Home Page Hot Topic

May05

Lawsuit Challenges Plan to Log Old-growth in Alaska

Mail Attachment-6 copy

Cascadia Wildlands yesterday filed suit against the Forest Service challenging approval of the Mitkof Island timber sale, a 4,117-acre old-growth logging project on the Tongass National Forest, near Petersburg in Southeast Alaska.

This lawsuit comes close on the heals of our challenge to the Big Thorne timber sale, another big old-growth sale that is currently on appeal before the 9th Circuit. These cases, along with a proposed revision to the overarching Forest Plan, represent a critical turning point on the Forest.

Long story short, the era of profitable old-growth logging is over, but the Forest Service and a handful of influential logging industry die-hards have been working overtime trying to prop it back up. Timber sales like this one on Mitkof Island are a last gasp of a dying industry.

The industry is dying—there is little doubt about that—but the question is whether it will leave enough healthy forest behind to sustain the wildlife and subsistence opportunities that rural Alaskans have traditionally enjoyed. The ecosystem is at a tipping point. 

Mitkof Island is a microcosm for the legacy of Tongass logging and habitat loss. Extensive areas have been clearcut on the National Forest, and (even worse) clearcutting on adjacent privately owned land.

One result is that the local deer population has crashed and is not recovering. Without enough old-growth providing shelter, the herd starves in winter. Petersburg residents no longer can go hunting out their back door. 

And, the result of that is that the State of Alaska is pursing ‘predator control,’ aiming to cull the wolf population by 80%. Without adequate habitat, the whole predator-prey system (of which humans are a part) comes crashing down.

In spite of huge controversy, on Mitkof the Forest Service determined that their logging project would have “no significant impact” on the environment, so conducted only a cursory environmental review. This is rare, and extraordinary. As the environmental consequences intesify, why would the agency be paying less attention to them?

Contrary to that claim, our lawsuit catalogues a number of significant impacts:

  • Loss of winter habitat for deer, further stressing the local population;

  • Harm to subsistence hunters, particularly low-income residents who cannot afford to travel to distant islands for deer;

  • Threats to the Alexander Archipelago wolf, which is currently being considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act, from loss of deer habitat and the likelihood of increased trapping;

  • Damage to the Queen Charlotte goshawk, a raptor that relies on old-growth forest.

As Rebecca Noblin, the Alaska director for our co-plaintiff Center for Biological Diversity, said, “I suppose that if you don’t look for problems then you’re not going to find them.”

The case was filed on behalf of Cascadia Wildlands, Greater Southeast Alaska Conservation Community, Greenpeace, Center for Biological Diversity, and the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, in federal district court in Anchorage. Cascadia’s staff attorneys are joined by the superhero lawyers at CRAG law center arguing the case. 

You can read a copy of the suit here.

May01

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul: The Abuse of “Ecological Forestry” on our Public Lands in Western Oregon

By Nick Cady, Legal Director
 
The conservation community in the Northwest was incredibly excited by Cascadia’s legal victory over the White Castle timber sale.  Not just because of the couple hundred acres of old growth forest that were saved from clearcutting, but because of the potentially important precedent the case set concerning logging old forest to create so-called early seral habitat.
 
A little background.  Early seral habitat is the agency name for habitat that is mostly brush and shrubs, ideal habitat for deer, elk and some bird species, and ideally is created after fires have burn through forested areas.  True early-seral habitat is somewhat lacking on the landscape because the feds for decades have suppressed fires, and even when there is a fire, the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will “salvage log”  the areas and replant conifer trees, quickly taking away any early-seral habitat value.
 
Given this pattern of post-fire salvage logging, folks at Cascadia were initially surprised and suspicious to hear about Forest Service and BLM plans to create early-seral habitat through commercial logging.  The agency plan was to create this early-seral habitat by logging middle-aged plantations. 
Plantation

Typical Young Conifer Plantation

These conifer plantations are 40 to 80 year old forests created from previous clearcutting, pesticide spraying, and dense replanting.  The logging would essentially create large meadow-like openings between clumps of reserved forests.  These reserves would contain the biggest trees in the stand, and areas with unique composition, for example a pocket of western red cedar or large hardwoods.  30% of the project area would be reserved from harvest in these clumps, and there would also be large, green trees, 12 to 18 per acre, distributed across the openings to provide connectivity for wildlife.  The logging concept was called ecological forestry or variable retention harvest (VRH).
 
Folks at Cascadia were skeptical, but not overly concerned because this prescription seemed genuinely aimed at restoring diversity back into these plantations.  Left alone, these middle aged plantations currently provide little to no habitat value for the Northwest’s struggling older forest species, and posed a severe fire risk given the density of these young conifer trees.
 
buck rising white castle

BLM’s Version of VRH Implemented in the Buck Rising Sale

However, when the timber industry and Bureau of Land Management got a hold of this idea to create early-seral habitat it quickly morphed into an “ecological” excuse to clearcut older forest.  We began seeing dozens of proposed timber sales aimed at converting older mature forest, not young plantations, into early-seral habitat.  The proposed reserves quickly were replaced by already existing buffers in place for imperiled species and around waterways, and the dispersed green tree retention across the logged areas was eliminated.  It was readily apparent that this novel approach had been high-jacked; it had become an ecological justification for clearcutting.  This was a very dangerous idea, because it could arguably be used in existing protected areas and owl habitat.
 
The White Castle timber sale, located in the South Umpqua watershed on the Roseburg BLM district, was the worst of the worst of these early-seral creation projects we had seen.  The sale targeted a one hundred year old-plus forests that had never before been logged. It was also designated critical habitat for the northern spotted owl and hosted a healthy population of the red tree vole, a food source of the northern spotted owl.  Forest activists with Cascadia Forest Defenders had occupied the stand to prevent the clearcutting, and Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild readied a legal challenge.  We were cautiously optimistic that the judge would recognize how abused this concept to create early-seral forest from plantations had become.  
 
Just over a month ago, the ruling came down, and the Court sided with us on all counts, harping on the fact that this “ecological forestry” was designed for young stands and not older forest.  The Northwest has limited older forest left on the landscape, so sacrificing older forest to create early-seral forest does not make sense.  It was the epitome of robbing Peter to pay Paul.
 
This victory threw a major wrench in a number of other “ecological forestry” projects being planned by the Forest Service and BLM, especially the projects slated for older forests. 
Cool Soda Map

Map of the Cool Soda Project and Age Classes

Cool Soda was one of these projects on the Sweet Home Ranger District of the Willamette National Forest.  The project was fairly large, over thousands of acres, and was part of a collaborative process between private timber owners, the Willamette National Forest and conservation groups and other stakeholders trying to get at restoration needs on the landscape across a “checkerboard” ownership.
 
The final proposal mostly involved commercial thinning in young plantations to restore ecological diversity while generating timber volume.  However, a small portion of the project involved heavy thinning and “ecological forestry” in native, never-logged forests over 120 years old.  We objected to the project because of these older forest units, and met with the Forest Service staff to attempt to resolve our differences over the project.  
Due to the weight of the White Castle decision and the understanding of the Forest Service, we were able to eliminate the older forest units from the final decision without resorting to litigation.  We were able to save all parties’ time and resources and end up with a project that would have a myriad ofbenefits, including restoring diversity into dense young plantations, replacing failed culverts that were impacting aquatic health, and generating timber volume for the local mills.
 
We are hopeful that moving forward the Forest Service and BLM will honor the original intent of creating early-seral habitat and abandon futile attempts at masking mature forest timber grabs as “ecological” projects.
 

 

Apr27

Maintaining Protections for Oregon’s Wolves

By Nick Cady, Legal Director
 
WOLF_OR17_odfw_Photo taken July 6 2013 of OR17 with a 2013 pup of the Imnaha pack. Subadult wolves assist in the raising of the pupsPhoto courtesy of ODFW

Imnaha Pack Wolves

This past Friday, I was driving to and from Bend, over five hours in the car, to give three minutes of testimony because the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) was proposing to remove gray wolves from the state endangered species list.  I was appropriately pissed given the plain fact that only 77 wolves exist in the state, but I was also feeling pretty jaded about the whole thing. I’ll explain why.
 
In 2011, when wolves were first returning to the state (there was 12 wolves and one breeding pair at the time), the ODFW tried to kill the male of that breeding pair and one of the sub adults from that same pack.  I had passed the bar exam weeks earlier and had one lawsuit filed to my name when co-worker Josh Laughlin yelled across the office that I needed to find a way to stop this active hunt for the alpha male, OR-4.
 
So I started digging around.  The problem was I did not have time to really conduct a thorough review as ODFW agents were out in the field hunting for the wolves as I was researching and writing.  But I just starting working, and began digging around in state laws pertaining to the protection of endangered species.  The gray wolf has been listed as an endangered species in the state since the passage of the law decades ago.
 
As it turns out the state laws did have a prohibition on taking or killing endangered species.  But everyone who had been working on wolf issues, everyone who was involved in drafting the state’s wolf plan in 2005 (governor’s office, ODFW, conservationists, agricultural interests, etc.) had not given this provision any thought, when the plan purported to allow wolves to be shot in response to wolves killing livestock during the early stages of wolf recovery while they were still listed.
 
The reason why no one had considered this provision was that when the state Endangered Species Act was passed, the timber industry had gutted the law of any substance that could negatively impact the ability to clearcut our forests.  Standard Salem politics. To be specific, the bill was clarified so that the “taking” of an endangered species, which was prohibited, does not include destruction of a species habitat.  So someone would have to go out into woods and shoot a spotted owl out of a tree to violate the law, while cutting down the owl’s nest tree and clearcutting for miles in every direction was fine.   Therefore, in order to violate the law, you had to directly go out and kill an endangered species.  Folks thought that this was preposterous. No monster would intentionally kill an endangered species, and another meaningless law for the environment was passed by Oregon Democrats, or so they thought.
 
Until it came to wolves.  Wolves are habitat generalists; as long as there is prey and not too many human beings around, they will survive.  The real threat to wolves is people shooting and trapping them, the reason why the species was wiped out and then protected in the first place.  The ridiculous contention that people might intentionally and admittedly kill endangered species had become reality in Oregon, but everyone had forgotten about the Oregon Endangered Species Act, the supposedly meaningless act of Democrat consolation to Oregon conservationists.
 
So I wrote a legal memo and pressed forward with the lawsuit with colleagues Oregon Wild and Center for Biological Diversity. There was a stream of late nights and Thai food drafting everything up as ODFW was actively trying to kill these wolves.  And a day or so before we filed, we got word that the agency hunters had actually taken a shot at OR-4 (father of OR-7 or “Journey”), and were not sure if they had hit him or not.  We quickly put everything together and filed.  The Court issued us a stay later that day and ended the hunt temporarily.  Ultimately, we settled the lawsuit with the state and the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association by developing stringent rules or when the state could use lethal control on wolves (more on the details of those rules here).  ODFW could only now kill wolves in limited circumstances early in recovery, and when different population objectives were hit these rules would be automatically relaxed.  
 
Organizationally, Cascadia Wildlands spent so much time and resources on this process.  The settlement took almost two years to negotiate, and involved what seemed like weekly trips to Salem.  It was a brutal process, but it ultimately led to an agreement that has since made Oregon the national model for responsible wolf conservation.
 
Turning back to my trip to Bend, and ODFW’s attempt to delist wolves, I was feeling jaded because I hoped that this landmark agreement would have bought more time before I was again taking long commutes and debating state agents and livestock producers over wolf management.  I was especially upset because we had intentionally designed the wolf rules to avoid this debate over delisting.  Specifically, we crafted the rules so that changes in wolf management as the population grew happen automatically and do not hinge on listing or delisting.  Everyone at the table knew that the listing of wolves on the endangered species act would be incredibly controversial, so we wanted to avoid the conflict.  
 
But apparently we were wrong, and our efforts to avoid a pointless, premature contest over delisting were in vain.  Despite only having 77 wolves in the state, ODFW made recommendations to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission that wolves be delisted.  Although delisting would not have any management implications immediately, years down the road it could open the door to wolf hunting in the state. So we had to make the trip, organize testimony, get scientists to weigh-in and analyze the delisting proposal, because we knew the well-funded livestock lobbyists would be doing the same. I was pissed and frustrated, we had designed the rules to avoid this conflict, and ODFW launched us into it regardless.  It all just seemed somewhat pointless and a waste of precious energy given all the other threats to Oregon’s environment.  
 
After all, the wolf is just one species among many, and a species going through a successful recovery.  Although the majority of the wolves and packs in Oregon are concentrated in the northeast corner of the state, wolves are beginning to disperse west.  Two packs are now established in the southern Cascades, and wolves have recently been documented in the northern Cascades as well.  On the other hand, spotted owl populations are crashing, sea counts of marbled murrelets indicate that numbers are plummeting, and several wetland species are now listed in the state due to disappearing habitat.
 
So I found myself sulking.  But something happened at the meeting.  As public testimony began, I starting listening to all the different voices supporting the wolf’s continued listing on the Endangered Species Act: the hydrologist testifying about the importance of wolves to aquatic ecosystems, the business lawyer testifying about the importance of liberal wildlife policies to new businesses and attracting workers, the grade school teacher presenting loads of drawings from her students about wolves, the retired ODFW employee advocating for the exercise of caution. A slew of people testified and had made the trip from all corners of the state.
 
I began to feel inspired.  I had gotten caught up in the details of these rules and management phases, and had lost focus of what wolves and their status as an endangered species meant to the general public in Oregon. Aside from the rules and laws, wolves and the species’ recovery means so much to so many in Oregon.  They are a symbol of nature and true wilderness. A species that protects the intricate web of life in our fragile ecosystems.  Their recovery and the struggle to protect them is representative of the growing environmental ethic in this country.  
 
A meeting that I went into feeling discouraged and pessimistic, turned into a reformation.  A rejuvenation of enthusiasm about wolves and all they mean to the people of this state.  And I was not the only one that was influenced by the public’s outcry. The Commission, despite the Department’s urgings, voted to delay any decision on delisting until later this year so that more scientific information could be gathered and analyzed.  A wise decision for the Commission and the wolves.  So Cascadia Wildlands will gather further evidence and analysis on the ODFW proposal as we would have regardless, but now with a renewed sense of purpose thanks to the public voices concerned with the protection of wolves.  Thank you.

 

 

Apr23

Attend Upcoming Forest Service Forest Plan Revision Meetings

Cascadia Wildlands is actively engaged in the conversation with the Forest Service regarding the revisions to the forest plans guiding national forest management in Oregon and Washington. 
 
IMG_3257National Forests all operate under individualized Land Management Plans, as required by the National Forest Management Act. These “Forest Plans” direct management of national forestlands over a given time. The National Forest Management Act requires each plan be revised and Oregon and Washington forests are either already in the revision process or are preparing for revisions. Many national forests are operating under plans that were published 20 to 30 years ago and amended by the Northwest Forest Plan. 
 
The Pacific Northwest Region recently announced plans for holding additional forest management plan revision listening sessions. These listening sessions follow an initial round of listening sessions held earlier this year in Portland, Seattle and Redding.  Listening sessions are planned in locations throughout Oregon and Washington. Cascadia Wildlands will be participating in these listening sessions as much as possible, and we encourage our members and supporters to participate as well. This is an important opportunity for the public to engage the Forest Service on the future of land management on our public forests.  (Umpqua National Forest, photo credit Aileen Carlos).
 
This round of listening sessions will be held at local forest locations to engage with local communities. owl_photo(Spotted owl photo credit USFWS). 
 
The Forest Service is holding these listening sessions to:
·       Share the Forest Service’s current thinking on plan revision
·       Share how science will inform the process, and
·       Listen to ideas and thoughts about how to approach public engagement for forest plan revision. 
 
 
 
 
The Forest Service will be posting more details on their website as they become available: 
 
 
Contact Cascadia Wildlands for information and/or questions about our engagement.  
 
Listening sessions will be held on the following dates:
 
Date                                     Location                                             Forest(s)
 
April 27th                            Corvallis                                              Siuslaw
                                           Oregon State University 
                                           LaSells Stewart Center
                                           875 S.W. 26th St.
                                           6-8pm
 
April 27th                              Prineville                                            Ochoco
                                            Bowman Museaum Annex
                                            6-8 pm
 
April 28th                             Issaquah                                            Mount Baker/
                                            Blakely Hall                                        Snoqualmie
                                            2550 NE Park 
                                            6-8pm
 
April 28th                             Olympia                                              Olympic and Gifford 
                                            6-8pm                                                 Pinchot
 
April 28th                             Bend                                                   Deschutes 
                                            Deschutes NF Headquarters
                                            63095 Deschutes Market Rd
                                            530-830pm
 
May 4th                               Pleasant Hill                                        Willamette 
                                            High School
                                            84455 N Enterprise Road 
                                            6-730pm 
 
May 4th                               Lakeview                                             Freemont-Winema
                                            Fairgrounds, Exhibit Bldg. #1
                                            1900 N. 4th Street
                                            6-830pm
 
May 4th                               Medford                                               Rogue-Siskiyou
                                            Medford Interagency Office
                                            3040 Biddle Road
                                            5:30-7:30pm
 
May 5th                                Klamath Falls                                      Fremont-Winema
                                             Oregon Institute of Technology
                                             College Union 2nd Floor
                                             3201 Campus Drive
                                             6-830pm
 
May 6th                                Stayton                                                Willamette 
                                             Community Center
                                             400 W Virginia Street
                                             6-730
 
May 6th                                 Gold Beach                                        Rogue-Siskiyou
                                              Curry County Fairgrounds
                                              Docia Sweet Hall
                                              29392 Ellensburg Ave
                                              5:30-7:30pm
 
May 11th                               Hood River                                        Mt. Hood and Gifford 
                                              Columbia Gorge Hotel                      Pinchot
                                              400 Westcliff Drive 
                                              6-8pm
 
TBD                                                                                                 Okanogan-
                                                                                                        Wenatchee
 
 
Mar23

Cascadia Halts Huge Public Lands Clearcutting Outside Eugene

Press Release
For Immediate Release

March 23, 2015

Contact:
Nick Cady, Legal Director, Cascadia Wildlands, 314-482-3746
Doug Heiken, Conservation and Restoration Coordinator, Oregon Wild, 541-344-0675

Conservationists Halt Public Lands Clearcutting Outside of Eugene
BLM Pulls Decision After Lawsuit for Largest Lane Co Clearcut in 20 Years

EUGENE, Ore.— Public opposition and a legal challenge from Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild has prompted the Eugene Bureau of Land Management to place on hold its plans to clearcut 259 acres of public lands just outside of Springfield, Oregon near Shotgun Creek.  The “Second Show” timber sale would have been the largest clearcut on federal lands in Lane County in 20 years.

This logging proposal elicited over 700 public comments, largely in opposition to the proposed clearcutting .  Local residents raised concerns about clean water, Chinook salmon, and logging some of the last old forests in an already degraded watershed.

“I am extremely relieved that these mature trees may now have a chance to become a real old growth forest. They are located very near the BLM Shotgun Park and Recreation Area and I believe the BLM should focus on preserving our public lands for wildlife, recreation, and future generations,” said Ellen Furstner, a Marcola resident who commented on the sale.  “Protecting the old forest that is left should be our priority to fight global warming. It’s just a shame our federal agencies do not see it that way.”

After the BLM’s decision to move forward with logging, Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild filed a “protest” with BLM but BLM failed to pick up their mail at the post office and refused to consider the protest. Seneca Sawmill then purchased the sale, and Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild were forced to file suit in federal court arguing that the BLM neglected to analyze the effects of clearcutting in conjunction with ongoing commercial logging and road construction in the same area.  BLM withdrew their decision to log the Second Show timber sale on March 19 before answering the complaint and before the court could rule on the merits of the case.

“Our federal timber lands have been hammered by reckless clearcut logging for the past 90 years.  Salmon and spotted owl populations are plummeting, water quality is terribly diminished, and our federal timber lands have more roads than Los Angeles,” said Nick Cady, Legal Director of Cascadia Wildlands. “Yet despite the science and public opposition, the BLM continues to target mature forests.  The agency refuses to open its eyes.”
 
Decades of past clearcutting has resulted in federal lands that are now overstocked with dense young Douglas fir plantations.  Conservation groups have been working with the BLM for the past decade to meet timber targets by commercially thinning these younger forests.

“The Second Show proposal is a big step backward,” said Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild. “Restoration thinning has allowed the agency to meet its timber goals without clearcutting and without doing undue harm to wildlife habitat and watersheds. Clearcutting public lands should be put in the dust-bin of history where it belongs.”

The Second Show decision has been pulled, but the agency may again elect to proceed with the controversial logging after revising its analysis documents.  The revision process will be open to the public, and the BLM will respond to public concerns and questions about the proposed logging.  

For a copy of the complaint click here.

Mar17

White Castle in the News

by Mateusz Perkowski, Capital Press
 
A timber project aimed at testing new harvesting strategies on federal forests was rejected by a federal judge.
A federal judge has overturned the approval of a timber project that environmentalists claim is a “test case” for increased logging of mature forests.
 
The White Castle project calls for harvesting trees up to 110 years old on 187 acres of U.S. Bureau of Land Management property near Myrtle Creek, Ore.
 
The BLM intended for the project to demonstrate the “variable retention” model, in which patches of trees are harvested to recreate “early successional” habitat consisting of shrubs and other plant life.
 
While the agency argued the technique will improve the forest’s diversity and resilience, Oregon Wild and Cascadia Wildlands equated it with a return to clear-cutting federal forests and filed a lawsuit to stop the timber sale.
 
U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken has now agreed with the environmental groups that BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act by not conducting an in-depth scientific review of the project, known as an environmental impact statement or EIS.
 
“The project may be relatively small in size but it will adversely affect the northern spotted owl. Moreover, it represents a pilot test with effects that are likely to be highly controversial, highly uncertain and influential on future project planning,” Aiken said.
 
The judge has vacated BLM’s approval of the project, which means logging cannot proceed until the agency completes the EIS and corrects other shortcomings she identified.
 
In the agency’s existing environmental analysis, BLM failed to consider enough alternatives to removing trees older than 80 years old, Aiken said.
 
BLM should also have conducted a more extensive EIS because the project was subject to “scientific controversy” since its inception about possible effects on the spotted owl, a federally protected threatened species, she said.
Aside from the project’s uncertainties, Aiken also cited its precedential effect as a reason for further study.
 
While the BLM would not be required to follow the White Castle project’s example, the case was intended to test a more aggressive harvest approach that could replace the agency’s current risk-averse focus on thinning, she said.
“Approval of the White Castle project will not have binding impact on future projects, but it will, by design, shape BLM forestry methods and strategies moving forward,” Aiken said.
Mar17

Cascadia Wildlands Defeats White Castle Clearcutting in Court

Press Release: March 17, 2015

Contact: Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746

Judge Rejects "Eco-Forestry" Clearcutting on O&C Lands

Controversial "variable retention regeneration harvest" clearcuts in White Castle timber sale declared illegal; conservationists win on all counts.

A US District Court judge has ruled in favor of white castle treesconservation groups Oregon Wild and Cascadia Wildlands in their legal challenge of a controversial clearcut logging project on public lands in Douglas County. At stake in the case was the Bureau of Land Management’s “White Castle” logging project which proposed clearcutting 160 aces of 100-year old trees using a controversial methodology developed by Drs. Jerry Franklin and Norm Johnson referred to as “variable retention regeneration harvest” sometimes referred to as “eco-forestry.” In her ruling, Judge Ann Aiken found that the BLM’s environmental review fell far short of fully considering the full range of harm that could result from clearcutting.

“This ruling proves that BLM can’t just re-name a clearcut something else and then expect it to suddenly be acceptable,” said Sean Stevens, Executive Director of Oregon Wild. “The White Castle timber sale was a test to see if eco-forest clearcutting could pass legal muster or public scrutiny, and it failed.”

Attorney Jennifer Schwartz argued on behalf of the conservation plaintiffs and repeatedly highlighted the scientific dispute surrounding the project and “variable retention harvest,” especially its implementation in older forests and spotted owl critical habitat. The Court ultimately determined that “The [spotted owl’s] Recovery Plan, the [spotted owl’s] critical habitat proposal, comments from the public and scientists, and Franklin and Johnson's own reports demonstrated the existence of ‘a substantial dispute’ casting ‘serious doubt upon the reasonableness’ of BLM's decision to harvest forest stands over 80 years old.”

By the BLM’s own admission, the White Castle sale was intended as a prototype for greatly expanding clearcutting on other BLM O&C lands, a factor that weighed heavily in the judge’s ruling. The judge found the precedential nature of the project worthy of greater scrutiny: “Project materials describe the pilot projects as test of new harvest methods and ‘new policies’ that could supplant BLM's current ‘risk-adverse strategy’ of avoiding regeneration harvesting and other ‘active management’ methods.[] Approval of the White Castle Project will not have binding impact on future projects, but it will, by design, shape BLM forestry methods and strategies moving forward.

“The scariest part of this project was its potential to set the tone for logging across 2 million acres of Western Oregon BLM,” said Nick Cady, Legal Director of Cascadia Wildlands. “The project was mired in scientific uncertainty and was the obvious result of political pressure to bail out county politicians by returning clearcutting to our public forests. I hope this ruling convinces the BLM to revisit its intentions for our public lands.”

The proposed timber sale lies within publicly-owned forest in the South Myrtle Creek watershed, near the community of Canyonville. The Roseburg BLM District proposed the controversial “eco-forestry” logging method as justification to clearcut over 187 acres, including 160 acres of trees over a century old.

Bulldozing roads and other destructive activities associated with the project would also have targeted additional trees over 150 years old. Federal biologists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have acknowledged nearly 200 acres of habitat for threatened wildlife would be damaged or destroyed by the logging. In her ruling, the judge found the likely effects of this clearcutting to require the BLM to conduct a much more rigorous environmental analysis than they have done thus far.

buck rising white castleDespite the fact that BLM has been largely meeting its timber targets for the last 15 years, primarily through non-controversial thinning of young forests, the agency has recently pursued more controversial projects as a way to increase logging. BLM claimed that clearcutting the White Castle forest would benefit the environment by removing mature trees in order to favor shrubs and brush, even though such habitat is not rare like old forest. As part of the same planning process, Roseburg BLM carried out a similar and related clearcutting project in younger forests, known as Buck Rising. Conservationists did not challenge the Buck Rising project in court but they were not pleased with the results.

“BLM claims that since they intend to retain a few patches of standing trees , it isn't really a clearcut,” said Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild . “Anyone who has seen the aftermath of logging at Buck Rising would have a difficult time explaining the difference between acres of stumps and rutted earth created by eco-forestry and those created by old style clearcutting.”

 

A copy of the legal decision can be found here.

Photos of the White Castle forest can be found here. (please credit to Francis Eatherington)

Photos from the BLM's Buck Rising clearcuts can be found here. (please credit to Francis Eatherington)

Mar03

Cascadia Challenges Wildlife Services in Washington

 March 3, 2015

Conservationists Challenge Wildlife Services’ Authority to Kill Wolves in Washington

Wildlife Services Activities Threaten Wolf Recovery, Healthy Ecosystems

Olympia, Wash. — Today, the Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) on behalf of five conservation groups, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Wildlife Services program challenging its authority to kill endangered wolves in Washington state.

OR11_odfwThe National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires USDA to prepare an in-depth Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) addressing the effects of employing Wildlife Services to kill endangered wolves in Washington. The agency completed a less-detailed Environmental Assessment (EA), but the document contains significant gaps and does not address specific issues that will significantly impact wolves and the human environment. NEPA review is designed to ensure all environmental impacts are analyzed and that the public has an opportunity to comment, and therefore influence, activities conducted using public funds.

The EA prepared by Wildlife Services fails to provide data to support several of its core assertions. For example, Wildlife Services claims that killing wolves reduces wolf-caused losses of livestock, yet recent peer-reviewed research from Washington State University directly contradicts this conclusion, finding that killing wolves actually leads to an increase in wolf-livestock conflicts. The EA also fails to address the ecological effects of killing wolves in Washington, including impacts on wolf populations in neighboring states and on non-target animals, including federally protected grizzly bears and Canada lynx.

"Wildlife Services’ activities related to wolves in Washington have been extremely harmful," said John Mellgren, attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center. "The science tells us that killing wolves does not actually reduce wolf-livestock conflicts, but Wildlife Services is continuing its brutal assault on this iconic animal and it needs to stop."

Wildlife Services is a stand-alone federal extermination program under USDA that kills roughly 4 million animals per year, including wolves, grizzly bears, otters, foxes, coyotes, and birds—with almost no oversight or accountability. A 2013 internal audit revealed that Wildlife Services’ accounting practices lacked transparency and violated state and federal laws. Concerns about the program’s practices and effectiveness are the focus of an ongoing investigation by the USDA’s Inspector General.

"Wildlife Services has a horrendous track record of animal abuse, missing funds, poor or nonexistent policy, and misinformation that has inflamed rural areas throughout the Pacific Northwest," said Nick Cady, legal director at Cascadia Wildlands. "This program has no place in Washington where the people have tasked the state’s agencies to facilitate wolf recovery and conservation."

Washington has experienced Wildlife Services’ recklessness firsthand. Last August, Wildlife Services’ snipers mistakenly shot and killed the Huckleberry wolf pack’s alpha female during a helicopter gunning operation. The killing was in direct violation of explicit instructions from the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) to not kill either of the pack’s alpha members. The death of the Huckleberry pack’s breeding female threatens the future of the entire pack.

"Let’s put this issue of wolf management into the proper context," said Timothy Coleman, executive director of Kettle Range Conservation Group. "There are just three breeding female wolves in all of Washington, so why is the federal government’s Wildlife Services and their sharpshooting snipers in Washington killing and trapping wolves? Certainly the public should have more of a say when such decisions are made."

Wildlife Services also ‘advised’ WDFW in the contentious 2012 killing of Washington’s Wedge wolf pack. In that instance, WDFW killed seven wolves after depredations of livestock on public lands, despite the rancher’s failure to take sufficient action to protect his cattle.

"Wildlife Services’ refusal to ensure its activities are based on the best available science strips the public of an opportunity to meaningfully understand and contribute to decisions impacting the health of ecosystems on which we all depend," said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director at WildEarth Guardians. "It’s past time that the dark practices of Wildlife Services are subjected to the sunshine of a transparent public process."

"Wildlife Services has a long, well-documented history of ignoring not only state and federal laws, but also its own policies," said Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense. "It is egregiously out of control, and its methods are barbaric and unscientific."

Wolves were driven to extinction in Washington in the early 1900s by a government-sponsored eradication program on behalf of the livestock industry. The species began to return to Washington from neighboring Idaho and British Columbia in the early 2000s, and the wolf population in the state has grown to 13 confirmed packs. Despite this growth, wolves in the state are far from recovered and face ongoing threats—including the threat of being shot and killed by Wildlife Services.

Western Environmental Law Center is representing the following organizations in the lawsuit: Cascadia Wildlands, WildEarth Guardians, Kettle Range Conservation Group, Predator Defense, and The Lands Council.  Find a copy of the complaint here.

 

Feb26

Kate Brown and Green Agendas

Eugene Weekly by Camilla Mortensen
 
While her previous position as Oregon’s secretary of state typically did not put her in the environmental spotlight, Oregon’s new Governor Kate Brown is no stranger to green agendas or protests. In summer of 2012, members of Cascadia Earth First! and Eugene’s own Cascadia Forest Defenders locked themselves together at Brown’s office at the state Capitol to call attention to logging in the Elliott State Forest.
 
As secretary of state, Brown was a member of the State Land Board, which governs the Elliott, and she will continue on the SLB as governor. Logging on state and federal lands is among the many green issues that Brown will be asked to take a position on in the coming months.
 
In addition to a law degree from Lewis and Clark, Brown has a BA in environmental conservation from the University of Colorado at Boulder.Elliott rainforest (photo by Cascadia Wildlands)
 
The media and GOP lawmakers have linked former governor John Kitzhaber’s downfall to his fiancée Cylvia Hayes’ clean energy work, and some predicted this would slow down climate bills in the Legislature, but so far that has not borne out. The clean fuels bill, a Kitzhaber priority that extends Oregon’s low-carbon fuel standard, has passed in the Oregon Senate.
 
“There might have been a scandal, but that doesn’t follow to Kate Brown,” says Doug Moore of the Oregon League of Conservation Voters (OLCV).
 
“I think we just have to be a little patient right now because folks in the Legislature are hurting; it’s a weird position for them to be regardless of party,” he says, adding that OLCV wants to give her “time to develop her own environmental agenda” and “do what she does best, which is think things through.”
 
Moore points to Brown’s legislative voting record, tracked by OLCV: In the 2007 session as a state senator she scored an 89 percent, and in 2005 and 2003 she scored a 67 percent. Before that, in 2001, she scored a 92, in 1999 a 93 percent and, in 1997, she scored 100 percent.
 
Moore says the fact that her “lifetime” average green voting scores were in the 80s is even more impressive, given that she was in the minority with the Republicans in power during much of her tenure.
 
Once Brown develops her agenda, Moore says OLCV hopes that “the number one issue is climate; it’s the environmental issue of our time.” He continues, “The victories we have had can all be undone if we don’t take action on climate.”
 
According to Moore, “Without states like Oregon to lead on climate, we won’t see action, and that’s not acceptable.”
 
And Oregon has a lot of areas where it can step up its efforts to slow human-caused global warming. Conservationists are fighting fossil fuel projects including coal export terminals, oil trains — such as the one that exploded in West Virginia last week — and liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals and their associated pipelines.
 
“Oregon’s billion-dollar sportfishing economy depends on clean water,” says Michael O’Leary, deputy director of the Northwest Steelheaders Association. “But we’re frighteningly unprepared to face the exponentially increasing risks of an oil train disaster along our waterways.”
 
O’Leary says, “We desperately need Gov. Brown to give the DEQ [Department of Environmental Quality] and ODOT [Oregon Department of Transportation] the tools they need to respond to — and to better prevent —  -these increasingly likely catastrophes.”
 
Josh Laughlin of Eugene-based Cascadia Wildlands, which has been fighting a natural gas pipeline and an LNG terminal in Coos Bay, says of Brown: “We definitely have high expectations in terms of her ability to be an environmental champion.” He calls LNG one of a “myriad of conservation issues squarely in her court.”
 
“Will she pull the plug on the reckless scheme to build a 230-mile natural gas pipeline?” he asks.
 
“The stakes are incredibly high on this one,” Laughlin says, “for wild salmon, clean water, climate stability and rural communities in southwest Oregon, which are being steamrolled by the fossil fuel industry and government regulators in terms of eminent domain and other scare tactics.”
 
Laughlin says Kitzhaber was “a mixed bag for us on our issues.” He says, “Some things he stepped up on, and on some things he was a real disappointment,” such as advocating for “ramping up the cut” on federal forestlands. On the other hand, he says, the former governor “helped broker a settlement setting up a plan for wolf recovery.”
 
He says Brown will have an opportunity to stand up for wolves, as Cascadia Wildlands expects “to see bills stripping protections for wolves and trying to kill wolves, as we do every session.”
 
Cascadia Wildlands is also keeping an eye on where Brown will go in her continued position as a member of the SLB and its governance over state lands. “On the Elliot she’s expressed a real interest in finding a conservation solution,” Laughlin says. “But the jury is still out in terms of what that means and what a solution looks like.”
 
He says, “The solution to us is very clear, and it’s beginning to gain more and more traction in Salem.” That solution, he says, is to “decouple the Elliott from the Common School Fund” so that the old growth in the coastal rain forest is no longer earmarked as a revenue for schools. “It makes no sense in this day and age to tie old-growth clearcutting to school funding,” he says.
 
Laughlin says Cascadia Wildlands would like to see Brown take a leadership role in terms of finding a solution. He asks, “Will she step up in finding a conservation solution Oregonians will be proud of?”
 
Lisa Arkin of Beyond Toxics, which is working to limit aerial sprays of pesticides on forestlands in Oregon, also has hope for Brown’s green credentials, pointing to her work on Oregon’s Sustainability Board and calling her “gung-ho” on seeking solutions.
 
During Kitzhaber’s three terms as governor, conservationists did not see improvements in Oregon’s weak Forest Practices Act, which governs logging and the use of pesticide sprays on private lands. Laughlin and Arkin hope Brown will change that and strengthen Oregon’s laws.
 
We have “high hopes in terms of her ability to be an environmental champion,” Laughlin says, “and hope she recognizes these issues we are working on are in the best interests of the Oregonians she represents.”
 
(photo of the Elliott State Forest by Cascadia Wildlands)
 
 
Feb11

Exciting Leadership Transition at Cascadia Wildlands

Dear Cascadia Wildlands Supporters,

Bushwacking through head-high ferns to find the elusive Devil’s Staircase waterfall. Watching salmon thrash upstream to their natal grounds. Hearing the pre-dawn keer of the marbled murrelet high in the canopy. Knowing wolves are reclaiming their rightful place back in Cascadia. Educating and empowering communities to confront power imbalances. These are the things that keep me feeling alive and ever committed to the work of Cascadia Wildlands.

It is an exciting time for me. I’ve recently been asked by Cascadia Wildlands’ Board of Directors to serve as our interim executive director as Bob Ferris phases into retirement.

I’m determined to lead our powerful team into the future and further realize our vision of vast old-growth forests, rivers full of wild salmon, wolves howling in the backcountry, and vibrant communities sustained by the unique landscapes of the Cascadia bioregion.

I’m grateful for what Bob brought to Cascadia Wildlands over the past three years to make us a stronger organization. His expertise in conservation biology, decades of non-profit experience, and his ability to dig up the dirt on and expose the despoilers of wild nature are just a few things that have helped take us to the next level.

Photo taken July 6 2013 of OR17 with a 2013 pup of the Imnaha pack. Subadult wolves assist in the raising of the pups. Photo courtesy of ODFWEvery day, I’m amazed at what we have accomplished for a conservation organization our size. I get even more fired up for what we have our sights on. Because 2015 may be the year gray wolves get established in the Kalmiposis Wilderness, northern California, Oregon’s Willamette National Forest, and Washington’s Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Much of Oregon’s remarkable wolf recovery has been facilitated by our legal challenge that halted wolf killing in Oregon and ensuing landmark settlement agreement that created the strongest wolf plan in the country.

Please dig deep to help Cascadia accomplish this critical work in the 2015 year by making a tax-deductible donation today.

Breathtaking photo of the Tongass National Forest. Photo courtesy David Beebe.With continued determination, we will have a lasting conservation solution for Oregon’s 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest now that we have ground old-growth clearcutting to a halt. This year we hope to put a nail in the coffin of the proposed 150-foot-wide, 230-mile-long liquefied natural gas (LNG) pipeline and export facility slated for Coos Bay that would wreak havoc for salmon, wildlife and our climate. And we will continue to fight tooth-and-nail against the 6,000-acre Big Thorne old-growth timber sale in Alaska’s fabled Tongass National Forest (image at left) in Cascadia’s northern reaches.

Having been with Cascadia Wildlands essentially since its formation over 15 years ago, I’m excited, rejuvenated and ready to lead the organization into the future. Thanks for believing in us, taking action when called on, and supporting our conservation work over the years and into the future. Don’t hesitate to contact me with any thoughts or questions.

Will you join me in supporting Cascadia right now?

For a wild and free Cascadia,

Josh Laughlin Signature

Josh Laughlin
Interim Executive Director/Campaign Director
jlaughlin(at)cascwild(dot)org

P.S. You can also mail a check or money order made out to Cascadia Wildlands and send it to POB 10455, Eugene, OR 97440.

 

Photo Credits: Top left, Josh Laughlin, Interim Executive Director of Cascadia Wildlands, at Devil's Staircase in 2012. (Photo courtesy Cascadia Wildlands.) Middle right, Subadult and pup from the Imnaha Pack, taken July 2013. (Photo by ODFW.) Bottom left, Breathtaking photo of the Tongass National Forest. (Photo courtesy of David Beebe.)

 

we like it wild. Follow us Facebook Twiter RSS