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Aug19

Last Chance to Comment on BLM’s Western Oregon Plan Revision

white castle treesThe Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages over 2.6 million acres of public forests in western Oregon and has recently undertaken efforts to revise all of its forest plans. These plans aim to dramatically increase timber harvests by 60% and ressurect the archaic practices of clearcutting older forests.
 
The draft of the proposed plan is currently undergoing a comment period where members of the public can weigh in on the proposed changes. The BLM is required to consider all comments submitted by the public. Cascadia Wildlands has worked up extensive comments on the proposed ramp-up as part of a broad conservation coalition effort, but it is also critical that the BLM hear from general members of the public on how these changes will affect them, or their opinions on what the BLM is doing with these lands that belong to each and every one of us.
 
The comment period ends this Friday, August 21, 2015, and it is critical that the BLM hear from YOU. That you oppose more roads and clearcuts and that you value our public lands for the clean water, native species, and amazing recreation oppurtunities.

Click here to personalize your comments that can be submitted by email.Every voice counts. Thank you!

 
 
There is a lot at stake for you and I with the looming forest plan revisions, including:
  • Water and Salmon. While droughts in neighboring regions also draw attention to water conservation. The impact that clearcutting has on the incredible water-storage capacity of these old rainforests cannot be overstated. When you clearcut, you lose the “sponge effect.” In an environment with vegetative cover, the soil acts like a gigantic sponge, storing a vast quantity of water that is used by plants and trees or released gently into streams and rivers. Without this extensive nutrient exchange network and it’s crucial water storage capacity, the affects on salmon and human communities who rely on abundant clean water can be devastating. Water is the lifeblood of our region, and we will vigorously defend it.
  • Livability. Oregon’s great outdoors play a major part in the reason why many of us live here. From the boundless streams and rivers to the tracts of roadless wilderness in the region, it is easy to understand why Oregon was named the top place in the country people moved to last year. Join us in the fight for the cornerstone of what makes our region so special.
  • Climate Change. The old rainforest in western Oregon play a pivotal role in regulating our climate. The stately forests in our region store more carbon per acre than any other forested ecosystem in the world, and for that we must do all we can to ensure they remain standing so they can continue to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. We are facing this challenge with the fierce determination it calls for.
  • Iconic Wildlife. From the secretive marbled murrelet and majestic northern spotted owl to the elusive Pacific fisher, these older-forest-dependent species need increased protections for their survival. Wildlife needs a voice, and we will continue our role as a champion for wildlife.
After submitting your comments, please consider making a donation to help support this critical work.
 
Aug14

Land Board Moves Ahead on Elliott Sale

Capitol Bureau by Hillary Borrud
August 13, 2015
 
SALEM — The Oregon State Land Board voted unanimously Thursday to move ahead with a plan to sell the Elliott State Forest to a buyer who will agree to conservation and job creation mandates.
 
The goal is to sever the connection between the forest and a state trust fund that provides money for K-12 public education. Currently, the state has a mandate to raise revenue from timber sales from the forest for schools. However, the listing of endangered species in the forest and subsequent environmental lawsuits forced the state to scale back timber harvests in recent years, to the point where the state lost money on the operation.
 
Under the plan the State Land Board approved Thursday, the state could select a buyer by December 2016 and close on the sale by DecemberElliott rainforest (photo by Cascadia Wildlands) 2017.
 
Department of State Lands director Mary Abrams during the State Land Board meeting Thursday in Salem that the new plan has the potential to resolve in 26 months an issue “that has frustrated the board, as trustees, for almost two decades.” The state could extend the deadline by one more year if necessary to finalize financing for a deal, Abrams said.
 
The land board is composed of the governor, secretary of state and state treasurer.
 
The state lost approximately $5 million on the Elliott State Forest over the last two years, and state officials expect the forest will continue to operate with an annual deficit of $500,000 to $1 million indefinitely under the status quo.
 
Environmental groups and individuals said during testimony Thursday they want the Elliott State Forest to remain in public ownership, whether that means the federal government or a state agency. The state faces the challenge of finding a buyer who can pay fair market value for the 84,000 acres in the Elliott forest, which is required because of the connection to the state school fund.
 
“We’re actually going to be asking for three appraisals and then a review appraisal to ensure we come up with a number that is truly defensible,” Abrams said of the property value.
 
Jim Green, deputy executive director of the Oregon School Boards Association, told the State Land Board members they were “actually in violation of your fiduciary responsibility” because the forest is currently losing money from the school fund. “You have a role as the trustees of the common school fund to ensure you get the highest value for the common school fund going forward.”
 
The protocol the land board approved on Thursday will require any buyer of the forest to purchase the entire property and allow public access for hiking, fishing, hunting and other recreation on at least 50 percent of the land. The buyer will also have to protect older timber stands in 25 percent of the forestland from harvest, and ensure at least 40 direct and indirect jobs are created annually over the next decade from logging, reforestation, recreation or other activities.
 
Finally, the buyer must maintain 120-foot stream buffers in all areas with salmon, steelhead or bull trout and areas upstream.
 
Potential buyers now have 14 months to formulate proposals, although they must notify the state of their interest by Dec. 15. Environmental groups said during testimony Thursday they hope to raise money from a combination of private and public sources to purchase the forest, then possibly transfer it to a public owner. A bill that would have established a state system to protect trust land such as the Elliott State Forest, House Bill 3474, died in committee earlier this year but some people said they hope lawmakers to revive the proposal in 2016.
 
Seth Barnes, director of forest policy for the Oregon Forest Industries Council, said the land board should consider that the timber industry remains an important part of the economy in the southwest region of the state.
 
“I was just encouraging them to keep in mind the timber revenue jobs that come off these properties are incredibly important to Oregon,” Barnes said after the meeting. Barnes said the plan approved Thursday could reduce annual timber harvests on the Elliott State Forest from 40 million board feet down to 20 million, and each 1 million board feet of timber harvested directly creates approximately 11 jobs.
 
Josh Laughlin, interim executive director of Eugene-based Cascadia Wildlands, said the group wants the state to require that any buyer allow public access to the entire forestland.
 
“We support you working with land trust organizations and other organizations to make the common school fund whole,” Laughlin said, but he added that Oregonians want to keep the forest in public ownership. Specifically, Laughlin said the state should transfer the Elliott State Forest to the Siuslaw National Forest and pay for the deal with a combination of federal, state and private money.
 
Christy Splitt, coordinator for the Oregon Conservation Network, said state officials should provide “bold leadership” to coordinate efforts to decouple the Elliott State Forest from the school fund in a way that preserves the forest for the public. Conservationists are “reaching out to people with capital, in the Silicon Valley” and across the country in an effort to line up money to purchase the Elliott State Forest. Splitt said the state’s time line might be too short for a trust land proposal to succeed, if lawmakers reboot the idea.
 
Abrams said the state plan allows time for a trust land plan, if one moves forward, and she said it is now time “to stop debating and get to work.”
“There has to be a little pressure put on the people who are interested in the future of the Elliott,” Abrams said.
 
(School kids in the Elliott State Forest, photo by Cascadia Wildlands)
Aug10

Oregon Land Board May Seek Buyer for Elliott State Forest

The Associated Press by Jeff Barnard
August 7, 2015
 
GRANTS PASS — The Oregon State Land Board is scheduled to vote on a plan to find an unusual buyer for the Elliott State Forest: one that will pay a fair market price, conserve older trees, protect threatened fish and wildlife, produce logs for local mills, and leave it open to the public.
 
The board, made up of the governor, the secretary of state, and the state treasurer, meets Thursday in Salem to consider the 315-page proposal.
 
The 140-square-mile forest in the Coast Range north of Coos Bay was created in 1930 and 90 percent of it generates money for schools. It once produced $8 million a year but lately has been running $1 million a year in the red. Attempts to ramp up logging to produce $13 million annually for schools failed. Lawsuits continually blocked timber sales on grounds they failed to maintain habitat for federally protected coho salmon and IMG_4527the marbled murrelet, a seabird that nests in big old trees.
 
Department of State lands spokeswoman Julie Curtis acknowledges that finding such a buyer is a tall order, but a series of hearings identified all those elements as priorities for Oregon residents. The board rejected two other alternatives, to find a new manager for the forest, and to develop a new plan for protecting threatened salmon and wildlife that would produce more timber.
 
Curtis said the department has been meeting with representatives of local governments and agencies, timber companies and conservation groups, but so far all are keeping their intentions to themselves. If no buyers emerge, the department goes back to the board in December 2016. Two options would be to retain the forest while accepting losses of $1 million a year, or selling it without the conservation and public access restrictions.
 
Josh Laughlin of the conservation group Cascadia Wildlands said it would favor a public land trust buying the forest and selling it back to the federal government, so it could be returned to the Siuslaw National Forest. That would retain public access and conservation protections, particularly on the half of the forest that has never been logged.
 
Bob Ragon, director of Douglas Timber Operators, said he could not imagine a private timber company being interested in buying the forest, because of all the conditions being imposed.
 
"I think (the board has) struggled so hard trying to find a happy ground that would meet everybody's interest, that the simplest solution would be to sell it to the highest bidder, and put restrictions on it like no log exports, which would keep the highest return for the School Fund," he said.
 
(Rally to save the Elliott State Forest. Photo by Cascadia Wildlands.)
 
 
Aug05

Lawsuit Launched to Protect Northwest Prairie Bird Species

For Immediate Release, August 5, 2015
 
Contact:    
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 434-1463, nick@cascwild.org
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495, ngreenwald@biologicaldiversity.org
 
Lawsuit Launched to Gain Stronger Protections for Northwest Bird
Gaping Loophole in Federal Protection Exempts Farming, Spraying, Airport Activities Harmful to Streaked Horned Larks in Oregon, Washington
 
Photo courtesy of US Fish and WildlifePORTLAND, Ore.— Four conservation groups filed a formal notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today seeking to strengthen protections for the streaked horned lark, which has lost 98 percent its grassland habitat. The lawsuit will challenge an October 2013 decision by the agency to protect the lark as “threatened” rather than the more protective “endangered” status and to exempt all agriculture, chemical spraying, and airport activities from the prohibitions of the Endangered Species Act regardless of whether they harm the lark.  
 
“Protecting the streaked horned lark under the Endangered Species Act means nothing if all of its threats are exempted from protection,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The lark exemption creates a loophole big enough for a combine or a 747. It seriously threatens the survival of these handsome, horned songbirds.”
 
Formerly a common nesting species in prairies west of the Cascade Mountains from southern British Columbia through Washington and Oregon, the lark was so abundant around Puget Sound that it was considered a nuisance by turn-of-the-century golfers. The widespread destruction of its grassland habitats, however, caused cataclysmic population declines. It has been extirpated from the San Juan Islands, northern Puget Sound, Oregon’s Rogue Valley and Canada. In Washington it currently breeds at only 10 sites, including Grays Harbor, Fort Lewis, the Olympia airport and islands in the Lower Columbia River. In Oregon it breeds in the lower Columbia River and Willamette Valley, including at the Portland, Salem, Corvallis, McMinnville and Eugene airports.
     
“The streaked horned lark is already gone from many of the places it used to call home and is continuing to decline,” said Andrew Hawley. “If the lark is going to have any chance at survival, it needs the full protections of the Endangered Species Act.”
 
The streaked horned lark is a small, ground-dwelling songbird with conspicuous feather tufts, or “horns,” on its head. Its back is heavily streaked with black, contrasting sharply with its ruddy nape and yellow underparts. They are part of a growing list of species that are imperiled by loss of prairies in the Willamette Valley and Puget Trough to urban and agricultural sprawl, including the Fender's blue butterfly, Taylor's checkerspot butterfly, Willamette daisy, Kincaid's lupine and others.  
 
“Many people don't even know that prairies were once a common feature in both the Willamette Valley and Puget Sound,” said Nick Cady, Legal Director with Cascadia Wildlands. “If we save the lark, we are protecting an important part of the Northwest's natural heritage.”
 
The groups on the lawsuit are the Cascadia Wildlands, Center for Biological Diversity, Northwest Environmental Defense Center, and Oregon Wild.  
 
Find a copy of the Notice of Intent here.
 
####

 

Jul30

Appeals Court Affirms Roadless Protections on Tongass

E&E by Phil Taylor
Thursday, July 30, 2015
 
By the thinnest of margins, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday ruled to reinstate roadless protections on the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, marking a major victory for conservationists and tourism companies fighting to protect the temperate rainforest from new logging and a defeat for the state's declining timber industry.
 
The decision, backed by six of the panel's 11 judges, found that the George W. Bush administration failed to provide a "reasoned" explanation for exempting the lands from President Clinton's sweeping national roadless rule.
 
Clinton's 2001 rule banned most road building and logging across 58 million acres of the nation's forests, including roughly 9 million acres, or just over half, of the Tongass.Tongass NF (David Beebe)
 
Conservationists said the ruling would protect some of the last remaining stands of old-growth temperate rainforest in the world while allowing limited economic development including hydropower, transmission lines, mining and tourism projects.
 
"The Tongass' roadless rainforests are a national treasure, and the last, best intact wildlands in our bioregion," said Gabriel Scott, Alaska legal director for Cascadia Wildlands, one of a dozen environmental litigants in the case.
 
The others were the Organized Village of Kake, the Boat Co., the Alaska Wilderness Recreation and Tourism Association, the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Tongass Conservation Society, Greenpeace, the Wrangell Resource Council, the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club.
 
But Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) argued the ruling would restrict access across forestlands the size of New Jersey. She plans to advance S. 631, a bill to permanently exempt the Tongass from the Clinton plan.
 
While southeast Alaska once boasted two massive pulp mills, it now contains just one significant mill, Viking Lumber on Prince of Wales Island. Timber harvests have fallen by 70 percent, causing jobs in the industry to fall from around 2,100 in 2000 to an average of about 100 last winter, Murkowski said, citing state data.
 
"The roadless rule may make sense in the Lower 48, where there are existing roads and utility lines on national forest lands, but in Alaska, where little, if any, infrastructure exists, it is truly counterproductive," she said.
 
Yesterday's ruling reverses a 2-1 decision in March 2014 by a smaller 9th Circuit panel that found the Bush administration's temporary rule in 2003 exempting the Tongass from roadless protections was "entirely rational" (Greenwire, March 27, 2014).
 
That ruling, which was cheered by former Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell (R) and the state's congressional delegation, had reversed a 2011 decision by a district court judge in favor of the Clinton rule.
 
But the full 9th Circuit found the three-member panel had gotten it wrong.
 
Namely, it said the Bush administration, in exempting the Tongass, had failed to reconcile two conflicting statements.
 
When the Clinton administration finalized its roadless rule in 2001, it included the Tongass on the grounds that current forest management in Alaska posed a high risk to the "extraordinary ecological values of the Tongass." The Bush administration, under legal pressure from Alaska, reversed course in 2003, finding "roadless values are plentiful on the Tongass and are well protected by the Tongass Forest Plan. The minor risk of the loss of such values is outweighed by the more certain socioeconomic costs of applying the roadless rule's prohibitions."
 
The Bush administration found that the roadless rule could eventually cost southeast Alaska 900 jobs.
 
But "the 2003 [decision] does not explain why an action that it found posed a prohibitive risk to the Tongass environment only two years before now poses merely a ‘minor’ one,” the 9th Circuit ruled in an opinion penned by Judge Andrew Hurwitz, a President Obama appointee. “The absence of a reasoned explanation for disregarding previous factual findings violates the [Administrative Procedure Act]."
 
As a result, the court added, the Clinton rule "remains in effect and applies to the Tongass."
 
While the court acknowledged that elections "have policy consequences," the Forest Service "may not simply discard prior factual findings
without a reasoned explanation."
 
But five of the panel's judges disagreed, writing in a dissent that "the policies of the new president will occasionally clash with, and supplant, those of the previous president."
 
"The majority has selected what it believes to be the better policy, and substituted its judgment for that of the agency, which was simply following the political judgments of the new administration," wrote Judge Milan Smith, a Bush appointee.
 
Alaska's attorneys in the case have argued that most of the Tongass roadless areas were already closed to logging in 2001, and that the exemption would only affect roughly 300,000 acres.
 
They argued that the Forest Service's change of course in 2003 was "well reasoned" and rested on the conclusion that Congress had found the Tongass was sufficiently protected by previous laws, namely the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980.
 
The agency "reweighed the balance of social and economic impacts" and decided the exemption would "best implement the spirit and letter of the law," the state said.
 
Judge Alex Kozinski, a Reagan administration appointee, joined Smith's dissent but wrote his own separate dissent noting the "absurdity" of the court still reviewing at the end of the Obama administration a policy issued at the beginning of the Bush administration.
 
"The glacial pace of administrative litigation shifts authority from the political branches to the judiciary and invites the type of judicial policymaking that Judge Smith points out," Kozinski wrote. "This is just one of the ways we as a nation have become less a democracy and more an oligarchy governed by a cadre of black-robed mandarins."
 
(photo by David Beebe of the Tongass National Forest)
Jul29

Legal Battle Results in Protections for Alaska’s Tongass National Forest

NEWS RELEASE: August 29, 2015
Contact:
 
Gabe Scott, Cascadia Wildlands, 907.491.0856, gscott@cascwild.org
Liz Judge, Earthjustice, 415.217.2007, ljudge@earthjustice.org
Anne Hawke, 202-513-6263, ahawke@nrdc.org 
Jacob Eisenberg, 202-289-2391, jeisenberg@nrdc.org
 
Ninth Circuit Ensures Continuing Protection of Roadless Areas of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest
Court rejects attempts to exempt the Tongass from the Roadless Rule
 
Juneau, AK — In a major victory for America’s last great rainforest, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit struck down a Bush administration exemption of the Tongass National Forest from the “Roadless Rule,” a landmark conservation rule adopted in 2001 to protect nearly 60 million acres of wild national forests and grasslands from new road building and logging. The Court held the Bush administration failed to provide a reasoned explanation for reversing course on the Tongass. It concluded the Roadless Rule “remains in effect and applies to the Tongass.”  
 
 “The Tongass’ roadless rainforests are a national treasure, and the last, best intact wildlands in our bioregion,” said Gabriel Scott, Alaska legal director for Cascadia Wildlands. “We are pleased with the court’s decision, and urge the State of Alaska to stop with these wasteful legal battles and recognize that it is a privilege, not a burden, to conserve these national treasures for future generations.”
 
This case originated in 2009 when a diverse coalition of Alaska Native, tourism industry, and environmental organizations, represented by attorneys from Earthjustice and Natural Resources Defense Council, challenged the Bush Administration’s 2003 rule “temporarily” exempting the Tongass from the Roadless Rule.  The Roadless Rule blocks expensive and controversial new logging roads and clearcuts in intact forests while allowing other economic development—including hydropower, transmission lines, mining, and tourism projects—to proceed.  The Tongass—occupying most of Southeast Alaska—is the nation’s largest and wildest national forest.  In 2011, a federal judge in Alaska ruled in the coalition’s favor, vacating the Tongass exemption and reinstating the Roadless Rule’s application to the Tongass. The State of Alaska then appealed the decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where a 3-judge panel last year reversed the Alaska judge’s opinion by a 2-1 split vote. Today’s order affirmed the district court’s decision and maintains protections for the roadless areas of the Tongass.
 
Attorneys from Earthjustice and the Natural Resources Defense Council represent the following groups in the case:  Cascadia Wildlands, Organized Village of Kake, The Boat Company, Alaska Wilderness Recreation and Tourism Association, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, Natural Resources Defense Council, Tongass Conservation Society, Greenpeace, Wrangell Resource Council, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, and Sierra Club.
 
For a copy of the opinion click here.

 

Jul24

Cascadia’s Efforts to Save Alaskan Wolves in the News

by Leila Kheiry, Ketchikan Community Radio for Southern Southeast Alaska

Citing a state study that shows a sharp decline in the wolf population on Prince of Wales Island and surrounding islands, six conservation groups have asked state and federal officials to take steps to help preserve the remaining animals.

Specifically, the six organizations want the state to cancel the upcoming wolf trapping and hunting season on POW, the federal Office of Subsistence Management to cancel the subsistence wolf harvest, and the Forest Service to halt logging activity on the Big Thorne Timber Sale.

Gabriel Scott is the legal director with the Alaska office of Cascadia Wildlands. He said the population numbers for POW wolves has not been clearly known for a long time.

“There’s new data, just come out, with a reasonable population estimate. And it’s much, much lower than it ought to be,” he said. “So that’s the bottom line: The population appears to be crashing on the island, and we can’t afford to let that happen.”

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game last month released a report showing that the number of wolves in Game Management Unit 2 had dropped in a single year from 221 to 89. The numbers are estimates, based on a relatively small study area on Prince of Wales Island.

To get that estimate, the number of wolves in the study area is counted, and that number is expanded to the rest of the game management unit. The estimate of 89 wolves is the midpoint of a range. The population could be as low as 50, or as high as 159, according to Fish and Game.

Gabriel Scott said the only way to get those numbers up is to halt all hunting for the time being, and make sure adequate habitat is in place for the wolves and their main source of food, which is Sitka blacktail deer.

“One of the big pieces of this puzzle that often gets overlooked is the habitat component,” he said. “That’s where the rubber meets the road. The deer population is not high enough to support human hunters and wolves. And when that happens, the wolves are the ones who go.”

Habitat in this case means old-growth forest, which is why the groups want to stop logging on the Big Thorne Timber Sale.

Tongass National Forest Spokesman Kent Cummins confirms that the Forest Service has received the letter from the six conservation groups. He said officials will revisit the issue to see whether there is a need for a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, which is one of the requests in the letter.

“I think, with a sense of urgency, they’ll look at this information,” Cummins said. “If necessary, they’ll proceed with another supplement.”

He said the Forest Service takes its role as a steward of the land seriously. But, he said, it can be a delicate balancing act.

The Big Thorne Timber Sale is a critical project from an economic point of view, and it’s meant to help the timber industry stay afloat as it switches from old-growth to second-growth harvest.

“It gives a multi-year supply of timber there on Prince of Wales, and stability for jobs, and giving local businesses the opportunity to retool and seek new markets for the young growth trees,” Cummins said. “That’s the dilemma.”

He said logging is taking place now on the Big Thorne Timber Sale. Halting that activity immediately while the Forest Service looks into the wolf population report is unlikely without a court-ordered injunction.

And then there’s hunting and trapping.

Ryan Scott is Southeast Region Supervisor for Fish and Game. He said he hasn’t read the letter sent to the state asking for suspension of the coming wolf harvest on POW. However, he said that from the agency’s perspective, there isn’t a conservation concern about that wolf population.

“Even with the lower estimate, the number of animals there, and what we know about the animals there, suggests that they’re viable and they’re going to persist well into the future,” he said.

Ryan Scott said the state’s hunting and trapping season starts Dec. 1, which gives officials time to look into wolf numbers and options for the season. They’ve already reduced the maximum allowed harvest from 30 percent to 20 percent of the estimated population.

“Recognizing that we had such a decline in the estimates, I don’t think it’s very likely that we would open it to the maximum allowable harvest of 18 wolves,” he said. “Where that harvest quota would land, that’s undetermined at this point.”

Gabriel Scott of Cascadia said he doesn’t share the state’s confidence that POW wolves will be OK. He points to the fact that his organization is asking for a halt to the subsistence harvest as evidence of how serious they believe the situation has become.

“Asking to stop a subsistence hunt is a really extraordinary step for us to take,” he said. “It’s the absolute last thing that we would want to do.”

The subsistence harvest is set to start on Sept. 1. A call to the Federal Office of Subsistence Management in Anchorage wasn’t returned.

The six organizations that submitted the letters are Cascadia Wildlands, Center for Biological Diversity, Greater Southeast Alaska Conservation Community, the Boat Company, Alaska Wildlife Alliance and Greenpeace.

See the original article and listen to the radio interview here.

Jul23

Press Release: Cascadia Petitions for Emergency Action to Save Alaska Wolves

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
July 23, 2015
 
Contact:
Gabriel Scott, Cascadia Wildlands, (907) 491-0856
Rebecca Noblin, Center for Biological Diversity, (907) 274-1110 Rebecca Knight, Greater Southeast Alaska Conservation Community, (907) 772-9391
Larry Edwards, Greenpeace, (907) 747-7557
 
ANCHORAGE, Alaska— Environmental groups today asked three state and federal agencies to take decisive action to save the rapidly dwindling population of Alexander Archipelago wolves in the Prince of Wales Island area in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest.
 
Following up on a June report by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game indicating that the wolf population in the area is alarmingly low, the groups asked Fish and Game and the Federal Subsistence Board to cancel the area’s 2015-2016 trapping and hunting season. They also asked the U.S. Forest Service to suspend logging and road- building in its Big Thorne timber sale and to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement for the project to reconsider impacts to wolves.
 
“Alexander Archipelago wolves are an essential piece of what makes our little corner of Alaska so special,” said Hunter McIntosh, president of The Boat Company, an ecotourism company based in Southeast Alaska. “The opportunity to see these unique wolves in their old growth home draws people from all over the world. Killing off our wolves is bad business and bad stewardship.”
 
Alexander Archipelago wolves are a subspecies of gray wolves that den in the roots of old-growth trees in the Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2014 found that protecting Alexander Archipelago wolves under the Endangered Species Act “may be warranted.” The Service will decide whether to list the wolves under the Act by the end of this year. In the 1990s Prince of Wales Island was home to about one-third of all Alexander Archipelago wolves before the island’s population declined. Wolves on the island are genetically distinct and geographically isolated from the rest of the subspecies.
 
“Alexander Archipelago wolves are one-of-a-kind, and once they’re gone, they’re not coming back,” said Rebecca Noblin, Alaska director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “We have to protect the few remaining wolves on Prince of Wales Island right now, or they’ll be gone before the government can even decide whether they need Endangered Species Act protection.”
 
Fish and Game’s report estimated that the wolf population on and around Prince of Wales in fall 2014 was between 50 and 159, and most likely about 89 wolves, down from an estimated population of 250 to 350 in the mid-1990s. The report also stated that females have been reduced to only 25 percent of the dwindling population, posing a clear obstacle to the wolves’ ability to recover from their decline. The 2014 estimate does not account for the 29 wolves reported taken in the 2014/2015 winter trapping season, nor does it account for any illegal takes during that time or since, which studies indicate may be substantial.
 
The groups asked both the state and federal government to cancel the 2015/2016 hunting and trapping season in order to prevent extirpation of the wolves on Prince of Wales Island. They also asked the U.S. Forest Service to halt the Big Thorne timber project, which threatens to destroy large swaths of essential Prince of Wales habitat for Alexander Archipelago wolves and their primary prey, Sitka black-tailed deer. The Big Thorne project will also create new logging roads, increasing human access and the associated hunting and trapping pressure on wolf populations.
 
“This is clearly an emergency — wolves are falling at an alarming rate on Prince of Wales Island, and it has to stop immediately,” said Larry Edwards, Greenpeace forest campaigner in Sitka. “But the long-term solution to the wolves’ peril is to stop old-growth logging in the Tongass National Forest to preserve the last remaining big trees that wolves and so many other animals need. Without an end to old-growth logging, no amount of hunting regulations, alone, can save the wolves.”
 
The six organizations that submitted the letters to agencies are Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace, The Boat Company, the Greater Southeast Alaska Conservation Community and the Alaska Wildlife Alliance.
 
Note to reporters:
Copies of the letters and supporting documents are available on request.
Jun30

Blog: Loaf(er)ing around the North Umpqua

by Jaclyn Hise and Amanda Martino, Cascadia Wildlands summer legal interns
    
Our first overnight field excursion as summer interns was visiting the Loafer timber sale in the Umpqua National Forest in the southern Oregon Cascades near the Umpqua Hot Springs. The units to be logged span both sides of the North Umpqua River, whose picturesque winding curves, clear blue water, and rushing rapids guarantee breathtaking views from any stop. The Loafer sale units will have logging of varying degrees, such as thinning or gap creation. One of the biggest concerns we have regarding the Loafer sale are the 5.6 miles of new temporary roads and 3 miles of reconstructed temporary roads to be built, as well as an additional 31 miles of road maintenance proposed for the haul operations that will accompany the sale.
 
As they usually are during the hot days of summer, the Umpqua Hot Springs and adjacent campsites were bustling with hikers, cyclists, families, and their four-legged friends. After seeing how busy the campsites along the Umpqua River were, we found a spot along the nearby road with a coveted picnic table and fire pit and set up camp. Tucked along the edge of the forest and set back from the road, sunlight streamed through theThe Loafer timber sale would log native forests just above the headwaters of the North Umpqua River (photo by Francis Eatherington) clearing and we remarked at our luck at finding the spot. Only after consulting the map did we find that this beautiful camping site was marked to become a future helicopter land spot. Three more camping sites along the road would also be sacrificed to landing helicopters used during the logging process.
 
We set off to walk through the first set of units that will be thinned from their thick and natural growth. We hiked off the road and followed Forest Service tape marking where new roads would traverse the units and allow truck access. We received a crash course in tree identification from our Conservation Director Francis Eatherington as we walked through sugar, white, ponderosa, and lodge pole pines, hemlocks, cedars, white fir and Douglas fir trees in our search for old-growth trees. Not to be disappointed, we soon stumbled upon these gentle giants. Estimated to be at least 600 years old and with diameters between 6 and 7 feet, these magnificent trees had a humbling effect on our group as we stood beside them. Some of these old-growth trees bear the blackened scars of past fires, true visual testaments to all they have survived, and the times they have stood strong throughout. We marveled at the tumult and storms they had weathered and the services they had provided the forest in their lifetimes. These old-growth trees are crucial desired habitat for the northern spotted owl, a threatened species that faces increasing pressures from deforestation and increased competition from the more aggressive barred owl. Although the old growth themselves would not be logged, the surrounding forest will be in this sale. Protecting old growth trees such as these and the areas surrounding old growth will be paramount in protecting the spotted owl from further losses and ensuring its survival. To think we could one day lose both an iconic species and these towering forest pillars was a sobering thought.
 
Unit 29After a long day of hiking through the forest, we walked up to the hot springs to relax and enjoy its picturesque views. The hot springs are on the side of a ridge and look out over the North Umpqua River – and several of the units that will be logged in the Loafer sale. The view of the winding blue river and thick surrounding forest in the late afternoon sun was magnificent, and there were plenty of visitors to take in the sights. We wondered if they knew what the view would look like after the logging was done – the once full and lush forest riddled with roads and whole areas thinned.
 
The next day we hiked along the side of the Umpqua River, along the North Umpqua Trail. The mountain wall rose up directly next to us and beautiful waterfalls of natural spring water flowed down its side into the Umpqua. Several waterfalls had chiseled out unique rock formations and walls of moss dripped spring water into flowing streams at our feet. One of the units to be logged lay directly above our heads and these stunning hydrological features. Any logging above would surely be felt below – the sounds of machinery and trucks, the dust, dirt, and pollution, and the gaps in the tree coverage above. Pollution and debris from the logging would be carried down via these springs and waterfalls into the Umpqua and the numerous campsites between it and the trail. All those who visit this area, cyclists, backpackers, hikers, campers, would notice a change to the peace, beauty, and natural setting of the trail and riparian area.
 
We surveyed several other units that would be thinned for meadow restoration and winter elk habitat. By the abundance of elk tracks and other indicators throughout all of the units, it didn’t seem like there was any shortage of habitat for them. We wound our way through several sunlit meadows full of ferns taller than ourselves and around brush, bushes, and wild strawberries. Frogs jumped from puddles of water into nearby vegetation.
 
Tired from our two-day trek up and down hillsides, we headed to soak our feet in the Umpqua and to reflect over all we had seen. It’s one thingUnit 26 to read about the proposed road construction and maintenance and logging plans, and another to touch the sides of trees that will be cut for roads, to stand in the shadows of 600 years of growth and resilience that will be surrounded by cutting, to drink water from a natural cascading spring, and to wake up in a sunlit campsite. The proposed Loafer timber sale will forever alter the natural beauty of the Umpqua National Forest, the Umpqua Hot Springs, and the North Umpqua Trail. We returned home with more determination to preserve this amazing forest for all who wish to visit the area and have these experiences. Cascadia Wildlands is currently commenting on the Forest Service’s new Environmental Assessment and making formal administrative objections to the Loafer timber sale.
 
(Photos by Francis Eatherington from top to bottom: Campsite along the North Umpqua River during a recent fieldcheck of the Loafer timber sale; Unit 29 of the Loafer timber sale, old-growth trees marked for retention; Field checking unit 26 of the Loafer timber sale, old-growth trees marked for retention)
 
Jun29

Wyden, Merkley Introduce New Oregon Wilderness Bill

The Statesman Journal by Zach Urness
June 25, 2015
 
Oregon senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley introduced a bill today that would provide new environmental protections for 200,000 acres of land and 250 miles of river in the Beaver State.
 
The Oregon Wildlands Act would create one new wilderness area in the Coast Range, expand another wilderness area in Southern Oregon and create two new national recreation areas.
 
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The bill would create the 30,500-acre Devil's Staircase Wilderness from a remote canyon of old-growth forest east of Reedsport in the Central Coast Range. It would also designate 14.6 miles of Franklin and Wasson creeks — which runs through the Devil's Staircase area — as Wild and Scenic Rivers.
 
The bill expands the Wild Rogue Wilderness by 56,000 acres and creates the 95,000-acre Rogue Canyon National Recreation Area in southwest Oregon.
 
Both the Devil's Staircase Wilderness and Wild Rogue Wilderness addition have been targets for conservation for the past decade, and introduced in bills in the U.S. Senate and House multiple times.
 
"These world-class landscapes in western Oregon are long overdue for permanent protection," said Josh Laughlin with Eugene-based Cascadia Wildlands, which has been working for nearly a decade to safeguard the areas. "They are what make Oregon such a desirable place to live, provide anchor habitat for imperiled salmon and wildlife and give us some of the cleanest water around."
 
Closer to the Willamette Valley, the bill would also create the 24,000-acre Molalla National Recreation Area.
 
"Protecting some of Oregon's most breathtaking and unspoiled lands ensures healthy habitats for countless species of plants and animals, benefits local economies that depend on these areas and creates new recreation opportunities for Oregonians and visitors from across the country," Wyden said in a press release. "Preserving these lands is a top priority, and Senator Merkley and I are going to be working to do all that we can to protect them."
 
Click here to read each section by section of the bill.
 
(Photo of Devil's Staircase by Tim Giraudier, beautifuloregon.com)
 
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