News

Mar03

Cascadia Challenges Wildlife Services in Washington

 March 3, 2015

Conservationists Challenge Wildlife Services’ Authority to Kill Wolves in Washington

Wildlife Services Activities Threaten Wolf Recovery, Healthy Ecosystems

Olympia, Wash. — Today, the Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) on behalf of five conservation groups, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Wildlife Services program challenging its authority to kill endangered wolves in Washington state.

OR11_odfwThe National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires USDA to prepare an in-depth Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) addressing the effects of employing Wildlife Services to kill endangered wolves in Washington. The agency completed a less-detailed Environmental Assessment (EA), but the document contains significant gaps and does not address specific issues that will significantly impact wolves and the human environment. NEPA review is designed to ensure all environmental impacts are analyzed and that the public has an opportunity to comment, and therefore influence, activities conducted using public funds.

The EA prepared by Wildlife Services fails to provide data to support several of its core assertions. For example, Wildlife Services claims that killing wolves reduces wolf-caused losses of livestock, yet recent peer-reviewed research from Washington State University directly contradicts this conclusion, finding that killing wolves actually leads to an increase in wolf-livestock conflicts. The EA also fails to address the ecological effects of killing wolves in Washington, including impacts on wolf populations in neighboring states and on non-target animals, including federally protected grizzly bears and Canada lynx.

"Wildlife Services’ activities related to wolves in Washington have been extremely harmful," said John Mellgren, attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center. "The science tells us that killing wolves does not actually reduce wolf-livestock conflicts, but Wildlife Services is continuing its brutal assault on this iconic animal and it needs to stop."

Wildlife Services is a stand-alone federal extermination program under USDA that kills roughly 4 million animals per year, including wolves, grizzly bears, otters, foxes, coyotes, and birds—with almost no oversight or accountability. A 2013 internal audit revealed that Wildlife Services’ accounting practices lacked transparency and violated state and federal laws. Concerns about the program’s practices and effectiveness are the focus of an ongoing investigation by the USDA’s Inspector General.

"Wildlife Services has a horrendous track record of animal abuse, missing funds, poor or nonexistent policy, and misinformation that has inflamed rural areas throughout the Pacific Northwest," said Nick Cady, legal director at Cascadia Wildlands. "This program has no place in Washington where the people have tasked the state’s agencies to facilitate wolf recovery and conservation."

Washington has experienced Wildlife Services’ recklessness firsthand. Last August, Wildlife Services’ snipers mistakenly shot and killed the Huckleberry wolf pack’s alpha female during a helicopter gunning operation. The killing was in direct violation of explicit instructions from the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) to not kill either of the pack’s alpha members. The death of the Huckleberry pack’s breeding female threatens the future of the entire pack.

"Let’s put this issue of wolf management into the proper context," said Timothy Coleman, executive director of Kettle Range Conservation Group. "There are just three breeding female wolves in all of Washington, so why is the federal government’s Wildlife Services and their sharpshooting snipers in Washington killing and trapping wolves? Certainly the public should have more of a say when such decisions are made."

Wildlife Services also ‘advised’ WDFW in the contentious 2012 killing of Washington’s Wedge wolf pack. In that instance, WDFW killed seven wolves after depredations of livestock on public lands, despite the rancher’s failure to take sufficient action to protect his cattle.

"Wildlife Services’ refusal to ensure its activities are based on the best available science strips the public of an opportunity to meaningfully understand and contribute to decisions impacting the health of ecosystems on which we all depend," said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director at WildEarth Guardians. "It’s past time that the dark practices of Wildlife Services are subjected to the sunshine of a transparent public process."

"Wildlife Services has a long, well-documented history of ignoring not only state and federal laws, but also its own policies," said Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense. "It is egregiously out of control, and its methods are barbaric and unscientific."

Wolves were driven to extinction in Washington in the early 1900s by a government-sponsored eradication program on behalf of the livestock industry. The species began to return to Washington from neighboring Idaho and British Columbia in the early 2000s, and the wolf population in the state has grown to 13 confirmed packs. Despite this growth, wolves in the state are far from recovered and face ongoing threats—including the threat of being shot and killed by Wildlife Services.

Western Environmental Law Center is representing the following organizations in the lawsuit: Cascadia Wildlands, WildEarth Guardians, Kettle Range Conservation Group, Predator Defense, and The Lands Council.  Find a copy of the complaint here.

 

Feb26

Kate Brown and Green Agendas

Eugene Weekly by Camilla Mortensen
 
While her previous position as Oregon’s secretary of state typically did not put her in the environmental spotlight, Oregon’s new Governor Kate Brown is no stranger to green agendas or protests. In summer of 2012, members of Cascadia Earth First! and Eugene’s own Cascadia Forest Defenders locked themselves together at Brown’s office at the state Capitol to call attention to logging in the Elliott State Forest.
 
As secretary of state, Brown was a member of the State Land Board, which governs the Elliott, and she will continue on the SLB as governor. Logging on state and federal lands is among the many green issues that Brown will be asked to take a position on in the coming months.
 
In addition to a law degree from Lewis and Clark, Brown has a BA in environmental conservation from the University of Colorado at Boulder.Elliott rainforest (photo by Cascadia Wildlands)
 
The media and GOP lawmakers have linked former governor John Kitzhaber’s downfall to his fiancée Cylvia Hayes’ clean energy work, and some predicted this would slow down climate bills in the Legislature, but so far that has not borne out. The clean fuels bill, a Kitzhaber priority that extends Oregon’s low-carbon fuel standard, has passed in the Oregon Senate.
 
“There might have been a scandal, but that doesn’t follow to Kate Brown,” says Doug Moore of the Oregon League of Conservation Voters (OLCV).
 
“I think we just have to be a little patient right now because folks in the Legislature are hurting; it’s a weird position for them to be regardless of party,” he says, adding that OLCV wants to give her “time to develop her own environmental agenda” and “do what she does best, which is think things through.”
 
Moore points to Brown’s legislative voting record, tracked by OLCV: In the 2007 session as a state senator she scored an 89 percent, and in 2005 and 2003 she scored a 67 percent. Before that, in 2001, she scored a 92, in 1999 a 93 percent and, in 1997, she scored 100 percent.
 
Moore says the fact that her “lifetime” average green voting scores were in the 80s is even more impressive, given that she was in the minority with the Republicans in power during much of her tenure.
 
Once Brown develops her agenda, Moore says OLCV hopes that “the number one issue is climate; it’s the environmental issue of our time.” He continues, “The victories we have had can all be undone if we don’t take action on climate.”
 
According to Moore, “Without states like Oregon to lead on climate, we won’t see action, and that’s not acceptable.”
 
And Oregon has a lot of areas where it can step up its efforts to slow human-caused global warming. Conservationists are fighting fossil fuel projects including coal export terminals, oil trains — such as the one that exploded in West Virginia last week — and liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals and their associated pipelines.
 
“Oregon’s billion-dollar sportfishing economy depends on clean water,” says Michael O’Leary, deputy director of the Northwest Steelheaders Association. “But we’re frighteningly unprepared to face the exponentially increasing risks of an oil train disaster along our waterways.”
 
O’Leary says, “We desperately need Gov. Brown to give the DEQ [Department of Environmental Quality] and ODOT [Oregon Department of Transportation] the tools they need to respond to — and to better prevent —  -these increasingly likely catastrophes.”
 
Josh Laughlin of Eugene-based Cascadia Wildlands, which has been fighting a natural gas pipeline and an LNG terminal in Coos Bay, says of Brown: “We definitely have high expectations in terms of her ability to be an environmental champion.” He calls LNG one of a “myriad of conservation issues squarely in her court.”
 
“Will she pull the plug on the reckless scheme to build a 230-mile natural gas pipeline?” he asks.
 
“The stakes are incredibly high on this one,” Laughlin says, “for wild salmon, clean water, climate stability and rural communities in southwest Oregon, which are being steamrolled by the fossil fuel industry and government regulators in terms of eminent domain and other scare tactics.”
 
Laughlin says Kitzhaber was “a mixed bag for us on our issues.” He says, “Some things he stepped up on, and on some things he was a real disappointment,” such as advocating for “ramping up the cut” on federal forestlands. On the other hand, he says, the former governor “helped broker a settlement setting up a plan for wolf recovery.”
 
He says Brown will have an opportunity to stand up for wolves, as Cascadia Wildlands expects “to see bills stripping protections for wolves and trying to kill wolves, as we do every session.”
 
Cascadia Wildlands is also keeping an eye on where Brown will go in her continued position as a member of the SLB and its governance over state lands. “On the Elliot she’s expressed a real interest in finding a conservation solution,” Laughlin says. “But the jury is still out in terms of what that means and what a solution looks like.”
 
He says, “The solution to us is very clear, and it’s beginning to gain more and more traction in Salem.” That solution, he says, is to “decouple the Elliott from the Common School Fund” so that the old growth in the coastal rain forest is no longer earmarked as a revenue for schools. “It makes no sense in this day and age to tie old-growth clearcutting to school funding,” he says.
 
Laughlin says Cascadia Wildlands would like to see Brown take a leadership role in terms of finding a solution. He asks, “Will she step up in finding a conservation solution Oregonians will be proud of?”
 
Lisa Arkin of Beyond Toxics, which is working to limit aerial sprays of pesticides on forestlands in Oregon, also has hope for Brown’s green credentials, pointing to her work on Oregon’s Sustainability Board and calling her “gung-ho” on seeking solutions.
 
During Kitzhaber’s three terms as governor, conservationists did not see improvements in Oregon’s weak Forest Practices Act, which governs logging and the use of pesticide sprays on private lands. Laughlin and Arkin hope Brown will change that and strengthen Oregon’s laws.
 
We have “high hopes in terms of her ability to be an environmental champion,” Laughlin says, “and hope she recognizes these issues we are working on are in the best interests of the Oregonians she represents.”
 
(photo of the Elliott State Forest by Cascadia Wildlands)
 
 
Feb11

Exciting Leadership Transition at Cascadia Wildlands

Dear Cascadia Wildlands Supporters,

Bushwacking through head-high ferns to find the elusive Devil’s Staircase waterfall. Watching salmon thrash upstream to their natal grounds. Hearing the pre-dawn keer of the marbled murrelet high in the canopy. Knowing wolves are reclaiming their rightful place back in Cascadia. Educating and empowering communities to confront power imbalances. These are the things that keep me feeling alive and ever committed to the work of Cascadia Wildlands.

It is an exciting time for me. I’ve recently been asked by Cascadia Wildlands’ Board of Directors to serve as our interim executive director as Bob Ferris phases into retirement.

I’m determined to lead our powerful team into the future and further realize our vision of 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.

I’m grateful for what Bob brought to Cascadia Wildlands over the past three years to make us a stronger organization. His expertise in conservation biology, decades of non-profit experience, and his ability to dig up the dirt on and expose the despoilers of wild nature are just a few things that have helped take us to the next level.

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 ODFWEvery day, I’m amazed at what we have accomplished for a conservation organization our size. I get even more fired up for what we have our sights on. Because 2015 may be the year gray wolves get established in the Kalmiposis Wilderness, northern California, Oregon’s Willamette National Forest, and Washington’s Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Much of Oregon’s remarkable wolf recovery has been facilitated by our legal challenge that halted wolf killing in Oregon and ensuing landmark settlement agreement that created the strongest wolf plan in the country.

Please dig deep to help Cascadia accomplish this critical work in the 2015 year by making a tax-deductible donation today.

Breathtaking photo of the Tongass National Forest. Photo courtesy David Beebe.With continued determination, we will have a lasting conservation solution for Oregon’s 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest now that we have ground old-growth clearcutting to a halt. This year we hope to put a nail in the coffin of the proposed 150-foot-wide, 230-mile-long liquefied natural gas (LNG) pipeline and export facility slated for Coos Bay that would wreak havoc for salmon, wildlife and our climate. And we will continue to fight tooth-and-nail against the 6,000-acre Big Thorne old-growth timber sale in Alaska’s fabled Tongass National Forest (image at left) in Cascadia’s northern reaches.

Having been with Cascadia Wildlands essentially since its formation over 15 years ago, I’m excited, rejuvenated and ready to lead the organization into the future. Thanks for believing in us, taking action when called on, and supporting our conservation work over the years and into the future. Don’t hesitate to contact me with any thoughts or questions.

Will you join me in supporting Cascadia right now?

For a wild and free Cascadia,

Josh Laughlin Signature

Josh Laughlin
Interim Executive Director/Campaign Director
jlaughlin(at)cascwild(dot)org

P.S. You can also mail a check or money order made out to Cascadia Wildlands and send it to POB 10455, Eugene, OR 97440.

 

Photo Credits: Top left, Josh Laughlin, Interim Executive Director of Cascadia Wildlands, at Devil's Staircase in 2012. (Photo courtesy Cascadia Wildlands.) Middle right, Subadult and pup from the Imnaha Pack, taken July 2013. (Photo by ODFW.) Bottom left, Breathtaking photo of the Tongass National Forest. (Photo courtesy of David Beebe.)

 

Feb02

Deja Vu, the Corrupt Bastards Club, and the Fabled Tongass National Forest

by Gabe Scott, Alaska Field Rep.
 
Do you ever get the feeling you’re running in circles?
 
That sense of déjà vu has been strong with me lately as we do legal battle over the Big Thorne and other massive old-growth timber sales in Southeast Alaska’s rainforest.
 
For all the progress we’ve made on the ground reforming forest policy over the last couple decades, it is frustrating that the same good old boy’s network can still get traction re-hashing debates that should have been put to bed long ago.
 
The sense of déjà vu first hit me a few months ago, when I learned that Jim Clark was drumming up support from impoverished local Mail Attachment-9governments to pay his law firm to intervene in the Big Thorne litigation.
 
It’s no surprise industry would intervene—of course they would – but Clark’s name took me aback. The last time I’d seen that name was several years ago, when he was pleading guilty to serious federal corruption charges stemming from the “Corrupt Bastards Club” bribery debacle. Clark at the time was Chief of Staff to Governor Frank Murkowski, and had got caught up in a massive bribery scandal surrounding a controversial bit of oil tax legislation. Clark swiftly pled guilty, publicly apologized, and, I had supposed, wouldn’t be allowed to practice law anymore.
 
As it turns out Clark’s charges were later dropped. The Justice Department, in their zeal to take down sitting U.S. Senator Stevens, goofed the evidence so badly that most of the charges against most of the defendants in the scandal ended up being dismissed. We watched secret video surveillance of bribes being handed out, and DOJ still managed to botch the case. Clark was among those retroactively let off the hook. In street lingo, he got off on a technicality.
 
OK then, whatever. These things can be complicated, and there is a lot we don't know and never will. I’ve never been one to let a past guilty plea to a serious federal crime come in the way of giving a guy the benefit of the doubt.
 
The feeling of being back on la-la land intensified though when Clark’s old boss, Frank Murkowski, wrote an op-ed taking us to task for the Big Thorne lawsuit. We environmentalists don’t really care about the Alexander Archipelago wolf, which doesn’t really even exist anyway. Frank figures deer don’t really need forests, and wolves don’t really need deer. We’re making all that up for our “selfish” reasons.
 
Oh, Frank. Disgraced politicians say the cutest things.
 
What I noticed about the op-ed wasn’t the misinformation so much, as the fact that his arguments matched, almost word for word, arguments included in the intervention briefing filed by Mr. Clark’s group.
 
Is the band is getting back together?
 
Now, all of this so far is relatively harmless. Frustrating, but harmless. Lawyers with suspicious pasts are a dime a dozen, and nobody in Alaska or anywhere else really takes the elder Murkowski seriously anymore.
 
What is not harmless is that Frank’s daughter, Lisa, seems to be picking up the old torch and running with it. Lisa got appointed to the U.S. Senate by her dad back when he was elected governor. (Seriously, who does that!?). With a lot of help from post-Citizens United PACs, she was re-elected and now sits atop the Senate Natural Resources committee. For an Alaska politicians she’s pretty moderate, but her public pronouncements on forest policy are starting to sound a lot like they were ghost-written by industry lobbyists like Clark.
 
Look, I get it. Ignorant bluster and demonizing environmentalists is a reliable political formula on the Frontier. But when this rhetoric finds its way into actual policy, we all should pay attention.
 
From her current position of power in the new Republican Congress, Ms. Murkowski seems keen to apply that frontier formula to forest policy on a national scale. Take the difficult conundrum of funding local schools and government in the rural Pacific Northwest. Ms. Murkowski recently stated that problem would simply disappear if the Forest Service would actively manage forests.
 
That kind of statement is par for the course in rural Alaska, but in the rest of the country it is laughably off-point. There are disagreements aplenty over these issues, but nobody seriously believes that just ramping up more timber sales could solve the problems. Oregonians left, right and center all pretty much accept certain physical realities. Endless expansion of resource exploitation just isn’t in the cards. The forest, even the youngest schoolchildren can tell you, does not in fact stretch on into eternity.
 
I’ll leave you with one final, terrifying point. In the aftermath of the Corrupt Bastards Club scandal, the political force that moved in to clean up the mess was a fresh new face named Sarah Palin. She was, conservatives and liberals at the time agreed, a “breath of fresh air” that restored integrity and sanity to government. Her most vigorous opposition came not from the left, but from the good old boy’s network epitomized by Clark, Murkowski and Murkowski. Palin absolutely demolished, absolutely humiliated that old order. It was delightful to watch.
 
Now Palin is the disgraced former politician, and Clark, Murkowski & Murkowski are back in business.
 
Am I the only one feeling dizzy?
 
(Tongass National Forest photo by David Beebe)
 
Jan28

Cascadia Wildlands Statement on Wolf Recovery Announcement by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

Press statement
January 28, 2015
Contact: Nick Cady, Legal Director, Cascadia Wildlands, 314.482.3746
                 Josh Laughlin, Campaign Director, Cascadia Wildlands, 541.844.8182
 
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife just announced it is moving to phase II of its wolf recovery plan in eastern Oregon after state wildlife biologists confirmed that there were seven breeding pairs in the state in 2014. The wolf plan states that when there are four breeding pairs for three consecutive years in each respective part of the state, wolf management moves to phase II in that zone. This means livestock producers will now have more management flexibility in dealing with wolf/livestock conflicts in eastern Oregon. Wolves in the state’s western recovery zone will still be managed under phase I.
 
In 2012 Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild negotiated a landmark settlement agreement with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife andWalla Walla_odfw the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association after securing a legal injunction against wolf killing in Oregon. The settlement requires that during phase I livestock producers use proactive, non lethal methods to deter conflict between wolves and livestock, like cleaning up bone and carcass piles and utilizing human presence, before any lethal control on wolves can be used. It also sets a threshold of four livestock depredations by the same wolf or wolves in six months in order to trigger lethal control. The settlement also greatly increases agency transparency in its wolf management program. No wolves have been lethally controlled in Oregon since the settlement agreement was signed.
 
"Cascadia Wildlands is encouraged by the ongoing success of wolf recovery in Oregon, but it is not the time to let up," said Nick Cady, Legal Director with Cascadia Wildlands.  "It is our hope that the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife continues to implement the state’s landmark wolf management plan and rules that have served as a recovery model for other states while preventing burdensome conflict."
 
“While it is exciting that wolf populations in Oregon continue to expand, it is critical that the state remain vigilant in ensuring statewide recovery objectives are met,” said Josh Laughlin, Campaign Director with Cascadia Wildlands. “Much of western Oregon’s wildlands remain devoid of wolves and will be relying on robust populations in eastern Oregon to disperse into new territories.”
 
“Oregon's wolf management rules incentivize non-lethal measures aimed at preventing wolf/livestock conflict and provide necessary tools and financial assistance to livestock producers,” explained Cady.  “The plan has kept conflict down and headed off the constant political battles that have hampered recovery efforts in neighboring states like Washington."
                                                            
                                                    ####
 
Jan27

“The Future of Wilderness in Oregon,” a Community Forum on Feb. 4 in Eugene

"The Future of Wilderness in Oregon," a Community Forum
 February 4, 2015, 6:30-8 pm • 110 Willamette Hall, University of Oregon
 
Oregon has long been regarded as a state full of natural treasures with ample forests, rivers and mountains. We rely on Wilderness to provide clean drinking water, wildlife habitat, recreation and solitude. Wilderness is what defines us as a state, and provides us with a high quality of living. And while our public lands belong to everyone, it takes an act of Congress to protect them from logging, mining and human development. Fortunately, the power to designate areas as Wilderness is in our hands. With an uncertain political landscape, the need to protect our remainingWilderness Forum Web Image wildlands has never been greater.  Join us for an evening to learn and discuss the future of Wilderness in Oregon. The event is free and open to the public.
 
Hosted by the University of Oregon Outdoor Program, Environmental Studies Program, Oregon Wild, Sierra Club, Cascadia Wildlands, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, and Lane County Commissioner Pete Sorenson. For more information, contact Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands, 541.434.1463.
 
Jan17

Suit Aims to Stop Clearcut Logging Near Springfield

The Register-Guard by Diane Dietz
January 16, 2015
 
A pair of environmental groups filed suit in U.S. District Court on Thursday to halt a series of clear-cut-style timber harvests totaling 259 acres on federal land along Shotgun Creek, about 25 miles north of Springfield.
 
Seneca Sawmill Co. in ­Eugene bought the timber for $4.2 million in December from the federal Bureau of Land Management and got the green light to begin logging preparations this winter, the agency said.
 
The project is a step toward the bad old days of large-scale clear-cuts on public land, said Nick Cady, legal director for Cascadia Wildlands. “This time they are only leaving two trees per acre. It’s going to look like private land clear-cutting in Oregon,” he said.
 
Environmental nonprofits Cascadia Wildlands  and Oregon Wild, with 22,000 members between them, are seeking an injunction from a federal judge in Eugene.
 
BLM spokeswoman Jennifer Velez declined comment on the lawsuit.
 
The suit comes as logging proponents advocate for clear-cutting on federal lands as an essential tool for meeting increased demand for lumber as the homebuilding sector recovers nationally.
 
Velez said the sale — called Second Show — would keep some trees, some in groups, some dispersed, on the logged terrain. The logging would be done on roughly a dozen tracts, all near each other but with some strips of forest left between them.
 
The cuts “will appear as ‘skips’ and ‘gaps’ on the landscape with scatterings of individual trees and small groupings of trees throughout,” she said in an email.
 
But the environmental groups say that the Second Show’s extensive logging and road building would damage quality and be hard on salmon, including spring chinook.
 
Shotgun Creek flows into the Mohawk River, which pours into the Mc­Kenzie River — and then into the Willamette.
 
“This is a drinking water supply,” Cady said. “It’s a watershed that runs directly into Springfield. We haven’t seen large scale logging on public lands right next to a community the size of Springfield in a really long time.”
 
The environmental groups are asking the court to halt the Second Show because the BLM failed to account for the cumulative effects of logging in the watershed and failed to account for the environmental groups’ objections in the environmental approval process.
 
About one-quarter of the Mohawk watershed is publicly owned BLM land, and the remainder is mostly owned and used as industrial timberlands, according to the lawsuit.
 
“The Mohawk watershed is already degraded by private land logging. It’s already classified as ‘not properly functioning,’ which is the lowest classification for watershed health,” Cady said.
 
The BLM failed to analyze the cumulative impact of another logging sale — for 1,500 acres for commercial thinning — nearby, the lawsuit said.
“Federal agencies cannot evaluate projects in a vacuum,” the lawsuit said. “They must take into account the additive impact to the surrounding community based upon current ongoing or proposed projects.”
 
That requires that the BLM produce an environmental impact statement that includes input from the National Marine Fisheries Service, Cady said.
 
The lawsuit also contends that the BLM failed to evaluate the environmental groups’ objections, because the agency improperly ruled that the groups missed the deadline for submission.
 
The groups mailed their objections in a certified letter with days to spare, Cady said, but agency officials weren’t available to receive the letter until after the deadline. Agency rules require the BLM to accept the postmark date as the time of submission, according to the lawsuit.
 
Jan15

Cascadia Challenges BLM Clearcutting Just Northeast of Eugene

Press Release
For Immediate Release
January 15, 2015

Contact:
Nick Cady, Legal Director, Cascadia Wildlands, 541-434-1463
Doug Heiken, Conservation and Restoration Coordinator, Oregon Wild, 541-344-0675

Conservationists Challenge Largest Eugene BLM Clearcut in 20 Years

EUGENE, Ore.— Conservation organizations filed a lawsuit today challenging the largest clearcut approved on federal land in Lane County in twenty years. The Second Show timber sale proposes 259 acres of public lands clearcutting and is located on public Bureau of Land Management lands just outside of Springfield, Oregon near Shotgun Creek.  Clearcutting will have significant impacts to the watershed, which is already degraded, and will impact a popular recreation area.                                            

“It is a shame to see the BLM moving forward with this sale after the incredible amount of public opposition it received,” said Nick Cady, legal director with Cascadia Wildlands. “This sale could have real and devastating consequences on watershed health, salmon, and clean water for the surrounding communities.”

Despite the large scope of the project, the BLM neglected to analyze the effects of the project in conjunction with its ongoing commercial logging and road construction in the same area.  A basic tenant of environmental law is that federal agencies cannot evaluate projects in a vacuum, they must take into account the additive impact to the surrounding community based upon current ongoing or proposed projects.  In this case, the BLM has already moved forward on 1500 acres of commercial logging and over 25 miles of logging and access roads. The Second Show sale proposes clearcutting one of the few healthy, maturing stands remaining in the area.

“These forests are older than your grandpa and are developing fine habitat if we leave them alone.  Every indication is that we need to protect forests like this for fish, wildlife, water quality, and to protect our climate,” said Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild.  “We have worked with BLM for the last decade helping them meet timber targets by thinning dense young forests.  Now they are reverting to the destructive clearcutting practices of the past. It feels like a slap in the face.”

Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild officially raised these concerning issues to the Bureau of Land Management numerous times, but the Bureau neglected to respond due to purported mistakes by the Springfield postal service.  

For a copy of the complaint click here: Second Show Complaint

Dec11

State Starts Process of Hunting up Buyer for Elliott State Forest

 

Associated Press, by Jeff Barnard

 

December 9, 2014
 
The state of Oregon is looking for an unusual buyer for Elliott State Forest — someone willing to pay a good price, respect the needs of threatened fish and wildlife, and leave areas open to hikers and hunters.Elliott rainforest (photo by Cascadia Wildlands)
 
At a meeting Tuesday, the State Land Board directed its staff to develop a proposal to elicit offers from public or public-­private entities to buy the 90,000-acre forest in the Coast Range.
 
Parties could include the federal government, a tribe, state agency or local government.
 
Board spokeswoman Julie Curtis said a purchase proposal could be ready in time for the board’s June meeting.
 
The board — comprised of the governor, secretary of state and state treasurer — is looking for a way to maximize forest revenue to benefit schools. But court rulings upholding protections for threatened birds and salmon have stymied timber sales.
 
Revenue from Elliott State Forest once contributed up to $8 million a year for schools but has turned into a $3 million expense.
 
Bob Ragon of Douglas Timber Operators said he was disappointed the board did not endorse a proposal from his organization that would keep the forest as a Common School Fund asset while seeking someone to manage it to produce timber for sale and meet environmental laws.
 
“It could take them a long time to get that sorted out,” he said about the board decision to sell the forest. “I don’t know how much time they really have.”
 
Josh Laughlin of the conservation group Cascadia Wildlands said the board’s choice fit within his group’s vision for the forest, decoupling it from the Common School Fund while maintaining conservation value.
 
He said a potential buyer could be a public land trust — a nonprofit organization that raises money to buy property then turns it over to a public entity.
 
“I think they have come to the realization that clear-cutting older forest to fund schoolchildren doesn’t work any longer,” Laughlin said. “They need to get creative to meet their fiduciary mandate and work within the public interest.”
 
Dec08

Press Release: State of Oregon Shelves Elliott State Forest Privatization Idea

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 8, 2014
 
Contact:
Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands, 541-844-8182
Ed Putnam, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Oregon Chapter, 541-678-3548
Christy Splitt, Oregon League of Conservation Voters, 971-404-7279
Bob Sallinger, Audubon Society of Portland, 503-380-9728
Cameron La Follette, Oregon Coast Alliance, 503-391-0210
Tom Wolf, Oregon Council Trout Unlimited, 503-883-1102
 
State of Oregon Shelves Elliott State Forest Privatization Idea
97% of Public Comment Encourages a Conservation Solution for the Iconic Forest
    
The State of Oregon has decided against privatizing the Elliott State Forest after receiving overwhelming public comment encouraging a conservation solution for the 93,000-acre state forest located northeast of Coos Bay. 1,147 out of 1,185 comments received during the public process, or 97%, encouraged the Department of State Lands and the Oregon State Land Board to protect the iconic forests for its outstanding water quality, salmon and wildlife habitat, hunting and fishing opportunities and its remarkable ability to store carbon to mitigate climate change.
 
Instead of privatizing the forest, the Land Board, made up of Governor John Kitzhaber, Secretary Kate Brown, and Treasurer Ted Wheeler, Elliott rainforest (photo by Cascadia Wildlands)will continue to explore various management alternatives for the Elliott that meet public expectations as well as its Common School Fund and Endangered Species Act mandates. The State Land Board will meet Tuesday, December 9 from 9 am-12 pm at 775 Summer St. NE in Salem to further discuss future management scenarios and has extended the meeting to handle what is expected to be significant public comment.
 
“The state of Oregon should be given kudos for not privatizing the Elliott as elk hunters would have ultimately encountered “no trespassing” signs instead of open access into this outstanding backcountry,” said Ed Putnam with Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. “It is important that as the public process moves forward a balanced plan gets enacted that enhances the forest habitat, and keeps it in public hands.”
 
Earlier this year, the State Land Board voted to dispose of nearly 1,500 acres of the Elliott State Forest and quickly auctioned the acreage off to the timber industry. One timber company has already put up “no trespassing” signs and has vowed to clearcut the forest. The lands were disposed of after conservationists successfully challenged a number of illegal old-growth clearcutting projects on the forest that would have significantly impacted the marbled murrelet, an imperiled sea bird that nests in coastal old-growth forests.
 
“The table is set to find a lasting solution for the Elliott State Forests that protects its outstanding water quality, salmon and wildlife habitat and recreation opportunities,” said Josh Laughlin, Campaign Director with Eugene-based Cascadia Wildlands. “We will continue to work diligently with stakeholders until a plan is in place that safeguards this outstanding rainforest while at the same time meets its Common School Fund obligation.”
 
The Elliott State Forest provides critical habitat for a host of fish and wildlife species teetering on the brink of extinction, including Oregon Coast coho salmon. Recent data provided by state biologists demonstrate that streams originating on the Elliott State Forest play a significant role in coho salmon recovery on the Oregon Coast.
 
“The cool, clear streams that course through the Elliott provide essential habitat for coho salmon productivity and must be protected to ensure this iconic fish’s recovery,” said Tom Wolf, Executive Director of the Oregon Council of Trout Unlimited. “A new plan for the Elliott rainforest must entail adequate steam side buffers to protect this outstanding clean water value.”
    
In addition to the public comments submitted into the record, the State Land Board in October held a “listening session” in Coos Bay to hear from community members about the Elliott State Forest. More than 3:1 spoke in favor of a conservation solution for the forest.
    
“Oregonians should not have to choose between protecting salmon, clean water, and old-growth on the one hand, and logging to fund education on the other,” said Rhett Lawrence, Conservation Director with the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Continuing to tie education funding to timber receipts is a failed policy of the past and we need new solutions.”
    
90% of the Elliott State Forest is Common School Fund land, which has a duty to generate revenue to the $1.2 billion fund. Those encouraging the decoupling of old-growth clearcutting from school funding include hunters, anglers, scientists, teachers, recreation enthusiasts and others who have long advocated that leaders in Salem enact a more modernized approach to school funding.
 
(Photo of Elliott rainforest by Cascadia Wildlands.)
 
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