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Sep02

Advocates Vow to Protect Devil’s Staircase Wilderness

by Zach Urness
Salem Statesman Journal
August 31, 2014
 
The first time Andy Stahl heard about the Devil's Staircase, it was little more than a wilderness myth.
 
Rumors of a spectacular waterfall hidden deep within one of the Coast Range's most remote and inaccessible canyons spread through Oregon State University's Environmental Center in the late 1970s like sightings of Bigfoot, sparking debate among students about whether this central coast Shangri-La actually existed.
 
Every bushwhacking adventure into the thick, cliff-walled jungle surrounding Wassen Creek — the supposed location of the fabled cascade — ended in failure, often after a miserable rain-soaked night in the wild.
 
"Year after year, students at Oregon State attempted to find it, and every time they failed," Stahl said. "It wasn't something that could be found on a map. It didn't have an official name, there certainly wasn't a trail, and the land is just damn hard to get through. A lot of people thought it didn't exist."
 
In 1981, the forestry graduate decided the mystery had to be solved. With a young environmental activist named Sherry Wellborn — who would later become his wife — Stahl traversed over 30 miles of Wassen Creek in tennis shoes.
 
The trip would not only prove Devil's Staircase did exist — and that it was as beautiful as hoped — it would set in motion a three-decade effort to preserve one of the largest remaining old-growth ecosystems in Oregon's Central Coast Range.
 
The effort to safeguard the 200-foot Douglas firs and cedars, spotted owl and coho salmon habitat, and dense interior valleys surrounding Devil's Staircase and Wassen Creek — a landscape nestled between the Smith and Umpqua rivers east of Reedsport — has been a quixotic journey that began in the early 1980s.
 
It has twice survived the threat of logging while coming within a razor's edge of being protected by Congress in 1984. It has come within striking distance of being protected as the 30,540 acre Devil's Staircase Wilderness multiple times since 2009 yet has always come just short.
 
With the 50th anniversary of Wilderness Act on Sept. 3 — a landmark piece of legislation aimed at preserving the nation's most important landscapes in their natural state — the Devil's Staircase offers a glimpse into the past and present struggle to preserve one of Oregon's wildest places.
 
Wassen Creek flows through dense old-growth forest in a remote canyon in Oregon's Central Coast Range east of Reedsport.
 
The main thing Stahl remembers about that three-day trip down the length of Wassen Creek was how isolated he felt in a 1,800-foot canyon that hadn't changed much since Columbus set sail.
 
This struck him as remarkable, especially since the Coast Range has been the realm of logging for more than a century. Forest Service, BLM and private logging roads bisect the vast majority of forest. Much of the landscape is a checkerboard of tree farms, clear-cuts, second growth, or some combination.
 
Yet within Wassen Creek, home to almost 26,000 acres of intact old-growth, Stahl found a deeper solitude than anywhere he'd previously traveled.
 
Massive Douglas fir and cedars rose 200 feet into the canopy overhead. In three days he saw more wildlife — black bear, river otter, elk and signs of cougar — than during a year's worth of hiking and backpacking.
 
On the third day, they found the Devil's Staircase, where Wassen Creek drops 50 feet down a series of sandstone tiers.
 
"It struck me that we were as isolated geographically as I had ever been in my life — the cliffs were so sheer that if one of us broke an ankle, I didn't have any idea how we'd get out," Stahl said. "I saw no evidence of humans — not a fire ring, blaze on a tree or boot mark. It was remarkable — not a canella of human presence."
 
THE FIRST THREAT OF LOGGING
Not long after Stahl's epic trip, in 1982, Siuslaw National Forest proposed a timber sale that would have led to a 400-acre cut in the Wassen Creek area.
 
The proposal sparked the first effort to preserve the area.
 
Environmental activists convinced then-Sen. Mark Hatfield to write a letter holding off the sale. In 1983, the National Wildlife Federation filed suit claiming the area's steep slopes and shallow, unstable soils on the Mapleton Ranger District were highly susceptible to landslides following timber harvests, which damage waterways.
 
The court ordered the Forest Service to conduct an environmental review and produce an Environmental Impact Statement before offering to sell, "any timber on the Mapleton Ranger District other than limited commercial thinning … firewood … greenery sales and salvage of dead and downed timber sales."
 
The result was dramatic. Timber harvests fell from 75 million board feet in 1983 to 15 million broad feet in 1984 on the Mapleton Ranger District. Many residents blamed the lawsuit for closing the mills and the city's loss of jobs.
 
The Wassen Creek area was originally included for protection under the 1984 Oregon Wilderness Act. A cap placed on acreage in the bill forced then-Rep. Jim Weaver to choose between a wilderness area in Southern Oregon and Wassen Creek.
 
Wassen Creek was the odd wilderness out.
 
RE-ENERGIZED
Without wilderness protection, but under no real threat from logging, the Devil's Staircase and Wassen Creek area went quiet as the Forest Wars raged in other parts of the state.
 
The area was declared critical habitat for the spotted owl by the Endangered Species Act in the early 1990s and the Northwest Forest Plan provided additional protection in 1994, but it never received the wilderness stroke of Congress.
 
The quiet period ended in 2006 when a 5,000-acre section of the proposed wilderness was included in a draft of the Western Oregon Plan Revision by the Bureau of Land Management to become Timber Management Area.
 
The inclusion re-energized the wilderness campaign around Devil's Staircase and Wassen Creek that hit full bore in 2007.
 
Editorials, rallies, media attention and even visits by two of Oregon's congressional delegation — Rep. Peter DeFazio and Sen. Jeff Merkley, who bushwhacked to the waterfall — brought renewed emphasis to preserving the area as wilderness.
 
Rep. DeFazio has introduced a bill giving the area wilderness protection three times in the House since 2009. Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden and Sen. Merkley have introduced similar bills in the Senate three times as well. It passed the full Senate in June with unanimous consent but is a long shot to pass the House.
 
AWKWARD POSITION
Wassen Creek remains as difficult to reach today as it did when Stahl made his trip more than 30 years ago.
 
While some rugged roads provide access along its borders, and barely visible game trails can be followed in places, this roadless, pathless forest remains as difficult to penetrate as ever.
 
Only around 100 people per year, all with strong navigational skills, endure the hellacious bushwhack into Wassen Creek and Devil's Staircase. Multiple people have been lost or spent an unexpected night among the densely forested ravines attempting to locate the staircase.
 
But while the forest has changed little, the political climate has taken an unexpected twist during the past few months.
 
The Devil's Staircase Wilderness bill is now part of a larger package of bills in the House (authored by Rep. DeFazio) and Senate (authored by Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden). The package would protect some areas, like the Devil's Staircase, while increasing logging on Oregon's federal O&C lands.
 
This has put supporters in a tough spot. In some cases, long-term proponents of the wilderness are now fighting the very bill that would finally make the Devil's Staircase Wilderness a reality.
 
"It's an incredibly awkward spot to be put in after the bill was advancing on its own merits," said Josh Laughlin, who has visited the Devil's Staircase area more than 20 times and is campaign director for Cascadia Wildlands, an Eugene-based environmental group.
 
"It's one of the wildest places in Oregon — really a magnificent slice of what the Coast Range once looked like. The Devil's Staircase deserves to stand on its own."
 
Zach Urness has been an outdoors writer, photographer and videographer in Oregon for seven years. He is the author of "Hiking Southern Oregon" and can be reached at zurness@Statesman Journal.com or (503) 399-6801. Find him on Facebook at Zach's Oregon Outdoors.
 
ABOUT THIS SERIES
Today's installment is the first of a two-part series about the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, exploring both the fight to create new wilderness in the example of the proposed Devils Staircase Wilderness and its history in Oregon.
 
The series continues Monday with dramatic examples of what can happen when nature and human nature collide over the restrictions inherent in the act.
 
50th ANNIVERSARY OF THE WILDERNESS ACT
On Sept. 3, 1964, Lyndon Johnson signed into law one of the most significant bills in environmental conservation into law. The Wilderness Act provides the highest level of protection for landscapes deemed worth both nationally and locally.
 
Five percent of the United States (and 2.7 percent of the Lower 48) and four percent of Oregon are protected under the Wilderness Act. In this two-part series, the Statesman Journal explores both the fight to create new wilderness — in the example of the proposed Devil's Staircase Wilderness — and its history in Oregon.
 
"A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain."
 
– Text of Wilderness Act
 
 
 

Aug31

Of Wolves and Huckleberries

By Bob Ferris
 
There are tons of rumors floating around about the Huckleberry Pack.  Things are being said about wolves, the 2008937557rancher, WDFW and even private property rights.  In this say-anything and believe-anything society we now find ourselves in we have to be discerning and cut the tails off both ends of the information spectrum to find something approaching the truth of this matter.  But there are some things we know and should be concerned about.
 
The first is the agency behavior.  The public expressed great displeasure at the way the Wedge Pack incident was handled and many of us—including Cascadia Wildlands—were simultaneously critical and stood (and are standing) ready with concrete ideas and solutions for moving forward.   As we look at this Huckleberry Pack situation it was clear that both were ignored. 
 
Most of my professional life has involved looking at complex ecological, economic and social systems in a conservation context.  And this Huckleberry situation is one of the most complex and myth filled.   Taken in its purest form what the wolves and this huge sheep flock on private timberlands in northeastern Washington State represents is the collision between a nearly two century old effort to transform the West into pastures and woodlots for the benefit of a select few and the desires of the many to see wildlands that are wild.  Both sides of the debate have valid points but rather than searching for solutions many are looking for bigger and uglier conflicts.  That search will ultimately result in poor outcomes for both sides.
 
In many people’s minds what makes this situation special is that it happens on private lands rather than public because that gets away from the issue of subsidies and below market grazing.  While that is kind of true, rural counties—like Stevens County—are notoriously subsidized by federal monies and by the more urban counties in the state.  Rural road systems and education are two areas where rural residents enjoy amenities far above their federal, state or county tax contributions and there are many others.
 
2019372475Certainly there are valid reasons for this osmotic flow of tax dollars and there should be no shame in it.  But it also should not be ignored or denied by those whose activities—like ranching and timber harvests—are compromising the water quality, recreational opportunities and ecological services needed or enjoyed by those parties footing some of their bills.  Nor should this situation encourage a sense of self-righteousness or crowing from rural private landowners promoting their reputation for rugged self-reliance, because it only makes these folks look a lot like teenagers plastering their rooms with no trespassing signs. 
 
On the flipside those in urban areas need also to understand a few things.  First off, animal protein and lumber comes from somewhere.  Only 14% or so of people in the United States are vegans or vegetarians and most of us live in houses so divorcing ourselves from this situation like we are disinterested parties is not productive nor is it honest.  We all have a hand or hands in this. 
 
We have to be honest too about the wolves and livestock.  Wolves are wild critters and they do occasionally kill livestock and where that happens it is a problem for that producer.  That said, there is really no excuse for comments like those made recently by Senator Mike Crapo of Idaho—a state which seems poised to nominate “lying about wolves” as an Olympic sport.  Leaders should certainly have strongly held beliefs but their leadership should not consist of throwing gasoline on a fire and the complaining about the heat.
 
Which brings us to sheep.  Domestic sheep are bred to be docile and afraid of their own shadows.  They are as distant in many ways from their canny wild ancestors as teacup poodles are from wolves.  So how truly prudent is it to release these walking, wool-covered cocktail wieners into a rough and rugged, re-wilding landscape?  
 
Certainly folks should be granted great latitude in the way they manage or use their private lands, but there are limits particularly when those lands often enjoy substantial tax benefits because of their perceived benefits for wildlife and watersheds—which are diminished by sheep and cattle grazing.  Or when the users of these tax-advantaged parcels or public lands expect non-trivial amounts of state and federal assistance to deal with conflicts with endangered wildlife such as the $75,000 cost of controling the Wedge Pack. 
 
So where does that leave us?  My sense is that this pack was aptly named because huckleberries are fruits used both by humans and wildlife.  When cultivated and over managed huckleberries only provide food for humans and little benefit for wildlife.  And when approached too casually in their wild state there are sometimes conflicts with bears and other wildlife.  But when left in their natural state and sensitively and cautiously approached by humans they yield both a wonderful experience and a tasty treat.
 
This Labor Day weekend is one of respite for the wolves and is a good time for reflection about this whole affair.  The WDFW, for instance, needs to consider how they move forward and how to repair their doubly bruised reputation with the public they serve. 
 
This rancher and others need to think about how their businesses can thrive in this re-wilding landscape and how their choices of livestock breeds and management options can lead to conflict and loss or more happy outcomes.  In this they might look at other options such as hardier breeds of sheep and cattle or even bison as Ted Turner has on his Flying D ranch and elsewhere (for more on this latter topic please consider attending one of the Two Talking Wolves tour stops). 
 
Washington’s Governor Inslee needs to think about how he can help the WDFW deal better with this situation and others.  Our sense is that the best pathway would be what was done in Oregon where the agency, ranchers and wildlife advocacy groups sat down and negotiated rules that were later adopted by the legislators and the Fish and Wildlife Commission.  It took 18 months, but it was worth it.
 
And wolf advocates must reflect as well.  Based upon comments that I have seen, we need to become more aware and sensitive to the situations faced in rural areas and proceed in an informed and respectful manner.  I know this is difficult—particularly in the face of vitriol—but it is necessary as well as keeping up the pressure needed to get the logical and best parties to the table in Washington.  Please click below to help and share this around the social networks.
 
 
 

Aug29

Coalitions sue Forest Service to block Alaska old-growth timber sale (Excerpt)

Coalitions sue Forest Service to block Alaska old-growth timber sale
 
By Maria L. La Ganga
Los Angeles Times
August 29, 2015
 
Two coalitions of environmental groups have filed three separate suits against the U.S. Forest Service, hoping to stop what the organizations say is the largest sale of old-growth timber in nearly a generation in America's largest Mail Attachment-9national forest.
 
Last week the Forest Service gave the final go-ahead for the so-called Big Thorne timber sale in Alaska's Tongass National Forest, a scenic expanse the size of Delaware studded with 1,000-year-old trees. Under the terms of the multiyear sale, about 6,000 acres of old-growth trees would be harvested.
 
[BREAK]
 
On Tuesday, a separate group of environmental organizations filed a third suit against the Forest Service seeking to stop the Big Thorne project.
This group, which includes Cascadia Wildlands and Greenpeace, said that the Alexander Archipelago wolf population on Prince of Wales Island had dropped sharply and that the federal agency ignored research by the foremost expert on the wolves in deciding to go forward with the sale.
 
"Without enough old-growth winter habitat in the forest for shelter, deer populations plummet during deep-snow winters," said Gabriel Scott, Cascadia Wildlands' Alaska legal director. "And without enough deer to go around, wolves and hunters are direct competitors.
 
"That never ends well for the wolf, or for hunters, because deer are the wolves' primary prey," Scott said. "Big Thorne bites hard into necessary winter habitat."
 
Link to full article here
 
Link to press release and background information here 

 

Aug28

With Huckleberry Wolf Pack in Crosshairs, Conservation Groups Appeal to Gov. Inslee to Require Rules Limiting Killing of Washington’s Endangered Wolves

For Immediate Release, August 28, 2014
 
Contacts: 
Amaroq Weiss, Center for Biological Diversity, (707) 779-9613
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746
John Mellgren, Western Environmental Law Center, (541) 525-5087
Tim Coleman, Kettle Range Conservation Group, (509) 775-2667
 
With Huckleberry Wolf Pack in Crosshairs, Conservation Groups Appeal to Gov. Inslee to Require Rules Limiting Killing of Washington’s Endangered Wolveshuckleberry_pups
 
OLYMPIA, Wash.— Eight conservation groups filed an appeal with Governor Jay Inslee today to reverse the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission’s denial of a petition asking for enforceable rules limiting when wolves can be killed in response to livestock depredations. The petition seeks to limit when the Department of Fish and Wildlife can kill wolves and require livestock producers to use nonlethal measures to protect their stock. Rules similar to those requested by the petition are in place in Oregon and are working to encourage ranchers to enact nonlethal measures; there, the number of depredations has decreased dramatically, and the state has not killed wolves in more than three years.  
 
“All we’re asking for are some very reasonable standards on what ranchers need to do to protect their livestock and when the state can step in and kill an endangered species,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Many, many questions about the circumstances that led the Department to secretly move to kill wolves in the Huckleberry pack this past weekend — on top of the disastrous killing of the Wedge pack in 2012 — highlight a clear need for such rules.”
 
In 2012 the Department killed seven wolves in the Wedge pack despite the fact that the rancher had taken little action to protect his stock. A similar situation is now taking place in southern Stevens County with the Huckleberry pack. The pack has been involved in multiple depredations of sheep, but there are many questions about the practices of the rancher in question. In particular, the rancher is grazing 1,800 sheep in highly dissected terrain in close proximity to a known wolf rendezvous site. Reportedly, the sheep have been protected merely by four guard dogs since a sheep herder quit roughly a month ago and was not replaced. Additionally, sheep carcasses have been left in the area, serving as a potential attractant to wolves.  
 
Once depredations were discovered, the Department advised the Commission that the sheep were being moved, a range rider was being deployed and that agency staff were on-site to help deter further depredations, but before these actions were fully implemented, the Department secretly put a helicopter in the air to shoot wolves. To date, one wolf has been killed and the sheep still have not been moved.  
 
“This is exactly the type of situation where, if strict, enforceable rules were in place to implement the state’s wolf plan, the sheep owner’s lax practices and the failure of the Department to follow through would have kept the Huckleberry pack safe from the knee-jerk kill order that has been issued against them,” said Nick Cady, legal director for Cascadia Wildlands.
 
Last Wednesday the Department issued an order authorizing agency staff and the sheep owner to kill any of the Huckleberry pack wolves in the vicinity, instead of using rubber bullets or other hazing tools. It has also come to light that the Department failed to accept offers of assistance from a Washington State University wolf researcher to help get sheep carcasses out, implement more nonlethal measures, and help monitor the situation. It also failed to accept an offer from a conservation group of special predator-deterrence lights used elsewhere in conflict situations. Instead, without notice to the public or even to the stakeholder advisory group the Department consults with to implement the state’s wolf plan, the Department launched a secret aerial gunning campaign over the weekend with the aim of killing up to four of the pack’s wolves. One young wolf, which may have been a pup from this spring’s litter, was killed from the air and after more unsuccessful airtime, the helicopter was grounded but efforts continue by the Department to trap and euthanize up to three more wolves.
 
“When the Commission denied our new petition, one reason they gave for the denial was that wolf-livestock conflicts are complicated,” said John Mellgren, staff attorney with Western Environmental Law Center, “but that’s precisely why clear rules must be adopted. When the Department shoots from the hip, as they have these past two weeks in dealing with the Huckleberry pack situation, the outcome is tragic for the wolves and a public-relations nightmare for the Department.”
 
Conservation groups filed a similar petition in the summer of 2013 but withdrew it based on promises from the Department to negotiate new rules governing lethal methods of wolf management. A year later, with no negotiations having taken place, the Department gave notice to the Commission it was going to introduce its own, far-less-protective lethal wolf-control rule, leading the groups to refile their petition.
 
“The Department’s actions have been extremely controversial and we know that Gov. Inslee’s office has received thousands of emails and phone calls just this week since the helicopter sniper took to the skies,” said Tim Coleman, executive director of the Kettle Range Conservation Group. “So we think he is fully aware of how much Washington residents care about the state’s endangered wolves and how badly it is needed for the Commission to adopt legally enforceable rules to prevent this from ever happening again.”
 
In 2011 the Commission formally adopted the state’s wolf plan, which was crafted in a five-year process with input from a 17-member stakeholder group, more than 65,000 written comments from the public, and a peer review by 43 scientists and wolf managers. However, Commission and Department officials have publicly stated that they view the plan as merely advisory. Washington’s wolves were driven to extinction in the early 1900s by a government-sponsored eradication program on behalf of the livestock industry. Since the early 2000s, the animals have started to make a comeback by dispersing into Washington from neighboring Idaho and British Columbia. But wolf recovery is still in its infancy. According to the Department’s annual wolf report, Washington’s wolf population grew by only one wolf, from a population of 51 wolves to 52 wolves from the end of 2012 to the end of 2013. 
 
The appeal to Gov. Inslee was filed by groups representing tens of thousands of Washington residents, including the Center for Biological Diversity, Cascadia Wildlands, Western Environmental Law Center, Gifford Pinchot Task Force, The Lands Council, Wildlands Network, Kettle Range Conservation Group and the Washington State Chapter of the Sierra Club.  
Upon receipt of the appeal, the governor’s office has 45 days to respond with a final decision.
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Aug26

Lawsuit Takes On Devastating Old-growth Logging Project in Tongass National Forest–Suit Follows Scientist’s Warning That Alexander Archipelago Wolves Are Threatened

For Immediate Release, August 26, 2014 :
 
Gabe Scott, Cascadia Wildlands, (907) 491-0856
Larry Edwards, Greenpeace, (907) 747-7557
David Beebe, GSACC, (907) 340-6888
Randi Spivak, Center for Biological Diversity, (310) 779-4894
Joel Hanson, The Boat Company, (907) 738-1033
Chris Winter, Crag Law Center, (503) 525-2725
 
Lawsuit Takes On Devastating Old-growth Logging Project in Tongass National Forest Suit Follows Scientist's Warning That Alexander Archipelago Wolves Are Threatened
 
PRINCE OF WALES ISLAND, Alaska— Five conservation groups filed a lawsuit today to stop the U.S. Forest Service’s Big Thorne timber project on Prince of Wales Island in southeast Alaska. Big Thorne is by far the largest aawolfU.S. Forest Service logging project on the Tongass National Forest since the region’s two pulp mills closed about 20 years ago.
 
The lawsuit asks the court to find, among other things, that the federal government failed to heed research by Dr. David K. Person, a former Alaska Fish and Game wildlife biologist and foremost expert on Alexander Archipelago wolves. A formal declaration by Person says that Big Thorne would “break the back” of the ecosystem dynamic between the wolves, deer and hunters on the island.
 
The geographically isolated Prince of Wales wolf population is known by state and federal biologists to have dropped sharply in recent years to a low but undetermined number. If the project proceeds, more than 6,000 acres of old-growth forest would be cut into nearly 150 million board feet of logs. This old-growth forest is a mix-aged group of trees, with the oldest approaching 1,000 years of age. What remains of it is increasingly important to wildlife.
 
“Prince of Wales Island is the most heavily logged part of southeast Alaska,” said David Beebe of the Greater SE Alaska Conservation Community (GSACC). “The Big Thorne project would add to the enduring impacts to wildlife from massive clearcuts and about 3,000 miles of logging roads on the island, created beginning in the 1950s.”
 
“Without enough old-growth winter habitat in the forest for shelter, deer populations plummet during deep-snow winters,” explained Gabriel Scott, Alaska legal director for Cascadia Wildlands in Cordova. “And without enough deer to go around, wolves and hunters are direct competitors. That never ends well for the wolf, or for hunters, because deer are the wolves’ primary prey. Big Thorne bites hard into necessary winter habitat.”
 
“The other Big Thorne shoe dropping on Archipelago wolves is more roads,” said Larry Edwards of Greenpeace. “With 3,000 miles of logging roads, a high road density, you get uncontrollable wolf poaching.” Big Thorne’s 46 miles of new roads would add to 580 miles in that project area already; another 37 miles would be reopened or reconstructed. “The Forest Service consistently circumvents its road density standard and guideline,” he said.
 
“Big Thorne is the antithesis of the ‘rapid transition’ out of Tongass old-growth logging the Forest Service promised over four years ago,” said the Center for Biological Diversity’s Randi Spivak. “Time’s up. It’s deeply irresponsible for the agency to proceed in the face of the need to end old-growth logging and of Dr. Person’s dire warning about continuing a failed land-management scheme that will devastate deer and wolf populations.”
 
The plaintiffs expressed outrage at the suppression of science the Forest Service and Parnell administration have committed with this project. Dr. Person first circulated his concerns within the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, where he worked at the time. The comments were buried by the agency and by higher-level state bureaucrats to implement Governor Parnell’s “one voice” policy, which suppresses troublesome science in order to maximize logging.
 
Dr. Person’s strongly held concerns were discovered through public records requests made by the plaintiff organizations. Then, after confronting the Forest Service with the material in comments on the Big Thorne draft environmental impact statement, the agency simply ignored its existence in the final statement and project decision.
 
“That gambit by the two governments backfired,” said Scott. “The project was put on hold for nearly a year while a formal declaration by Dr. Person about Big Thorne’s impacts to deer and wolves was reviewed. The declaration, prepared after Person quit ADF&G, was filed by the plaintiffs in an administrative appeal of the August 2013 Big Thorne decision.
 
A special six-person Wolf Task Force with personnel from the Forest Service, ADF&G and the federal Fish and Wildlife Service, reviewed the declaration. Opinion was evenly split, “unsurprisingly,” Scott said, given political pressure and the state’s one-voice policy. Breaking ranks was a Forest Service biologist who has done wolf research on the island. 
 
“Nonetheless, the Forest Service is again proceeding with the project rather than delve further into the ecology, revise the EIS, and reconsider the decision,” said Edwards. “We are suing to reverse that. And also to force revision of the Tongass forest plan into compliance with law that, if followed, would have avoided Prince of Wales’ ecological mess in the first place.”
 
“People from all continents and walks of life book passage on our educational cruises to see charismatic predators such as wolves in their natural habitat,” said Joel Hanson, conservation program director with plaintiff The Boat Company. “But with this timber sale, the Forest Service proves once and for all that it is blind to the wolf’s value as either a visitor attraction or vital component of a healthy coastal island ecosystem. It sees only trees, and pictures only the benefits of using forests as a commodity.”
 
“This case is the last line of defense,” said Chris Winter, at Crag Law Center who represents the conservation groups. “Otherwise, the Forest Service is going to log these species and the old-growth forests on Prince of Wales Island into oblivion.” Crag Law Center, in Portland, Oregon, is a public interest environmental law firm that works from Northern Alaska to Northern California.
 
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Aug24

Unfolding Huckleberry Pack Tragedy—We Have Been Here Before

By Bob Ferris
 
A little more than 20 years ago I started administering the wolf compensation program for Defenders of Wildlife.  huckleberry_pupsThat meant that every compensation claim during my nearly eight years with the organization had to go through me to get signed and then paid.  That also meant that I had to know the wolf side of the equation and understand the rancher or livestock owner's side as well.  So I look at the Huckleberry Pack (video of pups in 2012 below picture above right) situation through that lens and what I am seeing (and hearing) bothers me.
 

The lack of agency transparency and the clear bias towards the livestock producer’s rights rather than responsibilities is troubling in this situation involving an endangered species, but what irks me most is that I have written this piece before–twice in fact (1,2).  This is the Wedge Pack incidence played out again only with sheep instead of cattle and on private lands rather than public.   
 
Certainly Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has made progress in terms of trying to do what is right by the species under their care, but it is very much a work in progress and very far away from the model we see to the south in Oregon.  The agency has to do better and one way to get them to do that is to respectfully ask Governor Jay Inslee to intercede.  So please click the below button to take action on this critical wolf issue and also spread it around to other activists.  
 
 
 
 
 

Aug22

Washington Wildlife Agency Urged to Revoke Kill Order for Huckleberry Pack

For Immediate Release, August 22, 2014
 
Contacts: 
 
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746
Amaroq Weiss, Center for Biological Diversity, (707) 779-9613
Mike Petersen, The Lands Council, (509) 209-2406
Suzanne Stone, Defenders of Wildlife, (208) 861-4655
Tim Coleman, Kettle Range Conservation Group, (509) 775-2667/(509) 435-1092 (cell)
 
Washington Wildlife Agency Urged to Revoke Kill Order for Huckleberry PackWashington Wolf
 
OLYMPIA, Wash.— Eight conservation organizations, representing hundreds of thousands of Washington residents, are calling on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to rescind a kill order issued earlier this week for wolves of the Huckleberry pack. The order authorizes agency staff and a sheep operator to shoot any wolves seen in the vicinity of a band of sheep that has incurred losses due to wolves over the past few weeks. In a letter to the Department, the conservation groups urged the agency to continue efforts to deter wolves from killing more sheep using nonlethal means rather than killing wolves, as it did two years ago when seven members of the Wedge pack were killed.
 
“We appreciate the agency’s efforts to work with the rancher and use nonlethal means to protect sheep from further losses,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity. “But the wolf kill order needs to be rescinded right away. Killing wolves is just not an effective means of protecting livestock.”
 
Between Aug. 11 and 12, 14 sheep were confirmed as killed by members of the Huckleberry Pack in southwestern Stevens County, and four more sheep have been killed by wolves since that time. Provided the rancher was using sufficient nonlethal deterrence measures at the time, he will be eligible for compensation from the state for the loss of the sheep. The Huckleberry Pack, with six to 12 members and no prior history of livestock conflicts, spends most of its time on the Spokane Reservation, but satellite data from the alpha male’s radio collar indicate he was present at the time the sheep were killed. 
 
All of the details are still not clear, but the rancher’s sheep herder had apparently quit some weeks before the incident, and the sheep were thus unattended some or all of the time. The rancher does have four guard dogs. Nine additional sheep were killed earlier in the month, but were discovered too late to determine the cause of death. 
 
“Before the state moves to killing wolves, it needs to ensure that all nonlethal measures have been exhausted,” said Mike Petersen, executive director of The Lands Council. “Subsequent deaths might have been averted if conflict-prevention strategies had been put into place earlier, though we are glad to hear reports that the sheep operator is fully cooperating with the agency to implement deterrence methods now.”
 
The agency is in the process of helping the rancher move his sheep to an alternate location, has multiple staff on site to help deter wolves from approaching the sheep, and has brought in a range rider to help monitor the sheep, along with the operator’s four livestock guard dogs. But the four most recent sheep deaths occurred before many of these measures were in place. Despite this fact Washington Department of Wildlife Director Phil Anderson issued the kill order for the wolves Wednesday.
 
“This is not a situation where the agency should yet be engaging in lethal control,” said Shawn Cantrell, Northwest office director for Defenders of Wildlife. “While the agency’s actions are a huge step up from how they handled the Wedge pack in 2012, there’s much more it could be doing before it authorizes the killing of wolves.”
 
A news report Thursday evening from Seattle’s NBC news affiliate King5 News included an onsite interview with an agency staffer, who described the conflict-prevention tools the agency was using, including nonlethal rubber bullets, human presence and guard dogs, and emphasized that the agency is focusing on nonlethal conflict deterrence methods. In addition, this week Defenders of Wildlife sent the Department several “foxlights,” a new tool from wildlife coexistence operations in Australia that is already successfully deterring wolves and grizzly bears from livestock in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Canada. This makes the agency’s issuance of a kill order all the more troubling to conservation groups. 
 
“The agency knows that killing wolves doesn’t stop conflict and in fact the recent science is showing that killing wolves can result in more conflict because of the breakdown it causes in the social structure and size of wolf packs,” said Tim Coleman, executive director of the Kettle Range Conservation Groups. “If the agency is going to tell the public on TV news that it is focusing on nonlethal, it should put its money where its mouth is, pay attention to what science tells us and rescind the kill order.”
 
Washington’s wolves were driven to extinction in the early 1900s by a government-sponsored eradication program on behalf of the livestock industry. Since the early 2000s, the animals have started to make a slow comeback by dispersing into Washington from neighboring Idaho and British Columbia. But wolf recovery is still in its infancy, with only an estimated 52 wolves at the end of 2013. In 2012 the Wedge pack was killed in a highly controversial agency lethal control action over wolf-livestock conflicts on public land. 
 
“It is essential that more wolves are not lost from the state’s tiny wolf population because of state-sanctioned lethal control actions that ignore the proven, nonlethal methods of conflict prevention,” said Nick Cady, legal director for Cascadia Wildlands. 
 
The letter to the department was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Cascadia Wildlands, The Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife, Western Environmental Law Center, Wolf Haven International, Kettle Range Conservation Group and The Lands Council.
###
 
 
 

Aug22

The American Mining Rights Association: A Darwin Award Winner in the Making

By Bob Ferris
 
“AMRA is different than all other non-profit associations, we don’t give you a T-shirt or a bumper sticker for a donation, we give you access to our gold claims.  Proven claims.  We own these claims, and most have been used to provide us with our incomes.  We are expanding our claim holdings in as many states as we possibly can and access to these claims will be provided to our members.  Our wish would be that every member who mines our claims makes back any donation to us in gold.”  AMRA website 
 
Those who have read my blogs and other writings know that I do not suffer bullies (real or cyber), truth-benders, fools or those who purposely ignore laws gladly.  And with Shannon Poe of the American Mining Rights Association we have all four.  
American Mining Rights Association
My first encounter with Mr. Poe (and his present or one-time fiance Ms. Grossman) was when someone told me that he was challenging me to a debate on the AMRA Facebook page.  As he never directly contacted me and I was unaware that there was a virtual chair waiting for my posterior, I was a little bothered when he publicly criticized me for not having the courage to show up—I believe there was even a mention of some missing body parts at one time. He riffed on that for a while until I found out and actually visited his site.  I then asked him to defend several statements he made in one of his too, too long video rants.  
American Mining Rights Association T Shirt
I had many issues with his video that was circulated during the debates on Oregon suction dredge legislation.  But the one gem that I really wanted an answer on was his statement that people along the rivers in Oregon—if those rivers were designated as state scenic waterways—would have to go through an environmental impact process to plant tomatoes.   Really?
 
We had some give and take on this and I kept asking the same questions, which he never answered.  His response was to insult me personally (again) and when he realized that he could not defend his statements and respond to rational questions, he banned me from the AMRA site and removed that portion of the dialog.  The whole incidence bothered me so I took a few minutes to try to figure out who and what AMRA was.
AMRA2
 
My research led me to the fairly functioning AMRA website and on the site they claimed to be a non-profit company.  But in other areas of the site and elsewhere they describe themselves variously as a 501(c)3 entity or as having applied for non-profit status with the IRS.  Since it is illegal in California to solicit funds for non-profit purposes unless you are a registered non-profit, I thought that I would check in with the State of California and the IRS (see above status report).  As he was not registered with either, I filed a simple complaint form with the Attorney General’s Office in Sacramento (see below result).  And that was that.  Until I saw a video posted on our friends and campaign partners the Fish Not Gold site in Washington State.  
AMRA3
Not satisfied with the non-profit violations, Mr. Poe thought that he would rip a page out of Cliven Bundy’s play book and publicly suction dredge in Idaho without the required EPA permit.  His video even stated that he did not have a permit and it included captioning identifying AMRA as a non-profit, which is clearly not the case.  Now I will admit that the federal and state law enforcement agencies have their hands full with a bumper crop of public land duffuses at this point, but the fact that Mr. Poe seems to beg for it and provides his own video evidence should move him to the front portion of this large class.  I would add that given the challenges that salmonids in the West are facing with water flows and temperatures at this juncture, his “my rights were given me by God” action was particularly poorly timed for the fish.
 

 
Now I suppose he could use the Glenn Beck I-got-caught-up-in-the-moment-and-was-spewing-crap defense for his earlier video statements.  After all the camera was running and he therefore had to say something—but his actions in Idaho are something different.  That is also true for his continued claims of being a non-profit even after being sent a notice by the California Attorney General’s Office of problems with his operation and being rejected on similar grounds when he applied for a raffle permit earlier this year (see below).   
AMRA4
And I am still trying to sort out all the problems with the opening statement of this piece from the AMRA website.  All I can conclude is that Mr. Poe is a big fan of Tom Sawyer.  My conclusion is drawn from his concept that people will pay him to be able to work his claims and then give him back the fruits of their labor—in gold, mind you—so that he can buy more claims, pay legal fees or protect their rights as he sees fit.  But the fact that he and others are not required to return their findings to the “non-profit” indicates that he is self-dealing and that they are getting value for the contribution which means it is not a donation nor is it tax deductible even if they were legally a 501c3 non-profit.   In point of fact it makes him exactly like every other mining club selling access, only he wants his miners to return what they find.
 
 

 
Now I will be the first to admit that running a non-profit is complicated.  It isn’t simply a case of paying LegalZoom and then getting a tax number so you can open a bank account.  There are federal filings and state applications as well as officers, meetings, bylaws and minutes to deal with.  Believing a $149 payment gets you a soup-to-nuts solution and a fully-fledged non-profit not needing care and feeding is a lot like thinking having sex is all there is to raising kids.  As we can see by the above dialog on the AMRA Facebook page, Mr. Poe is clearly out of his depth when it comes to the legal requirements for non-profits and thinking that these bare minimum, cookie-cutter Articles of Incorporation are a "license" of any type is telling and indicates his lack of sophistication in this arena.  
 
"showing that miners are not just uninformed, uneducated folks with scratchy beards and missing teeth as our opposition seems to picture us." AMRA Website
 
On one of their pages AMRA bemoans the fact that the public does not have a good impression of suction dredge miners and others who search for gold (see above).  I can understand that concern.  But exactly what impression should the public have of a group of people that continually and publicly misrepresent the science, disregard the laws of our country and act in a threatening, belligerent and bullying manner?  This is not really a matter of underpowered public relations, but a consistent and well documented pattern of behavior that makes the rest of us less and less willing to tolerate these machines and this we-are-beyond-the-law culture in our precious waterways.  
 

Aug21

A Clearcut Decision

By Bob Ferris
 
Francis Eatherington and I walked some timber sales yesterday near Roseburg (these are her pictures).  It was good for us to spend time together because we do not often get to do that—particularly where we get to walk in the Bob in the Foresttrees and talk in that way that people do when walking in the woods.
 
In the grand scheme of things neither of the sales was particularly horrendous or anything that made us happy in any way.   Did we like them?  No.  Could they have been better conceptualized? Yes.  Were we going to make our feelings known? Yes.  Would we sue? Probably not.  
 
Bob and Incense CedarOn one site we measured two huge trees (one Douglas Fir and one Incense Cedar) in the 5.5 to 6 foot in diameter range (DBH).  Real beauties whose post-harvest future seemed bleak.  We took pictures and rubbed our hands with dirt when we encountered the ubiquitous pitch on the surfaces we grabbed as we slipped down the slope and looked for big trees.  
 
I had walked timber sales before and seen clearcuts along with other massively destructive forestry acts, but the whole exercise helped me understand how my world differs from Francis’ work in that I work to protect and restore and she has a smoking boot applied as a brake on a runaway stage coach.  My world is largely depressing but her world seemed potentially debilitating.  (Clearly forests can make me reflective.) 
 
I also had a thought while looking up the hill towards these timber sales.  My gaze drifted across the barren expanse of a clearcut on private lands replanted with something approaching 600 seedlings per acre and an emerging flora that only seems to make sense to an herbicide enabled 2X4 but not to anything that would want to live on those slopes.  My thought had to do with land ownership.  
Myrtle Creek Clearcut
I have owned large tracts of land (and even harvested timber on those lands) and many members of my family have held that same responsibility.  And there is invariably a time when you hold your cup of coffee, day-end cocktail or partner and stare out across your acreage.  The words running around in your head differ but generally they are about some kind of pride about the fact that you own the land and are managing it well and responsibly.  
 
The pride-fullness swells most when you know that you are managing the land so that it supports your needs and values as well as not being the aesthetic and ecological disaster that looms in the darkest recesses of your human and wild neighbors’ nightmares.  If your end result does not meet or exceed these fairly modest criteria—whether you are an individual or corporation—you really ought to ask yourself why not?  Now you can rationalize your actions by claiming that it is cheaper, the trees grow straighter or it will all grow back, but you cannot get around the fact that had you done it responsibly that we would not be wrestling now over owls, murrelets, and salmon.
 
It may seem like an overly simplified notion and far too obvious, but these species did not just voluntarily jump off a cliff.  They have been pushed and pushed hard over that precipice.  Perhaps as we rush headlong into these must-pass bills to accelerate this "speeding stage coach," we should stop to look at this image of a clearcut and ask ourselves collectively if this fills us with pride and demonstrates our responsible stewardship of lands.  Did I mention that walks in the woods make me reflective?  
 

Aug21

OR-7 The Journey : Film Premiere

"OR-7 The Journey"

September 18, 2014 at 7:00pm

Bijou Art Cinemas on 13th Ave. Eugene, Oregon

 
OR-7 The Journey, documentary film presented by Cascadia Wildlands, Oregon Wild, and film producer Clemens Shenk. Eugene, OR film premiere at Bijou Art Cinemas on 13th Avenue on Sept. 18, 2014 at 7pm

Join Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild on September 18, 2014 at 7pm in welcoming Oregon filmmaker Clemens Schenk for the Eugene premiere of "OR-7: The Journey".

 

 

RSVP HERE on the event page.

 

Buy TICKETS ONLINE.

 

"OR-7: The Journey" is an inspiring documentary chronicling the remarkable dispersal of a young male wolf – OR-7, also known as Journey – from northeast Oregon down into California who has recently formed a pack southwest of Crater Lake to become the first wolf pack in the Oregon Cascades in nearly 70 years.
 
Come celebrate wolf recovery, wildlife, Oregon's conservation values, and OR-7's epic journey. This film tells the story not just of Journey, but also of his species. It is a story of survival and inspiration. But even as most Americans have come to appreciate native wildlife and wild places, 21st century science and values are coming head to head with old prejudices that put the future of wolves – and OR-7 – in jeopardy.
 
  • The showing will be held at the Bijou Theater at 492 E. 13th Ave in Eugene, OR at 7:00pm. 
  • Tickets are $10 and are available through the Bijou’s website HERE. There is limited seating and the show is expected to sell out, purchasing tickets in advance is strongly encouraged.
  • A Q&A session will take place after the movie with wolf advocates and the filmmaker. 
  • Cascadia Wildlands merchandise will be available for purchase at the event.
 
For more info about the movie specifically, please follow this link.
 
Learn more about OR-7.
 

 

Maximize the impact of your donation to our wolf fund today, by taking advantage of the

 

Mountain Rose Herbs Matching Gift for Wolf Donations!
 
 
 
 
Donations_Wolf_MtnRoseHerbs_graph_DRAFT_C.3_21AugTry

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