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Jan17

Cascade-Siskiyou; A Wonderland at a Biological and Political Crossroads

by Sam Krop, Cascadia Wildlands Grassroots Organizer

Straddling the border of Oregon and California, the beautiful and biologicall unique Cascade-Siskiyou NationalIMG_2179 Monument has received a lot of public attention lately. According to the Monument’s June 2000 establishing proclamation, the land is worthy of protection under the Antiquities Act as an “ecological wonder,” and a unique “biological crossroads” where several distinct ecoregions collide.  In January of 2017, the Obama administration approved expanding the Monument by 42,000 acres in Oregon and adding 5,000 acres in California. Now, following hasty and ill-informed recommendations from Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, the Monument is under threat of being stripped of those protections by the Trump administration.

This is a simple telling of the Cascade-Siskiyou’s history, and it doesn’t take a lot of digging to learn that there is lot more to the story than what appears on the surface.  To really comprehend the extraordinary nature of this place, you have to visit it yourself. For this reason, my partner and I took a trip down to the Monument—to see what we could learn from the place itself.

We dedicated the first part of our journey to exploring the land within the 2016 expanded boundary. In a single day’s journey, we walked through sprawling oak savannah, high desert-like country rich with sage, and mature forests boasting massive fir and pine. We saw a post-fire ecosystem in resurgence, t13ook in the breathtaking views of Shasta to the south and Mount McLoughlin to the north from rocky crags and heard the trickling of water making its way through crevices underground.  We walked the same trail that Zinke walked during his official Monument “review,” but I could not help but feel that we and Zinke were seeing completely different things.  

From our exploration, it was immediately evident that the land granted protection with the Monument’s expanded boundaries is far more than what Secretary Zinke called a “buffer” for the biological diversity inside of the original boundary. On the contrary, according to a 2011 study published by a diverse group of scientists, the expansion area is described as a part of, and home to many of the important ecological features the Monument was originally intended to protect.  The scientists go on to argue that “without Monument expansion…some of the area’s important biological values were at high risk of degradation and loss.” The words of these scientists reflect what we saw when we visited—that far from being a buffer, the land inside of the recent Monument expansion is an integral part of this incredible ecological wonderland.

In addition to seeing breaIMG_2224-2thtaking natural wonders, in our journey within the newly protected Monument expansion area, we saw hundreds of cattle, miles of fencing and forests in recovery from commercial logging.  Here again, our experience was different than Zinke’s. While we saw a place that is healing and in need of continued protection in order to fully recover, Zinke saw a lost opportunity for more commercial activity.  In fact, Zinke’s driving criticism of the Monument is that Monument protections do not well-serve commercial logging and grazing interests. Indeed, according to its establishing proclamation, the purpose of the Monument is to protect the “biological crossroads,” and the “spectacular variety of rare and beautiful species of plants and animals,” not to serve commercial interests.

Zinke’s assertion that we can somehow increase commercial activity and simultaneously protect biodiversity is ill-informed at best and intentionally misleading at worst.  The known destructive impacts of commercial logging on biologically sensitive areas are the exact reason why lands in the Cascade-Siskiyou Monument are protected from timber companies.  In addition, while there are still numerous commercial grazing allotments in the Monument expansion area, we also know that commercial grazing negatively impacts biological integrity. The findings of a 2008 Bureau of Land Management study decisively illustrate this point. The study, completed over the course of many years and using several key biological indicators, found that the proliferation of commercial grazing has created measurable adverse impacts to the native species and natural features of the Monument.

 In sum, we know that commercial logging and grazing are not compatible with protecting sensitive ecological areas. What Zinke does not seem to grasp is that you cannot simultaneously claim to protect a place and promote the very activities which have been shown to threaten it. 

In a time when biodiversity is collapsing at an unprecedented rate, the Cascade-Siskiyou is so incredibly precious. At  root here is a simple question: Do we value biological integrity in a special place like this enough to truly protect it? Thousands of Oregonians, including Oregon’s Governor and both of Oregon’s U.S. Senators, continue to answer that question with a resounding ‘yes.’ As he considers Zinke’s recommendations to shrink Cascade-Siskiyou and make it a “protected area” in name only, it remains to be seen whether Trump will respect Oregon’s top statewide elected leaders – and this very special place – or not.

For  more information about how to get involved to save the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument, sign up for our e -news or visit Monuments for All. 

 

 

 

Jan16

Press release: Gray wolves documented on Oregon’s Mt. Hood

For immediate release
January 16, 2018
Contact: Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands, 541-844-8182
 
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife announced today that two gray wolves have been documented on the Mt. Hood National Forest. A remote camera captured an image showing two wolves traveling together in southern Wasco County. Until now, only lone wolves have been documented dispersing through the area since they began migrating back into the state from Idaho in 2007.
 
Oregon is currently undergoing a gray wolf management plan revision, and conservation groups including Cascadia Wildlands are urging the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission to maintain protections for the species, especially in light of their recent population plateau. At the end of 2016, a minimum of 112 wolves were known to inhabit Oregon, an increase in only two wolves from the prior year. A recent wolf poaching spree has been documented in the state impacting the population.
 
Josh Laughlin, Executive Director of Eugene-based Cascadia Wildlands released the following statement:
 
“It is heartening to see gray wolves continuing to reoccupy historic territories across the Northwest after they were exterminated nearly a century ago. It also underscores the need to maintain safeguards for this unique species that continues to be under fire by special-interest groups and politicians.”
 
“The northern Oregon Cascades are wilder place with wolves back on the landscape, and it won’t be long before backcountry travelers get to experience the unforgettable howl of a wolf by the campfire on Mt. Hood. It is imperative that protections are upheld for the gray wolf as it continues its remarkable recovery in the region.”
 
Cascadia Wildlands has been working to recover gray wolves in the Pacific West through outreach, coalition work, litigation and policy creation since its founding in 1998.
 
A public domain, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife photo of the two wolves can be found here.
 
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Dec11

Reward Boosted to $20,000 in Search for Killer of Two Washington Wolves

For Immediate Release, December 11, 2017

Contact:  

Nick Cady, (314) 482-3746, nick@cascwild.org 

Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495, ngreenwald@biologicaldiversity.org
        

Reward Boosted to $20,000 in Search for Killer of Two Washington Wolves

Groups Push for Increased Federal Law Enforcement

SEATTLE— The Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands today increased a reward to $20,000 for information leading to conviction in the killing of two wolves last month in northeast Washington. 

The groups also called for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to step up its law enforcement efforts to investigate poaching incidents in both Washington and Oregon.

“Poaching wolves or other wildlife is a deplorable crime,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center. “We need people to come forward and help put a stop to the killing of these endangered animals.”

The two wolves killed were part of the Smackout and Dirty Shirt packs. Information on their loss and a $10,000 reward was issued by another conservation group, Conservation Northwest, on Saturday. These killings follow the poaching of three other Oregon wolves over the past several months. Wolf populations in both Washington and Oregon remain small and poaching could have a serious impact on their continued recovery.

“Poaching represents a real threat to the recovery of wolves in Washington and elsewhere on the West Coast,” said Nick Cady, legal director with Cascadia Wildlands. “It’s time for federal and state law enforcement to meaningfully act and catch and prosecute these lawless poachers.”  

Following a government-sponsored campaign of poisoning, shooting and killing, wolves were wiped out from all lower 48 states except a small corner of northeast Minnesota. With protection under the Endangered Species Act, wolves have made a comeback in portions of their range. They began returning to Washington and Oregon in the past 10 years or so, now numbering between 100 and 150 animals in each state.       

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.5 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Cascadia Wildlands defends and restores Cascadia’s wild ecosystems in the forests, in the courts, and in the streets. We envision vast old-growth forests, rivers full of salmon, wolves howling in the backcountry, and vibrant communities sustained by the unique landscapes of the Cascadia bioregion. Join our movement today.
 

Nov08

Press Release: Conservation Groups Boost Reward to $16,750 for Oregon Wolf-killer Amid Poaching Surge

For Immediate Release
November 8, 2017
Contact:
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746, nick@cascwild.org
Amaroq Weiss, Center for Biological Diversity, (707) 779-9613, aweiss@biologicaldiversity.org
Wally Sykes, Northeast Oregon Ecosystems, (541) 263-2125, wally_sykes2000@yahoo.com
Quinn Read, Defenders of Wildlife, (503) 697-3222, qread@defenders.org
Scott Beckstead, Humane Society of the United States, (541) 530-8509, sbeckstead@humanesociety.org
Danielle Moser, Oregon Wild, (503) 283-6343 x 226, dm@oregonwild.org
 
PORTLAND, Ore.— Conservation organizations are bolstering a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services reward for information on the illegal killing of OR-25, a federally protected gray wolf in southwestern Oregon. The Service has offered a $5,000 reward, and six conservation organizations have contributed an additional $11,750.
 
In the past two weeks alone, state and federal officials have announced the poaching deaths of wolves OR-25 and OR-33 near Fort Klamath and Klamath Falls, where wolves still have federal protection. In addition to these two kills, since state endangered species act protections were removed from Oregon wolves across the state in late 2015, at least an additional seven wolves have been poached or died under mysterious circumstances in Oregon.
 
At the time of state delisting, conservation groups warned the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission that scientific research shows removing protection from wolves, as well as increased wolf-killing by agencies or the public, decreases social tolerance for wolves and increases incidences of poaching.
 
“Wolves in Oregon are being gunned down maliciously after wildlife officials prematurely removed state-level protections for these misunderstood animals,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Whatever you think of wolves, poaching is wrong and cowardly. We hope someone steps forward with information leading to the killer’s prosecution.”
 
"Wolf poaching, surreptitious or flagrant, is a growing phenomenon in Oregon,” said Wally Sykes, cofounder of Northeast Oregon Ecosystems. “I hope the rewards now on offer for information identifying these people will bring results. Oregonians overwhelmingly value and respect wolves, but these criminals will kill them out of ignorance and malice."
 
“How many dead wolves will it take for Oregon to admit it has a poaching problem?” said Quinn Read, Northwest representative of Defenders of Wildlife. “The tragic killing of OR-25 makes at least nine wolves who have been poached or died under mysterious circumstances in the last two years. We need help to find the criminals responsible and make sure our state’s poaching laws are fully enforced.”
 
“The illegal killing of this federally protected Oregon gray wolf is a cowardly act of cruelty and waste, and we are grateful to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for giving the case the serious attention it deserves,” said Scott Beckstead, senior Oregon director at the Humane Society of the United States. “We are proud to contribute to the effort to bring the perpetrator to justice.”
 
“Here we go again,” said Danielle Moser, wildlife coordinator for Oregon Wild. “In the last two years, we have seen a surge in poaching of wolves. This coincides with Governor Brown and her staff working to successfully strip protections from this endangered species. It’s high time the governor did something to rein in ODFW and encourage OSP to aggressively pursue these investigations.”
 
"Despite massive public objection, the state has made countless efforts to accommodate commercial livestock interests by delisting wolves and shooting wolves all in the name of building 'social tolerance' in rural Oregon,” said Nick Cady, legal director for Cascadia Wildlands. “Instead of building tolerance for wolves in these communities, it appears these efforts have only given social license to killing wolves in violation of the law."
 
Anyone with information about this case should call the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at (503) 682-6131 or Oregon State Police Tip Line at (800) 452-7888. Callers may remain anonymous.
 
Background
OR-25 was found killed near Fort Klamath in the Sun Pass State Forest on Oct. 29. Details about this illegal killing, though not the precise cause of death, were released Nov. 6.
 
OR-25 was a 4.5-year-old male gray wolf who was collared in May 2014 and separated from the Imnaha pack in northeast Oregon in March 2015. Like famous wolf OR-7, also of the Imnaha pack, OR-25 made his way across Oregon into California, where he spent several weeks in December 2015 and January 2016 roaming in Modoc County, presumably in search of a mate. He returned to Oregon and had been living in the Klamath County area since that time.
 
Killing a gray wolf in the western two-thirds of Oregon is a violation of the Endangered Species Act. It is also a violation of Oregon state game laws and is subject to both criminal and civil penalties. The investigation of this crime is being conducted by the Oregon State Police and the Fish and Wildlife Service.
 
The announcement of the poaching death of OR-25 arrives on the heels of the killing of another Oregon wolf last week by an elk hunter in the eastern part of the state, in Union County. The hunter has claimed the wolf was coming directly at him and that he killed the animal in self-defense, despite clear evidence the wolf was shot in the side on the midsection of its torso. Though the hunter’s story conflicts with the physical evidence, state and county officials are declining to press charges.
 
Link to a high resolution image of OR-25 available for media use.
 
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Josh Laughlin
Executive Director
Cascadia Wildlands  –  we like it wild.
CascWild.org  
PO Box 10455 Eugene, OR 97440  –  541.434.1463

Cascadia Wildlands defends and restores Cascadia’s wild ecosystems in the forests, in the courts, and in the streets. We envision vast old-growth forests, rivers full of salmon, wolves howling in the backcountry, and vibrant communities sustained by the unique landscapes of the Cascadia bioregion. Join our movement today.

Nov01

Press Release: House of Representatives Passes Horrific “Logging without Laws” Bill

For immediate release
November 1, 2017
Contacts:

Gabriel Scott, In-House Counsel, Cascadia Wildlands, 907.491.0856 / gscott@cascwild.org
Josh Laughlin, Executive Director, Cascadia Wildlands, 541.844-8182 / jlaughlin@cascwild.org
 
EUGENE, OR – The House of Representatives passed legislation today that will suspend environmental laws to open up previously protected old-growth and recreation areas to clearcut logging. The Orwellian-named “Resilient Federal Forests Act” (HR 2936) is an overwhelming assault on the nation’s public lands, waters, species and environmental laws.
 
“This is a profit-driven, timber industry initiative thinly disguised as restoration,” says Samantha Krop, Grassroots Organizer with Eugene-based Casadia Wildlands. “It guts our bedrock laws in order to clearcut public forests in a magnitude we have never seen before.”
 
While the bill is framed as a way to address forest fires, it does little to create more fire-resilient forests.  Instead, it is designed to boost logging levels on our National Forests and Bureau of Land Management lands while sacrificing myriad bedrock environmental laws.  
 
“This bill is a fraud, and it is completely opposite to our hard-earned knowledge about fires on our forests,” says Gabriel Scott, In-House Counsel with Cascadia Wildlands. “This cynical betrayal of the public confirms our worst fears about national forest policy in this Congress under this Administration.”
 
Introduced by Representative Bruce Westerman (R-AR), the bill is a gift to the timber industry. In only his second term in Congress, Westerman has received more campaign contributions from Big Timber than any other industry.
 
Specifically, the bill would:
 
•    Make millions of acres of currently protected areas—including endangered species habitat and other critically sensitive areas tied to these lands—vulnerable to harmful road building and logging. These targeted areas are some of the most popular outdoor recreation areas throughout the West.
 
•    Exempt commercial logging from requirements under the Endangered Species Act, in essence issuing a blank check for projects that would jeopardize imperiled species and their critical habitats.
 
•    Skirt public participation and review of logging projects that will affect communities in the Pacific Northwest.  H.R. 2936 cuts out meaningful public involvement and enables significant destruction of public lands and waters by waiving substantive environmental review for a broad range of harmful activities.  To put the sheer magnitude of these legal changes in perspective, currently only smaller logging projects are exempt from substantive environmental review under federal law.  H.R. 2936 increases the size of exempt projects to 30,000 acres.
 
Despite the bill’s proponents’ attempt to use this year’s fire season as an excuse for dramatically increased logging, leading scientists state that post-fire logging generally only further harms the ecosystem, undermines recovery, and increases fire risk. Through their slow decay, standing dead trees that remain after a fire provide the very nutrients needed to recover the landscape over the long haul. Post-fire logging involves cutting the large trees and leaves behind smaller trees and branches, and often involves planting dense rows of resinous saplings that can further increase fire risk.
 
Moreover, the bill diverts Secure Rural Schools Act funding from restoration activities to timber projects, and creates a state-based timber production program to facilitate logging. In essence, the bill takes money that would fund education in western states and funnels it to the timber industry.  
 
If enacted into law, the bill will set a dangerous precedent to erode cornerstone laws that protect the environment further jeopardizing clean water, imperiled species and climate security.
 
* An analysis of the bill’s implications can be found here.
* Letter from 71 groups opposing HR 2936 can be found here.
* Text of HR 2936 can be found here.
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Oct25

Marbled Murrelet Review Suggests Increased Protections!

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Status Review Demonstrates that Marbled Murrelet Urgently Needs Endangered Status

Marbled Murrelet -largeIn response to a petition from multiple conservation organizations, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) has released a status review that demonstrates that the Marbled Murrelet warrants uplisting from threatened to endangered under the Oregon Endangered Species Act and is seeking public comment.

“The Marbled Murrelet has been listed as threatened under the Oregon Endangered Species Act for more than two decades and during that time it has slipped closer and closer to extinction in our state,” said Nick Cady, Legal Director for Cascadia Wildlands. “It is critical that the state increase protections for this species right away if there is to be any hope of saving the Oregon population.”

The Department’s status review documents that the iconic seabird, which nests in old-growth and mature forests and forages at sea, is headed for extinction in Oregon if stronger measures are not taken. Oregon conservation groups are calling on the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to uplist the Murrelet from threatened to endangered at their February 2018 meeting.

“While federal laws have stabilized habitat loss on federal lands, the State of Oregon has continued to allow logging of older forests at an alarming rate and failed to adequately address new threats to the species,” said Bob Sallinger, Conservation Director for the Audubon Society of Portland. “Changing the Murrelet’s status to endangered will help ensure that Oregon takes the steps necessary to do its part to save this species.”

The report concludes the “key threats identified at the time of listing have continued or increased, and many new threats have been identified since the 1990’s….the life history exhibited by this species provides little opportunity for the population to rapidly increase even under the most optimal circumstances.” It also noted that the primary cause of Marbled Murrelet declines, loss and fragmentation of older forest habitat on which it depends for nesting, has “slowed, but not halted…since the 1990s” with  greatest losses since on lands managed by the State of Oregon. The review specifically notes that existing programs and regulation have “failed to prevent continued high rates of habitat loss on nonfederal lands in Oregon,”

If the Marbled Murrelet were uplisted from threatened to endangered in Oregon, the Department of Fish and Wildlife would be required to establish survival guidelines at the time of reclassification and a species management plan within 18-months.

“The Marbled Murrelet is the proverbial canary in the coal mine,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The species survival guidelines and management plan will help ensure the State of Oregon addresses not only loss of older forests but a whole array of other threats faced by Murrelets, such as energy development, oil spills, power lines and declining forage fish populations.”

“It’s time for Oregon to catch up with our neighbors,” said Danielle Moser, Wildlife Coordinator for Oregon Wild. “California and Washington have already uplisted the Murrelet from ‘threatened’ to ‘endangered’ at the state level, recognizing that more protections are needed to ensure the survival of this imperiled species.”

“The data presented by ODFW staff is clear – habitat loss on state lands is putting the marbled murrelet at the risk of extinction,” said Shawn Cantrell, Northwest Director for Defenders of Wildlife. “The only question for the Fish and Wildlife Commission is whether it will follow the science by changing the status of Marbled Murrelet to endangered in Oregon.”

The data in the review overwhelmingly supports uplisting the Marbled Murrelet to endangered status in Oregon,” said Rhett Lawrence of the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club. “We urge the ODFW Commission to recognize the dire situation faced by the murrelet and the state forests on which they depend and move forward with this critically important step to save murrelets in Oregon.”

The conservation groups who initiated the petition to uplist the Marbled Murrelet in Oregon were Cascadia Wildlands, Audubon Society of Portland Center for Biological Diversity, Oregon Wild, Coast Range Forest Watch and Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club.

 

Oct18

The Deja Vu of Killing Wolves

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

Late last month, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife announced that it would shoot up to four wolves in the Harl Butte pack.  Again. In August, following conflicts between wolves and livestock in the same area, the Department killed another four wolves from the same pack

The Harl Butte territory is no stranger to conflicts between wolves and livestock.  This is the same area formerly occupied by the Imnaha pack along the Imnaha River near Oregon's border with Idaho.  The Imnaha pack was wiped out last year by the Department, after numerous other kill orders over several years. 

It is important to keep in mind that the number of wolf/livestock conflicts remains incredibly low when compared to livestock animals lost to coyotes, cougars, and wild dogs. It shrinks to insignificance when compared to the number of animals that die from the weather, disease, traffic accidents, or good ole-fashioned cattle rustling.  Regardless, killing wolves remains the persistent agenda of numerous commercial lobbyist groups in the Pacific Northwest, and our Fish and Wildlife Departments all too often oblige.

It is also critical to remember that ranchers are getting compensated, at full market value, for any livestock they lose as long as they show they attempted to proactively reduce conflict between wolves and livestock.  That generous cash program is subject to ongoing investigations of questionable payments being made to some of these producers.

The State's wolf killing is designed to prevent future depredations, but we are experiencing livestock losses repeatedly in the same areas.  The same story is playing out in Washington, where the State has killed wolves three separate times at the behest of the same livestock producer in the same region. The question remains: Why are we forced to kill wolves in the same areas, again and again?

The Cattlemen's Associations contend it is because the wolves have developed a taste for beef and teach the ways of the burger to their pups.  But Oregon and Washington continue to wipe out entire packs. Depredations resume the next year when new wolves move into the vacated habitat.   

Oregon Wolf August 14It is not because beef is delicious that wolves are targeting cows. Pervasively across the West there are areas where wolves and livestock are in close proximity without conflicts. If wolves prefer beef, there would be conflicts any place where wolves and livestock interact. But this is not the case.

Instead, it appears to be a product of there being too many cattle on the landscape.  Rob Klavins, a close friend and employee for Oregon Wild, lives out in this Harl Butte/Imnaha area where he and is wife run the Barking Mad B&B (check it out if you're ever near Enterprise). He maintains a series of wildlife cameras on public lands where Harl Butte and Imnaha wolves were regularly seen. When talking with him about this recent kill order, he shared that in reviewing his tapes, of all the different wildlife that pops up on his motion activated cameras, well-over 90% are cows.  

Is it that wolves are eating cows because bovine are the only viable prey species left in that area?  When cattle are intensively grazed in the specific areas, they drive out the deer and elk that otherwise might comprise the majority of a wolf's diet. This also drives the herds of deer and elk down into agricultural lowlands, where they munch on farmers' fields. This can lead to frustrated farmers poaching loads of elk.  It seems likely there are simply too many cattle grazing in these particular areas during the grazing season, which is driving out other game.  

Now I know you are saying to yourself, "wait, commercial agriculture overusing a resource? This would never happen."  But just maybe this is what is occurring.

Regardless of why wolf-livestock conflict continues in these particular areas, shooting wolves in response to depredations simply is not a long-term solution. It is a money-pit and bad policy.  Every year our Fish and Wildlife Departments will continue to shoot wolves, spending tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars each kill order, in response to a few dead cows, only to see it recur time and time again.  

real niceAnd yet the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is going broke, or is already broke.  They increasingly rely on general fund taxpayer dollars. The Department is coming to the conservation community with its hat in its hand.  The conservation community works with the Department to recover habitat and protect non-game species that include many of the imperiled species in the state on the verge of extinction.  The conservation community wants to work with the Department on these species.

However, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife spends 2% of its funding on non-game species, even though these comprise 88% of the species in the state. Only three of the agency's 1,200-person staff work on non-game species. Their requests for money remind me of  National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, where cousin Eddie promises to get you something real nice with the Christmas gift money he borrows from you, but you know that gift is going to be a hastily dug trench filled with dead carnivores. 

It is past time for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and its Commission to deal with this issue in a direct manner, instead of bending like a willow to interest groups.  But this will not happen on its own! Oregon's wildlife needs strong leadership from Governor Kate Brown. She appoints the Fish and Wildlife Commission that makes the calls on these issues, and she needs to send a clear message to this floundering agency and its Commission.  

Give Governor Brown a call: (503) 378-4582. If you like wolves, tell her to stop killing them.  If you decry government waste and hate to watch the Department endlessly dump public money into a problem of its own creation that it has no intention of solving, give her a ring.  If you enjoy the film Christmas Vacation, let her know.  Governor Brown was just awarded the Environmental Champion of the Year Award by the Oregon League of Conservation Voters. Let's see if she will put her money where her mouth is.

Oct13

On Westerman, Walden, and Kids: Contemplating Oregon’s Fire Season from Drake Peak Lookout

by Gabe Scott, Cascadia Wildlands In-House Counsel
 
I’m sitting in the Drake Peak fire lookout tower in Oregon's Fremont-Winema National Forest for a long weekend with my young kids, taking in the wind-swept views while they explore the mountain, and watching a forest fire burn. As the sun sets it makes Mount Shasta glow fire-red in the distance, while an apocalyptic plume of smoke from the forest takes on a feathery pink. The sky darkens, and the kids come inside for food and stories. The fire casts an eerie glow in the night, and we wonder about it.
IMG_2682
 
I’ve been wondering a lot about forest fires this past year, since moving back to Oregon from south-central Alaska. Just about everything that happens in forest policy here revolves around fire, one way or another.
 
Oregonians talk a lot about the rain, but really it’s the fires that we’ve found distinctive. As important and ubiquitous as fire is, the issue is an incredibly difficult thing to talk about or understand.
 
So let’s sit around the cooling flames for a story. The kids want to understand what is happening, and I want to be able to explain it to them.
 
In the Pacific Northwest, the story about fire is a profound one: it’s about birth and death, money and power, and a human animal who is deeply confused, scared, and mixed up about his place on the land. There are heroes and villains in this story. And you get to create your own ending.
 
Fire is scary
There is something primal and apocalyptic about the experience of fire.
 
Terror of fire is something we share with other animals. Bears, deer and rabbits flee from fire in a panic. It may be a trick of the eye, but the way big trees catch fire, their branches seem to shrink away from the flames, dancing convulsively as though the tree itself summons one last panicked attempt to run from the flames.
 
Fire is an enemy of “man.” It is an enemy of property, and of permanence. Like a hurricane, or a cold and stormy sea.
 
Heck of a fire season, again
At least, it seems like it has been. Ash has been falling from the sky in Seattle, Portland, and Eugene. Even more so in the southern Oregon Cascades and the Siskiyous. The sun and moon have cast an eerie, muted orange. Air quality warnings have flashed red exclamation points on our phones, and out-of-town relatives have inquired about our safety.
 
But was this a “bad” fire year?
 
Fire has burned across over a half-million acres of forest this summer in Oregon.
 
That’s a lot of acres.
 
But then again, Oregon is a big place, and fire ecologists have learned that just about all of our forests burn at one time or another. In the scheme of things, even a half-million acres of fire—a lot of fire!— isn’t unusual.
 
Whether a half-million acres burning is a lot, or not, sort of depends on what timeframe you are using. In the past fifty years, statistically there has been a huge increase in the acres of forest burning in wildfires. Look at the past hundred years though, and you can see that we need additional context.
 
Charts-dellasala (1)_Page_1 2
(Source: Dominick DellaSala, Geos Institute, testimony US House Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, September 27, 2017).
 
That dip in the middle of the graph has resulted in what they call a “fire debt” on the forest. It is routine in the public land timber sales Cascadia Wildlands reviews to find the agency biologists bemoaning a fire-starved forest stand.
 
The “problem” of forest fires, a scientist would tell you, is a social problem, not an information problem. Two true things are in conflict: (1) ecologically, fire is beneficial and often necessary on many of Cascadia’s forests, and (2) humans, like (as) animals, do not tolerate fire in their midst. 
 
Forest fires (usually) don’t kill the forest
Exploring Drake Peak with the kids, everywhere we went had been touched by fire. And it was beautiful. It is this way throughout Oregon, Washington and California: luxurious green forests grown from carpets of black ash.
 
While we speak and think in terms of fire “consuming” and “destroying” forests, this is not the case.
 
On the Eagle Creek fire in the Columbia River Gorge for example, even in places that had been glowing hellish red in high-intensity conflagrations this summer, many of the trees seem to have survived, and lots of patches of forest were left unburned. Even as the flames burned, ODFW was reassuring the public that wildlife and vegetation will adapt and thrive.
 
Cascadia’s forests are born of fire
Fire has always been in this landscape. Without it, the forests could not be. In different ways at different times, the fires of centuries past created the forest, wetlands and wildlife we love.
 
Ecologically, fire is hugely beneficial. The science is remarkably consistent. Here in Oregon the world’s foremost scientific experts on fire ecology are working and watching, eagerly studying this incredible process. To a person, they speak and think of forest fires as an integral part of the forest. To ecologists who study these things, fires are approached with something more like reverence than fear.  
 
The lessons they’ve learned are familiar. Fires clear out underbrush, thin forests, favor some species over others, and provide homes for cavity-nesters like owls. Every schoolchild now learns the story of the Yellowstone fire, and how it unleashed an ecological cascade of restoration for the forest and wildlife.
 
Scientists now are studying how fire helps wild salmon and trout. Earlier this summer a Pacific Northwest Research Station report came out describing ways that wildlfires help wild salmon and trout thrive.
 
As it turns out, forests “dying” in fires are more like forests “dying” in the fall. It’s part of a cycle, not the end of a line.
 
The war on fire
Cold science is one thing, but hot passion is another. Too often the latter which tends to drive human behavior.
 
One result of those two true things— inevitability and fear of fire—is a hugely aggressive (and expensive, and dangerous) fire-fighting effort. Forest fires, being as ordinary a part of the seasonal cycle as rain, inevitably happen. We try to put just about all of them out.
 
We’ve gotten very, very good at it. Huge jet airplanes drop million-dollar loads of orange fire-retardant. A literal army of firefighters attack blazes with shovels, chainsaws, backfires, firebreaks, bulldozers, and water.
 
One result is that, thanks to firefighters, we have fewer fires. The small ones get put out.
 
As good as our firefighters are at what they do, did you know that they have never— not even once— been able to put out a large, intense wildfire? It’s true.
 
To satisfy the insatiable public need to fight every fire, firefighters are routinely asked to take incredible risks. I doubt I would have the courage to take half as much risk to save my own home from burning, as some of these hotshots take trying to save remote forests from burning.  
 
While the safety culture is strong, especially among firefighting leadership, the war on fire comes with heavy casualties. Foremost are the lost firefighters.  
 
Aggressively fighting fire also has an ecological cost. For example, this summer at Breitenbush Hot Springs in Oregon's Willamette National Forest, fire crews cut a fireline through a beloved old-growth hiking trail.
 
Logging the forest to save it
To a hammer every solution looks like a nail.
 
And to generations of foresters trained in cutting trees, the solution to forest fires has always been to cut the forest down.
 
It is routine in the timber sales we monitor at Cascadia Wildlands to find the agencies logging the forest to save it before it burns. Or, after it burns, they’ll want to “salvage” it.
 
Both notions are applied by with an un-ironic stubbornness that is almost comical.
 
There are grains of truth, and much of our day-to-day work consists of finding them. In the wildland-urban interface—where homes and property are built in forests that need to burn—thinning and strategic clearing can be very effective at saving property. And on some forest stands, careful thinning and prescribed burning is effective at both ecological restoration, and providing jobs and timber for mills. Cascadia Wildlands always tries to support these win-win solutions.
 
But while some work the ideas out carefully, politicians and the timber industry love to come in shouting emergency when fires are burning.
 
So we get things like the barely disguised propaganda video put out by the industry in Douglas County, questionably using taxpayer dollars. 
 
Or we get things like Rep. Greg Walden's (R-OR) “Clearcut the Gorge” bill, which suspends all environmental laws to expedite clearcutting of the Gorge after this summer's Eagle Creek fire.
 
Or, even worse, the Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR) bill, with the Orwellian name “Resilient Federal Forests Act,” a salvage rider on steroids that would exempt massive logging, up to 30,000 acres, from environmental laws and careful planning.
 
We’ll be busy fighting these outrageous proposals in the months and years to come.
 
Drake Peak
Back to my fire lookout on Drake Peak. How to explain the sinister, burning forest to my curious children? What are we seeing? Is this Bambi’s home being destroyed?
 
I really don’t know what is the best way to think about fire, let alone to explain it. Emotionally they are scary. Intellectually they are essential and life-giving. The picture gets more complicated when you factor in global warming, and human developments concentrated in inconvenient places.
 
Whatever the right way, we surely do know that the wrong way to think about fire is to panic.
 
It is panic that gives the log-it-to-save it idea traction. It is panic that causes distant politicians to see burned forests as destroyed lifeless tracts that may as well be clearcut.
 
As for the best way to talk about fire, we’d love to hear your ideas in comments. The best I could come up with for my kids were two imperfect analogies:
 
A forest fire is like a rainstorm. It’s an uncomfortable thing that happens in nature. It is dangerous, and can even kill you if you aren’t prepared. But it also makes the land green, and without it we would die.
 
A forest fire is like autumn, but on a larger time scale. As in autumn the leaves die and animals disappear, but in a cyclical way, not a linear one. It is the kind of death that blurs into birth. For a forest, a fire is a turning of the wheel, not the end of the road.
Sep25

Cascadia Lawsuit Challenges Wolf Killing in Washington!

Lawsuit Challenges Washington Wolf-killing Protocol

Injunction Sought Against Further Killings After State Nearly Wipes Out Three Packs for One Livestock Owner

out_5_wolf_trail_cam_t1140

OLYMPIA, Wash.— Two conservation groups filed a lawsuit today seeking to stop the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and its director, James Unsworth, from killing any more state-endangered wolves.

Today’s suit, filed on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands, asserts that the agency’s killing of wolves from the Smackout and Sherman packs in northeastern Washington relied upon a faulty protocol and failed to undergo required environmental analysis. The suit was filed in Superior Court of Washington for Thurston County.

“We can’t sit by and watch Washington wildlife officials kill more wolves from the state’s small and recovering wolf population,” said Amaroq Weiss, the Center’s West Coast wolf advocate. “Washingtonians overwhelmingly want wolves recovered, not killed. The Department of Fish and Wildlife needs to listen to public opinion and consider the dire environmental costs of killing more wolves.”

In June of this year, Fish and Wildlife officials adopted a revised “wolf-livestock interaction protocol” for determining when to kill wolves in response to livestock conflicts. The protocol provided for the state to kill wolves more quickly than in prior years. As the lawsuit notes, the protocol was adopted without any public input or environmental review, in violation of the state’s Environmental Policy and Administrative Procedure Acts.

“Reasonable minds can differ on when we should and should not be killing wolves, and whether the killing of the wolves in these two packs was justified,” said Nick Cady, legal director for Cascadia Wildlands. “But there is no question that we should be fully analyzing the efficacy of these actions, welcoming public and scientific input, and be able to hold the state accountable. This is a state agency spending taxpayer dollars.”

The department has since relied on the protocol to order killing of wolves from two packs, with two wolves from the Smackout pack and one wolf from the Sherman pack killed to date. At the time of the Sherman pack kill order, only two wolves could be confirmed as comprising the pack, one of which the department has now killed. The department has temporarily paused killing wolves from both packs, but will resume if there are more livestock losses.

Overall, since 2012, the state has killed 18 state-endangered wolves, nearly 16 percent of the state’s current confirmed population of 115 wolves. Fifteen of the wolves killed since 2012 were killed on behalf of the same livestock owner; those kills have now led to the near eradication of three entire wolf packs, including the Profanity Peak pack last year, and the Wedge pack in 2012. The rancher in question has been a vocal opponent of wolf recovery and has historically refused to implement meaningful nonlethal measures designed to protect his livestock from wolves.

Washington’s wolves were driven to extinction in the early 1900s by a government-sponsored eradication program on behalf of the livestock industry. The animals began to return from neighboring Idaho and British Columbia in the early 2000s, and their population has grown to 20 confirmed packs as of the end of 2016.

But wolf recovery in Washington is still a work in progress. Wolves remain absent from large areas of the state and although the population has been growing, it remains small and vulnerable. Given the continued endangered status of wolves, the state and livestock operators should stick to nonlethal methods as the sole means for reducing loss of livestock to wolves.

“We appreciate that many livestock owners already are using nonlethal methods, said Weiss, “since the science shows such methods are more effective anyway.”

Plaintiffs are represented in the case by attorneys from the law firm Lane Powell.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.5 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places. Recognizing the ecological importance of wolves, bears and other carnivores, the Center uses science-based advocacy to defend these magnificent animals from persecution, exploitation and extinction. Find out more about our Carnivore Conservation campaign here.

Cascadia Wildlands educates, agitates, and inspires a movement to protect and restore Cascadia's wild ecosystems. We envision vast old-growth forests, rivers full of wild salmon, wolves howling in the backcountry, and vibrant communities sustained by the unique landscapes of the Cascadia bioregion.

Aug07

Climbing the Quartz Timber Sale

Reed Crossbow

The Quartz Timber sale is an 847-acre logging project set to take place in the Umpqua National Forest. The timber sale proposes to commercially log and burn older forest in the Cottage Grove Ranger District. We believe that insufficient consideration was given to the presence of imperiled spotted owls and red tree voles, both species dependent on older forests to survive. We met up with Reed Wilson from NEST (Northwest Ecosystem Survey Team) and the Benton Forest Coalition, and he walked us through how to survey for red tree voles.  Surveyors use a crossbow or a bow to shoot a line over large lateral branches and then climb up around 200 feet to look for red tree voles nests.

When the Forest Service conducted surveys, it reported only a couple abandoned red tree vole nests and dismissed the project area as unimportant for the species. Reed and his team over the course of a year found more than 70 active nests in the same areas. The Forest Service has now changed its tune, arguing that these forests are excellent vole habitat and because the species is thriving, there is no need to protect the voles in the Quartz Timber Sale area. 

Needless to say that the work that Reed and NEST do is imperative to the protection and understanding of these treasured old growth forest ecosystems. We are incredibly lucky to have them helping us defend Cascadia’s wild ecosystems in the forest, in the courts, and in the streets.  We will keep you posted on the Quartz Timber Sale.

Check out this short video on the red tree vole survey process!

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