“In a meeting Saturday, Bundy urged Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie to seize the federal officials’ weapons and bring them back to the rancher.” Seattle Times April 12, 2014
Many people in American and the world watched in horror this past week as the events unfolded in Nevada. We learned graphically through this incidence how legal illogic applied strategically and misleadingly by politically driven media machines including some connected with the Koch Brothers can twist people’s minds into thinking that the thievery and belligerence perpetrated by Bunkerville’s own personal Archie—Cliven Bundy—is heroism and patriotism (Mr. Bundy in white at right above escorted by his armed body guards).
In truth, the cowardly cowboy of Clark County is nothing more than an outlaw and bully. He is using emotional connivance and media chicanery as well as the soft-headedness and chip-laden shoulders of the country’s militia movement (see above video and reference to "his land") to continue to break the laws of our nation and avoid paying well-deserved penalties for his defiance of multiple federal court orders and his longstanding, growing and aggressive trespass on Bureau of Land Management and National Park lands.
"In a statement, the [Nevada Cattlemen's] association noted that Bundy's case had been reviewed by a federal judge, and that a legal decision had been rendered to remove the cattle. The statement said that NCA "does not feel it is in our best interest to interfere in the process of adjudication in this matter, and in addition NCA believes the matter is between Mr. Bundy and the federal courts." ABC News April 7, 2014
Questions arise in this confrontation and everyone should go through their own process of discovery on this issue just as the Nevada Cattlemen's Association did before deciding not to support his actions (see above). Are these lands in question Mr. Bundy’s as has been so frequently claimed? Are these even state lands as Mr. Bundy asserts? Could Mr. Bundy’s family have gained rights to these lands from the State or Clark County? The simple answer to all these questions can be derived from knowing that the federal government gained title to these lands in 1848, the State of Nevada in their constitution reinforced this claim denying all claims to federal lands within their borders in 1864 (see second part of the Ordinance section) , and that the Bundy family did not arrive in Nevada until the 1870s or 1880s depending upon which family story you hear. (Hint the answer here and memorialized in several legal actions is: No)
"During a Moapa Valley town hall meeting last night, Bundy said he went to visit Sheriff Gillespie a few days ago but “found him hiding under the table”.
“He is the man that has constitutional jurisdiction and authority, he has policing power here in Clark County Nevada, and he has arresting power, so we elected him and we pay him, what do we pay him to do?” asked Bundy, adding, “Don’t we pay him to protect our life, liberty and property?” Alex Jones InfoWars April 10, 2014
"I want to stress to all of you that as the sheriff of Clark County I cannot interfere with the Federal government when it is operating on Federal land," [Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Sheriff Douglas C.] Gillespie said. "And because this is BLM property, it is in their jurisdiction. But when a group of protesters threaten civil unrest or violence in this county — it is my job to step in and ensure the safety of citizens." CNN April 14, 2014
Now if you read Mr. Bundy’s voluminous legal arguments contained in documents submitted to the courts you will see that much thought has gone into developing the case that these lands—in his mind—should not still be owned by the federal government. While it is fine to hold these beliefs, if you are so inclined, laws and regulations are based on current conditions and not the desires of a spoiled welfare rancher who has thrown a 21-year tantrum because he was overgrazing his property and was told by his landlord—the federal government—to lower the number of cattle grazing on his allotment.
Glenn said, “I have people that graze on my land. And there is national land behind my ranch as well. And I know if anybody runs cattle on that, they also have to pay for grazing fees. Grazing fees are normal. And you stopped paying them. Your daughter said you did pay them for a while and then you stopped paying them. There are some people that would say that you are, if I may quote, a ‘welfare rancher’ because you’re not paying the fees that other ranchers do have to pay.” Glenn Beck in an interview with Cliven Bundy
Mr. Bundy had an opportunity to keep his lease, but his response was to stop paying his lease fees, continue grazing his cattle at a level that pleased him and expand his range use into other areas of BLM holdings that were closed to grazing and undergoing restoration projects financed by tax-payers like you and me. He modified these additional lands—the so-called New Trespass Lands—in manners that caused damage. And in the mode of all spoiled children given an inch without consequence, Mr. Bundy took the "mile" and now managers of the adjacent Lake Mead Recreational Area are subjected to visitations by Bundy’s errant and trespassing cattle that are causing safety issues as well as destroying habitat.
And when the BLM finally—after being pushed—started to take material action against Mr. Bundy who had be instructed not to interfere by a federal court order arrived at after two decades of trying to solve this situation administratively, Mr. Bundy declared a “range war,” whined and misled the media, catalyzed a dangerous situation by mobilizing the militia, and cost the American tax-payers even more money. I would also argue that he has hurt the reputations of law abiding ranchers as well as his fellow Mormons in the process as they witnessed the foul-language, threat-laden pugnaciousness exhibited by Bundy’s 14 children and their abettors in blocking this lawful action by the BLM.
Now how does this tie in with Cascadia and Cascadia Wildlands? Like all Americans and those who support our democracy worldwide, we are supremely offended by Mr. Bundy’s actions. We are a nation of laws arrived at through a long-standing and admittedly messy process, but it is the fabric that holds this nation together. And Cascadia Wildlands more often than not fights to make sure those laws protect the future well-being of all life and that they are adhered to and enforced. Mr. Bundy’s actions as well as those of unethical media outlets and militias spoiling for a fight—any fight—have purposely and with forethought torn that essential fabric to shreds in service of their own personal agenda and profit. And just like brain and legs fear the cancerous liver, we know that all our interests are in jeopardy if this stands unanswered and untreated.
To remain a civilized nation we cannot let the actions of one selfish man and his misguided minions dismantle our nation’s rule of law and stomp on the very flag they so vehemently claim to respect. To be clear, we frequently disagree with the BLM, but do not believe that their employees should be threatened with physical violence for simply carrying out their lawful duties. Moreover, we find it ironic that individuals protesting fossil fuel use and developments in a non-violent fashion are arrested and charged while these individuals who armed themselves and subverted a lawful, federal action are allowed to go home without apparent consequence.
Please join us (click here or below) in asking Cascadia's federal lawmakers to launch an immediate and comprehensive investigation into this matter including an examination of the role of potential media misstatements and the conspiring of the various out-of-state militias to interfere with the lawful actions of federal officers, putting them at physical risk.
Small victories have been piling up in Alaska. It’s starting to feel like spring (see Alexander Archipelago wolf pups at right from last spring).
Thanks to all of you who helped with the Cordova oil spill response port campaign. This little deepwater port project is a lynchpin to development on the Copper River and Prince William Sound, so it’s important we hold the line. Opposition to the Shepard Point road and its industrial deepwater port, and support for practical alternatives, dominated the public comments. Hopefully the Army Corps of Engineers with do the right thing and deny the permit. Meanwhile, we’re working with Eyak Preservation Council to develop plans for one of the alternative locations in Cordova.
Nationally, there has been some progress in the fight against approving AquaBounty’s genetically modified salmon, aka Frankenfish. Kroger and Safeway, the #2 and #4 groceries in the country, have joined the rising tide and forsworn AquaBounty’s genetically modified fish in their stores. While the final Food and Drug Administration decision and its timing remain a mystery, market pressure is becoming untenable.
On the Tongass National Forest, the Big Thorne old-growth timber sale remains on hold, pending consideration of the massive clearcutting project’s impact on the Alexander Archipelago wolf. State and federal official are holding what they call a “wolf task force”— although in this case the acronym, WTF is more apt — to think long and hard about whether clearcutting several thousand acres of old-growth is a bad idea, given that wolves seem to be disappearing as a result (see the above pup's mother at left).
A powerful clue came recently when Greenpeace and the Center for Biological Diversity won a 90-day finding that listing may be warranted on their petition to list this unique wolf on the federal endangered species list. This is another step forward in the long process to ultimately listing the wolf. That’s an immensely powerful tool that could protect wolf habitat and the old-growth trees needed by their primary prey, Sitka deer.
Alaska politicians hate the Endangered Species Act. In fact they hate legal barriers to development of every stripe. Which brings me to the happy death of Alaska House Bill 77. It’s not often we lobby, but helping kill HB77 was an exception. HB77 was the governor’s wide-ranging bill to “streamline” all kinds of permitting, by erecting barriers to public participation and legal challenges. An inspiring tide of public opposition overwhelmed the politicians, and last week the bill died unceremoniously. It was surreal to testify before the legislature by teleconference, along with citizens from the Arctic coast, Bering Sea coast, Gulf coast, interior, and southeast. It was heartening to remember how many of us there really are.
So much of what we do to keep things wild involves sound—embracing the good ones versus fighting the offensive. For instance, we want wolves howling in the wilderness but don’t want to hear the constant lawnmower-motor burping of suction dredge engines in our wild spaces.
Similarly, we much prefer to listen to the wind whistling through tall trees in the Elliott State Forest and the gentle “keer”of marbled murrelets to the rip-snort of a chainsaw. The same is true for rushing waters and waves as opposed to off-highway vehicles and jet boats.
We all have similar catalogues of good and bad sounds. What we hear and experience through our auditory senses seems almost as important as what we harvest in wilderness through our eyes, nose, feet and fingers.
This importance of good sounds is probably why we at Cascadia Wildlands convene so many events over and around music. Good sounds bring us together. Take Pints Gone Wild hosted by Ninkasi Brewery on the first Monday of each month. That gathering is all about good sounds—old favorites, new artists and those making joyful or innovative noise for the wildlands we love. All of them generously donating their time to help us keep it wild.
And it is not just about our own music events. We will also be at the Oregon Country Fair and String Summit again this summer. So please come to these events and tell your friends. There is really no rule out there that says we cannot have major amounts of fun while taking material actions to keep it wild.
“Kathy Jones, Seneca Jones’ co-owner, said her company didn’t bid on the land because her mill needs lumber but because she and her two sisters refused to be bullied by “eco-radical” environmental groups and believed no other timber companies made an offer.” Oregonian April 2, 2014
We do not traditionally respond well to ironic comments made by timber industry owners. That is why we thought that we would respond comically to the Seneca Jones sisters calling us and others essentially “environmental bullies” when they buy timber that they claim that they do not need, simply to make a point. Ridiculous actions deserve ridiculous responses.
The only point they have made is that they have enough money to spend it recklessly. So we thought that we would respond with humor appropriate with their attempt to buy bits of the Elliott at pennies on our dollars. (Please click on "movie poster" to the right to get the full effect)
Offensive? Maybe. But we find it offensive for a timber company to ask for more discounted public resources so that they can have additional wherewithal to buy timber they do not need.
Perhaps—judging from the above quote—the sisters think that they have truly enchanted us. That seems like the only logical explanation when you have the plane-flying, horseback-riding, SCUBA-diving sisters calling people living on the economic edge “elitists.” And as to being sent from Washington DC, my sense is that these three forget how much time they and their lobbyists spend in our nation’s capital and hope that we do also.
The enchantment theory might also explain why the sisters might think that their “vision” for the Elliott expressed so well by this photograph at left of a Seneca Jones clearcut at dawn being sprayed with herbicides by helicopter matches Oregonian’s vision for our precious public lands. And for all those out there touting the wildlife habitat benefits of clearcutting, please show me the elk and deer habitat created here or in the photograph at right of a Seneca clearcut and landslide. This is not what we need or want in the Elliott.
Three companies bid for timberlands in Elliott State Forest: Threats of lawsuits and blockades didn’t scare off three timber companies from submitting bids for parcels the state plans to sell in the Elliott State Forest in Douglas and Coos counties.
The Oregon Department of State Lands received five bids for three parcels totaling 1,451 acres by Friday’s deadline, the department’s assistant director, Jim Paul, said.
The sale is to help offset a deficit growing in the Common School Fund.
All bids met or exceeded the minimum amount, which for the three tracts collectively was about $3 million.
Paul said the bids and names of bidders will not be released while the real estate transaction is pending. “We haven’t made any decisions (about) which bids we are accepting,” Paul said today. “We would expect it to close by the end of this month unless something unusual happens.”
An anti-logging activist group, Cascadia Forest Defenders, last month warned potential bidders that it will physically block logging on land sold on the 93,000-acre forest between Reedsport and Coos Bay. The group said in an open letter to the timber industry that it will send members up trees to prevent logging, and it will not respect property lines, signs or gates.
The group’s threat came days after three other environmental organizations warned they will sue any timber company that buys the lands with plans to log. Cascadia Wildlands, Audubon Society of Portland and the Center for Biological Diversity said the tracts contain marbled murrelet habitat and that logging would violate the Endangered Species Act.
Douglas Timber Operators Executive Director Bob Ragon said he didn’t know how many companies passed on bidding because of the threats, but some likely considered the potential legal costs. “I am sure it had a chilling effect on the outcome,” he said.
Francis Eatherington, Cascadia Wildlands conservation director, said timber companies’ interest is logging, which isn’t good for the “remarkable and unique place.”
Paul said two other parcels in the Elliott totaling 1,300 acres that will be auctioned in the fall will be marketed for conservation because they include marbled murrelet habitat.
“It still means anyone can bid on it, but from a marketing approach, we are going to emphasize that marbled murrelets are present,” Paul said. “It just means timber companies are less likely to bid.”
State Land Board members Gov. John Kitzhaber, Secretary of State Kate Brown and Treasurer Ted Wheeler in December approved selling 2,728 acres to make up a $3 million deficit in the Common School Fund. Lawsuits filed by conservation groups, including Cascadia Wildlands, have blocked logging in the Elliott, depriving the school fund from its source of revenue.
The state hired Realty Marketing Northwest to conduct the sale. The Portland-based firm began accepting bids Feb. 16. All sealed bids were opened at 5 p.m. Friday. The state is seeking at least $1.82 million for the 785-acre East Hakki Ridge in Douglas County. The other minimum bids are $610,500 for the 353-acre Benson Ridge parcel and $595,000 for the 311-acre Adams Ridge Tract 1 in Coos County. The two tracts that will be auctioned later this year are within the Adams Ridge parcel.
Eatherington said Cascadia Wildlands can’t afford to submit bids. “We are an organization that for the most part tries to protect the public lands, and we don’t have that kind of money,” she said. “We very much hope that someone who has that kind of money that wants to protect the endangered seabird that lives there would buy (it and) protect it.”
The timber on the five parcels has been appraised for $22 million, assuming the presence of marbled murrelets, a threatened seabird protected by the Endangered Species Act, doesn’t hinder logging. State surveyors and conservation group volunteers last summer reported spotting a marbled murrelet on two tracts in Coos County. A lower appraisal of $4 million was given if timber companies were unwilling to purchase land with marbled murrelet habitat.
“It’s unfortunate the state put it up for sale and didn’t restrict the sale to conservation groups, and by reducing the price from $22 million to $4 million and admitting the timber couldn’t be cut because of the uniqueness and the rarity, and to still fall to the timber industry doesn’t make any sense,” Eatherington said. •
You can reach reporter Christina George at 541-957-4202 or at email@example.com
California Wolf Center * Cascadia Wildlands * Center for Biological Diversity * Defenders of Wildlife * Earthjustice * Endangered Species Coalition * Humane Society of the United States * Living with Wolves * National Parks Conservation Association * Natural Resources Defense Council Oregon Wild * Project Coyote * Western Watersheds Project * WildEarth Guardians Wildlands Network * Wolf Conservation Center
For Immediate Release, March 31, 2013
Leda Huta, Endangered Species Coalition, (202) 320-6467
Bob Ferris, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 434-1463
Melanie Gade, Defenders of Wildlife, (202) 772-0288
Kierán Suckling, Center for Biological Diversity, (520) 275-5960
Sean Stevens, Oregon Wild, (503) 283-6343 x211
Kari Birdseye, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2098
Maggie Howell, Wolf Conservation Center, (914) 763-2373
Nearly 500,000 More Americans Speak Out Against Federal Plan to Strip Gray Wolves of Protection Scientific Peer Review Questioning Wolf Proposal Prompts Many to Write Administration
WASHINGTON—More than 460,000 Americans filed official comments calling on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to scrap its controversial proposal to remove federal protections from the gray wolf and instead work to advance wolf recovery in the United States. A scientific peer review released in early February 2014 unanimously concluded that a federal plan to drop protections for most gray wolves was not based on the best available science. These new comments and the results of the scientific peer review follow on the heels of the submission of approximately one million comments in late 2013 requesting that FWS continue to protect gray wolves. These comments represent the highest number of submissions ever to FWS on an endangered species, showing America’s overwhelming support for the charismatic wolf.
“When it comes to taking the wolf off of the endangered species list, Secretary Jewell told the public, ‘It’s about the science. And you do what the science says.’ It’s now time to stand by both her stated commitment to follow science and the will of the American people. She must immediately rescind the wolf delisting rule,” said Leda Huta, Executive Director of the Endangered Species Coalition. “As the top official in charge of wildlife and wild places, Secretary Jewell should ensure that gray wolves have the chance to fully recover wherever there is suitable habitat. Policy decisions about wolves and other wildlife should be based on the best science, not politics.”
“Science should be the lynchpin of every species listing decision and science should be the most significant factor guiding decisions on what ‘recovery’ looks like for our nation’s imperiled plants and animals,” said Defenders of Wildlife President Jamie Rappaport Clark. “The Fish and Wildlife Service should withdraw the delisting proposal for wolves and instead put science first to chart a sustainable recovery path for wolves throughout the U.S.”
“It’s time for the Obama administration to acknowledge what a growing number of Americans and our top scientists see very clearly — America’s gray wolves still need federal protection,” said Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “That’s what the public comment period and scientific peer review is all about – to make sure we get it right when it comes to protecting our most imperiled species. Now the only question is whether the Obama administration will follow the science or the politics.”
There were once up to 2 million gray wolves living in North America, but the animals were driven to near-extinction in the lower 48 states by the early 1900s. After passage of the federal Endangered Species Act in 1973 and protection of the wolf as endangered, federal recovery programs resulted in the rebound of wolf populations in limited parts of the country. Roughly 5,500 wolves currently live in the continental United States — a fraction of the species’ historic numbers.
“Instead of restoring wolves to their rightful places from coast to coast — as it did for bald eagles – the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to abandon wolf recovery before the job is done,” said Marty Hayden, Earthjustice vice-president for policy and legislation. “More than a million people have now told FWS to go back to work and protect our wolves.”
Last year the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed removing federal Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves across most of the lower 48 states. The Obama administration’s proposal would remove protections for wolves everywhere except Arizona and New Mexico, where the Mexican wolf is struggling to survive with just 84 wolves in the wild. This proposal would abandon protections for wolves in places where recovery remains in its infancy, such as Oregon and Washington, and would prevent wolves from recovering in places where good wolf habitat has been identified, including northern California, the southern Rocky Mountains and the Northeast.
"There are many places in the West—mainly on federal lands—that can and should support wolves,” said Bob Ferris, executive Director of Cascadia Wildlands. “It is disingenuous for the USFWS to leverage human intolerance as a rationale for delisting when that was one of two contributing factors to endangerment. They need to materially address this cause, not use it as an excuse to ignore science and not to do their jobs.”
“Oregon wolves have taken the first tentative steps towards recovery in the last few years," said Sean Stevens, executive director with Oregon Wild. "If the Obama administration takes away the strong protections of the Endangered Species Act, we pull the rug out from the fragile success story here on the West Coast and leave the fate of wolves in the hands of state agencies in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming who have proven incapable of balanced management."
The independent scientific peer review released in early February was commissioned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and conducted by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis. The panel of independent scientists concluded unanimously that FWS’s national wolf delisting rule does not currently represent the “best available science.” In light of these findings, FWS’s proposed delisting rule contravenes the Endangered Species Act, which mandates that protection decisions must be based on the best available science. In addition to the nearly half a million comments submitted by the American public in recent weeks, ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee Peter DeFazio (D-OR) released a bipartisan letter co-signed by 73 House members urging Secretary Jewell to continue protections for gray wolves and rescind the proposed delisting rule immediately.
"While some people are skeptical about the subject, the condition of “gold fever” really does exist. I know, because I have felt the heat and confusion on more than one occasion." Dave McCracken
If there is truly such a thing such as “gold fever” in the West, Dave McCracken—or Dave Mack as he has self-styled himself—is the virus-infected-blanket of that disease. Part aspiring Indiana Jones and part cheerleader, Dave Mack is the leader of the New 49ers (as if the old 49ers did not do enough damage) and he has staked out a claim and is defending a business empire in a mysterious land that seems to naturally hover around the margins of legality and often stomps all over legal intent. He appears supremely comfortable in that Peter Pan land where the boys and girls of suction dredging can live and never grow up.
If you think the above claim about the The New 49ers and Mr. McCracken living on the legal edge is an exaggeration then perform the following informative exercise:
2) Check the California Charitable Registry listings for The New 49ers or The New 49ers Legal Fund using the handy search function.
3) Do a Google search on the term “New 49ers Legal Fund” and see if you can find anything that resembles a raffle as well as evidence that the raffle was conducted on the internet or that funds from a California raffle might to be used in another state (Hint: you might look 1,2,3,4).
4) Re-read the penal code section, cook up some popcorn and tally your results while watching the above video.
Mr. McCracken sells gold dredges, teaches classes and runs a club that is part classroom and dredger indoctrination center involving a complicated scheme that puts gold club members and machines on claims and money in his pockets in ways that were never anticipated by the 1872 Mining Law. While those who have plunked down up to $3500 to be life members of the New 49ers Club see this as about gold, McCracken himself characterizes it as a "progressive tourism program (with a gold mining theme)" in his on-line resume. Ironically, he and his followers are overwhelmingly from the anti-government camp, yet are supremely dependent on federal lands, state waterways and natural resources that are owned by all of us for their existence.
Dave Mack also looks to be the go-to guy when mischief or high school prank-like advocacy is needed. I can almost imagine some sort of situation where the suction dredging leadership comes together and in times of desperation loudly proclaims: Release the McCracken.
This year they released the McCracken again and now we are seeing the introduction of the suction dredge that does not suck but blows. And even through the device developers may have earned themselves a place in the Worst Marketing Slogan Hall of Fame with the catch phrase “We used to suck and now we blow,” they clearly do not understand or are trying to actively mischaracterize the physics that makes all these dredges work. Suction dredges and this device too all work on the principle of creating a vacuum (i.e., suction) by forcing water up a hose and having other water–through the nozzle or this hopper arrangement–be pulled in to replace the displaced water.
I am all for humor—like the poorly photo-shopped picture of me gold panning at the beginning of this piece—and an occasional harmless prank, but the suction dredgers and Dave McCracken have taken this to a level where the mischief causes harm, thumbs its nose at our nation's courts and legislatures, and costs taxpayers money. Moreover, there is something truly sophomoric about these actions that seem ultimately as destructive as the suction dredging itself. Why as a society are we in anyway tolerant of these behaviors?
And more importantly, why are we letting a small, but very vocal and pugnacious minority intimidate us into allowing them to materially impact rivers and waterways where we are investing millions in efforts to restore salmon species that benefit us all? This becomes increasingly questionable when we understand that we are letting this miniscule segment of the population tear up gravel bars and riffles in waterways that have been closed to fishing because their salmon populations are too vulnerable to allow that disturbance. (Please listen to campaign partners Kim McDonald and Kent Lufkin on the Open Fly Show, their part starts about minute 24.)
These and other inappropriate behaviors–including the threats to those with opposing views–become increasingly relevant as we think about the future fate of the moratorium in California, consider adjustments to regulations in Oregon, and contemplate appropriate controls in Washington state. Laws and regulations for those who have a history of obeying laws and behaving civilly are necessarily different than similar actions for those who have demonstrated disrespect for laws and frequently behave like rebellious teenagers and thugs.
We all need to work together to put the McCracken back in the bottle and secure the cork tightly. Our precious salmon and wildland experiences should not be victims of his efforts (and those of the "McCrackheads" in the above videos) to find loopholes in the 1872 Mining Law and legislation enacted to reduce the impact of this destructive enterprise. Please join our efforts in Cascadia, specifically on actions in Oregon and Washington, to make sure that this brand of "gold fever" does not spread and compromise our real wealth.
Silicon Valley embraces science and loves innovation. Sadly, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has recently shown contempt for both when it comes to the recovery of gray wolves — particularly in the wilds of Northern California where a lone wolf recently visited for the first time in more than 80 years.
Our unflattering assessment derives from the peer review of the service's 2013 proposal to strip Endangered Species Act protections from most wolves in the West. The service's recommendation to "delist" wolves was judged to have ignored and misrepresented the "best available science," which is the unambiguous standard for species listing decisions. We wholeheartedly agree with the peer reviewers' troubling conclusions, and we are disappointed that the service pursued political expediency rather than abiding by the lawful provisions of the ESA.
That choice was encouraged by state wildlife commissions and agencies blatantly promoting the extremist views of some ranchers and anti-wolf hunting groups. In doing so, these agencies ignored scientific principles and the intrinsic value of species by portraying wolves as needing lethal management and fostering policies that treat them as problems rather than as respected members of the ecological community.
Paul Paquet (right) is an internationally prominent wolf scientist and senior scientist at Raincoast Conservation Foundation. Bob Ferris (left), executive director of Cascadia Wildlands, has been a leader in wolf advocacy for two decades.
About a decade ago I watched a giant front-end loader pull a metal culvert that was restricting fish passage out of a steelhead stream in Southern California. It was fun to watch and gratifying because my organization at the time had a hand in making it happen, but I did not for one second think that front-end loaders in streams were always good for fish. I suspect being part of a discipline like ecology that has a lot of special rules and exceptions helps with this type of discernment.
I wonder if suction dredge miners have this same discernment “chip” or if they hope others do not. The reason I raise this issue is that dredgers seem to be promoting the notion that because suction dredges are occasionally used to clean gravel beds in waterways hopelessly choked with silt or to move materials quickly, that suction dredgers and dredges are actually good for fish.
One example that at least one miner is using to seemingly prove this point is his participation in an impressive restoration project on the East Fork of the Lewis River near Vancouver, Washington (see above from Northwest Mineral Prospectors Club facebook page). This project was undertaken by Friends of the East Fork who are really doing some incredible work to restore chum salmon and other salmonid runs in fish-poor wastelands created by gravel mining and other activities.
While I would like to commend suction dredgers for the work of some dredgers to restore streams and rivers, that does not balance out or change the fact that they are doing much more damage at other times. (The above poster of this Facebook story, for example, neglected to mention his Hydraulic Project Approval permit issued in 2009 to move up to 50 cubic yards of material in the same waterway system). Can suction dredges be an effective tool for fish habitat restoration? Yes in rare instances, but the same can also be said for dynamite, front-end loaders and other agents of destruction.
Suction dredgers are also quick to crow about how much lead they remove from waterways as a rationale for their presence on the water. This too is not as it seems. While lead is certainly a huge problem for birds while it remains mixed with the surface materials and accessible, legacy lead—older lead that is buried—is not as serious a problem once it sinks beyond the reach of birds.
With the banning of lead shot for waterfowl hunting in 1991 and awareness in the fishing community about the dangers of certain lead devices, "new" lead in the system has been greatly reduced and the rest continues to do what lead does best: Sink. Therefore, claims of massive amounts of lead recovered by suction dredgers has less to do with environmental benefit and more to with massive amounts of materials moved and damage to waterways and streambeds.
Another of the “benefit myths” promulgated by suction dredgers and probably the most complicated is the one dealing with mercury removal. We all know that mercury contamination is an important environmental issue and that gold miners polluted waterways with this toxic metal during gold rushes of the past. While it is commendable that suction dredge gold miners want to remediate the sins of their predecessors, the question remains: Are they best equipped to do it? And when that question has been asked of experts, the answer given is: No.
Gravel and cobbles that entered the sluice at high velocity caused the mercury to flour, or break into tiny particles. Flouring was aggravated by agitation, exposure of mercury to air, and other chemical reactions.
A study conducted in 2005 that examined the removal of mercury by suction dredges found that the dredges removed 97% of the elemental mercury. This is the finding that the suction dredgers tend to focus on and promote. But there is a "Paul Harvey" moment here too, and that is that the discharge from those dredges would be considered a toxic waste and contains “floured” mercury which is mercury that is easily transformed into a biologically harmful form and transported in the river current. An independent review of the 2005 study reinforced the findings and said that the peril described was conservative.
The basic message being that it is better to leave the mercury where it is and undisturbed than to try and remove it with recreational suction dredges. Now suction dredgers—wanting to confuse the issue—have claimed that a proposal to remove mercury from Combie Reservoir in the foothills of the Sierra using modified suction dredges for sediment acquisition proves that suction dredgers should be allowed to perform this “service” and they see this as equivalent to their actions. My only possible and appropriate response is: Poppycock.
The proposed Combie project protocol takes the water and sediments, and pumps them into what is essentially an onshore laboratory which uses centrifuges to extract elemental mercury (see above excerpt from Combie plan). Then the remaining materials are subjected to sophisticated magnetic and chemical treatments, before being sent to the equivalent of a high-tech sewage treatment facility with frequent testing happening at every step of the process. Comparing recreational suction dredge mining with the above process is about as appropriate as comparing an abacus with a modern calculator.
Dredging Only Mimics Natural Processes
The last related myth we see is that some are arguing that suction dredging mimics natural processes like storm events and what suction dredgers do is no different than what nature does. There are obvious problems with that in terms of timing and magnitude. Our salmon have evolved over the years to make the best use of fluctuating, but fairly predictable cycles of rain, snow melt and dryness. The lifecycles and life stages of these fish are dependent on these cycles. Suction dredges inject disturbance during a time when these systems are least able to deal with disturbance.
The magnitude issue is a little more complicated. Winter storms bring massive changes to rivers, streams, and other waterways. These seem absolutely chaotic and without pattern or purpose, yet they also leave significant elements and often those are gravel beds and riffles that have become “armored” by a complex combination of cobble, gravel and silt over time. Suction dredging disassembles these structures and redeposits the constituent parts in tailings that are more likely to be scoured from the streambed.
While this may be characterized as trivial in the big picture view of rivers and tributaries, when you are dealing with endangered and challenged fish, actions that cause or are likely to cause redd failure cannot be allowed or enabled.
People who love an activity are very resistant to being told that it causes problems. Because of that, a system of myths has been developed by those who want to feel good about their actions or who gain economically from the continuance of the activity. Unfortunately, for the former, these myths are simply not supported by science or experience.
Contacts: Daniel Kruse, Attorney at Law, 541.337.5829
Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands, 541.844.8182
Bob Sallinger, Audubon Society of Portland, 503.380.9728
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, 503.484.7495
Eugene, OR — Three conservation organizations filed a notice of intent today to sue any potential timber purchasers of nearly 3,000 acres of the Elliott State Forest recently authorized for sale by the State of Oregon. Audubon Society of Portland, Cascadia Wildlands and the Center for Biological Diversity argue that if timber companies knowingly buy and log the tracts that contain marbled murrelet habitat, they will be in violation of the federal Endangered Species Act.
“The state knows that it is illegal to log these lands, which is why they are proposing to sell them in the first place. Any purchaser should be keenly aware of the liability associated with logging marbled murrelet habitat in these parcels, particularly since we have already obtained an injunction against the current owner,” said Daniel Kruse, attorney for the groups serving the notice. “We plan to prosecute anyone who would purchase and log this important habitat for marbled murrelets, just as we successfully prosecuted the state.”
The Endangered Species Act has a strict prohibition against “taking” listed species like the marbled murrelet, which was listed as threatened with extinction in 1992. Take is broadly defined to include harassing, harming or wounding a species on the endangered species list. Past court cases have shown that logging murrelet habitat causes take of the species.
The land disposal, which has a March 28 deadline for sealed bids, comes in response to recent marbled murrelet “take” litigation by the three conservation groups that resulted in a preliminary injunction against logging in occupied marbled murrelet habitat on the Elliott State Forest, followed by the cancelation of 26 timber sales in murrelet habitat on the forest and significant changes to the state’s murrelet protection policy. Marbled murrelets are unique among seabirds in that they nest on the wide branches of large, old trees, making a daily trip of up to 35 miles inland to bring fish to their young. Logging of their forested habitat is the primary threat to their survival.
“Privatizing public forests that give Oregonians clean air and pure water is bad public policy,” said Francis Eatherington, conservation director with Cascadia Wildlands. “Moreover, these state forests anchor wild salmon runs and house endangered wildlife like the marbled murrelet which is in jeopardy of extinction.”
Conservation organizations have expressed significant concern with the amount of the minimum bids set for the parcels when compared to their actual value. According to the State of Oregon, the timber value of the parcels currently for sale is $12.5 million. The minimum bid is $3 million.
“It would be a tragic story if Big Timber ended up with stately tracts of pubic old-growth forests at rock bottom prices,” said Bob Sallinger, conservation director at the Audubon Society of Portland. “This would be a huge loss for the Oregon taxpayer who may well end up with nothing but clearcuts and muddy rivers.”
“By selling off a portion of Oregon’s oldest state forest to the highest bidder the state is not only putting threatened murrelets at risk but failing to protect the public’s highest interests,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We are determined to make sure the law is followed and these rare seabirds and their irreplaceable habitat are protected from the irreversible impacts of destructive logging.”
The 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest, overseen by the State Land Board, is located northeast of Coos Bay and has a mandate to produce revenue for county and state services. Rather than clearcut older trees on the forest to help fund schools and roads, the conservation organizations have long encouraged the State Land Board, made up of Secretary of State Kate Brown, Treasurer Ted Wheeler and Gov. John Kitzhaber, to pursue beneficial opportunities on the forest. The conservation groups recommend the sale of key habitat on the Elliott to land trusts or other conservation interests; a timber program that focuses on restoration thinning of dense plantation forests; or a combination of both.