News

Apr15

Lawsuit Challenges Alaska Road Project from Ketchikan to Shelter Cove

For Immediate Release, April 14, 2016
 
Contact:    
Larry Edwards, Greenpeace, (907) 747-7557, larry.edwards@greenpeace.org
Gabe Scott, Cascadia Wildlands, (907) 491-0856, gscott@cascwild.org
Dune Lankard, Center for Biological Diversity, (907) 952-5265, dlankard@biologicaldiversity.org
 
Lawsuit Challenges Road Project From Ketchikan to Shelter Cove
 
KETCHIKAN, Alaska  Five environmental groups sued the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers today in the federal district court at Anchorage to force supplemental analysis on the environmental consequences of the Ketchikan-to-Shelter-Cove road project on Revillagigedo Island in southeastern Alaska. The project is out for bids, which are due today.
 
The lawsuit challenges the Forest Service's recent approval of a right-of-way easement for a one-mile segment of the road that would cross national forest land, and the Army Corps of Engineers' issuance of a wetland fill permit, which allows seven miles of road (including the national forest segment) to be built. The rest of the construction would be on state land.
 
The road construction would connect Ketchikan to about 53 miles of existing logging roads in the Saddle Lakes area. That region already has a very high road density of nearly two miles of road per square mile; local wildlife populations are already stressed from about 14,000 acres of clearcut logging over the past two decades.
 
"At issue is the connection of Ketchikan to the presently isolated area beyond George Inlet, which has an existing high density of logging roads," said Larry Edwards of Greenpeace. "Making road connections from communities to areas that have a high road density is known to pose a threat to the sustainability of populations of Alexander Archipelago wolves, marten and other sensitive wildlife species due to increased hunting and trapping pressure, including poaching."
 
The 7.3-mile, one-lane gravel road link would be built by the State of Alaska, which put it out for bids March 14. The expected cost is $19 million, and $21 million is budgeted. The construction would extend eastward from the existing White River Road, which now ends at Leask Creek. It would proceed to Salt Lagoon, at the head of George Inlet, and then northward. The north end would connect to an existing logging road that goes eastward to Shelter Cove, on Carroll Inlet.
 
"The federal agencies did not follow federal law to consider hunting and trapping pressure, wildlife disturbance and user conflicts that the road connection will cause," said Gabe Scott of Cascadia Wildlands. "It is important that the agencies go back to the drawing board to ensure that wildlife, hunters and recreational users are fully considered."
 
The suit has no effect on road access from Ketchikan to upper George Inlet or on the potential for a boat launch ramp and dock somewhere along the inlet's shore between the White River and Leask Creek.
 
"Plowing forward with this road connection before determining the consequences of doing so has the process entirely backward," said Dune Lankard, the Center for Biological Diversity's representative in Alaska. "This project is part of the logging industry's grand scheme to access old-growth forests that we're determined to protect."
 
The plaintiffs are the Greater Southeast Alaska Conservation Community, Cascadia Wildlands, Greenpeace, Center for Biological Diversity and The Boat Company. 
 
Plaintiffs are represented by Crag Law Center, of Portland, Ore.
Apr12

Press Release: BLM to Weaken Environmental Protections in Western Oregon

For Immediate Release
April 12, 2016
 
Contact:
Josh Laughlin, Executive Director, Cascadia Wildlands
541-844-8182, jlaughlin@cascwild.org
Doug Heiken, Conservation & Restoration Coordinator, Oregon Wild
541-344-0675, dh@oregonwild.org
Joseph Vaile, Executive Director, Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center
541-488-5789, joseph@kswild.org
 
Bureau of Land Management to Weaken Environmental Protections in Western Oregon
Clean water, wildlife protections, and recreation suffer in new logging plan
 
Portland – The Bureau of Land Management today released new plans that will guide recreation, wildlife habitat protection, water quality, and logging on 2.6 million acres of federal forests in western Oregon. Home to salmon and ancient forests, these public lands also provide drinking water for nearly 1.8 million Oregonians. If made final, the Proposed Resource Management Plan would weaken key protections of the Northwest Forest Plan that has guided management and ecosystem restoration on these forests for the past two decades.
 
“The Obama administration has an opportunity to embrace recreation, clean drinking water, and carbon sequestration to fight global warming with these plans,” said Doug Heiken from Oregon Wild. “But instead we see weakened stream buffers, increased carbon emissions, and relaxed standards for salmon and wildlife, all to increase certainty for the logging industry.”
 
The Northwest Forest Plan took a science-based ecosystem management approach to forest management to protect rivers, old-growth forests, and populations of native plants and animals that were decimated by decades of unsustainable logging.  Monitoring reports released in 2015 revealed the Northwest Forest Plan has succeeded in restoring watersheds and the old-growth ecosystem over the last 20 years as intended, something the new BLM plan will set back.
 
Under the new plan, streamside buffers essential for salmon recovery will be cut in half, the reserve network for old-growth habitat will be significantly reduced, and a program to protect rare species, known as Survey and Manage, will be eliminated entirely.
 
A key element of the Northwest Forest Plan is the Aquatic Conservation Strategy (ACS), which protects designated buffers around streams where logging is not allowed, and other important protections for streamside forests, clean water, and fish. The proposed new plan cuts this buffer zone in half, with impacts to water quality, and fish and wildlife habitat.
 
“The forests and rivers managed by the BLM are essential to clean drinking water and native salmon runs. Desire has never been higher to protect these public resources, so it is unthinkable that the BLM would slash the buffers in half that protect water quality,” says Josh Laughlin, Executive Director of Cascadia Wildlands.
 
The proposed plan would log 278 million board feet a year – a 37% increase over current annual harvest levels. Increased logging will likely have negative impacts on public recreation values and ignores the recreation-based economy in the state.
 
The BLM’s new plan does not place as much of an emphasis on recreation as many in the public are demanding. But according to a recent study on the economic impact of “quiet recreation” on BLM lands, activities like camping, hunting, and fishing contribute $214 million to Oregon communities and support 2,322 jobs.  BLM timber, wood, and non-wood product sales generate only $58 million.
 
“We should embrace the role of the expanding recreation economy in Oregon,” said Joseph Vaile from the Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center. “People from all over the world are visiting our state to celebrate its natural beauty. If the BLM caves to political pressure from the timber industry, this plan will put our growing recreation economy at risk.”
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Apr04

Fed’s Failure to Protect Wolverines Ruled Illegal

For Immediate Release                                        
April 4, 2015
 
Contacts:    
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, 314-482-3746, nick@cascwild.org
Matthew Bishop, Western Environmental Law Center, 406-422-9866, bishop@westernlaw.org  
Bethany Cotton, WildEarth Guardians, 406-414-7227, bcotton@wildearthguardians.org  
 
Wolverine (Guio gulo) adult on a frozen river during winter in the Rocky Mountains of Montana. Captive Animal

Wolverine (Guio gulo) adult on a frozen river during winter in the Rocky Mountains of Montana.

 
Judge Rules Feds Improperly Refused to Protect Wolverines
Orders Reconsideration of Safeguards for Species Imperiled by Climate Change
 
MISSOULA, Mont. – Today, the federal district court for Montana rejected a decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) to deny protections for wolverines in the contiguous U.S. The court ruled the Service improperly ignored science and violated the Endangered Species Act. A broad coalition of conservation organizations challenged the Service’s refusal to protect imperiled wolverines by listing them under the ESA.
 
“Today’s win is a victory not just for wolverine but for all species whose fate relies on the scientific integrity of the Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians. “We call on the agency to stop playing politics and start living up to its mandate to protect our country’s most imperiled species.”
 
Often called “southern polar bears,” wolverines are custom built for cold, snowy climates and depend on areas with spring snow for denning and year-round habitat. Science shows climate change may eliminate nearly two-thirds of the snowy habitat needed by wolverines in the contiguous U.S. within 75 years. This means significantly less habitat and/or worsened habitat fragmentation for the approximately 250-300 wolverines that remain in the lower 48 states.
 
The Service originally identified climate change, in conjunction with small population size, as the primary threat to wolverine existence in the contiguous U.S. Published, peer-reviewed research, the larger scientific community – including the Society for Conservation Biology – an independent scientific panel, the majority of experts who reviewed the decision, and the Service’s own biologists all verified this finding. The Service proposed listing the wolverine as a “threatened” species under the ESA in 2013. At the eleventh hour, however, the Service reversed course and chose not to protect wolverine, citing too many “uncertainties” in the scientific literature.
 
Today, the court rejected this excuse, holding the agency accountable for its decision to discount the best available science about climate impacts on wolverine. “[T]he Service’s decision against listing the wolverine as threatened under the ESA is arbitrary and capricious. No greater level of certainty is needed to see the writing on the wall for this snow-dependent species standing squarely in the path of global climate change. It has taken us twenty years to get to this point. It is the [Court’s] view that if there is one thing required of the Service under the ESA, it is to take action at the earliest possible, defensible point in time to protect against the loss of biodiversity within our reach as a nation. For the wolverine. That time is now." Opinion at page 83.
 
The court correctly noted that the ESA directs the Service to make listing decisions based on the best available science, not the best possible science. This means the agency cannot make the perfect the enemy of the good. Instead, it must use and rely on the best science available when making listing decisions, which it failed to do in this case.
 
“The court sent a clear message to the Service: don't let politics trump science,” said Matthew Bishop, a Western Environmental Law Center attorney who represented the conservation groups. “The Service cannot ignore the published literature and advice of its own biologists when making important listing decisions.”
 
Today’s ruling requires the agency to make a new final listing determination for wolverines. The ruling also restores the Service’s proposed rule to list wolverine and the wolverine’s status as a candidate species under the ESA.
 
“Cascadia Wildlands is very encouraged by the court's rejection of political game playing by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Nick Cady with Cascadia Wildlands. "As with all species, wolverines deserve conservation and protections based upon sound science. This legal victory sets the stage for further reform of a deteriorating U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the installment of protections for this struggling species across the West.”
 
“We hope the Fish and Wildlife Service wastes no more time in granting wolverines Endangered Species Act protection,” said Keith Hammer, chair of Swan View Coalition. “This rare species deserves all the help it can get as we hit record-setting temperatures here in Montana.”
 
“We need to do everything we can to protect wolverines and wolverine habitat in the face of climate change and a snowballing extinction crisis," said Greg Costello, executive director of Wildlands Network. “Our actions should be rooted in precaution and the best available science—not political nitpicking.”
 
“With only 300 wolverine spread across the Western U.S., it is refreshing to see the court appreciates the precarious state of wolverine populations and confirm the findings of the Fish and Wildlife Service's own biologists that the species merits ESA protection,” said ecologist George Wuerthner.
 
“Wolverines deserve protection, not political shenanigans,” said Arlene Montgomery of Friends of the Wild Swan. “The Fish and Wildlife Service must now do its job to protect and recover this imperiled animal.”
 
“It is reassuring to know that our court system is doing its job, even while other branches of government flounder,” said Larry Campbell of Friends of the Bitterroot. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is apparently willing to illegally sacrifice an awesome species and good science while ineptly playing politics. Go wolverines!”
 
A copy of the decision is available here.
 
A copy of the original complaint is available here.
 
Matthew Bishop and John Mellgren of the Western Environmental Law Center and Sarah McMillan of WildEarth Guardians represented WildEarth Guardians, Cascadia Wildlands, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Cottonwood Environmental Law Center, Footloose Montana, Friends of the Bitterroot, Friends of the Wild Swan, George Wuerthner, Helena Hunters and Anglers Association, Kootenai Environmental Alliance, Native Ecosystem Council, Oregon Wild, and the Swan View Coalition on the case.
 
Additional quotes from the decision:
 
“Why did the Service make the decision [to not list the wolverine]?…Based on the record, the Court suspects that a possible answer to this question can be found in the immense political pressure that was brought to bear on this issue, particularly by a handful of western states.” Opinion at page 56.
 
“This strikes the Court as the essence of arbitrary and capricious decision making.” Opinion at page 61 (discussing climate change claim).
 
“[A]s Plaintiffs’ counsel rightly pointed out … the Service’s stance here borders on the absurd – if evidence shows that wolverines need snow for denning purposes, and the best available science projects a loss of snow as a result of climate where and when wolverines den, then what sense does it make to deny that climate change is a threat to the wolverine simply because research has yet to prove exactly why wolverines need snow for denning?” Opinion at page 67 (discussing climate change claim).
 
“If ever there was a species for which conservation depends on foregoing absolute certainty, it is the wolverine.” Opinion at page 68 (discussing why we don’t need absolute certainty for why wolverine need deep persistent snow).
 
Background:
 
Wolverine number just 250-300 individuals in the contiguous U.S. and are dependent on high elevation habitat with deep winter snows. Imperiled by climate change, habitat loss and trapping, wolverine were first petitioned for ESA protections in 2000. The Service found the petition did not contain adequate information to justify a listing. A federal court overturned that decision in 2006. The Service then issued a negative 12-month finding in 2008, which was challenged in court resulting in a settlement that led to a new finding that wolverine should be protected under the ESA, but that other priorities precluded the listing at that time. A landmark settlement with WildEarth Guardians, which resolves the backlog of imperiled species awaiting protections, then guaranteed a new finding for wolverine. In February 2013, the Service proposed listing the wolverine as “threatened” under the ESA. In August 2014, however, the Service reversed course and issued a decision not to list the species, contradicting its own expert scientists’ recommendations. Today’s ruling is in response to the organizations’ legal challenge to that decision.
 
Image courtesy of © David J. Cox/NaturalExposures.com (high-res version here)
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Mar31

Press Release: State of Oregon to Kill Alpha Pair and Two Others in Imnaha Wolf Pack

March 31, 2016
For immediate release
Contact:
Nick Cady, Legal Director, Cascadia Wildlands, 314-482-3746; nick@cascwild.org
 
UPDATE: At 2:49 pm today we received communication from ODFW that the agency lethally removed the four wolves.
 
Following a series of cattle and sheep depredations in Wallowa County, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has authorized lethal control of four Imnaha Pack wolves, including the alpha male (OR-4), the alpha female (OR-39), and two young wolves.
 
"We are deeply saddened by the difficult situation that has arisen for these Imnaha Pack wolves," said Nick Cady, Legal Director of Cascadia Wildlands.  “Although the situation appears to be escalating in Wallowa County, we don’t condone using public taxpayer dollars to kill wolves on behalf of private interests.
 
OR-4 is one of the original alpha males in Oregon and has played a significant role in wolf recovery across the state.
 
"This is a particularly difficult day as OR-4 has sired an incredible number wolf pups over the years, which has fueled wolf recovery across the state,” says Josh Laughlin, Executive Director of Cascadia Wildlands. “His role and that of the other three wolves should be celebrated and remembered."
 
Four other members of the Imnaha Pack appear to have split from this group of four, and are not being targeted, according to ODFW. The separation of the pack, and the advanced age and condition of both OR-4 and OR-39, could indicate the pack is splitting and may be contributing to the spike in livestock depredations.
 
Lethal control under these circumstances, like when pro-active nonlethal techniques are used to deter conflict, is contemplated in the Oregon Wolf Plan, and it appears the state has meaningfully deliberated over its decision.
 
More background on gray wolf recovery in the Pacific West can be found here.
 
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Mar31

Lawsuit Challenges Frankenfish Approval

 
March 31, 2016
Media contacts:
Gabriel Scott, Alaska Legal Director, Cascadia Wildlands, 907-491-0856; gscott@cascwild.org
George Kimbrell, Senior Attorney, Center for Food Safety, 571-527-8618; gkimbrell@centerforfoodsafety.org
Brettny Hardy, Earthjustice, 415-217-2142; bhardy@earthjustice.org
Dune Lankard, Center for Biological Diversity, (907) 952-5265; dlankard@biologicaldiversity.org
 
Lawsuit Challenges FDA’s Approval of Genetically Engineered Salmon
Coalition of Fishing, Consumer, and Environmental Groups Say First-ever Approval of Laboratory-Created Food Animal Violated Laws and Ignored Risks to Wild Salmon and Fishing Communities 
 
SAN FRANCISCO, CA—A broad coalition of environmental, consumer, and commercial and recreational fishing organizations today sued the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approving the first-ever genetically engineered (GE) food animal, an Atlantic salmon engineered to grow quickly. The man-made salmon was created by AquaBounty Technologies, Inc. with DNA from three fish: Atlantic salmon, Pacific king salmon, and Arctic ocean eelpout. This marks the first time any government in the world has approved a GE animal for commercial sale and consumption.
 
The plaintiff coalition, jointly represented by legal counsel from Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice, includes Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Institute for Fisheries Resources, Golden Gate Salmon Association, Kennebec Reborn, Friends of Merrymeeting Bay, Ecology Action Centre, Food & Water Watch, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Cascadia Wildlands, and Center for Food Safety.
 
In approving the GE salmon, FDA determined it would not require labeling of the GE fish to let consumers know what they are buying, which led Congress to call for labeling in the 2016 omnibus spending bill. FDA’s approval also ignored comments from nearly 2 million people opposed to the approval because the agency failed to analyze and prevent the risks to wild salmon and the environment, as well as fishing communities, including the risk that GE salmon could escape and threaten endangered wild salmon stocks.
 
AquaBounty’s GE salmon will undertake a 5,000-mile journey to reach U.S. supermarkets. The company plans to produce the GE salmon eggs on Prince Edward Island, Canada. The GE salmon will then be grown to market-size in a facility in Panama, processed into fillets, and shipped to the U.S. for sale. That complicated scheme is only for the initial approval, however. AquaBounty has publicly announced plans to ultimately grow its GE fish in the U.S. rather than Panama, and sell it around the world. Despite this, FDA’s approval only considered the current plans for the far-flung facilities in Canada and Panama, leaving the risk of escape and contamination of U.S. salmon runs unstudied.
 
The lawsuit challenges FDA’s claim that it has authority to approve and regulate GE animals as “animal drugs” under the 1938 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Those provisions were meant to ensure the safety of veterinary drugs administered to treat disease in livestock and were not intended to address entirely new GE animals that can pass along their altered genes to the next generation. The approval of the GE salmon opens the door to other genetically engineered fish and shellfish, as well as chickens, cows, sheep, goats, rabbits and pigs that are reportedly in development.
 
The lawsuit also highlights FDA’s failure to protect the environment and consult wildlife agencies in its review process, as required by federal law. U.S. Atlantic salmon, and many populations of Pacific salmon, are protected by the Endangered Species Act and in danger of extinction. Salmon is a keystone species and unique runs have been treasured by residents for thousands of years. Diverse salmon runs today sustain thousands of American fishing families, and are highly valued in domestic markets as a healthy, domestic, “green” food.
 
When GE salmon escape or are accidentally released into the environment, the new species could threaten wild populations by mating with endangered salmon species, outcompeting them for scarce resources and habitat, and/or introducing new diseases. Studies have shown that there is a high risk for GE organisms to escape into the natural environment, and that GE salmon can crossbreed with native fish. Transgenic contamination has become common in the GE plant context, where contamination episodes have cost U.S. farmers billions of dollars over the past decade.  In wild organisms like fish, it could be even more damaging.
 
The world’s preeminent experts on GE fish and risk assessment, as well as biologists at U.S. wildlife agencies charged with protecting fish and wildlife heavily criticized the FDA decision for failing to evaluate these impacts. FDA ignored their concerns in the final approval. 
 
Statements from counsel and plaintiff coalition:
“FDA’s decision is as unlawful as it is irresponsible,” said George Kimbrell, senior attorney for Center for Food Safety and co-counsel for the plaintiffs. “This case is about protecting our fisheries and ocean ecosystems from the foreseeable harms of the first-ever GE fish, harms FDA refused to even consider, let alone prevent. But it’s also about the future of our food: FDA should not, and cannot, responsibly regulate this GE animal, nor any future GE animals, by treating them as drugs under a 1938 law.”
 
“FDA has not answered crucial questions about the environmental risks posed by these fish or what can happen when these fish escape,” said Earthjustice attorney Brettny Hardy and co-counsel for plaintiffs. “We need these answers now and the FDA must be held to a higher standard. We are talking about the mass production of a highly migratory GE fish that could threaten some of the last remaining wild salmon on the planet. This isn’t the time to skimp on analysis and simply hope for the best.”
 
“Atlantic salmon populations including our endangered Gulf of Maine fish are hanging on by a thread– they can’t afford additional threats posed by GE salmon,” said Ed Friedman from Friends of Merrymeeting Bay, one of the parties who successfully petitioned to classify most Maine Atlantic salmon as endangered. “The law requires agencies like FDA, who aren’t fisheries biologists, to get review and approval from scientists with that expertise. FDA’s refusal to do this before allowing commercialization of GE salmon is not only irresponsible, it violates the law.”
 
“On Prince Edward Island and across Atlantic Canada, indigenous peoples, anglers and community groups are working hard to protect and restore endangered salmon populations and rivers. Genetic contamination threatens all this work and in return there is little or no economic benefit to the region,” said Mark Butler, policy director at Ecology Action Centre in Nova Scotia.
 
There’s never been a farmed salmon that hasn’t eventually escaped into the natural environment. Why should we believe that long term, these frankenfish won’t be the same?” asked Golden Gate Salmon Association executive director John McManus.
 
“Once they escape, you can’t put these transgenic fish back in the bag. They’re manufactured to outgrow wild salmon, and if they cross-breed, it could have irreversible impacts on the natural world,” said Dune Lankard, a salmon fisherman and the Center for Biological Diversity’s Alaska representative. “This kind of dangerous tinkering could easily morph into a disaster for wild salmon that will be impossible to undo.”
 
“FDA’s action threatens and disrespects the wild salmon ecosystems, cultures and industries that are treasured here in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska,” said Gabriel Scott, Alaska legal director for Cascadia Wildlands. “These folks think a salmon is just a packet of protein, but we in Salmon Nation know better. From Alaska to California, Americans are intimately related with diverse runs of salmon and we’ve learned their unique attributes and incredible value. We’ve worked very hard to be good stewards of our natural heritage, and refuse to allow that to be undone by one company’s irresponsible experiment.”
 
“The FDA has failed to adequately examine the risks associated with transgenic salmon,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “The long term effects of people eating genetically modified foods have never been adequately addressed—and this GE salmon is no exception. This fish is unnecessary, so why take the risk?”
 
“It’s clear that the market has rejected GE salmon despite FDA’s reckless approval,” said Dana Perls, food and technology campaigner for Friends of the Earth. “Major retailers including Costco, Safeway and Kroger won’t sell it and polls show the vast majority of people don’t want to eat it. Yet under this approval it won’t be labeled, violating our fundamental right to know what we are feeding our families.”
 
 
 
Mar29

U.S. Supreme Court Denies Effort to Overturn Tongass National Forest Protections

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 29, 2016

CONTACTS

Gabe Scott | Cascadia Wildlands | gscott@cascwild.org | (907) 491-0856
Tom Waldo | Earthjustice | twaldo@earthjustice.org | (907) 500‐7123
Niel Lawrence | Natural Resources Defense Council | nlawrence@nrdc.org | (360) 534‐9900
Buck Lindekugel | Southeast Alaska Conservation Council | buck@seacc.org | (907) 586‐6942
Catalina Tresky | Defenders of Wildlife | ctresky@defenders.org | (202) 772‐0253
Virginia Cramer | Sierra Club | virginia.cramer@sierraclub.org | (804) 519‐8449

U.S. Supreme Court Denies Effort to Overturn Tongass National Forest Protections

Court leaves rules in place that protect Tongass rainforest
wildlands from damaging logging, road construction

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to hear a last‐ditch effort by the State of Alaska to exempt America’s largest national forest from a national rule protecting undeveloped, road‐free national forest areas from logging and road
construction. The State sought to overturn a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that
kept the Roadless Area Conservation Rule in effect in the vast Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska. The Ninth Circuit agreed with a federal District Court in Alaska that the Bush administration improperly exempted the Tongass from that landmark
conservation measure.

“The Tongass’ roadless rainforests are a national treasure, and the last, best intact wildlands in our bioregion,” said Gabriel Scott, Alaska legal director for Cascadia Wildlands. “We are pleased with the court’s decision and the recognition that it is a privilege, not a burden, to conserve these national treasures for future generations.”

A coalition including the Organized Village of Kake (a federally recognized Alaska Native tribe), tourism businesses, and conservationists joined the federal government in urging the Supreme Court to leave the lower court rulings intact.

“Today’s court order is great news for Southeast Alaska and for all those who visit this
spectacular place,” said Earthjustice attorney Tom Waldo. “The remaining wild and
undeveloped parts of the Tongass are important wildlife habitat and vital to local
residents for hunting, fishing, recreation, and tourism, the driving forces of the local
economy. The Supreme Court’s decision means that America’s biggest national forest—the Tongass—will continue to benefit from a common‐sense rule that applies
nationwide.”

“It feels terrific to put this case to bed once and for all,” added Niel Lawrence, senior
attorney and Alaska Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Punching
clearcuts and logging roads into America’s last great rainforest wildland produced
nothing but controversy, conflict, and uncertainty. The region can now move ahead on a
path that benefits from and sustains the fabulous natural values that attract people to
the Tongass. And all Americans can celebrate, knowing that we’ll pass on the crown
jewel of national forests to future generations as wild and wonderful as it is today.”

“Southeast Alaska has moved on,” said Buck Lindekugel, Grassroots Attorney for the
Southeast Alaska Conservation Council. “Clearcutting old‐growth forests in the remote
wildlands of our region, with expensive new logging roads no one can afford to
maintain, is a thing of the past. We are pleased to see the Supreme Court put this issue to rest and call on the State of Alaska to do the same.”

“The Supreme Court’s decision today is a victory for wildlife in the Tongass National
Forest, the state of Alaska, the region and the nation,” said Peter Nelson, senior policy
advisor for federal lands for Defenders of Wildlife. “The Roadless Rule protects the
wildlands that form the heart of America’s largest national forest within the most
expansive temperate rainforest in the world. Future generations will now have the
opportunity to experience the majesty of this ecosystem and the salmon, bears, wolves, birds and the myriad wildlife that depend on it.”

“The Roadless Rule protects our intact ancient forests that salmon, bears, and wolves
depend upon. Alaska’s temperate rainforest is a treasure and today’s decision will help
keep the Tongass protected from more logging and destruction,” said Marc Fink, Senior
Attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity.

“We're pleased to see the Roadless Rule upheld again. Over the past decade we’ve seen that the rule works. It has protected millions of acres of forests across the country,
ensuring that both wildlife and American families have space to live and explore. In the
face of a rapidly changing climate, protecting forests like the Tongass is even more
important," said Alli Harvey, with the Sierra Club's Our Wild America campaign in Alaska. "It's common sense to protect this wild national icon for future generations to enjoy."

Background

The so‐called “Roadless Rule” was designed to protect “large, relatively undisturbed
landscapes” in national forests from logging roads and clear‐cuts, while allowing other
economic development — including hydropower projects, transmission lines, tourism,
federally‐financed public roads, and even mining — to continue.

Today’s ruling is good news for the many residents of the region and local businesses
who use and depend on the Tongass’ outstanding natural values, as well as visitors who
come to see America’s last great rainforest, teeming with fish and wildlife that thrive in
its undeveloped roadless areas. Little practical change is expected, however, since even
when the Bush‐era exemption was in effect, cost and controversy kept almost all logging out of roadless areas. And last year, a federal advisory committee including
representatives of the timber industry and the State formally and unanimously
recommended against further logging of those wildlands.

The 17 million‐acre Tongass spans 500 miles of coastal Southeast Alaska, encompassing alpine meadows, deep fjords, calving glaciers, dense old‐growth rainforest, and over 1,000 islands and islets. After much debate and hundreds of thousands of comments, in 2001, the Agriculture Department decided that the Roadless Rule should apply to the Tongass but included special measures to blunt the impact of the rule on Alaska’s timber industry. Not applying the rule, the department found, “would risk the loss of important roadless values” in the Tongass. When the Bush administration reversed course and tried to exempt the Tongass from the Roadless Rule, it relied on factual findings at odds with those that justified its original decision and ignored the economic mitigation package for the Tongass. It asserted, without support, that the rule was not needed to protect Tongass wildlands and would cause widespread economic hardship.

The Ninth Circuit’s ruling — and today’s decision by the Supreme Court not to review
that ruling — reinforced the settled rule that federal agencies cannot arbitrarily change
policies and ignore previous factual findings simply because a new president has taken
office.

Attorneys from Earthjustice and the Natural Resources Defense Council represent the
following groups in the case: Organized Village of Kake, The Boat Company, Alaska
Wilderness Recreation and Tourism Association, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council,Natural Resources Defense Council, Tongass Conservation Society, Greenpeace, Wrangell Resource Council, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, and Cascadia Wildlands.

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Mar28

Blog: Jordan Cove LNG knocked to its knees

by Francis Eatherington, Cascadia Wildlands Umpqua Regional Advisor
 
Last week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) denied the Jordan Cove Project. We were shocked as FERC is known as the rubber-stamping government agency that approves fossil fuel projects at any cost. Even the promoter of Jordan Cove, Canadian-based Veresen Inc., said it was “shocked and disappointed” with the decision. The energy scheme would have resulted in the construction of the 232-mile Pacific Connector Pipeline through southwest Oregon, which would have brought fracked gas from Canada and the Rockies to Coos Bay where it would be super cooled and exported to markets in Asia — a real loser for clean water, wildlands, climate stability and families in the path of the pipeline.
 
LNGrally_farmSignFERC had already missed its decision deadline scheduled for December 29, so by March 2016 we were wondering, “Were they late because a group of the landowners under threat of eminent domain recently wrote to FERC?” On lawyer letterhead, they reminded FERC that if there were no buyers for the gas Veresen wanted to export, there was no “public need” required for eminent domain to take their farm and forestlands.
 
Veresen had recently admitted to FERC it had no buyers for the gas, and only 3% of the impacted landowners had agreed to host its pipeline. FERC could not give Veresen permission to forcibly condemn 97% of the private property needed for the pipeline if no one wanted the gas. (That is actually FERC’s definition of public need… that there is a buyer for the product. The landowners also objected to a foreign-owned corporation taking their land only for corporate profit).
 
When FERC denied the Jordan Cove permit on March 11, they cited “significant landowner opposition” and that “Pacific Connector has presented little or no evidence of need for the Pacific Connector Pipeline” because Pacific Connector has not “entered into any precedent agreements for its project.” FERC concludes “issuance of a certificate would allow Pacific Connector to proceed with eminent domain proceedings in what we find to be the absence of a demonstrated need for the pipeline.”
 
The cheers of victory reverberated around the 650 impacted landowners and dozens of organizations who have fought this terrible project for over 10 years. The day was spent on the phone, email, and social media in tears of joy.
 
This gas export scheme would have been Oregon’s largest source of greenhouse gas pollution, with an infrastructure tying us to fossil fuels for decades, and it would have impacted 33 rare fish and wildlife species protected under the Endangered Species Act. Moreover, the liquefied natural gas terminal would have been built in a tsunami evacuation zone where the big one is expected at any time.
 
Let’s all rejoice in FERCs decision to deny it, even if the decision was not for any of the reasons mentioned above. While we should celebrate this victory, our work is still not done. We need to convince Oregon Governor Kate Brown that if FERC found no need for this project, the state should also stop work on the many permits required for the Jordan Cove export terminal.
 
A word of caution: FERC’s decision stated that if Veresen finds any buyers, FERC could reconsider their decision. And sure enough, on March 22, Veresen announced, with great fanfare, that it may have found a buyer and is in “preliminary discussions” for 20% of the production capacity at Jordan Cove. Its press release included small print saying “no assurances can be given as to future results… undue reliance should not be placed.” We hope FERC pays attention to the small print, as we can imagine its rubber stamp quivering in the air.
 
(2015 anti-LNG rally at the state capitol. Photo by Francis Eatherington.)
 
Mar25

Federal Court in Oregon Rejects Miners’ Challenge to Suction-dredge Regulations

For Immediate Release
March 25, 2016
 
Contact
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands (541) 434-1463
Forrest English, Rogue Riverkeeper 541-261-2030
Roger Flynn, Mining Action Project 303-823-5738
Lori Ann Burd, Center for Biological Diversity 971-717-6405
Jake Crawford, Native Fish Society (720) 253-8485
 
Federal Court Upholds Oregon’s Right to Protect Water Quality and Fish Habitat
Court Finds That Restrictions on Mining Methods Are Clearly Within the State’s Authority
 
Medford, OR — This morning a federal court upheld an Oregon law restricting motorized gold mining in and along sensitive salmon streams. The District of Oregon court held that the State of Oregon has the right to regulate both state and federal land to protect water quality and fish habitat, and it has done so in a manner that does not conflict with federal law.
 
“The court correctly found that mining operations on federal land must comply with state laws enacted to protect public health and the environment,” noted Roger Flynn, with the Western Mining Action Project and one of the attorneys representing conservation and fishing groups that joined the case to help defend the Oregon law.  “This decision supports a growing effort in Western states to protect clean water and fisheries from mining pollution and wildlife habitat damage,” said Flynn.
 
At issue in the case is Oregon’s Senate Bill 838, passed  in 2013 to implement temporary restrictions on equipment such as suction dredges and other motorized mining equipment in and nearby habitat essential for salmon, and to protect water quality. The law went into effect this January and remains in effect through 2021. The 2013 law came about due to increasing concern throughout the state about the cumulative effects of these gold mining techniques on streams and rivers.
 
“With these protections Oregon has taken the first step towards addressing threats to our salmon runs and water quality from mining,” said Forrest English of Rogue Riverkeeper. “We look forward to sensible regulation that extends beyond 2021 and that ensures these values are protected for all future Oregonians, the court has made it clear that we can do that.”
 
Peer reviewed science shows that suction dredging can mobilize toxic mercury into rivers and streams, as well as reduce salmon spawning success due to alterations in habitat. Additionally in hot spots, such as the Umpqua and Rogue Rivers, the number of dredges has created conflicts with anglers and other recreationists.
 
“Oregonians can breathe a sigh of relief that many of our rivers and most sensitive salmon fisheries will be protected this summer from the toxic plumes of mercury that suction dredge mining releases,” said Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director at the Center for Biological Diversity.
 
Gold miners brought a lawsuit against the State of Oregon last October alleging that federal laws denied Oregon the right to protect environmental resources within the state. Environmental groups and commercial fishing interests including Rogue Riverkeeper, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Oregon Coast Alliance, Cascadia Wildlands, Native Fish Society and the Center for Biological Diversity intervened on behalf of the state and are represented by the Western Environmental Law Center and Western Mining Action Project.
 
“We are very pleased the Court has clarified that the State of Oregon has the power to protect our cherished rivers from destructive suction-dredge mining, especially the famous Rogue River and its tributaries — one of the most important salmon rivers in Oregon,” said Cameron La Follette with Oregon Coast Alliance. “State environmental laws are a crucial means of protecting the public's investment in salmon habitat restoration in our public waterways.”
 
"We are incredibly encouraged that the Court made the common sense decision to permit Oregon to regulate harmful mining practices in some of Oregon's most cherished waterways," said Nick Cady with Cascadia Wildlands.  "Oregonians have a right to protect the things they value, including clean water and salmon."
 
“This decision will help keep Oregon’s iconic wild salmon healthy for future generations,” said Jake Crawford with Native Fish Society. “It bolsters similar protections in California and Idaho, while giving Washington a path forward for protecting wild salmon and water quality from suction dredge mining.”
 
A copy of the decision can be found here.
                                                                        ####
Mar22

Governor Brown’s Environmental Record Far from Green

Register-Guard guest opinion by Shawn Donnille
 
When Gov. Kate Brown took office, she promised the most open, transparent and responsive administration possible. She would do away with back-room deals cut with special-interest lobbyists, she said, and instead would conduct business in the full light of day. One year later, the gap between Brown’s promises and her actions on environmental policy is as wide as the Willamette River.
 
In just 12 months, she has racked up a remarkably bad environmental record that has not only caught the attention of the environmental community, but the natural and organic products industry as well.
 
Soon after Brown took office, the state Department of Forestry joined with timber and chemical lobbyists to block a bill in the Oregon legislature intended to reform aerial spraying of pesticides by the logging industry.
 
Their actions meant that rural families continue to be exposed to cancer-causing chemicals, without adequate buffers to protect homes and schools, or even advance notice before sprays occur. In addition to imminent threats to rural communities, aerial spraying is now compromising organic farms throughout the state, thus crippling a thriving and sustainable industry.
 
During the 2015 legislative session, Gov. Brown also tried to cut a back-room deal with fossil fuel lobbyists to repeal Oregon’s landmark Clean Fuels law. This tactic was aimed at buying Republican votes for a transportation package, but her plan fizzled when pro-­environment Democrats in the House of Representatives rebelled.
 
The 2015 session also saw Brown’s administration push ahead with plans to privatize the Elliott State Forest, the only state land in Oregon still containing significant old growth. Such a move would almost certainly result in this old growth being clear-cut, and the public being shut out of the process.
 
Earlier this year, Portland residents were stunned to learn of toxic contamination from glass manufacturing plants near residential neighborhoods.
 
Even more shocking was that the state Department of Environmental Quality and Brown’s administration knew about the problem for more than a year, but failed to act.
 
The governor has since called for soil testing and more money from the federal government, but she has not addressed the cozy relationship between her agency and polluting industries.
 
Her inaction isn’t limited to Portland. Despite repeated warnings, Brown’s administration failed to act on much-needed improvements to Oregon’s weak and outdated Forest Practices Act. On March 11, the federal Environmental Protection Agency, fed up with excuses, froze $1.5 million in federal funding to Oregon over Brown’s failure to protect clean water and salmon from rampant clear-cutting.
 
During the 2016 legislative session, Oregon’s tiny population of endangered gray wolves was also in the governor’s crosshairs. Her staff partnered with livestock industry lobbyists to craft a bill to circumvent the Oregon Endangered Species Act, and to block Oregon citizens from challenging a state Department of Fish and Wildlife decision to remove conservation safeguards from wolves.
 
While some environmental gains have been made over the past year, including important legislation to address climate change, those measures came because of the threat of a citizens’ ballot initiative.
 
It should not take the threat of a citizens’ referendum to force Brown and the Legislature to protect our air, water and wildlife; these values should be safeguarded by the head of our state.
 
Her arrangements made with lobbyists who work against wilderness and wildlife, or schemes to protect polluters rather than public health, don’t fit the kind of open and transparent administration Brown promised our state.
 
My business, Mountain Rose Herbs, employs more than 200 people in Lane County. We relocated to Oregon more than a decade ago because we wanted to live in a place with protected wildlands, healthy rivers and abundant wildlife.
 
Oregon’s reputation as an environmental leader has been an important part of our success, from attracting world-class employees to maintaining the trust of our hundreds of thousands of customers around the world. Our governor is putting that reputation at risk.
 
Gov. Brown is now running for re-election, and she does not have a serious challenger in the Democratic primary.
 
This is unfortunate, because I feel that would keep her honest to our ecological heritage as Oregonians and would remind her of the importance we place upon the health of our communities and the health of our living landscape.
 
Shawn Donnille is vice president and co-owner of Mountain Rose Herbs in Eugene.
 
Feb25

House Bill 4040 and the Politics of Delisting Oregon’s Wolves

by Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands legal director
 
California's Shasta Pack (CDFW photo)

Shasta Pack

It is astonishing to folks at Cascadia Wildlands that House Bill 4040 (HB4040) was even a topic of conversation this "short" legislative session. Every other year, the Oregon legislature holds a short session that only lasts around one month, and because of the limited time for discussion and debate, usually only non-controversial bills are taken up.
 
However, this session the House passed and the Senate is seriously deliberating over HB4040 despite tremendous controversy, deceit, and enormous amounts of misinformation.  HB4040 would legislatively remove the gray wolf from the state list of threatened and endangered species, precluding the public's right to judicial review to ensure that the delisting is scientifically and legally sound.  
 
This bill's success thus far has been unbelievable for a number of reasons.  First, Oregon still only has around one hundred wolves in the state.  This is approximately seven percent of the state's purported ecological capacity, and the wolves only occupy about 12 percent of their suitable habitat in the state.  Most of the wolves are still concentrated in the northeast corner of Oregon.  We believe that these statistics alone show that wolves, while on the path to recovery (we had zero wolves 10 years ago), have not fully recovered and are not ready for critical protections to be removed. The scientific community has largely agreed with us and offered widespread critique of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission's proposal to delist.
 
Second, Oregon has democratic majorities in both the House and the Senate. We believed, as did the Salem Statesman Journal, that democrats supported the concept that environmental decisions should be made on the basis of sound science and not politics.  In the past, democrats in Oregon have prevented the intervention of special interests in wildlife management, especially when involving threatened or endangered species. For example, four of the past five years extremists in the livestock industry and their lobbyists in Salem have introduced bills aimed at removing protections for wolves, and these bills never got serious attention, largely through pushback by democrats.  We are dumbfounded as to why democratic legislators in Salem are now kowtowing to special interests given that 96% of people who commented on the delisting encouraged retaining the wolf's listed status.
 
Photo taken July 6, 2013 of OR17 with a 2013 pup of the Imnaha pack.  Subadult wolves assist in the raising of the pups. Photo courtesy of ODFW. Download high resolution image.

Photo taken of OR17 with a 2013 pup of the Imnaha pack.

Third, the bill is undemocratic because it precludes judicial review of ODFW's delisting decision.  Essentially, judicial review functions as a crucial part of our government's system of checks and balances.  The legislature makes laws — general guidelines for agency behavior.  The executive or administrative agencies enforce these laws and carry out their execution.  The judicial branch ensures that agency actions comply with the laws.  Here, ODFW and its Commission delisted the gray wolf. Pursuant to our state laws concerning endangered species, such a finding is required to be based upon the best available science and make certain findings, like whether or not wolves have recovered throughout a significant portion of their range in the state.  We believed that because wolves only occupied a small percentage of their range, ODFW failed to make the required findings, and we and our colleagues sought judicial review of the agency decision.  HB4040 amounts to the legislature changing the rules of the game after the agency has already made the decision, exempting ODFW from having to make the requisite scientific findings.  Again, the Salem Statesman Journal put it well: "It would be grossly unfair, and a bad precedent, for the Legislature to change the rules after the litigation has started."
 
Fourth, the bill's proponents weren't being truthful in order to pass it through the House.  When the bill first popped up, Cascadia Wildlands directed its supporters interested in the wolf topic to contact their representatives and tell them to not vote for the bill for all of the reasons above.  The message that was repeatedly received was the representative was supporting the bill because it was simply "a pat on the back" for ODFW, and would not preclude judicial.  We were dumbfounded. Upon close scrutiny, the only reason for this bill, its sole effect, is to preclude judicial review of the wolf delisting. Obviously, lobbyists and even legislators pushing this bill were not being truthful about its effects, and legislators regurgitating this refrain either refused to look at the bill or made a conscious choice to spread the misinformation further.  
 
The true purpose of the bill was uncovered before the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources this week through the honorable efforts of Senators Michael Dembrow and Floyd Prozanski. But instead of killing the bill because of the blatant deceit or at the very least sending it back down to the House with full disclosure about the bill's intent and effects, the Senate Committee passed the bill with a vote of 3 to 2, with Senators Dembrow and Prozanski voting against the bill, and Senator Chris Edwards (D-Eugene) supporting it along with two republicans on the Committee.
 
It appears the divisive politics paralyzing Washington DC and partisan game playing have now infected our state.  
 
We have allies in this fight for sound science.  State Senators Dembrow and Prozanski have worked hard to defeat the bill.  Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR) has taken up the effort, calling out fellow state democrats for their betrayal of sound science for political games.  
 
This fight is not over yet, and there is still opportunity to turn senators who are on the fence about this bill.  Take action now and also call your local state senator to urge them to vote "no" on HB4040.  And thank you for standing up for Oregon's recovering wolves. 

 

 

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