Home Page Hot Topic

Sep30

Oregon Board of Forestry Sued for Failure to Protect Marbled Murrelet Habitat

For Immediate Release
September 30, 2016

Contact: Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, 314-482-3746, nick@cascwild.org
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, 503-484-7495, ngreenwald@biologicaldiveristy.org
       Steve Pedery, Oregon Wild, 503-283-6343 ext. 212
       Bob Sallinger, Portland Audubon, 503-380-9728

Lawsuit Filed Against Oregon Board of Forestry for Failing to Protect Habitat for Threatened Marbled Murrelet

EUGENE, Ore.- Four conservation organizations filed suit today against the Oregon Board of Forestry over dismissal of a petition requesting the Board identify and protect important old-growth forest areas for the marbled murrelet, a seabird threatened with extinction.  Under Oregon law, the Board was supposed to have provided such protection after the seabird was protected as threatened under the state Endangered Species Act in 1987.  

“The state of Oregon is obligated to protect its threatened wildlife, and it is not doing that with this unique seabird,” said Nick Cady, legal director at Cascadia Wildlands. “It is way past time that protection measures for the species are instituted, otherwise the marbled murrelet will go the way of the passenger pigeon.” 
 
On Sept. 9 the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission granted a similar petition. The two agencies are required to work together to facilitate murrelet recovery and develop protection measures for occupied sites.  

The marbled murrelet was first listed as a threatened species in Oregon in 1987, and the listing of a species requires the Board of Forestry to conduct an inventory of species’ sites and develop rules to protect the sites from harmful forestry activities.  Clearcut logging of the murrelets’ nesting habitat on state and private forestlands in Oregon is the primary cause of the species decline.

“For the last thirty years, Oregon’s plan for marbled murrelets has been to look the other way while their habitat is clear-cut,” said Steve Pedery, conservation director at Oregon Wild. “Oregonians expect better from our governor and state agencies. They need to develop a plan to protect murrelets and their habitat, and they need to stand up to pressure from the clearcut lobby and the county politicians who do their bidding.”

While murrelets have been listed as a ‘threatened’ species for nearly 30 years, Oregon has never developed a plan to recover them or protect the old-growth habitat that they depend on. Instead the state has relied on the nesting habitat located on nearby federal forestlands. This is no longer sufficient as murrelet populations in the Pacific Northwest continue to decline, and a recent status review conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that conservation of nesting habitat on state and private lands is now critical to the species’ survival.

The Board of Forestry's decision to not even consider a petition to identify and protect old growth habitat for Marbled Murrelets once again demonstrates the board's indifference towards the plight of Marbled Murrelets and other old growth dependents species," said Bob Sallinger, Conservation Director for Audubon Society of Portland. "The Board has been ignoring its obligations under both state and federal law for decades even as the Marbled Murrelets numbers continue to plummet."

Murrelets fly inland from the ocean to nest on wide, mossy limbs found in the mature and old-growth forests of the Oregon Coast Range. A recent decision to ramp up clearcut logging of murrelet nesting habitat on Bureau of Land Management lands in western Oregon coupled with the state of Oregon’s proposal to privatize the 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest located, east of Coos Bay, underscore the need to develop habitat protections. A recent murrelet monitoring report produced by the U.S. Forest Service stressed the urgent need to “arrest the loss of suitable habitat on all lands, especially on non-federal lands in the relatively near term.”

“The Board of Forestry's management of the old-growth forests needed by the marbled murrelet and cherished by Oregonians across the political spectrum has been abysmal,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Board of Forestry and Gov. Kate Brown have a legal and moral responsibility to protect murrelets and their forest habitat, and need to take action to reverse the decline of the species."

Background: The marbled murrelet is a member of the auk family, which includes birds like auklets, guillemots and puffins. These sea-birds get their name from the marbling pattern of black, gray and white that covers their backs during the non-breeding season. When murrelets are breeding they molt to a plain brown plumage. They form lifelong breeding pairs and feed on small, schooling fish, such as herring.

Populations of marbled murrelets are closely tied to the amount of old forest habitat available for nesting. The central Oregon Coast is one of the last strongholds for murrelets. While forest practices have changed on federal lands managed by the Siuslaw National Forest, scientists warn that more needs to be done to protect murrelet habitat on state and private lands where logging practices continue to indiscriminately remove nesting habitat.
 

Sep09

Press Release: Marbled Murrelet Moves One Step Closer to State Endangered Status, Stronger Protections

For Immediate Release
September 9, 2016
 
Contacts:
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746, nick@cascwild.org
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495, ngreenwald@biologicaldiversity.org
Bob Sallinger, Audubon Society of Portland, (503) 380-9728, bsallinger@audubonportland.org
 
EUGENE, Ore.— In response to a petition from Cascadia Wildlands and other conservation groups, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted 5-2 to initiate a review of the imperiled marbled murrelet to determine if it warrants uplisting from “threatened” to “endangered” under Oregon’s endangered species law. The commission has until June 21, 2017 to make the decision. If the murrelet is determined to be endangered, the state will need to develop protection measures that limit logging in remaining coastal old-growth forests where the seabirds nest.
 
“The science clearly shows the marbled murrelet needs help if it is going to persist as a species into the future,” said Nick Cady, legal director with Cascadia Wildlands. “The vote is a huge first step in recovering this unique seabird from the brink of extinction.”
 
The murrelet was awarded state protection as “threatened” in 1987, followed by federal protection in 1992. But the seabird has continued to decline, primarily because of continued loss of habitat, particularly on nonfederal lands, where a recent report found that murrelet habitat has declined by 27 percent since 1993.
 
“If the marbled murrelet is to have any chance of survival, we must protect Oregon’s remaining old-growth forests,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The state has not done enough to protect the murrelet's forested home on state and private lands, which cover substantial portions of the Coast Range.”
 
Despite the murrelet's continued decline, the state of Oregon is in the process of selling the 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest located east of Coos Bay. The Elliott contains large blocks of intact older forest habitat critical to the species’ survival.
 
“Even as the marbled murrelet moves closer to extinction, some of our elected officials are whistling past the graveyard,” said Bob Sallinger, conservation director at the Audubon Society of Portland. “At the same time that we are calling for the marbled murrelet to be uplisted, we are also calling on Gov. Kate Brown and state Treasurer Ted Wheeler to halt the sale of public lands on the Elliott State Forest which provide some of the best marbled murrelet habitat in Oregon.”
 
In addition to state lands, protecting remaining old forest on private industrial forestlands is critical to the species’ persistence. Overall, 41 percent of the murrelet's remaining habitat is on nonfederal lands.
While the marbled murrelet spends most of the year foraging in coastal waters, it is the only seabird that nests in trees, flying inland up to 35 miles to nest and rear its young during spring and summer each year.
 
The petition to uplist the murrelet to endangered was submitted in June by Cascadia Wildlands, Coast Range Forest Watch, the Center for Biological Diversity, Audubon Society of Portland, Oregon Wild and the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club.
 
                                                                 ###
Sep07

Press Release: Court Orders Fish and Wildlife Service to Reexamine Lynx Critical Habitat

For Immediate Release
September 7, 2016
 
Contacts:
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, 314-482-3746, nick@cascwild.org
Matthew Bishop, Western Environmental Law Center, 406-324-8011, bishop@westernlaw.org
Bethany Cotton, WildEarth Guardians, 406-414-7227, bcotton@wildearthguardians.org  
Arran Robertson, Oregon Wild, 503-283-6343 ext. 223, ar@oregonwild.org
 
 
Missoula, MT — Today the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana ordered the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) to reconsider its decision to exclude the Canada lynx’s entire southern Rocky Mountain range, essential for the wildcat’s recovery, from designation as critical habitat.
 
Critical habitat is area designated by the federal government as essential to the survival and recovery of a species protected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Once designated, federal agencies must make special efforts to protect critical habitat from damage or destruction. In 2014, the Service designated approximately 38,000 acres of critical habitat for threatened lynx, but chose to exclude the lynx’s entire southern Rocky Mountain range, from south-central Wyoming, throughout Colorado, and into north-central New Mexico. These areas are vital to the iconic cat’s survival and recovery in the western U.S., where lynx currently live in small and sometimes isolated populations. Now, according to the court’s September 7, 2016, order, the Service must go back and reexamine these areas.
 
“Given that evidence cited by the Service in the September 2014 final rule shows that a reproducing lynx population exists in Colorado, the Service’s failure, on account of marginal hare densities, to designate critical habitat to protect that population and aid in its maintenance is arbitrary, capricious, and ‘offends the ESA.’ ” Court order at 20
 
“This decision gives the lynx a fighting chance to not only survive – but recover – in the southern Rockies,” said Matthew Bishop, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center who represented the groups. “We’re hopeful this decision will mark a turning point for lynx conservation in the heart of southern Rockies lynx habitat.”
 
Lynx habitat is under threat across the contiguous U.S. from climate change, road building, motorized recreation, and logging. Perplexingly, the Service’s latest designation decreased existing protections by 2,593 square miles compared to a 2013 plan. In doing so, the Service excluded much of the cat’s historic and currently occupied, last best habitat in the southern Rockies and other areas from protection. The court found the Service failed to follow the science showing that lynx are successfully reproducing in Colorado, and therefore excluding Colorado from the cat’s critical habitat designation “runs counter to the evidence before the agency and frustrates the purpose of the ESA.”
 
 “With increasing threats from climate change and development, it's long past time lynx receive every possible protection, including safeguards for the rare cat’s southern Rockies habitat,” said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians. “The Fish and Wildlife Service needs to stop playing politics and start meeting its obligations to recover our most imperiled species, including lynx.”
 
The court ruled the Service did not improperly fail to designate historical Canada lynx habitat in Oregon and Washington’s Kettle Range, disappointing wildlife advocates.
 
“Canada lynx once roamed snowy peaks in Oregon from the Eagle Caps to Crater Lake,” said Oregon Wild Conservation Director Steve Pedery. “It's unfortunate that this decision does not do more to help restore this iconic animal to its rightful place in the Oregon backcountry.”
 
"It is discouraging that Oregon was not included, but this victory keeps us hopeful for the species," said Nick Cady of Cascadia Wildlands.
 
"Washington's Kettle Range provides important lynx habitat and a vital connection between populations in the Northern Rockies and those in the North Cascades," said Dave Werntz, science and conservation director for Conservation Northwest. "We're disappointed that this area has not been recognized as critical habitat, and we urge managing agencies to take further steps to protect lynx habitat in northeast Washington."
 
The Service first listed lynx as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2000. However, at that time the Service failed to protect any lynx habitat, impeding the species’ survival and recovery. Lynx habitat received no protection until 2006, and that initial critical habitat designation fell short of meeting the rare cat’s needs and the ESA’s standards. After two additional lawsuits brought by conservationists challenging the Service’s critical habitat designations culminated in 2008 and 2010, a district court in Montana left the agency’s lynx habitat protection in place while remanding it to the Service for improvement. This resulted in the most recent and still inadequate habitat designation.
 
In 2014, the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana also ruled that the Service violated the ESA by failing to prepare a recovery plan for lynx after a more than 12-year delay. The court ordered the Service to complete a recovery plan for lynx by January 15, 2018.
 
“Lynx are a vital part of the landscape in Colorado and they need to be protected to ensure that they continue to recover, and eventually prosper," said Sloan Shoemaker, executive director of Wilderness Workshop. "This decision is an important step in that direction. ”
 
The Western Environmental Law Center represented WildEarth Guardians, Wilderness Workshop, Cascadia Wildlands, Conservation Northwest, and Oregon Wild on the case.
 
Background
Canada lynx, medium-sized members of the feline family, are habitat and prey specialists. Heavily reliant on snowshoe hare, lynx tend to be limited in both population and distribution to areas where hare are sufficiently abundant. Like their preferred prey, lynx are specially adapted to living in mature boreal forests with dense cover and deep snowpack. The species and its habitat are threatened by climate change, logging, development, motorized access, and trapping, which disturb and fragment the landscape, increasing risks to lynx and their prey.
 
Studies show species with designated critical habitat under the ESA are more than twice as likely to have increasing populations than those species without. Similarly, species with adequate habitat protection are less likely to suffer declining populations and more likely to be stable. The ESA allows designation of both occupied and unoccupied habitat key to the recovery of listed species, and provides an extra layer of protection especially for animals like lynx that have an obligate relationship with a particular landscape type.
 
Sep02

Cascadia Wildlands Leads Ground-truth Expedition into Fabled Tongass National Forest

by Alaska Legal Director Gabe Scott [updated 9/8]
 
TONGASS NATIONAL FOREST, ALASKA— Lots to report from our ground-truthing trek last week into Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. We spent a week on Wrangell, Revilla and Prince of Wales Islands with colleagues investigating proposed and active old-growth logging projects.
Whole mountains and valleys are being clearcut on Cleveland Peninsula.

Whole mountains and valleys are being clearcut on Cleveland Peninsula.

 
This was a trip to the edge of the cresting wave of old-growth logging in Cascadia. We visited the largest old-growth sale in a generation, the Big Thorne Stewardship Project, as well as the next big sale coming down the pipe on Wrangell Island. The world should know about the old-growth clearcutting that is still happening in Alaska. You’ll especially want to hear about these wolf pups on Prince of Wales.
 
For the week in the Tongass I was joined by Oliver Stiefel, an attorney at CRAG and co-counsel on most of our pending Tongass litigation; Jacob Ritley, a cinematographer who offered his skills to help document what is going on; and the incomparable Larry Edwards, the southeast Alaska forest campaigner for Greenpeace. We met up for a couple days driving and flying around Wrangell Island, then down to Ketchikan to look at the Saddle Lakes road. From there we ferried over to Prince of Wales Island for several more days in the woods.
Oliver Stiefel of CRAG wishing that the legal system worked faster. On the ground at the Big Thorne sale, Prince of Wales Island, Alaska.

Oliver Stiefel of CRAG wishing that the legal system worked faster. On the ground at the Big Thorne sale, Prince of Wales Island, Alaska.

Tongass at the Crossroads

Things are happening on the Tongass.
 
The big new Forest Plan is out, vaunted as a “transition” out of old-growth logging and into second-growth logging. It’s a nice idea, but the actual plan is to prop up old-growth logging for several more decades. We expect to be filing our administrative objection to the plan in late August.
 
The biggest old-growth sale in a generation, the Big Thorne Stewardship Project, is being rapidly cut while our appeal for an injunction waits for a decision by the 9th Circuit. Over 6,000 acres of old-growth is being logged, nearly 150 million board feet, on north central Prince of Wales Island.
 
The next of the big logging project, the 5,000-acre Wrangell Island Project, is moving down the pipeline. There is still time to prevent that mistake as the agency reviews comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
 
Construction is beginning on the Saddle Lakes road out of Ketchikan, which would further threaten the imperiled wolf population on the Alexander Archipelago.
 
And that's just on Forest Service land. On State and private land, it’s even worse.
 
The purpose of a groundtruth expedition is to provide a reality check for the schemes layed out on paper. The truth on the ground on the Tongass is even more striking and urgent than we had feared. The Forest Service is mowing down forests in a last gasp, while the industry scrapes the bottom of the barrel it has emptied. Old-growth logging is directly threatening the imperiled Alexander Archipelago wolf, including one pack in particular.

Wrangell Island – Scraping the barrel

Wrangell, Alaska is a great little town in a beautiful setting. It sits at the north end of a big island, separated by inlets and narrows from even more remote islands and mountain wilderness of the Stikine. It’s a great place to visit, accomodating but not overrun by tourists. Wrangell has busy small-boat harbors and lots of salmon fishing, a nice main street and neighborhoods, surrounded by post-card views of ocean inlets, forested islands and high mountains. They have a new ship yard, which is turning out to be a brilliant economic move for the isolated community, keeping boats and people working in town through the winter.  
 
The purpose of our visit was to look at the next big old-growth timber sale, the Wrangell Island Project. It proposes logging on 5,309 acres, almost all untouched old-growth. This is one of the large, long-term sales originally ordered by our old friend Mark Rey to re-establish the logging industry.
On the chopping block, Wrangell Island Project.

On the chopping block, Wrangell Island Project.

 
In Wrangell we met up with a local homesteader, who in summers works a “John Muir tour” for cruise ship passengers. This was a personal highlight because I’d always wondered where exactly it was above town that John Muir lit his famous fire in 1879. (Quick history tangent: In Travels in Alaska Muir describes charging up a mountainside on a black night in a howling rainstorm, then lighting a fire using only a small candle and a pocketknife in the driving rain.  He wanted to observe the trees’ wildness in the torrential storm. Being John Muir, his fire made a flame so huge it illuminated the low clouds over town. The townspeople were apparently much-alarmed by the weird light, suspecting spirits or a new kind of omen.)
 
There used to be a mill in Wrangell. At least then one could see some logic in a 65 million board foot monstrosity, but Wrangell’s foreign-owned mill skipped out on their long-term contracts decades ago, and an American effort to save it went bankrupt in 2004. The town has moved on. Today there are a few small mills, which is all to the good, but those guys only need a few acres a year. Wherever the market for a huge influx of Wrangell Island logs is, it certainly isn’t in Wrangell.
 
As we flew and drove around the island it was clear that the best forests have already been logged away. From a timber point of view, the game is over. Obviously. The Wrangell Island Project targets the best of what remains, which means these stands were rejected by timber companies over and over through the years. But it also means that these forests have become critical for the remaining wildlife. We saw some gorgeous old-growth stands. Not much of the high-volume stuff that is so critical for winter habitat, but some gorgeous high-elevation and north-facing stands. Lots of the stands we saw that have been marked for cutting surely will lose money for whoever logs them. Why log five acres of old, gnarled-up cedar and snag to get one truck-full of logs? Kind of a head-scratcher, honestly. 
 
This sale is so big, and so little of the big tree forest is left on Wrangell, that this project would remove the long-term possibility of local, economic logging. The last gasp of the timber beast could actually kill the beating heart of the small-scale, Alaska-style logging operators. It is the classic Alaska story of the resource being hauled away, leaving nothing for the locals (let alone the wildlife) to get by on when winter comes. It doesn’t make sense.
 
We’ll try to stop that happening on Wrangell. Our coalition submitted detailed comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement days later. We are hopeful that logic, reason and law will prevail.

Ketchikan

Next we flew to Ketchikan, on Revillagigedo Island, to look at the Saddle Lakes Project. Saddle Lakes was an old-growth timber sale and road-building project east of Ketchikan. After we challenged the project legally the Forest Service dropped the logging portion. But the State has insisted on going forward with the road connection between Ketchikan and Shelter Cove.
Saddle Lakes Road, Revilla Island.

 Area of proposed Ketchikan-Shelter Cove Road, Revilla Island.

I'll admit, the Shelter Cove road does have a certain logic to it. The backcountry is scattered with remote networks of logging roads. Some people want to link them up to where people can easily drive them. Ketchikan is a remote island town with a good size population, and people here do all of their playing in the outdoors: hunting, fishing, trapping, and berry-picking. One of the most popular directions residents go is out the White River Road. Not long ago that area was clearcut, on an epic scale, by the Alaska Mental Health Trust. But just beyond that are a whole heap of fantastic inlets and valleys and forests and rivers to explore.
 
With Shelter Cove road the Forest Service and State of Alaska are trying to connect Ketchikan with the network of logging roads to the east. Those roads ultimately head north, and ultimately the State hopes to link all those road systems up. The new road linkages would also facilitate additional clearcutting and other development on USFS, State and private lands.
 
The trouble is that, first, nobody is maintaining those roads. They slough off into streams and the culverts commonly block passage for salmon. And second, linking remote roads with big towns is a sure-fire way to cause the wolves to be hunted and trapped out of the area. Alexander Archipelago wolves have been hit so badly by the one-two punch of cleartut logging and aggressive wolf hunting that they are on the cusp of extinction. Keeping remote areas remote is the only way they might survive.
 
And that is why we’re challenging the road in Alaska District court.
 

Prince of Wales Island

You guys, seriously, this place!
 
For lovers of wildest Cascadia, Prince of Wales Island is just about the coolest spot on earth. They should set the Jedi training temple here in the next Star Wars. People would be sure it was CGI. The trees are big, the rivers are clear, the forest is boundless.
 
We were here to examine the Big Thorne sale. At over a hundred million board feet from over six thousand acres of old-growth it is the largest old-growth timber sale in a generation. We’ve challenged this sale in court, but lost our bid for an injunction in the Alaska District Court. Cascadia and several others have appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last year. The case has been fully briefed and argued, and currently sits on the judges’ desks waiting for a decision.  
On the chopping block. Looking northeast at Snakes Lakes, North Thorne River, Prince of Wales Island, Alaska.

On the chopping block. Looking northeast at Snakes Lakes, North Thorne River, Prince of Wales Island, Alaska.

 
It is impossible to convey the truth on the ground in this place with words. To know the place we’re talking about I need you to suspend your disbelief and re-activate the childlike side of your imagination. Picture an ancient wooded glade out of a fairy tale— all stately green trees drooping moss, gentle blue rivers teeming with fish, perfect meadows where Bambi is learning to walk. It’s a place where cute little wolf puppies—the hope of a dying breed— were born this very spring live under the roots of an old-growth tree at a quiet blue lake ringed in green.
 
Got it? Now, I'm telling you, this place is real. 
 
The forest naturally is world-class. Forest to take your breath away.  Tall, straight, towering Sitka spruce; huge western hemlock all wild and twisted. There were even shore pines and alders of alarming size; trees that told you this is a good place to be a tree. And the cedars, oh the cedars. Red and yellow cedar lace the forest, dripping with moss and lichen and bark. And the dead trees were even more beautiful, towering totems weathered by centuries, swirling with color.
 
Wildlife thrives here too. Prince of Wales is notoriously thick with black bears, though we saw little sign. The island is snaked through with rivers and lakes rich with trout and salmon, a fisherman’s post-card around every bend. Sitka black-tailed deer are naturally abundant, feeding humans and wolf and gladdening the forest scene. The several towns and villages on the island are spectacularly set, and have deep history. It's a place where stores advertise "Sundries." The abundance that Prince of Wales is blessed with has also been a curse. It is here that logging has been, and continues to be, the most intense.  
 
When the Tongass old-growth industry dies here, it is not going to be for lack of trying.  Old-growth forests are falling fast and furious this summer on Prince of Wales and nearby Cleveland Peninsuala. We saw massive new clearcuts on National Forest, State, Mental Health Trust, and ANCSA Corporation land. Whole valleys, mountainsides, and peninsulas are being leveled.
Alaska Mental Health Trust logging on Prince of Wales Island.

Some of the recent private-land logging on Prince of Wales Island.

 
If the forests are being mowed down, how can it be that the industry claims to be starving for trees? The need for logs to mill is the whole basis of the Forest Service timber sales, the new Forest Plan, and Senator Murkowski’s various crazy ideas about giving away federal land for deregulated logging. It’s all to feed this mill you see below you—Viking Lumber—the last industrial-sized old-growth mill in all of Southeast Alaska. 
 
How that is, it became obvious when we looked at it, is that the trees being cut here are mostly all exported away as un-milled, "raw" logs. The piles of logs lined up at the dock for export dwarfed the mostly-full Viking yard. 
The Viking Lumber Company mill at Klawock, Prince of Wales Island. Viking is the last remaining large mill in Southeast Alaska.

The Viking Lumber Company mill at Klawock, Prince of Wales Island. Viking is the last remaining large mill in Southeast Alaska.

 
Visiting the active logging units of the Big Thorne sale the scale of ecological devastation was evident. Logging crews have been targeting the old-growth clearcut units, cutting them as fast as they can.
 
Which brings me to the wolf pups. In their zeal to get the forest cut down before any legal injunction, logging crews have ended up harassing a particular pack of the imperiled Alexander Archipelago wolves. We’d heard rumors of this prior to our visit, so spent days trying to track them down.
 
This small pack gave birth to pups this spring near a lake. Their parents, like most all Alexander Archipelago wolves— Islands wolves—had excavated a spacious den under the roots of an old-growth tree. They wanted peace, quiet, safety, and enough food. It is especially important that these pups make it, because the Islands wolf population on Prince of Wales has plummeted to under 100.
 
For several years the wildlife biologists with Alaska Department of Fish and Game and at the U.S. Forest Service have been aware of this particular den. One of the logging units in the Big Thorne sale was identified by ADF&G early on as overlapping with the mandatory 1,200’ buffer around that den. To guard the wolf den locations, ADF&G was sent the maps by the Forest Service, re-drew the unit boundaries to provide the 1,200’ buffer, and sent them back, all in secret.
Tracks of the Alexander Archipelago Wolf, Prince of Wales Island, Alaska.

Tracks of the Alexander Archipelago Wolf, Prince of Wales Island, Alaska.

 
Foresters preferred a different unit layout. By the time the guys with chainsaws showed up, the secret about the wolf family, who was known to be about to give birth to pups in that den, and mandatory logging buffer, were apparently forgotten.
 
Just prior to the pups being born, loggers cut down the forest on the other side of the lake. The wolves also might also have noticed the hundreds of acres being mowed down just over surrounding ridges, and the heavy-lift helicopters thundering overhead.
 
The last reliable information on this wolf family, which we obtained by FOIA just after returning, was that the pups were born, but had been forced to abandon the den.
The agency apparently was able to measure from stump to den, proving that the logging had invaded the mandatory (and paltry) 1,200’ buffer zone around active dens.[*UPDATE: more recent intelligence indicates the logging actually remained 18ft inside its buffer. GWS 9/8]  Think of that. Logging an old-growth hillside, with helicopters no less, only 1,200’ from a den where you know there are baby wolves of an imperiled species.
 
We never were able to locate the den, but I think we did find tracks from that pack next to an adjacent lake. They might be looking for a new den, or out hunting. Their territory is getting awfully limited. It is becoming harder and harder for a wolf to find a place that is not either a road or a clearcut. With aggressive hunters blaming them for trouble hunting deer, and new clearcuts and roads encroaching on every side, these wolf pups have a tough road ahead of them finding a new home
 
We'll be rooting for them, and doing everything we can in the human world to make their road easier. Stay tuned for Jacob's stunning images and video from our trip, and updates on the wolf packs search for a new home. 
 
(PS: Stay tuned for video and still footage from the expedition that we plan to release soon.)
 
 
Aug25

Press Release: Lawsuit Filed to Protect Threatened Marbled Murrelet from Logging on Former Elliott State Forest

For Immediate Release, August 25, 2016
 
Contact:         Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746
                       Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495
                       Bob Sallinger, Portland Audubon, (503) 380-9728
 
Lawsuit Filed to Protect Threatened Marbled Murrelet from Logging on Former Elliott State Forest
Logging Highlights Controversy Over Ongoing Privatization of Public Forest
 
EUGENE, Ore.— Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity and Portland Audubon filed a lawsuit in federal court today seeking to block Scott Timber Company from logging a portion of a 355-acre parcel of land that until 2014 was part of the 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest and provides habitat for the threatened marbled murrelet. The Endangered Species Act strictly prohibits “take” (harm, harassment or killing) of threatened species like the murrelet, which, unlike any other seabird, nests on the wide branches of large, old trees, making a daily trip of up to 35 miles inland to bring fish to its young.
 
The groups are seeking emergency relief to stop logging that under state law could begin as soon as Sunday.
 
“It was illegal for the state of Oregon to log the marbled murrelet’s habitat and it is illegal for Scott Timber Company to do the same,” said Nick Cady, legal director at Cascadia Wildlands. “We intend to hold the landowner accountable to the law to ensure this imperiled species receives the protections it needs.”
 
In 2012 the three groups sued the state of Oregon for illegally logging marbled murrelet habitat on the Elliott and other state forests. The state settled the suit in 2014, agreeing to drop 26 timber sales and stop logging in occupied murrelet habitat. But following the loss, the state sold three parcels totaling 1,453 acres, even though they contained mature and old-growth forests that are occupied by the murrelet, including the 355-acre Benson Ridge parcel.
 
“By trying to log, then sell occupied marbled murrelet habitat, the state of Oregon has completely disregarded its duty to protect these unique birds and the remaining old-forest they need to survive,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center. “This shortsighted action on the part of the state not only endangers the survival of the birds, but shortchanges Oregonians who’re counting on the state to protect our natural heritage.”  
 
At the time of the sale, the groups notified Scott Timber and other buyers that in purchasing the land, they were taking over the responsibility of ensuring the survival of the murrelet, and that logging of its habitat would violate the Endangered Species Act. Scott Timber responded that it had no immediate plans to log the Benson Ridge parcel it had purchased, but has now proposed a timber sale in habitat where murrelets have been documented in recent years.
 
“The marbled murrelet has lost most of the old-growth habitat it needs to survive in the Oregon Coast Range and is facing degraded ocean conditions due to climate change and other factors,” said Bob Sallinger, conservation director at the Audubon Society of Portland. “Flagrant violations of the Endangered Species Act in addition to these factors are a recipe for disaster for these birds.”
 
The controversy over the Benson Ridge parcel exemplifies why the public is so outraged about the privatization of public lands. Currently Oregon’s State Land Board, made up of the governor, treasurer and secretary of state, is in the process of disposing of the rest of the Elliott State Forest.
 
“This unfortunate situation should send a clear message to Governor Kate Brown, Treasurer Ted Wheeler and Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins that further privatization of the Elliott will directly threaten imperiled salmon and wildlife, old-growth forests, recreation opportunities and other values that Oregonians hold dear,” said Cady. “Our leaders in Salem must stand up for Oregonians, and halt the ongoing privatization of the Elliott State Forest.”
 
In June the groups sent a petition to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife requesting uplisting of the murrelet from “threatened” to “endangered” under the state Endangered Species Act, and to the Board of Forestry requesting that it identify and protect important forest sites critical to the murrelet’s survival — a requirement of the state's endangered species law that has never been met.
                                                                    
                                                            ####
 
Cascadia Wildlands represents approximately 10,000 members and supporters and has a mission to educate, agitate and inspire a movement to protect and restore Cascadia’s wild ecosystems.
 
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
 
Audubon Society of Portland was founded in 1902 to promote the understanding, enjoyment and protection of native birds, other wildlife and their habitats. Today it represents over 16,000 members in Oregon.
Aug09

New Western Oregon Forest Management Plan Challenged

For immediate release
August 9, 2016

Contacts: 
Susan Jane Brown, Western Environmental Law Center, 503-680-5513, brown@westernlaw.org 
Todd True, Earthjustice, 206-343-7340, ext. 1030, ttrue@earthjustice.org 
John Kober, Pacific Rivers, 503-915-6677, john@pacificrivers.org 
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, 314-482-3746, nick@cascwild.org
Joseph Vaile, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, 541-488-5789, joseph@kswild.org
Doug Heiken, Oregon Wild, 541-344-0675, dh@oregonwild.org
Megan Birzell, The Wilderness Society, 206-348-3597, megan_birzell@tws.org

Stakeholder Groups Challenge Oregon Forest Management Plan
New Plan Sacrifices Clean Water, Fishing Economy, Carbon Storage, Recreational Opportunities

Eugene, Ore.— Late yesterday, a coalition of conservation and fishing groups challenged in the U.S. District Court in Oregon a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) forest management plan, finalized Friday, that would replace the scientifically sound, ecologically credible, and legally responsible 1994 Northwest Forest Plan on millions of acres in western Oregon. The new BLM plan, collectively known as the Resource Management Plans (RMPs) for Western Oregon, eliminates protections for streamside forests, increases clearcutting, and effectively removes 2.6 million acres of federally managed public forests from the requirements of the Northwest Forest Plan.

“BLM’s new plan would impact the quality of life of rural residents, drinking water quality, wildlife habitat, and carbon storage,” said Susan Jane Brown, staff attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center. “We need to get this right. We must protect special places that Oregonians love while we work to restore forests and watersheds. A holistic view should drive our public land decisions – not simply finding ways to maximize logging.”

Where the Northwest Forest Plan provided relative stability in Oregon's often-contentious forest management, its elimination on these lands has sowed substantial discord. Last week, timber industry groups also challenged the new BLM plan in Washington, D.C. court, thousands of miles from those who will be most affected by the new plan.

The conservation and fishing stakeholders in yesterday's challenge seek to maintain the protections of the Northwest Forest Plan and its science-based requirements, asserting that BLM's new RMPs violate the Oregon and California Lands Act (O&C Act), National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and Administrative Procedure Act (APA), and therefore fail to support multiple uses of Oregon forests managed by the BLM.

"BLM's new plan does a disservice to the years of great progress we've made in balancing timber, recreation, and conservation forest uses," said Nick Cady of Cascadia wildlands. "We can't allow the places we love and rely on to be put at risk by a bad plan. We can do so much better than this, and we must."

The RMPs would increase logging levels by 37 percent, which could boost carbon emissions and make forests less resilient to climate change and other disturbances. In addition, the RMPs fail to recognize how healthy forests bring economic benefits to the state, such as Oregon's $12.8 billion annual outdoor recreation industry, which supports 141,000 jobs and $955 million in state and local tax revenue.

Fishing organizations are highly concerned that the reduction in streamside forest protection could push imperiled species like salmon and steelhead further toward extinction. In southern Oregon, the BLM plan would remove the Applegate Adaptive Management Area that has enabled community members to play an active role in local land management decisions.

The BLM plan cuts corners scientifically and legally. It would cause significant harms to the plaintiff group, including:

  • Eliminating the strong water quality and habitat provisions of the Northwest Forest Plan, reducing streamside no-logging buffers by half or more (a loss of 300,000 acres of streamside reserves). These reductions threaten wild native fish, water quality, terrestrial wildlife, and aquatic recreational opportunities.
  • Introducing loopholes that would increase logging in older forest, termed late-successional reserves, and eliminate survey requirements for sensitive wildlife that depend on old forest habitat to thrive. In addition, the aforementioned 300,000 acres of riparian reserves, which had been intended to grow into old forest and bolster habitat for old forest species, is now fair game for logging.
  • Disempowering public input and involvement by removing BLM and the plan from collaborative Adaptive Management Area efforts.
  • Enacting the least ambitious carbon sequestration alternative analyzed. Over the next century, the status quo would sequester twice as much carbon.
  • Focusing on more intensive, clearcut-style logging on nearly half a million acres of forests, abandoning the direction towards restoration of forests and watersheds under the Northwest Forest Plan.
  • Designating additional recreation areas, in many of which logging and off-road motorized use take precedence and could diminish the types of quiet recreation the vast majority of Oregonians enjoy.

“We have been working with BLM for the last 15 years to develop restoration strategies for degraded forest lands. This has resulted in a successful program of thinning dense young forests to improve habitat, create jobs, and produce wood,” said Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild, “Now BLM is moving in the wrong direction by reducing protection for streamside forests and adopting new loopholes that put old-growth forests at risk.”

BLM first attempted to revise its resource management plans in 2008. That plan, the result of a sweetheart settlement between the Bush Administration and the timber industry, was withdrawn by the Obama Administration in 2009, resurrected by a federal judge in 2011 in response to a timber industry lawsuit, and finally rejected by a second federal judge in 2012.

A copy of the complaint is available here.

A copy of the Record of Decision for the BLM plan is available here.

A copy of the groups' protest is available here.

###

Aug06

BLM Signs Devastating New Management Plan for Oregon’s Forests!

by Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands Legal Director

IMG_1413On August 5, the Bureau of Land Management signed a new management plan for western Oregon.  Cascadia Wildlands and our conservation allies protested the initial draft of this plan, but the BLM's decision yesterday largely ignored all our points of contention.  

From a broad perspective, the plan will increase logging levels on federal BLM lands by 37 percent.  These public lands were originally designed to serve as a refuge and protective zone for imperiled forest species, clean water, carbon storage in an effort to counter-balance the industrial clearcutting and pesticide spraying occurring on intermixed private forest lands.  There is no question that this plan deeply compromises our landscape's ability to adapt to ongoing climate change and other disturbances like large-scale fires.  

For over the past 20 years, these public forests had been managed under the Northwest Forest Plan, a deal brokered by the Clinton administration to end the timber wars in Oregon. The Northwest Forest Plan was not perfect, but it strived to achieve balance and protect critical resources and generally took a precautionary approach to various unknowns.  

The BLM's new plan dramatically reduces almost every protection in the Northwest Forest Plan.  Specifically, the plan eliminates stream side buffers, eliminates surveys and buffers for imperiled or uncommon species, disregards climate change and carbon storage, and opens up mature and old-growth forest to archaic cleacrcutting practices. The plan completely ignores the contribution of these public lands to Oregon's booming outdoor industry which is valued at over 10 billion dollars a year.  The fishing industry is particularly worried given the potential impacts to Oregon's waterways.

These public forest are our homes, our playgrounds, our sanctuaries.  These efforts to strip our forests away from us will not stand.  Cascadia Wildlands is part of a broad coalition of conservation, recreation, and fishing groups in staunch opposition to this plan, and we are devoted to protecting these majestic lands. There will be news of our challenge soon.

Aug04

Wolves Being Killed in Northeast Washington

For Immediate Release, August 3, 2016

Contacts: 
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746, nick@cascwild.orgAmaroq Weiss, Center for Biological Diversity, (707) 779-9613, aweiss@biologicaldiversity.org
John Mellgren, Western Environmental Law Center, (541) 359-0990, mellgren@westernlaw.org

Wildlife Agency to Kill Wolves in Northeast Washington
Members of Profanity Peak Pack To Be Targeted in Ferry County

OLYMPIA, Wash.— Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials announced late today they will kill members of the Profanity Peak pack in Ferry County. The kill order was issued following investigations concluding the wolves recently killed three calves and a cow and that three other calf deaths are probable wolf kills. All of the losses occurred on public lands grazing allotments, in territory occupied by the Profanity Peak pack. The decision was made under the guidelines of a new lethal removal protocol that was agreed to this spring by the state Wolf Advisory Group, a stakeholder group convened by the Department of Fish and Wildlife that includes agency staff and representatives from the ranching, hunting and conservation community.

“We appreciate the agency’s use of nonlethal measures to try to prevent losses of both livestock and wolves, and are glad to hear the ranchers in question have been working cooperatively with the state, but we are deeply saddened that wolves are going to die,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We are not part of the advisory group but have made clear to the group that we don’t support the killing of the public’s wildlife on public lands.”

According to the protocol agreed to by the advisory group, lethal removal of wolves is considered after four confirmed depredations in one calendar year, or six confirmed depredations in two calendar years. The protocol also requires that the affected ranchers have employed sanitation measures to avoid attracting wolves to livestock carcasses and have tried at least one proactive measure to deter conflicts with wolves at the time the livestock losses took place. 

“It’s tragic to see wolves killed, and I hope we continue to see growing wolf populations in Washington despite the yearly culling that inevitably takes place, said Nick Cady, legal director at Cascadia Wildlands.  “I do not believe it makes sense to spend taxpayer dollars to kill wolves in remote roadless areas on public lands.”

“The decision to kill wolves is always a sad event, and one that should not be taken lightly” said John Mellgren, staff attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center. “But it is even harder to stomach when that decision relates to wolves on our publicly owned lands.”

Cascadia Wildlands educates, agitates, and inspires a movement to protect and restore Cascadia's wild ecosystems.  We envision vast old-growth forests, rivers full of salmon, wolves howling in the backcountry, and vibrant communities sustained by the unique landscapes of the Cascadia Bioregion.  We like it wild.  Join us at: www.cascwild.org 

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The Western Environmental Law Center is a public interest nonprofit law firm. WELC combines legal skills with sound conservation biology and environmental science to address major environmental issues throughout the West. WELC does not charge clients and partners for services, but relies instead on charitable gifts from individuals, families, and foundations to accomplish its mission. www.westernlaw.org

###
 

Jul27

Blog: Summer Interning with Cascadia Wildlands

by Legal Intern Kat Fiedler
 
This week I am wrapping up my legal internship with Cascadia Wildlands. I have spent my summer conducting legal research and drafting memos and litigation documents across the scope of Cascadia’s work. While much of my time was spent in the legal weeds, the breadth of issues left me with a snapshot of the threats that the wild places and wildlife face throughout Cascadia and a better understanding of the legal tools we have to stop them. My work has included challenging timber sales that threaten wildlife, water quality, and general ecosystem health, strengthening or preserving wildlife protections for both marbled murrelets and wolves, and strategizing over the faulty legal structure governing suction dredge mining in the state of Washington. I was also able to observe many of the administrative procedures that underlie much of the decision making surrounding our wild places.
 
Elliott-Tim G 61316-6820[11]Exploring these places was, of course, a highlight of the summer. In June, I joined Cascadia Wildlands’ Executive Director Josh Laughlin, Wildlands Campaign Director Robin Meacher, and a number of Cascadia members on a hike into the 30,500-acre proposed Devils Staircase wilderness down to the namesake waterfall in the Oregon Coast Range. The experience was incredible. Having to navigate and bushwhack through such an untouched place provides a much different experience. It’s hard, and it’s worth it. Nothing can be taken for granted. It is impossible to ignore the thickets of underbrush that grab at your ankles, or the call of an owl when you stop to catch your breath, or the sunlight punching through the canopy illuminating a pink rhododendron. We reached the Devils Staircase bruised, sweaty, and happy – ready for the refreshing water. And it was all ours for the afternoon. The forest gifted us salmonberries on the final stretch home.
 
But even our forests marred by a matrix of ownership and scars of our state’s timber history somehow feel equally alive. That’s the beauty of Oregon, of Cascadia. I explored the Elliott State Forest, located just south of Devil’s Staircase, and learned about its imperfect history, but also the current threat of privatization. This place, too, was rich. In just a few hours, hiking along an elk trail, we spotted a bear, heard the call of owls, stepped over cougar scat, and gazed up into the canopies of legacy Douglas firs. The Elliott is not disposable.
 
This place is what I call home, and it has been an enormous privilege to work to protect it alongside the amazing folks at Cascadia Wildlands. I will finish up my studies at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University and the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies this next year, and look forward to returning home to start my career continuing this work protecting our wild and public lands.
 
(Elliott State Forest photo by Tim Giraudier)
 
Jul06

Oregon Wolf Delisting Challenge Reinstated by Court of Appeals

For Immediate Release
July 6, 2016
 
Contact:
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746, nick@cascwild.org    
Amaroq Weiss, Center for Biological Diversity, (707) 779-9613, aweiss@biologicaldiversity.org
Steve Pedery, Oregon Wild, (503) 283-6343 ext. 212, sp@oregonwild.org
      
Oregon Appeals Court Reinstates Legal Challenge to Premature Wolf Delisting
 
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 ODFW. Download high resolution image.

.

PORTLAND, Ore.— The Oregon Court of Appeals has ruled that Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity and Oregon Wild can proceed with their legal challenge to the state’s decision to prematurely strip endangered species protections from Oregon’s small population of gray wolves. Fewer than 120 of the animals are known to exist in the state.
 
“In no way should management of Oregon’s small population of recovering wolves be dictated by the livestock industry and its anti-wolf allies in Salem,” says Nick Cady, legal director with Cascadia Wildlands. “This ruling is a hopeful first step to ensure politics do not trump science when it comes to managing our treasured wildlife.”  
 
The ruling by the court late Tuesday reinstates a legal challenge filed in December by the conservation groups to last fall’s controversial 4-2 decision by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to strip state Endangered Species Act protections from gray wolves. Following that decision lobbyists with the livestock industry worked with several legislators during the 2016 legislature to pass House Bill 4040, a bill blocking judicial review of wolf delisting. Subsequent public records releases documented that despite public denials, the staff of Oregon Gov. Kate Brown was heavily involved in the legislation.
 
In April the conservation groups’ legal challenge was dismissed after the Oregon Department of Justice argued that the lawsuit was potentially moot due to H.B. 4040.  However, wolf advocates sought reconsideration by the court of this decision on the basis that H.B. 4040 was unconstitutional because it violated the separation of powers doctrine, among other issues.
 
In yesterday’s ruling Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals Erika Hadlock wrote that the issues presented by conservation advocates’ legal challenge “are complex matters of public importance” that deserve further consideration by the appellate court.
 
“Oregon’s wolves will now get their day in court to reveal the flawed process that stripped their protection,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Gov. Brown’s wildlife commission ignored the best science to illegally delist wolves, then her staff was actively involved in the passage of legislation to eliminate the public’s right to challenge that decision.”
 
The wildlife commission’s decision to delist wolves was based on an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife analysis of the state’s wolf population that numerous leading scientists characterized as severely flawed and illogical.
 
“Access to the courts to ensure that our government obeys its own laws is a cherished right of Oregonians,” said Steve Pedery, conservation director of Oregon Wild. “Using H.B. 4040, Gov. Brown, legislators and livestock industry lobbyists tried to revoke that right when it came to wolves, and now it appears to have backfired on them.”
 
The wolf advocates’ opening brief is due to the appellate court on Aug. 23.
 
Cascadia Wildlands educates, agitates, and inspires a movement to protect and restore Cascadia's wild ecosystems. We envision 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.
 
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
 
Oregon Wild was founded in 1974 and works to protect & restore Oregon’s wildlands, wildlife, and waters as an enduring legacy for future generations.
 
we like it wild. Follow us Facebook Twiter RSS