In The Media

Apr21

Elliott State Forest parcel to be sold to Seneca Jones, drawing environmental lawsuit

By Rob Davis, Oregonian DSCN2264
April 21, 2014
 
The Oregon Department of State Lands has struck a deal to sell a 788-acre parcel of the Elliott State Forest near Coos Bay to the Seneca Jones Timber Co. for $1.8 million.
 
The timber company’s owner, Kathy Jones, had said the company pursued the land, which it intends to clear cut parts of, to provoke a fight with environmental groups.
 
It certainly worked: Three environmental groups filed suit Monday to block the purchase and simultaneously sought a temporary injunction to prevent the sale of part of the 93,000-acre state forest.
 
Two other parcels in the Elliott are also being sold to a timber company, a development announced Monday by the Department of State Lands. The Scott Timber Co. was the winning bidder on two other parcels in the state forest being sold, the agency said, with a $787,000 bid on 355 acres called Benson Ridge and a $1.8 million bid on a 310-acre slice of Adams Ridge.
 
The groups — Cascadia Wildlands, Audubon Society of Portland and the Center for Biological Diversity — said in legal filings that the sale was expressly prohibited by law and that the land shouldn't be logged in order to protect the marbled murrelet, a threatened seabird that nests in coastal forests.
 
“The state has illegally clearcut the Elliott for decades, and now that it has been forced to stop, it is engaging in an illegal selloff,” said Bob Sallinger, Audubon's conservation director. “It is time for the state to look for real solutions that protect the Elliott and address the needs of the Common School Fund.”
 
Like the spotted owl before it, the murrelet has become a cornerstone species for environmental groups seeking to curtail logging in Oregon. The bird’s population in Washington, Oregon and California has steadily declined over the last decade.
 
The State Land Board oversees some 700,000 acres statewide and has a constitutional responsibility to maximize revenue from the land to fund K-12 education. But because logging was halted in the 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest by environmental lawsuits, land management there will cost the state about $3 million this year.
 
The land sale would fill that gap for just a year, raising questions about the state forest’s future. State officials have said they consider the sale as a test case to determine the forest’s value for larger sales or land swaps.
 
The sale has had hiccups.
 
Parcels saw their value drop after state and volunteer biologists discovered murrelets nesting there during summer surveys. Timber once worth an estimated $22.1 million dropped to $3.6 million, according to state appraisals. Stands occupied by the small seabird can't be logged and aren’t worth as much.
 
While worth less on paper, a state contractor’s appraisal theorized the reduced value may allow small timber companies to buy the land cheap and log it anyway, skirting laws to reap the original, higher value.
 
We'll update this story as we learn more.
 
 

Apr04

Francis Speaks out on the Elliott Sales

francisFrancis Eatherington is interviewed about the sale of portion of the Elliott State Forest to a timber company that claims they will clearcut the lands if they are awarded the public properties through the bid process.  
 

 

 

 

 

 

Apr01

Three companies bid for timberlands in Elliott State Forest

By Christina George, Roseburg News Review DSCN2264
April 1, 2014
 
Three companies bid for timberlands in Elliott State Forest: Threats of lawsuits and blockades didn’t scare off three timber companies from submitting bids for parcels the state plans to sell in the Elliott State Forest in Douglas and Coos counties.
 
The Oregon Department of State Lands received five bids for three parcels totaling 1,451 acres by Friday’s deadline, the department’s assistant director, Jim Paul, said.
 
The sale is to help offset a deficit growing in the Common School Fund.
 
All bids met or exceeded the minimum amount, which for the three tracts collectively was about $3 million.
 
Paul said the bids and names of bidders will not be released while the real estate transaction is pending. “We haven’t made any decisions (about) which bids we are accepting,” Paul said today. “We would expect it to close by the end of this month unless something unusual happens.”
 
An anti-logging activist group, Cascadia Forest Defenders, last month warned potential bidders that it will physically block logging on land sold on the 93,000-acre forest between Reedsport and Coos Bay. The group said in an open letter to the timber industry that it will send members up trees to prevent logging, and it will not respect property lines, signs or gates.
 
The group’s threat came days after three other environmental organizations warned they will sue any timber company that buys the lands with plans to log. Cascadia Wildlands, Audubon Society of Portland and the Center for Biological Diversity said the tracts contain marbled murrelet habitat and that logging would violate the Endangered Species Act.
 
Douglas Timber Operators Executive Director Bob Ragon said he didn’t know how many companies passed on bidding because of the threats, but some likely considered the potential legal costs. “I am sure it had a chilling effect on the outcome,” he said.
 
Francis Eatherington, Cascadia Wildlands conservation director, said timber companies’ interest is logging, which isn’t good for the “remarkable and unique place.”
 
Paul said two other parcels in the Elliott totaling 1,300 acres that will be auctioned in the fall will be marketed for conservation because they include marbled murrelet habitat.
 
“It still means anyone can bid on it, but from a marketing approach, we are going to emphasize that marbled murrelets are present,” Paul said. “It just means timber companies are less likely to bid.”
 
State Land Board members Gov. John Kitzhaber, Secretary of State Kate Brown and Treasurer Ted Wheeler in December approved selling 2,728 acres to make up a $3 million deficit in the Common School Fund. Lawsuits filed by conservation groups, including Cascadia Wildlands, have blocked logging in the Elliott, depriving the school fund from its source of revenue.
 
The state hired Realty Marketing Northwest to conduct the sale. The Portland-based firm began accepting bids Feb. 16. All sealed bids were opened at 5 p.m. Friday. The state is seeking at least $1.82 million for the 785-acre East Hakki Ridge in Douglas County. The other minimum bids are $610,500 for the 353-acre Benson Ridge parcel and $595,000 for the 311-acre Adams Ridge Tract 1 in Coos County. The two tracts that will be auctioned later this year are within the Adams Ridge parcel.
 
Eatherington said Cascadia Wildlands can’t afford to submit bids. “We are an organization that for the most part tries to protect the public lands, and we don’t have that kind of money,” she said. “We very much hope that someone who has that kind of money that wants to protect the endangered seabird that lives there would buy (it and) protect it.”
 
The timber on the five parcels has been appraised for $22 million, assuming the presence of marbled murrelets, a threatened seabird protected by the Endangered Species Act, doesn’t hinder logging. State surveyors and conservation group volunteers last summer reported spotting a marbled murrelet on two tracts in Coos County. A lower appraisal of $4 million was given if timber companies were unwilling to purchase land with marbled murrelet habitat.
 
“It’s unfortunate the state put it up for sale and didn’t restrict the sale to conservation groups, and by reducing the price from $22 million to $4 million and admitting the timber couldn’t be cut because of the uniqueness and the rarity, and to still fall to the timber industry doesn’t make any sense,” Eatherington said. •
 
You can reach reporter Christina George at 541-957-4202 or at cgeorge@nrtoday.com
 
 

Mar21

Where’s the science? Fish and Wildlife Service must rewrite proposal to strip endangered species protections from gray wolves (an excerpt)

By Paul Paquet and Bob Ferris 
Special to the Mercury News
 
about.paul
Silicon Valley embraces science and loves innovation. Sadly, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has recently shown contempt for both when it comes to the recovery of gray wolves — particularly in the wilds of Northern California where a lone wolf recently visited for the first time in more than 80 years.
 
Our unflattering assessment derives from the peer review of the service's 2013 proposal to strip Endangered Species Act protections from most wolves in the West. The service's recommendation to "delist" wolves was judged to have ignored and misrepresented the "best available science," which is the unambiguous standard for species listing decisions. We wholeheartedly agree with the peer reviewers' troubling conclusions, and we are disappointed that the service pursued political expediency rather than abiding by the lawful provisions of the ESA.
 
Bob TalkingThat choice was encouraged by state wildlife commissions and agencies blatantly promoting the extremist views of some ranchers and anti-wolf hunting groups. In doing so, these agencies ignored scientific principles and the intrinsic value of species by portraying wolves as needing lethal management and fostering policies that treat them as problems rather than as respected members of the ecological community.
 
Paul Paquet (right) is an internationally prominent wolf scientist and senior scientist at Raincoast Conservation Foundation. Bob Ferris (left), executive director of Cascadia Wildlands, has been a leader in wolf advocacy for two decades.
 
Click Here to Read the Full Piece on the San Jose Mercury site.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Mar21

Forests, Fracking and LNG: Francis Defending People and Places

francis

 
 
Francis Eatherington, Cascadia Wildands' Conservation Director was recently interviewed on a broad range topics relating to Oregon's precious coastal forests and the problems with allowing liquefied natural gas exports through Coos Bay. Please listen to what she has to say in this engaging and thoughtful interview.    Click here to listen to the radio interview.
 
 
 
 
 

Mar13

HB77 testimony: Revised water rights bill roundly panned, except by mining interests

By Pat Forgey Alaska Dispatch
March 13, 2014
 
HB 77, a bill that would streamline water use permitting, pits mining interests against tribal groups, fisherman and environmentalists.
shepardwaterfall500
 
JUNEAU — Modest changes to Gov. Parnell's controversial pro-development House Bill 77 haven't won it any new friends, but outraged those who were told they'd have only limited opportunity to comment on it.
 
"I think it is perfectly ludicrous that we're not getting enough time to comment on a bill that would remove our ability to comment," said Rosemary McGuire, a Cordova commercial fisherman.
 
House Bill 77 is aimed at speeding up permitting for development proposals, especially for small, seemingly innocuous projects, often by limiting public review. But at a public hearing Wednesday in the Senate Finance Committee, many said they feared its effects would go way beyond what was stated.
 
The bill stalled last year after House passage when Senators got concerned after hearing from constituents. After 10 months of revisions, the public was given two days to review it, and then one and a half hours to comment on it.
 
Senate Finance Committee Chair Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, was brutal with the gavel, cutting speakers off in mid-sentence after their customarily allotted two minutes were up. Others said they rushed their statements so that others could be heard.
 
Giessel blocked questions from committee members to those testifying and then closed the oral testimony portion of the hearing after its scheduled time was up. Written testimony could still be submitted, she said.
 
Even so, dozens of people in Legislative Information Offices around the state and those who visited the Capitol hearing room in person appear to have been barred from testifying in person.
Other than two mining industry representatives, the changes to the bill were panned.
 
The bill should have already been killed, the senators were told.
 
"We Alaskans seem to be facing this legislation again for some reason," said Hal Shepherd, executive director of Seward's Center for Water Advocacy.
Among those leading the charge against the House Bill 77 were fishing and environmental groups.
 
The bill would limit the number of permits that the public could comment on, and should be called the "silencing Alaskans act." said Lori Daniel of Homer.
 
One provision of the bill would change how water rights reservations are handled. The public can now file for an in-stream water right, to keep water available for fish and other needs. The Department of Natural Resources won't issue those rights, however, and the bill changes the law to have in-stream water rights being held by the state, rather than individuals, groups or tribes.
Daniel didn't like that either.
 
"This bill still takes power away from the people and hold it in the hand of state government, she said.
 
The bill was initiated by Gov. Sean Parnell, whose administration has warned that environmental groups could use Alaska's laws to prevent development unless they were changed.
Gabe Scott of Homer, Alaska Legal Director for Cascadia Wildlands, spoke against the bill.
 
"I guess we're one of those nonprofits the governor is so fearful of," he said.
The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council's James Sullivan said the Department of Natural Resources is worried about outside groups, but its solution in House Bill 77 would only punish Alaskans.
"Though improvements have been made since last year, House Bill 77 is still a flawed and destructive piece of legislation," he said.
 
Daniel Lum of Barrow said the lopsided testimony made it clear where the public stood on the bill.
 
"Can you not hear the overwhelming majority of Alaskans are against House Bill 77?" he asked.
 
The bill, he said, was the product of an all-powerful government that disregards its own citizens.
 
"This is not China, this is not Russia, but if this passes we'll be just like them," he said.
 
Support for the bill came from mining interests, including Donlin Gold and the Council of Producers, a mining industry group.
 
A statement from Stan Foo, general manager of Donlin Gold, offered support for the bill and regulatory reform in general.
 
"We also support efforts to cut unnecessary red tape without diminishing important environmental standards," Foo's statement said.
 
The closed hearing may reopen, however. Late Wednesday the Alaska Senate Majority announced that Chair Giessel will reopen public testimony on the bill Friday at 3:30 p.m.
 
“As a committee, we believe public testimony is an important part of the process,” said Giessel.  “That’s why it is critical to me, and the others, to give Alaskans an opportunity to have their voices heard.”
 
 

Feb07

BREAKING NEWS: Peer Reviewers Find Fault with USFWS Science on Wolf Delisting–comment period reopens

The US Fish and Wildlife Service just release the following press statement about the independent Peer review (see link at bottom of 2019372475page):  

Service Reopens Comment Period on Wolf Proposal
Independent scientific peer review report available for public review
 
Following receipt of an independent scientific peer review, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reopening the comment period on its proposal to list the Mexican wolf as an endangered subspecies and remove the gray wolf from the Endangered Species List. The Service is making that report available for public review, and, beginning Monday, February 10, interested stakeholders will have an additional 45 days to provide information that may be helpful to the Service in making a final determination on the proposal.
 
The independent scientific peer review was hosted and managed by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), a highly respected interdisciplinary research center at the University of California – Santa Barbara. At the Service’s request, NCEAS sponsored and conducted a peer review of the science underlying the Service’s proposal. 
 
“Peer review is an important step in our efforts to assure that the final decision on our proposal to delist the wolf is based on the best available scientific and technical information,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “We thank the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis for conducting a transparent, objective and well-documented process. We are incorporating the peer review report into the public record for the proposed rulemaking, and accordingly, reopening the public comment period to provide the public with the opportunity for input.”
 
The peer review report is available online, along with instructions on how to provide comment and comprehensive links relating to the proposal, at www.fws.gov/home/wolfrecovery.
 
The Service intends that any final action resulting from this proposed rule will be based on the best available information. Comments and materials we receive, as well as some of the supporting documentation used in preparing this proposed rule, are available for public inspection at www.regulations.gov under the docket number FWS–HQ–ES–2013–0073. 
 
The Service will post all comments on www.regulations.gov. This generally means the agency will post any personal information provided through the process. The Service is not able to accept email or faxes. Comments must be received by midnight on March 27.
 
The Federal Register publication of this notice is available online at www.fws.gov/policy/frsystem/default.cfm by clicking on the 2014 Proposed Rules under Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants.
 
The Service expects to make final determination on the proposal by the end of 2014.
 
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information, visit www.fws.gov, or connect with us through any of these social media channels:
 
– FWS –

Gray Wolf Peer Review

Feb06

State Stops Timber Sales to Help Bird

The Associated Press by Jeff Barnard
February 6, 2013
 
The state Department of Forestry has agreed to cancel more than two dozen timber sales on state forests because they threaten the survival of the marbled murrelet, a seabird that nests in large, old trees.
 
The proposed settlement filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Eugene comes in a lawsuit brought by three conservation groups, Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Audubon Society of Portland.
 
It alleged that the department violated the Endangered Species Act prohibiting the harming, or take, of a protected species by failing to protect stands of trees on the Elliott and other state forests where threatened marbled murrelets build their nests.
 
The murrelet is a robin-size bird that lives on the ocean and flies as far as 50 miles inland to nest in old growth forests. The bird was declared a threatened species about two decades ago, making it a factor in the continuing court and political battles over logging in the Northwest.
 
The settlement comes as the state has been trying to increase logging on state forests to provide more funding for schools and counties and more logs for local mills.
 
The Elliott State Forest, where the bulk of the canceled sales are located, typically provides millions of dollars to the Common School Fund. But in 2013 it cost the fund $2.8 million because of reduced logging, according to the Department of State Lands. The rest of the canceled sales are on the Tillamook and Clatsop state forests.
 
State Department of Forestry spokesman Dan Postrel said the department began canceling timber sales in 2012 as it revised its protection policy for the murrelet, and that the settlement wraps up a total of 28 timber sales.
 
Postrel said the department is reviewing science related to the murrelet to “help inform the best long-term plans and strategies.”
 
The state managed the Elliott for years by protecting habitat for threatened and endangered species such as the murrelet but scrapped that approach after federal biologists refused to approve revisions that allowed more logging. Instead, the state adopted a policy used by private timberland owners that refrains from logging where protected species are actually living.
 
The lawsuit argued that rather than preserving a large area of trees around a murrelet nest, the department was leaving small patches and clear-cutting close around them, leaving the nests vulnerable to attacks by jays and ravens that eat the young.
 
The birds are difficult to spot when they fly swiftly into a stand of trees at dawn. The nests are difficult to spot, as well. The eggs are laid in a mossy depression on a large branch high in a tree. Laughlin said the department also has agreed, in a separate action, to stop its practice of sending its own observers to verify murrelet sightings by a contractor, which conservation groups feel violates the accepted scientific protocol.
 
“This was an incredibly arbitrary and reckless process that we believe, in the past, led to loss of occupied murrelet habitat,” Laughlin said.
 
Oregon Forest Industries Council President Kristina McNitt said in an email that the organization was worried that the state may not be able to meet its obligations to the Common School Fund and counties after withdrawing the sales.
 

Jan30

DeFazio Leads Effort to Get Obama to Protect Wilderness

The Oregonian by Jeff Mapes, January 24, 2014

Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio is in the forefront of a Democratic effort calling on President Barack Obama to use his executive powers to protect new wilderness areas if Republicans continue bottle up land-protection bills in Congress.

DeFazio, the ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee and Rep. Raul Grijalva led 109 House Democrats Friday in a new drive urging the administration to consider designating several new or expanded national monuments around the country. Reps. Suzanne Bonamici and Earl Blumenauer, both D-Ore., were among those signing the letter.

The letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell was timed to coincide with her visit to New Mexico to discuss federal protections for the proposed Organ Mountain-Desert Peaks National Monument, a 780-square-mile area near the Mexican border.

Jewell said in a speech in November that Obama was willing to use his authority under the Antiquities Act to approve additional national monuments if necessary.  Her statements signaled a willingness to revive the battle over federal land protections that arose at the end of the Clinton administration in 2000.

That's when Clinton stepped up the use of his executive powers to designate several national monuments, including the 53,000-acre Soda Mountain area near Ashland that came to be known as the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.

The designations ignited strong protests from many rural landowners and natural resource users, and the incoming Bush administration initially made noises about reversing many of them.  That didn't happen and President George W. Bush eventually used his authority to designate a huge marine sanctuary off the Hawaiian coast.

The DeFazio-Grijalva letter noted that only one of the 37 land-protection bills in the House has passed the chamber in this session of Congress.

"In today’s deeply partisan environment," the two wrote, "it’s becoming nearly impossible for Congress to make critical conservation decisions."

House Resources Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., and several other congressional Republicans have expressed skepticism about the need for additional wilderness areas.

Several Oregon proposals have been hung up in Congress, including those involving the 30,000-acre Devil's Staircase in the coast range of southern Oregon and stretches of the Rogue, Chetco and Molalla rivers.  In addition, the National Parks Conservation Association, which lauded the congressional Democrats for their letter, has pushed for expansion of the Oregon Caves National Monument in Josephine County.
 

 

Jan22

Roseburg BLM Clearcut Logging Plan Challenged

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 22, 2014
 
Contacts:
Steve Pedery, Oregon Wild  -  sp@oregonwild.org  -  (503) 283-6343, ext. 211
Francis Eatherington, Cascadia Wildlands  -  francis@cascwild.org  -  (541) 643-1309
Doug Heiken, Oregon Wild  -  dh@oregonwild.org  -  (541) 344-0675
 
Roseburg BLM Clearcut Logging Plan Challenged
Conservationists go to court to stop controversial clearcutting plan in White Castle forest; century-old trees on chopping block in sale that mimics Wyden O&C logging plan.
 
(Eugene, Oregon)  -  Two conservation organizations filed a legal challenge today aimed at blocking a controversial plan to clearcut 100-year old trees on publicly-owned Bureau of Land Management lands in Douglas County. The White Castle logging project targets century old forest, including some trees over 150 years old, using a controversial logging method euphemistically referred to as "variable retention regeneration harvest."
 
"No matter what you call it, a clearcut is still a clearcut," said Sean Stevens, Executive Director of Oregon Wild. "Clearcutting century-old forests that offer habitat for threatened wildlife on public lands in Oregon is not only immoral, in this case it's illegal."
 
At stake are 438 acres of publicly-owned forest in the South Myrtle Creek watershed, near the community of Canyonville. The Roseburg BLM District plans to use a controversial logging method known as "variable retention regeneration harvest" to clearcut over 187 acres, including trees over a century old. Bulldozing roads and other destructive activities associated with the project would target additional trees over 150 years old. Federal biologists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have acknowledged nearly 200 acres of habitat for threatened wildlife would be damaged or destroyed by the logging.
 
"The BLM's White Castle clearcutting plan is a throwback to the logging epidemic that ravaged Oregon in the 1970s and 80s," said Cindy Haws, a former Forest Service biologist who owns land downstream in the Myrtle Creek watershed. "This kind of aggressive clearcutting harms our salmon and native wildlife, and increases the risk of mudslides and pollution of our rivers."
 
Despite controversy surrounding the sale, the BLM is claiming that clearcutting the White Castle forest will benefit the environment by removing large areas of mature and old-growth trees to create open spaces. They claim that since they intend to leave a few patches of trees around the edges and in small clumps, it isn't really a clearcut.
 
A similar and related clearcutting project, known as the Buck Rising, was carried out on Roseburg BLM lands last summer and has been highly controversial. Pictures of a Buck Rising clearcut appeared in an anti-clearcutting billboard on I-5 near Eugene, and citizen activists have occupied a portion of the White Castle forest with a tree-sitting protest, braving frigid temperatures, rain, and high winds in an attempt to protect the area.
The legal challenge raises a number of issues, including:
 
  • The destruction of almost 200 acres of forest habitat for threatened wildlife.
  • Failure to conduct a complete analysis of likely environmental damage from clearcutting.
  • Failure to consider environmentally responsible alternatives, including thinning smaller trees instead of clearcutting older forests.
  • Failure to consider the existing clearcuts that scar the watershed.  Though BLM claims the logging is needed to create open patches and young forest, their own data shows that 27% of the forests on federal lands in the region are under 30 years old.
 
"The BLM wants to clearcut this forest to try and placate politicians and logging interests, plain and simple," said Francis Eatherington with Cascadia Wildlands. "They are trying to use euphemisms like 'variable retention regeneration harvest' to put lipstick on the pig."
 
The BLM is facing intense political pressure from logging corporations and some politicians to increase clearcutting, despite the fact that the agency has largely met its timber targets for the last decade by thinning young forests instead of clearcutting older ones.
 
A bill proposed by Senator Ron Wyden in late November would expand projects like the White Castle clearcuts to more than a million acres of public land in Western Oregon to generate money to bail out some county governments facing budget shortfalls. Wyden's bill overturns key provisions of the Northwest Forest Plan, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act, and like the BLM, has used the opinions of two prominent forestry professors to justify such logging.
 
Photos of the White Castle forest can be found here. (please credit to Francis Eatherington)
 
Photos: Buck Rising (top); White Castle (bottom) by Francis Eatherington.

 

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