had done for hundreds of thousands of years—took off after the “leading parent” and started its first long flight. 
 
Rodger and swans
My wife and I were getting ready to return from a family trip to California, when I got the news that Wanda and Journey had at least three pups rather than the two that we had originally thought (see one of the pups below right and more photos on our facebook page).  This welcome news put the frosting on an already delicious cake and reminded me of that feeling so many years ago sitting by that frosty field when Yo-Yo took off. 
 
We hit Dunsmuir, California about 10PM and for some reason we just started to Wolf Puphowl.  Perhaps it was the glow off Mount Shasta or the acknowledgement of what was happening wolf-wise to the north of us. 
 
Or maybe it was just the joy of turning this important corner in western wolf conservation.  We were hoarse but happy when we reached Oregon and we came within legitimate howling range of Journey, Wanda and crew, but I am not sure that mattered to us in the least.
 
 
 
 
 

Jul21

Observations from the BLM’s Buck Rising Timber Sale Field Tour

By Rory Isbell, Cascadia Wildlands Legal Intern
 
Fellow intern Rance and I recently joined Cascadia Wildlands’ Conservation Director Francis Eatherington on a public tour of the Buck Rising timber sale on BLM land east of Myrtle Creek, Oregon.  The tour was organized by the BLM Roseburg District office in order to demonstrate the results of the timber sale and gain feedback from the public.  Officially, the project is called the Buck Rising Variable Retention Regeneration Harvest (VRH), and is one of four demonstration projects currently underway on BLM lands in Western Oregon.  The demonstration projects are mandated by the Secretary of the Interior in order to increase logging on O&C lands.  The Buck Rising project was initially proposed and sold as a thinning project that would cut and harvest 60 year old trees originally planted as a plantation to accelerate the development of
Buck Rising unit 3

Buck Rising unit 3, a clearcut by most definitions.

late-successional habitat necessary to the survival of the Northern Spotted Owl – habitat now drastically underrepresented on public lands in Western Oregon.  In order to appease political pressures for increased logging on O&C lands, however, the Buck Rising thinning project was re-sold as a secretarial demonstration project.  The project’s silvicultural prescription, VRH, was developed by Drs. Johnson and Franklin, professors of forestry at Oregon State University.
 
The BLM-hosted field tour provided a first look at the aftermath of a “variable retention regeneration harvest."  Because Senator Ron Wyden’s O&C Bill utilizes the VRH method, and because all BLM districts in Western Oregon are considering the VRH method in the development of new Resource Management Plans that set the standards and guidelines for timber harvest in Oregon, the Buck Rising project is especially significant.  The tour began by passing through a locked gate on adjacent private industrial forestry land and ascending to an overlook where all three units of the Buck Rising project are visible.
 
Questions immediately arose form the public regarding the Buck Rising project’s compliance with the Northwest Forest Plan and the current BLM Roseburg District Resource Management Plan.  Those concerns came to a head upon crossing the boundary into unit three of the Buck Rising VRH.
 
While some clumps of trees were retained, most retention occurred in buffers along riparian areas.  In non-riparian areas, only 10% of trees were retained.  The BLM stresses the ecological benefits of early-successional habitat development, including flowers, nectars, fruits, and forage herbs for wildlife, and refuses to call the harvest a clearcut.  Many concerned members of the public, however, noted the lack of snags and remnant dead wood necessary to healthy and natural early-successional habitat development.  Cascadia Wildlands’ own Francis Eatherington continually noted how one of three BLM project objectives includes creating forage foliage for elk and deer, yet within a mile away on private
Buck rising slide

One of the tour stops was at a landslide in one of the Buck Rising logging units.

industrial timber land, timber companies recently petitioned ODFW for a public deer hunt in order to curb the abnormally high deer populations feeding on the omnipresent early-successional conditions on their post-clearcut plantations.
 
After lunch and a short drive to Buck Rising Unit 2, we saw the remnant debris of the slope failure event that occurred in February following timber harvest and heavy rains (http://www.cascwild.org/wyden-style-clearcut-causes-mudslide-on-oc-lands/).
 
By the end of a tour full of adversarial discussion, consensus was decisively lacking.  Understanding, however, was plentiful.  The concerned public understands the tough position that the Roseburg District BLM finds itself.  While the Northwest Forest Plan calls for the restoration of the range of the Northern Spotted Owl by limiting timber harvest on federal lands, the O&C Act along with political pressures from Senator Wyden and the Department of the Interior call for increased timber harvest as a short term economic benefit.  The BLM also understands that the concerned public wants tall, biodiverse forests on our public lands, and streams clear of sediment and full of salmon, and that we are dedicated to holding our public lands agencies accountable to those goals.
 
 

Jul20

I am Wanda. Hear me Howl!

By Wanda
 
wanda
[Editor’s note: Wolves do not speak directly to humans nor do they type their thoughts on computers, but what if they did? What if Wanda spoke?]
 
I am the wolf you know very little about.  I came out of nowhere and jumped into the hearts and minds of people around the world by simply doing what wolves do: Traveling great distances during dispersal.  
 
I found the wolf known as OR-7 or Journey by doing the four-step wolf waltz so known to young wolves of walk, pee, sniff and howl.  It worked and now I have a partner.  And this spring I had Journey’s pups. 
 
I grew up in the wilds where the night air was sometimes filled with howls of others and now it is not.   We hear nothing but each other and soon our pups will learn to call in the manner of our pack.   
 
As our pups grow, we will roam where our noses and prey take us.  And we will still continue the waltz, but now it has a different purpose.  Now it defines our land, our home and our future.  
 
Follow me on facebook here
 
Contact me soon at: wanda[at]cascwild.org
 
 
 
 

 

Jul11

Of Race Cars and Banked Tracks (Elk and Wolves)

By Bob Ferris
 
“At issue is how wildlife is managed in this country. Our belief is based on more than 100 years of the most successful wildlife management model in the world that our state agencies are to manage wildlife within their respective borders. That includes management of gray wolves along with other predators.” David Allen letter to Congressman Peter DeFazio dated July 10, 2014 
Elk US FWS
 
An Open Letter to David Allen of the  Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
 
July 11, 2014
 
Mr. David Allen
President and CEO
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
5705 Grant Creek
Missoula, MT 59808
 
Dear Mr. Allen,
 
As much as I enjoy reading your declarative statements about complicated issues you clearly know very little about, I find that I must interrupt that pleasure and interject a few comments.  Again, as I have before (1,2,3,4,5).  
 
There is a lot to criticize in your letter starting with the disrespectful and unprofessional omission of the “Dear” in the salutation to a sitting Congressman (here are some helpful tips on writing to elected officials), but I want to set all of that aside and focus on this gem of a paragraph at the top of this page and also your general invoking of science.    
 
Ignoring the question about whether or not wildlife in your first sentence should be treated as a plural in this context (i.e., multiple species and in multiple settings) and setting aside the fact that the following sentence is poorly written, this whole paragraph demonstrates that you are laboring under a tall tower of misconceptions as jumbled as your second sentence.  And while it might seem advantageous for you to pull a state’s rights page out of the Cliven Bundy handbook at this point, you should take some time and actually look at conservation history in this country before acting the expert as you have.  
 
While completing that exercise you would come to understand that market hunting—what caused your elk to decline precipitously in the first place—was largely allowed or inaffectively opposed by the states. But it wasn’t until the federal government stepped in with the Lacey Act in 1901 and other similar federal legislation as well as international treaties (Heaven forbid, Edna, he’s talking Agenda 21) that market hunting finally took a powder.
 
Certainly there were actions from both levels of government, but it is a complicated relationship.  And my sense is that you seem to have problems with these complex relationships like, for instance, why wolves and elk are seemingly at odds but really need each other to prosper in the long run.  All this led me to believe that perhaps no one has taken the time to explain these relationships in terms that you can understand—you do, after all, lack grounding in ecology and any direct experience in conservation or natural resources policy.  I have taught ecology, worked as a biologist and participated in policy for more than 30 years, so let me take a stab at that. 
 
You come from NASCAR so let’s start there.  NASCAR is a sport born out of bootlegging and running from federal revenuers.  The best initial drivers were the ones that ran more ‘shine faster and kept it on the road.  So we have a good example of natural selection here as those who did not were removed from the population by running into trees, rocks or handcuffs.  
 
In essence this sport involves running a car at high speeds around a banked track (my wife’s family once owned a tire company and stock cars so she is coaching me).  The car, driver and engine provide the speed and excitement while the banked track—for the most part—keeps cars and drivers from spinning out of control with potentially fatal repercussions.  If you think of the cars and drivers as the "states" and the banked track as the "federal government," this analogy works for the North American model of wildlife management and why it has functioned as it has over the years.  As much as you want to invoke the 10th Amendment you cannot have a successful model without both parties playing and it is folly to think so (see also this analysis on the North American Model).
 
But there is more.  In the western states a lot of the wild habitat is owned by the federal government so they become even more important in this relationship, not less, as your paragraph has characterized.  In addition when you look at Montana, Wyoming and Idaho where the flow of federal money is positive (i.e., more federal monies flow into the states than flow out in federal taxes) the folks who are paying to maintain and keep those habitats are from all over the country and therefore federal in nature.  And since what we are talking about in this proposal by Congressman DeFazio is mostly federal forest lands perhaps a more open and welcoming attitude in this should be exercised by you.  (Just a suggestion.)  
 
The funny thing is that the relationship between elk and wolves is very similar and the NASCAR model works here too.  Wolves prevent elk populations from spinning out of control by overshooting the carrying capacity of their habitat; being too numerous or concentrated thus more subject to disease; and accumulating too many of the wrong kind of alleles (variants of genes) that normally would be selected against just like the bad bootleggers referenced above by the process of natural selection.  These seem to be foreign concepts to you as you continually mischaracterize what is happening in Yellowstone though your organization has paid for and been briefed on the science by folks like Dr. Arthur Middleton. 
 
Moving on to the topic of science, your condemnation of Congressman DeFazio’s lack of scientific justification is ironic coming from someone who has called for a reduction of all predator populations in the absence of any scientific justification for that collection of actions.  This is made even more ironic given your organization’s tight relationships with the cattle and timber industries both of which through grazing and herbicide use displace elk and degrade elk habitat.  And the science on the increased likelihood of disease transference when wildlife populations are concentrated at supplemental feeding stations that are supported by you and RMEF further calls into question your dedication to science, scientific principles or even prudent wildlife management.
 
Perhaps you and others in your organization have trouble with complex analyses or dealing with data in general.  That was certainly apparent when you rolled out your page on wolves and elk using truncated graphs that were purposely misleading.  Your constant arguing that wolf populations are too high because they are well above minimum recovery goals may sound like science to you and many of your adherents, but it is not.  These were simply numbers indicating when the shift from federal recovery management to state recovery could happen.  Nothing more, nothing less.
 
Are wolf numbers too high in the Northern Rockies states as you have repeatedly claimed and inferred? Probably not.  Right now the wolf densities in these states are about one fifth of what we see in British Columbia with about the same land area.  Certainly there are habitat and human density differences between BC and the Northern Rockies states but there is unlikely a five-fold carrying capacity differential and there are many in BC who think that their wolf density is too low.  
 
And while you are madly trying to claim this scientific high ground, there is nothing in your rhetoric that shows any acknowledgement of the ecological value of wolves, their impact on other predators such as cougars and coyotes, and any appearance of a mental governor on your talking points as evidence emerges of the importance of maintaining social structure in packs and the need for large numbers of wolves across a broad landscape in order to realize the promised benefits of trophic cascades and meso-predator release.  
 
Circling back to the original premise for your letter, I will not tell you that Yellowstone wolves killed outside the Park will cause population calamity as that would be just as disingenuous and unfounded as  your claims that science dictates that predators—particularly wolves—need to be controlled and that their current levels are too high.  That said, these near-park boundary mortalities do impact the population.  
 
My concern, which is science-based, has to do with the value of these animals as part of a well-studied population free from interference.  Now you might—having never conducted scientific research yourself—not consider these animals and the data their continued existence contributes to our overall understanding of complex predator-prey relationships valuable but many of us do.  And quite frankly I long for a day when the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is once again led by someone who might similarly value research and understand that successful conservation is more about appreciating the complexity of these natural systems and all their parts and less about marketing fear and innuendo like a pair of jeans or stock car race.  
 
Now granted some of the above is certainly facetious in nature and somewhat patronizing.  And I would be annoyed and offended if something similar was done to me.  But at some point, Mr. Allen, you have to ask yourself which is the greater sin, the facetiousness and patronizing tone I employ or your misstatements and missteps that make this sort of response not only appropriate but necessary?  
 
Sincerely,
 
bob's signature
 
 
 
Bob Ferris
Executive Director
 
 
 

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