In The Media

Aug09

New Oregon Forest Management Plan Challenged!

For immediate release
August 9, 2016

Contacts: 
Susan Jane Brown, Western Environmental Law Center, 503-680-5513, brown@westernlaw.org 
Todd True, Earthjustice, 206-343-7340, ext. 1030, ttrue@earthjustice.org 
John Kober, Pacific Rivers, 503-915-6677, john@pacificrivers.org 
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, 314-482-3746, nick@cascwild.org
Joseph Vaile, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, 541-488-5789, joseph@kswild.org
Doug Heiken, Oregon Wild, 541-344-0675, dh@oregonwild.org
Megan Birzell, The Wilderness Society, 206-348-3597, megan_birzell@tws.org

Stakeholder Groups Challenge Oregon Forest Management Plan
New Plan Sacrifices Clean Water, Fishing Economy, Carbon Storage, Recreational Opportunities

Eugene, Ore.— Late yesterday, a coalition of conservation and fishing groups challenged in the U.S. District Court in Oregon a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) forest management plan, finalized Friday, that would replace the scientifically sound, ecologically credible, and legally responsible 1994 Northwest Forest Plan on millions of acres in western Oregon. The new BLM plan, collectively known as the Resource Management Plans (RMPs) for Western Oregon, eliminates protections for streamside forests, increases clearcutting, and effectively removes 2.6 million acres of federally managed public forests from the requirements of the Northwest Forest Plan.

“BLM’s new plan would impact the quality of life of rural residents, drinking water quality, wildlife habitat, and carbon storage,” said Susan Jane Brown, staff attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center. “We need to get this right. We must protect special places that Oregonians love while we work to restore forests and watersheds. A holistic view should drive our public land decisions – not simply finding ways to maximize logging.”

Where the Northwest Forest Plan provided relative stability in Oregon's often-contentious forest management, its elimination on these lands has sowed substantial discord. Last week, timber industry groups also challenged the new BLM plan in Washington, D.C. court, thousands of miles from those who will be most affected by the new plan.

The conservation and fishing stakeholders in yesterday's challenge seek to maintain the protections of the Northwest Forest Plan and its science-based requirements, asserting that BLM's new RMPs violate the Oregon and California Lands Act (O&C Act), National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and Administrative Procedure Act (APA), and therefore fail to support multiple uses of Oregon forests managed by the BLM.

"BLM's new plan does a disservice to the years of great progress we've made in balancing timber, recreation, and conservation forest uses," said Nick Cady of Cascadia wildlands. "We can't allow the places we love and rely on to be put at risk by a bad plan. We can do so much better than this, and we must."

The RMPs would increase logging levels by 37 percent, which could boost carbon emissions and make forests less resilient to climate change and other disturbances. In addition, the RMPs fail to recognize how healthy forests bring economic benefits to the state, such as Oregon's $12.8 billion annual outdoor recreation industry, which supports 141,000 jobs and $955 million in state and local tax revenue.

Fishing organizations are highly concerned that the reduction in streamside forest protection could push imperiled species like salmon and steelhead further toward extinction. In southern Oregon, the BLM plan would remove the Applegate Adaptive Management Area that has enabled community members to play an active role in local land management decisions.

The BLM plan cuts corners scientifically and legally. It would cause significant harms to the plaintiff group, including:

  • Eliminating the strong water quality and habitat provisions of the Northwest Forest Plan, reducing streamside no-logging buffers by half or more (a loss of 300,000 acres of streamside reserves). These reductions threaten wild native fish, water quality, terrestrial wildlife, and aquatic recreational opportunities.
  • Introducing loopholes that would increase logging in older forest, termed late-successional reserves, and eliminate survey requirements for sensitive wildlife that depend on old forest habitat to thrive. In addition, the aforementioned 300,000 acres of riparian reserves, which had been intended to grow into old forest and bolster habitat for old forest species, is now fair game for logging.
  • Disempowering public input and involvement by removing BLM and the plan from collaborative Adaptive Management Area efforts.
  • Enacting the least ambitious carbon sequestration alternative analyzed. Over the next century, the status quo would sequester twice as much carbon.
  • Focusing on more intensive, clearcut-style logging on nearly half a million acres of forests, abandoning the direction towards restoration of forests and watersheds under the Northwest Forest Plan.
  • Designating additional recreation areas, in many of which logging and off-road motorized use take precedence and could diminish the types of quiet recreation the vast majority of Oregonians enjoy.

“We have been working with BLM for the last 15 years to develop restoration strategies for degraded forest lands. This has resulted in a successful program of thinning dense young forests to improve habitat, create jobs, and produce wood,” said Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild, “Now BLM is moving in the wrong direction by reducing protection for streamside forests and adopting new loopholes that put old-growth forests at risk.”

BLM first attempted to revise its resource management plans in 2008. That plan, the result of a sweetheart settlement between the Bush Administration and the timber industry, was withdrawn by the Obama Administration in 2009, resurrected by a federal judge in 2011 in response to a timber industry lawsuit, and finally rejected by a second federal judge in 2012.

A copy of the complaint is available here.

A copy of the Record of Decision for the BLM plan is available here.

A copy of the groups' protest is available here.

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Aug06

BLM Signs Devastating New Management Plan for Oregon’s Forests!

by Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands Legal Director

IMG_1413On August 5, the Bureau of Land Management signed a new management plan for western Oregon.  Cascadia Wildlands and our conservation allies protested the initial draft of this plan, but the BLM's decision yesterday largely ignored all our points of contention.  

From a broad perspective, the plan will increase logging levels on federal BLM lands by 37 percent.  These public lands were originally designed to serve as a refuge and protective zone for imperiled forest species, clean water, carbon storage in an effort to counter-balance the industrial clearcutting and pesticide spraying occurring on intermixed private forest lands.  There is no question that this plan deeply compromises our landscape's ability to adapt to ongoing climate change and other disturbances like large-scale fires.  

For over the past 20 years, these public forests had been managed under the Northwest Forest Plan, a deal brokered by the Clinton administration to end the timber wars in Oregon. The Northwest Forest Plan was not perfect, but it strived to achieve balance and protect critical resources and generally took a precautionary approach to various unknowns.  

The BLM's new plan dramatically reduces almost every protection in the Northwest Forest Plan.  Specifically, the plan eliminates stream side buffers, eliminates surveys and buffers for imperiled or uncommon species, disregards climate change and carbon storage, and opens up mature and old-growth forest to archaic cleacrcutting practices. The plan completely ignores the contribution of these public lands to Oregon's booming outdoor industry which is valued at over 10 billion dollars a year.  The fishing industry is particularly worried given the potential impacts to Oregon's waterways.

These public forest are our homes, our playgrounds, our sanctuaries.  These efforts to strip our forests away from us will not stand.  Cascadia Wildlands is part of a broad coalition of conservation, recreation, and fishing groups in staunch opposition to this plan, and we are devoted to protecting these majestic lands. There will be news of our challenge soon.

Aug04

Wolves Being Killed in Northeast Washington

For Immediate Release, August 3, 2016

Contacts: 
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746, nick@cascwild.orgAmaroq Weiss, Center for Biological Diversity, (707) 779-9613, aweiss@biologicaldiversity.org
John Mellgren, Western Environmental Law Center, (541) 359-0990, mellgren@westernlaw.org

Wildlife Agency to Kill Wolves in Northeast Washington
Members of Profanity Peak Pack To Be Targeted in Ferry County

OLYMPIA, Wash.— Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials announced late today they will kill members of the Profanity Peak pack in Ferry County. The kill order was issued following investigations concluding the wolves recently killed three calves and a cow and that three other calf deaths are probable wolf kills. All of the losses occurred on public lands grazing allotments, in territory occupied by the Profanity Peak pack. The decision was made under the guidelines of a new lethal removal protocol that was agreed to this spring by the state Wolf Advisory Group, a stakeholder group convened by the Department of Fish and Wildlife that includes agency staff and representatives from the ranching, hunting and conservation community.

“We appreciate the agency’s use of nonlethal measures to try to prevent losses of both livestock and wolves, and are glad to hear the ranchers in question have been working cooperatively with the state, but we are deeply saddened that wolves are going to die,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We are not part of the advisory group but have made clear to the group that we don’t support the killing of the public’s wildlife on public lands.”

According to the protocol agreed to by the advisory group, lethal removal of wolves is considered after four confirmed depredations in one calendar year, or six confirmed depredations in two calendar years. The protocol also requires that the affected ranchers have employed sanitation measures to avoid attracting wolves to livestock carcasses and have tried at least one proactive measure to deter conflicts with wolves at the time the livestock losses took place. 

“It’s tragic to see wolves killed, and I hope we continue to see growing wolf populations in Washington despite the yearly culling that inevitably takes place, said Nick Cady, legal director at Cascadia Wildlands.  “I do not believe it makes sense to spend taxpayer dollars to kill wolves in remote roadless areas on public lands.”

“The decision to kill wolves is always a sad event, and one that should not be taken lightly” said John Mellgren, staff attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center. “But it is even harder to stomach when that decision relates to wolves on our publicly owned lands.”

Cascadia Wildlands educates, agitates, and inspires a movement to protect and restore Cascadia's wild ecosystems.  We envision vast old-growth forests, rivers full of salmon, wolves howling in the backcountry, and vibrant communities sustained by the unique landscapes of the Cascadia Bioregion.  We like it wild.  Join us at: www.cascwild.org 

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The Western Environmental Law Center is a public interest nonprofit law firm. WELC combines legal skills with sound conservation biology and environmental science to address major environmental issues throughout the West. WELC does not charge clients and partners for services, but relies instead on charitable gifts from individuals, families, and foundations to accomplish its mission. www.westernlaw.org

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Jul06

Oregon Wolf Delisting Challenge Reinstated by Court of Appeals

For Immediate Release
July 6, 2016
 
Contact:
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746, nick@cascwild.org    
Amaroq Weiss, Center for Biological Diversity, (707) 779-9613, aweiss@biologicaldiversity.org
Steve Pedery, Oregon Wild, (503) 283-6343 ext. 212, sp@oregonwild.org
      
Oregon Appeals Court Reinstates Legal Challenge to Premature Wolf Delisting
 
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.

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PORTLAND, Ore.— The Oregon Court of Appeals has ruled that Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity and Oregon Wild can proceed with their legal challenge to the state’s decision to prematurely strip endangered species protections from Oregon’s small population of gray wolves. Fewer than 120 of the animals are known to exist in the state.
 
“In no way should management of Oregon’s small population of recovering wolves be dictated by the livestock industry and its anti-wolf allies in Salem,” says Nick Cady, legal director with Cascadia Wildlands. “This ruling is a hopeful first step to ensure politics do not trump science when it comes to managing our treasured wildlife.”  
 
The ruling by the court late Tuesday reinstates a legal challenge filed in December by the conservation groups to last fall’s controversial 4-2 decision by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to strip state Endangered Species Act protections from gray wolves. Following that decision lobbyists with the livestock industry worked with several legislators during the 2016 legislature to pass House Bill 4040, a bill blocking judicial review of wolf delisting. Subsequent public records releases documented that despite public denials, the staff of Oregon Gov. Kate Brown was heavily involved in the legislation.
 
In April the conservation groups’ legal challenge was dismissed after the Oregon Department of Justice argued that the lawsuit was potentially moot due to H.B. 4040.  However, wolf advocates sought reconsideration by the court of this decision on the basis that H.B. 4040 was unconstitutional because it violated the separation of powers doctrine, among other issues.
 
In yesterday’s ruling Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals Erika Hadlock wrote that the issues presented by conservation advocates’ legal challenge “are complex matters of public importance” that deserve further consideration by the appellate court.
 
“Oregon’s wolves will now get their day in court to reveal the flawed process that stripped their protection,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Gov. Brown’s wildlife commission ignored the best science to illegally delist wolves, then her staff was actively involved in the passage of legislation to eliminate the public’s right to challenge that decision.”
 
The wildlife commission’s decision to delist wolves was based on an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife analysis of the state’s wolf population that numerous leading scientists characterized as severely flawed and illogical.
 
“Access to the courts to ensure that our government obeys its own laws is a cherished right of Oregonians,” said Steve Pedery, conservation director of Oregon Wild. “Using H.B. 4040, Gov. Brown, legislators and livestock industry lobbyists tried to revoke that right when it came to wolves, and now it appears to have backfired on them.”
 
The wolf advocates’ opening brief is due to the appellate court on Aug. 23.
 
Cascadia Wildlands educates, agitates, and inspires a movement to protect and restore Cascadia's wild ecosystems. We envision vast old-growth forests, rivers full of wild salmon, wolves howling in the backcountry, and vibrant communities sustained by the unique landscapes of the Cascadia bioregion.
 
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
 
Oregon Wild was founded in 1974 and works to protect & restore Oregon’s wildlands, wildlife, and waters as an enduring legacy for future generations.
 
Jun21

Greater Protections Sought for Marbled Murrelets in Oregon

For Immediate Release
June 21, 2016
 
Contact: Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, 314-482-3746
             Tierra Curry, Center for Biological Diversity, 928-522-3681
              Steve Pedery, Oregon Wild, 503-283-6343 ext. 212
              Bob Sallinger, Portland Audubon, 503-380-9728
 
Greater Protections Sought for Threatened Marbled Murrelets in Oregon
 
PORTLAND, Ore.– Conservation groups submitted petitions today asking the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) and the Oregon Board of Forestry to take new measures to better identify and protect important forest areas for protected marbled murrelets. The petition to ODFW requests that the agency “uplist” the marbled murrelet to “endangered” status under the Oregon Endangered Species Act (OESA). The petition to the Board of Forestry asks the agency to identify and protect important forest sites critical to the species’ survival.
 
The agencies are required to work together to recover murrelets. Cascadia Wildlands, Oregon Wild, Coast Range Forest Watch, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Audubon Society of Portland and the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club signed on to the petition, citing Oregon’s weak Forest Practices Act and the continuing clear-cutting of the sea-bird’s habitat. While murrelets have been listed as a “threatened” species for nearly 30 years, Oregon has never developed a plan to recover them or protect the old-growth forests where they live.
 
“Because murrelets are currently listed as ‘threatened’ under state law, Oregon has a duty to protect and recover this species and its habitat,” said Nick Cady, Legal Director at Cascadia Wildlands. “Not only has the state failed to take any meaningful measures to recover and protect murrelets, the state itself, through aggressive clearcut logging on its state forests, is primarily responsible for the recent dramatic loss in breeding habitat. ‘Endangered’ protections will not only more accurately reflect how vulnerable Oregon’s murrelets and old-growth forests are, but also ensure the development of a plan to protect and recover these elusive sea-birds and their habitat.”
 
The marbled murrelet was originally listed under the Oregon Endangered Species Act in 1987. Despite this listing and commitment to recovery, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has not developed survival guidelines for the species, leaving the murrelet in limbo with no enforceable mechanism from Oregon to help their population recover. The Oregon Board of Forestry has similarly neglected responsibilities to identify and protect forest areas critical to murrelet recovery on state and private lands.
 
Clearcutting on private lands to export raw logs to Asia, and clearcutting of older forests and potential habitat on state lands has fragmented Oregon’s coastal rainforests and put the bird at even greater risk of extinction. Conservation efforts from these two agencies should result in the identification of critical habitat areas for the species and compel the development of rules to protect these areas.
 
“For the last 30 years, Oregon’s plan for marbled murrelets has been to look the other way while their habitat is clear-cut,” said Oregon Wild Conservation Director Steve Pedery. “Oregonians expect better from our governor and state agencies. They need to develop a plan to protect murrelets and their habitat, and they need to stand up to pressure from the clearcut lobby and the county politicians who do their bidding.”
 
Murrelets only nest and roost in old-growth and mature forests — forest that are at risk from proposals to increase logging on Bureau of Land Management lands in western Oregon, and from Oregon’s efforts to ramp up logging on state forests and privatize the 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest east of Coos Bay. The murrelet monitoring report released last month by leading murrelet biologists stressed the urgent need to “arrest the loss of suitable habitat on all lands, especially on non-federal lands in the relatively near term.”
 
“We live in a state where Oregonians treasure our old-growth forests and wildlife, but where there is a growing gap between the public’s values and the actions of our politicians and state agencies,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “State regulators and Gov. Brown have a legal and moral responsibility to protect murrelets and their forest habitat.”
 
According to statute, ODFW has, as its primary mission, an obligation “to prevent the serious depletion of any indigenous species.” However, the agency currently spends 2 percent of its budget on conservation, and in recent years has come under increasing criticism for prioritizing logging, grazing and other extractive interests over its conservation mission.
 
"Oregonians treasure our old-growth forests and wildlife, and the state has an obligation to conserve these iconic species and habitats for the enjoyment of present and future generations,” said Chris Smith with the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Our management policies and practices need to align with these values and ODFW's responsibility."
 
“Marbled murrelet populations are spiraling downward in the Pacific Northwest and the State's outdated clearcutting policies are a big part of the problem," said Audubon Conservation Director, Bob Sallinger. "If we are going to have any hope of recovering this species, the State needs to step-up and recognize its responsibility to protect marbled murrelets and other old-growth dependent species."
 
Background: The marbled murrelet is a member of the auk family, which includes birds like auklets, guillemots and puffins. These sea-birds get their name from the marbling pattern of black, gray and white that covers their backs during the non-breeding season. When murrelets are breeding, they molt to a plain brown plumage. They form lifelong breeding pairs and feed on small, schooling fish, such as herring.
 
Populations of marbled murrelets are closely tied to the amount of old forest habitat available for nesting. The central Oregon coast is one of the last strongholds for murrelets. While forest practices have changed on federal lands managed by the Siuslaw National Forest, scientists warn that more needs to be done to protect murrelet habitat on state and private lands where logging practices continue to indiscriminately remove nesting habitat.
 
Expected Timeline: ODFW must acknowledge receipt of the petition within 10 working days, and determine within two years whether the marbled murrelet warrants “endangered” status. The Board of Forestry has 90 days to either begin rulemaking or deny the petition.
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Jun07

Op-Ed: State Should Scrap Elliott Forest Privatization

by Rod Sando for The Register-Guard
June 5, 2016
 
Defying the will of most Oregonians, our elected leaders in Salem are deep into a process to privatize the 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest northeast of Coos Bay.
More than likely, this treasured rain forest will be snatched up by equity investors looking to maximize revenue, which will mean more clear-cuts, muddied rivers and “private property” signs, and less access to some of the finest public lands in Western Oregon. The disposal process should be jettisoned immediately and replaced by one that embraces values Oregonians hold closely.
 
The State Land Board, made up of Gov. Kate Brown, Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins and Treasurer Ted Wheeler, needs a fresh approach that recognizes the many important public values Elliott supports while generating income for the school trust fund.
 
The State Land Board should also be reminded of the passion many Oregonians hold for public lands, as evidenced by the reaction to the armed takeover earlier this year of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
 
While school trust lands help support kindergarten through 12th grade education in Oregon, these lands also support many values enjoyed by the public.
 
The Elliott State Forest is a place where fish and wildlife reside, where families go elk hunting every fall, and where anglers wet their lines in search of salmon and steelhead. The old forests of the Elliott store incredible amounts of carbon, thereby mitigating climate change at no cost, and provide clean water to communities downstream.
 
Even though Elliott is made up of school trust lands, logging is not an exclusive mandate for the forest.
 
Oregon’s attorney general issued an opinion in 1992 that said the management of these lands must abide by the provisions of the state and federal endangered species laws while also generating revenue. In its quest to ramp up the cut in Elliott in 2012, the state of Oregon ignored the Endangered Species Act, which resulted in reduced timber payments to the school fund.
 
In response, the state proposed to dump the forest, and now we are embroiled in this privatization scheme.
 
The future management of Elliott needs to be sensitive to the wide range of benefits that this public forest provides while continuing to produce revenue for schools. This is entirely possible, and simply requires that forest plans and management methods are revised to do just that. It is appropriate to manage for revenues, but operations need to avoid long-term damage to the productivity of the forest and its myriad other benefits, and needless management costs need to be reduced.
 
It makes sense to negotiate a Habitat Conservation Plan that would keep the forest in public ownership, provide protection to imperiled salmon and wildlife, allow restoration-based thinning in Elliott’s plantation forests that could generate local jobs and timber products, and contribute revenue to the school fund. Ultimately, it would provide certainty and balance into the future.
 
In 1968, the people of Oregon amended the state Constitution to require that school trust lands, like those found in Elliott, be managed by using sound management methods that do not impair the many beneficial uses of the forest lands while also generating revenue. This clear legal direction is possible to achieve by using sustainable management practices while keeping the forest in public ownership.
 
It is time for Gov. Brown, Secretary of State Atkins and Treasurer Wheeler to ditch this privatization plan and show leadership around this issue, especially since the forest will only become more valuable to our society and the school trust as time goes on.
 
Removing Elliott from public ownership will remain controversial and will preclude future generations from enjoying substantial benefits from this unique and valuable resource.
 
Our leaders need to get it right before it is too late.
 
Rod Sando of Woodburn is a past director of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, where he oversaw management of trust lands.
May16

Cascadia Wildlands and Conservation Allies Challenge BLM Forest Plans in Oregon

For Immediate Release
 May 16, 2016
 
Contacts:
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, 314-482-3746, nick@cascwild.org
Todd True, Earthjustice, 206-343-7340, ext. 1030, ttrue@earthjustice.org
Susan Jane Brown, Western Environmental Law Center, 503-680-5513, brown@westernlaw.org
Joseph Vaile, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, 541-488-5789, joseph@kswild.org  
Glen Spain, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, 541-689-2000, fish1ifr@aol.com
Steve Holmer, American Bird Conservancy, 202-888-7490, sholmer@abcbirds.org
John Kober, Pacific Rivers, 503-915-6677, john@pacificrivers.org
 
Groups Protest Oregon Timber Plan Riddled With Loopholes
Latest BLM Plan Increases Clearcutting and Dismantles Streamside Forest Protections for Clean Water, Salmon, and Communities
 
Washington D.C.—Today, Earthjustice and the Western Environmental Law Center, on behalf of 22 conservation and fishing groups, filed a formal protest with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) objecting to its proposed management plans for western Oregon. The BLM plan eliminates protections for streamside forests, increases clearcutting, and removes 2.6 million acres of these federally managed public forests from the 1994 Clinton Northwest Forest Plan.
 
The plan proposes to increase logging levels by 37 percent, which will boost carbon emissions and make the forest less resilient to climate change and other disturbances. But the fishing organizations are most concerned about the reduction in streamside forest protection.
 
“The last, best salmon habitat in Oregon is within these BLM-managed forests,” said Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA), a major fishing industry trade association that also joined the petition.  “Productive salmon streams are far more valuable for the salmon-related jobs they create than for the market value of the lumber you could generate from logging them. Stronger stream protection makes excellent economic sense, logging them does not!”  
 
“Clearcutting kills fish,” said Joseph Vaile of the  southern Oregon-based KS Wild. “We don’t need more clearcuts. We need common-sense management that protects our water sources, stores carbon in ancient forests, and keeps the public at the table.”
In southern Oregon, the BLM plan would remove the Applegate Adaptive Management Area that has enabled community input in land management.
 
BLM first attempted to revise its resource management plans in 2008. That plan, called the Western Oregon Plan Revision (WOPR and pronounced “whopper”), was the result of a sweetheart settlement between the Bush administration and the timber industry was withdrawn by the Obama administration in 2009, resurrected by a federal judge in 2011 in response to a timber industry lawsuit, and finally rejected by a second federal judge in 2012.
 
“The latest proposal is like a zombie in a bad horror movie,” said Todd True, an attorney with Earthjustice. “The Bush administration’s fatally flawed WOPR is back from the dead to open up protected forests to clear-cut logging.”
 
“This plan would  impact the quality of life of rural residents, drinking water quality, wildlife habitat, and carbon storage, needed to combat climate change,” said Susan Jane Brown, staff attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center. “We need to get this right. We must protect special places that Oregonians love while we work to restore forests and watersheds. A holistic view should drive our public land decisions — not simply finding ways to maximize logging.”
 
The BLM’s new management plan revision cuts corners scientifically and legally. It has significant problems, including:
•    The proposed plan eliminates the strong water quality and habitat provisions of the Northwest Forest Plan, reducing streamside no-logging buffers by half or more (a loss of 300,000 acres of streamside reserves). These reductions threaten wild native fish, water quality, terrestrial species, and aquatic recreational opportunities.
 
•    The proposed plan leaves many mature and old-growth forests and habitat unprotected. It includes loopholes for logging large and old trees, and would reduce buffers or eliminate survey requirements for sensitive wildlife that depend on old forest habitat.
 
•    BLM's chosen plan represents the least ambitious carbon sequestration alternative analyzed. Over the next century, the Northwest Forest Plan would sequester twice as much carbon.
 
•    The BLM’s plan focuses on more intensive, clearcut-style logging on nearly half a million acres of forests, abandoning the direction towards restoration of forests and watersheds under the Northwest Forest Plan.
 
•    While additional recreation areas are designated under the plan, in many of these areas logging and off-road motorized use take precedence and could diminish the types of recreation the vast majority of Oregonians enjoy.
 
“Years ago, many of the BLM lands were sacrifice zones, where logging, mining, and grazing were king. Then came the Northwest Forest Plan which established a sustainable balance between conservation and management,” said Nick Cady of Cascadia Wildlands. “Today, more people live and work in western Oregon because they were drawn to its recreational opportunities and amenity economy, not the extractive industries of the past. It’s time for the BLM to wake up and manage these lands as the vast majority of Oregonians and Americans demand.”
 
“The best available science shows that unsustainable logging of our public forests has harmed clean water and healthy streams, pushed wildlife toward extinction, contributed to global warming, and destroyed much of Oregon’s old-growth forests,” said Oregon Wild’s Doug Heiken. “BLM’s proposed plan is a throwback to this terrible legacy. Today, our public forests should be preserved to address new realities — the need to mitigate global warming, recover endangered species, protect clean water, and restore ecosystem function and resilience.”
 
“Over 1.8 million Oregonians rely on BLM lands for their drinking water,” said John Kober of Pacific Rivers. “Many of Oregon’s most iconic rivers, such as the Rogue, Umpqua and McKenzie are sustained by the highly effective aquatic protections that have been in place for over 20 years. Scrapping proven stream protections in order to increase timber harvest is simply too risky given the benefits that our rivers provide.”
 
A copy of the protest is available here.
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May02

Ethics Complaint Filed Against Three Oregon Lawmakers Over the Wolf Delisting Bill

For immediate release
May 2, 2016
 
Contact: Nick Cady, Legal Director, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746, nick@cascwild.org
 
Ethics Complaint Filed Against State Representatives Over Gray Wolf Delisting Legislation
 
EUGENE, OR – Today, Cascadia Wildlands submitted a complaint to the Oregon Government Ethics Commission alleging numerous false statements and misrepresentations made by State Representatives Greg Barreto, Brad Witt, and Sal Esquivel in order to secure passage of House Bill 4040 (HB4040) during this spring’s legislative session.  HB4040 legislatively removed the gray wolf from Oregon’s list of threatened and endangered species.
 
On November 9, 2015, Oregon’s Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to remove gray wolves from the state’s list of endangered species, despite only approximately 80 wolves residing in the state at the time.  This decision was widely criticized as unscientific and politically driven, and was challenged by Cascadia Wildlands, Oregon Wild and the Center for Biological Diversity in state court.  HB4040 referenced the delisting decision, but the three lawmakers, including Rep. Barreto, the bill’s author and sponsor, asserted both in the course of legislative hearings and through documents distributed to other state legislators that HB 4040 would have no impact on judicial review of the commission’s controversial delisting decision.
 
“Our government is founded upon a system of checks and balances, including access to the courtroom, and these politicians worked overtime to remove our ability to bring this important case in front of a judge,” says Nick Cady, Legal Director with Cascadia Wildlands. “Oregon’s small wolf population and advocates for democracy ended up being the losers.”
 
Conservation advocates repeatedly warned that HB4040 would in fact undermine the public’s ability to challenge the commission’s wolf delisting decision. However, it was not until after the bill’s passage through Oregon House of Representatives that an inquiry by Oregon’s Legislative Counsel Committee uncovered that the only effect of the bill was to prevent judicial review of the wolf delisting decision.
 
On April 22, Oregon’s Court of Appeals dismissed the legal case brought by the three conservation organization, specifically stating the “enactment of HB4040 renders the judicial review moot and dismisses the judicial review on that ground.”
 
ORS 171.764(1) regulating ethical conduct maintains that no public official shall make any false statement or misrepresentation to any legislative or executive official.
 
“Lawmakers undermine the public’s trust when they mislead their colleagues and make false statements,” says Nick Cady, Legal Director with Cascadia Wildlands. “The Oregon Government Ethics Commission should determine whether Representatives Barreto, Witt, and Esquivel were deliberately mischaracterizing HB4040 in their attempt to fast track the removal of protections for Oregon’s recovering wolf population. The misrepresentations surrounding HB4040 allowed the bill to pass through Oregon’s Legislature, and gray wolves will ultimately pay the price.”
 
The ethics complaint lists several instances of lawmakers declaring that HB4040 does not undermine judicial review.
 
 
If found in violation of ethics laws guarding against false statement or misrepresentation, lawmakers could face civil penalties.
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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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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