In The Media

Sep11

Female wolf is Northwest descendant: Trail cameras first spotted OR-7’s black female companion in May (an Excerpt)

By Lacey Jarrell
Klamath Falls Herald and News
September 6, 2014 
 
The mysterious female wolf that mated with OR-7 is a confirmed descendant of Northwest wolves.Potential OR-7 mate
 
According to a press release, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has received the results of scat samples sent to the University of Idaho for analysis. The samples, collected in Southwest Oregon in May and July, identified OR-7’s mate and two of the pair’s pups as wolves.
 
************
Cascadia Wildlands Executive Director Bob Ferris dubbed OR-7’s female companion “Wandering Wanda,” or just Wanda for short, in a June blog post for his organization.
 
“We got tired of calling her the uncollared wolf that came from nowhere,” Ferris said. “Wanda probably wandered as far as OR-7 and her story is probably just as remarkable as his.”
 
Ferris said although Wanda is just a nickname, he believes it’s a reasonable solution to talking about a well-known animal that doesn’t have anything to call it by. ODFW spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy said biologists don’t name wolves; however, as a function of being collared, wolves are given an identification, such as OR-7’s. Dennehy said “OR” represents the state — Oregon — and “7” indicates he was the seventh wolf collared in Oregon.
 
 
 

Sep02

Advocates Vow to Protect Devil’s Staircase Wilderness

by Zach Urness
Salem Statesman Journal
August 31, 2014
 
The first time Andy Stahl heard about the Devil's Staircase, it was little more than a wilderness myth.
 
Rumors of a spectacular waterfall hidden deep within one of the Coast Range's most remote and inaccessible canyons spread through Oregon State University's Environmental Center in the late 1970s like sightings of Bigfoot, sparking debate among students about whether this central coast Shangri-La actually existed.
 
Every bushwhacking adventure into the thick, cliff-walled jungle surrounding Wassen Creek — the supposed location of the fabled cascade — ended in failure, often after a miserable rain-soaked night in the wild.
 
"Year after year, students at Oregon State attempted to find it, and every time they failed," Stahl said. "It wasn't something that could be found on a map. It didn't have an official name, there certainly wasn't a trail, and the land is just damn hard to get through. A lot of people thought it didn't exist."
 
In 1981, the forestry graduate decided the mystery had to be solved. With a young environmental activist named Sherry Wellborn — who would later become his wife — Stahl traversed over 30 miles of Wassen Creek in tennis shoes.
 
The trip would not only prove Devil's Staircase did exist — and that it was as beautiful as hoped — it would set in motion a three-decade effort to preserve one of the largest remaining old-growth ecosystems in Oregon's Central Coast Range.
 
The effort to safeguard the 200-foot Douglas firs and cedars, spotted owl and coho salmon habitat, and dense interior valleys surrounding Devil's Staircase and Wassen Creek — a landscape nestled between the Smith and Umpqua rivers east of Reedsport — has been a quixotic journey that began in the early 1980s.
 
It has twice survived the threat of logging while coming within a razor's edge of being protected by Congress in 1984. It has come within striking distance of being protected as the 30,540 acre Devil's Staircase Wilderness multiple times since 2009 yet has always come just short.
 
With the 50th anniversary of Wilderness Act on Sept. 3 — a landmark piece of legislation aimed at preserving the nation's most important landscapes in their natural state — the Devil's Staircase offers a glimpse into the past and present struggle to preserve one of Oregon's wildest places.
 
Wassen Creek flows through dense old-growth forest in a remote canyon in Oregon's Central Coast Range east of Reedsport.
 
The main thing Stahl remembers about that three-day trip down the length of Wassen Creek was how isolated he felt in a 1,800-foot canyon that hadn't changed much since Columbus set sail.
 
This struck him as remarkable, especially since the Coast Range has been the realm of logging for more than a century. Forest Service, BLM and private logging roads bisect the vast majority of forest. Much of the landscape is a checkerboard of tree farms, clear-cuts, second growth, or some combination.
 
Yet within Wassen Creek, home to almost 26,000 acres of intact old-growth, Stahl found a deeper solitude than anywhere he'd previously traveled.
 
Massive Douglas fir and cedars rose 200 feet into the canopy overhead. In three days he saw more wildlife — black bear, river otter, elk and signs of cougar — than during a year's worth of hiking and backpacking.
 
On the third day, they found the Devil's Staircase, where Wassen Creek drops 50 feet down a series of sandstone tiers.
 
"It struck me that we were as isolated geographically as I had ever been in my life — the cliffs were so sheer that if one of us broke an ankle, I didn't have any idea how we'd get out," Stahl said. "I saw no evidence of humans — not a fire ring, blaze on a tree or boot mark. It was remarkable — not a canella of human presence."
 
THE FIRST THREAT OF LOGGING
Not long after Stahl's epic trip, in 1982, Siuslaw National Forest proposed a timber sale that would have led to a 400-acre cut in the Wassen Creek area.
 
The proposal sparked the first effort to preserve the area.
 
Environmental activists convinced then-Sen. Mark Hatfield to write a letter holding off the sale. In 1983, the National Wildlife Federation filed suit claiming the area's steep slopes and shallow, unstable soils on the Mapleton Ranger District were highly susceptible to landslides following timber harvests, which damage waterways.
 
The court ordered the Forest Service to conduct an environmental review and produce an Environmental Impact Statement before offering to sell, "any timber on the Mapleton Ranger District other than limited commercial thinning … firewood … greenery sales and salvage of dead and downed timber sales."
 
The result was dramatic. Timber harvests fell from 75 million board feet in 1983 to 15 million broad feet in 1984 on the Mapleton Ranger District. Many residents blamed the lawsuit for closing the mills and the city's loss of jobs.
 
The Wassen Creek area was originally included for protection under the 1984 Oregon Wilderness Act. A cap placed on acreage in the bill forced then-Rep. Jim Weaver to choose between a wilderness area in Southern Oregon and Wassen Creek.
 
Wassen Creek was the odd wilderness out.
 
RE-ENERGIZED
Without wilderness protection, but under no real threat from logging, the Devil's Staircase and Wassen Creek area went quiet as the Forest Wars raged in other parts of the state.
 
The area was declared critical habitat for the spotted owl by the Endangered Species Act in the early 1990s and the Northwest Forest Plan provided additional protection in 1994, but it never received the wilderness stroke of Congress.
 
The quiet period ended in 2006 when a 5,000-acre section of the proposed wilderness was included in a draft of the Western Oregon Plan Revision by the Bureau of Land Management to become Timber Management Area.
 
The inclusion re-energized the wilderness campaign around Devil's Staircase and Wassen Creek that hit full bore in 2007.
 
Editorials, rallies, media attention and even visits by two of Oregon's congressional delegation — Rep. Peter DeFazio and Sen. Jeff Merkley, who bushwhacked to the waterfall — brought renewed emphasis to preserving the area as wilderness.
 
Rep. DeFazio has introduced a bill giving the area wilderness protection three times in the House since 2009. Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden and Sen. Merkley have introduced similar bills in the Senate three times as well. It passed the full Senate in June with unanimous consent but is a long shot to pass the House.
 
AWKWARD POSITION
Wassen Creek remains as difficult to reach today as it did when Stahl made his trip more than 30 years ago.
 
While some rugged roads provide access along its borders, and barely visible game trails can be followed in places, this roadless, pathless forest remains as difficult to penetrate as ever.
 
Only around 100 people per year, all with strong navigational skills, endure the hellacious bushwhack into Wassen Creek and Devil's Staircase. Multiple people have been lost or spent an unexpected night among the densely forested ravines attempting to locate the staircase.
 
But while the forest has changed little, the political climate has taken an unexpected twist during the past few months.
 
The Devil's Staircase Wilderness bill is now part of a larger package of bills in the House (authored by Rep. DeFazio) and Senate (authored by Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden). The package would protect some areas, like the Devil's Staircase, while increasing logging on Oregon's federal O&C lands.
 
This has put supporters in a tough spot. In some cases, long-term proponents of the wilderness are now fighting the very bill that would finally make the Devil's Staircase Wilderness a reality.
 
"It's an incredibly awkward spot to be put in after the bill was advancing on its own merits," said Josh Laughlin, who has visited the Devil's Staircase area more than 20 times and is campaign director for Cascadia Wildlands, an Eugene-based environmental group.
 
"It's one of the wildest places in Oregon — really a magnificent slice of what the Coast Range once looked like. The Devil's Staircase deserves to stand on its own."
 
Zach Urness has been an outdoors writer, photographer and videographer in Oregon for seven years. He is the author of "Hiking Southern Oregon" and can be reached at zurness@Statesman Journal.com or (503) 399-6801. Find him on Facebook at Zach's Oregon Outdoors.
 
ABOUT THIS SERIES
Today's installment is the first of a two-part series about the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, exploring both the fight to create new wilderness in the example of the proposed Devils Staircase Wilderness and its history in Oregon.
 
The series continues Monday with dramatic examples of what can happen when nature and human nature collide over the restrictions inherent in the act.
 
50th ANNIVERSARY OF THE WILDERNESS ACT
On Sept. 3, 1964, Lyndon Johnson signed into law one of the most significant bills in environmental conservation into law. The Wilderness Act provides the highest level of protection for landscapes deemed worth both nationally and locally.
 
Five percent of the United States (and 2.7 percent of the Lower 48) and four percent of Oregon are protected under the Wilderness Act. In this two-part series, the Statesman Journal explores both the fight to create new wilderness — in the example of the proposed Devil's Staircase Wilderness — and its history in Oregon.
 
"A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain."
 
– Text of Wilderness Act
 
 
 

Aug29

Coalitions sue Forest Service to block Alaska old-growth timber sale (Excerpt)

Coalitions sue Forest Service to block Alaska old-growth timber sale
 
By Maria L. La Ganga
Los Angeles Times
August 29, 2015
 
Two coalitions of environmental groups have filed three separate suits against the U.S. Forest Service, hoping to stop what the organizations say is the largest sale of old-growth timber in nearly a generation in America's largest Mail Attachment-9national forest.
 
Last week the Forest Service gave the final go-ahead for the so-called Big Thorne timber sale in Alaska's Tongass National Forest, a scenic expanse the size of Delaware studded with 1,000-year-old trees. Under the terms of the multiyear sale, about 6,000 acres of old-growth trees would be harvested.
 
[BREAK]
 
On Tuesday, a separate group of environmental organizations filed a third suit against the Forest Service seeking to stop the Big Thorne project.
This group, which includes Cascadia Wildlands and Greenpeace, said that the Alexander Archipelago wolf population on Prince of Wales Island had dropped sharply and that the federal agency ignored research by the foremost expert on the wolves in deciding to go forward with the sale.
 
"Without enough old-growth winter habitat in the forest for shelter, deer populations plummet during deep-snow winters," said Gabriel Scott, Cascadia Wildlands' Alaska legal director. "And without enough deer to go around, wolves and hunters are direct competitors.
 
"That never ends well for the wolf, or for hunters, because deer are the wolves' primary prey," Scott said. "Big Thorne bites hard into necessary winter habitat."
 
Link to full article here
 
Link to press release and background information here 

 

Aug13

Guest Opinion: Why Hunters Should Oppose Sale of Elliott State Forest

By Marnie Allbritten, guest opinion for the Oregonian
August 8, 2014
 
Elk and deer hunters are obsessive about our chosen pastime.  We invest countless hours in scouting and preparing for the fall hunt.  We travel hundreds of miles in search of elk, deer and other game animals. We spend thousands of dollars every year on equipment, optics, fuel and gadgets. Yet without access to high quality lands to hunt on, all this expense and preparation is wasted.
 
Oregon hunters are facing the very real threat that we could lose access to hundreds of thousands of acres of quality hunting lands within our state. Weyerhauser, the giant logging corporation that owns 2.6-million acres in Oregon and Washington, recently announced it was closing much of its forestlands to the general public.  From now on, hunters will have to buy a special permit DSCN2174costing up to $350 if they want to hunt on those lands even though the elk and deer belong to the public.
 
But Weyerhauser's new "pay to play" arrangement isn't the worst threat to access for hunting in Oregon. The Oregon State Land Board, made up of Gov. John Kitzhaber, state Treasurer Ted Wheeler, and Secretary of State Kate Brown, is seriously considering a proposal to privatize the 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest just east of Coos Bay. In future years, hunters visiting the Elliott may be greeted by locked gates and "no trespassing" signs rather than open public access. Three parcels of this public forest, totaling over 1,400 acres, have already been sold to logging companies and at least one of them has been posted with "private property" signs.
 
I have explored and enjoyed the Elliott for many years, and the countless miles I have walked in this beautiful place have showed me just how special it is. For those willing to work for it, the Elliott provides fantastic opportunities for elk and deer hunting—free of charge. It also contains spawning streams for some of the strongest salmon and steelhead runs left in the Oregon Coast Range.  This forest is also unique among Oregon's state public lands in that it contains more than 41,000 acres of old-growth forest over 100 years old.  The opportunity to hunt and explore among these giants is an experience to be treasured — and passed down to our children and grandchildren.
 
But all this is being jeopardized by politicians in Salem.
 
The Oregon Land Board is considering privatizing the Elliott because of a dispute over logging levels.  A portion of the revenues from the Elliott go to support the Oregon Common School Fund, and though the actual dollar amount that makes it to classrooms is tiny, logging also pays for a huge state bureaucracy. In 2011, an effort to nearly double logging levels on the Elliott sparked a fight with environmental interests.  The state lost that battle, and now rather than crafting a balanced, sustainable approach to managing the Elliott, Oregon is considering selling it off to private corporations so they can log it instead.
 
Hunters tend to be politically conservative people, and we are reluctant to get involved in battles over logging and environmental rules.  But the debate over privatizing the Elliott State Forest — and losing access to even more quality hunting lands — is an issue that should hit home for every hunter on Oregon.  We have too much at stake to sit this one out.
 
Hunters concerned about the loss of access to quality hunting lands should get in touch with Gov. John Kitzhaber, Secretary of State Kate Brown and Treasurer Ted Wheeler and tell them to end any further consideration of privatizing the Elliott State Forest.  Instead, they should be focusing on developing a balanced, sustainable plan for this forest.  The Elliott should be managed for the conservation of values like elk, salmon, and old-growth, for human needs like clean water, recreation, and responsible timber harvest.  
But above all, the Elliott should remain in public hands, for all Oregonians to use and enjoy.  No hunter should ever encounter a "no trespassing" sign when visiting the Elliott State Forest.
 
Marnie Allbritten of Roseburg is a retired Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist and a former board member for the Umpqua chapter of the Oregon Hunters Association.
 
Here is a link to the original article.

Aug12

DeFazio, Wyden take wrong tack on timber

By Josh Laughlin in the Register Guard 
August 11, 2014
 
After four straight years as the runner-up, United Van Lines named Oregon as the state with the nation’s highest percentage of inbound moves in 2013. I’d bet a pitcher of Ninkasi the great migration hasn’t been for the clear-cuts that pock our mountainsides and pollute our streams, but rather for the unparalleled quality of life Oregon offers — including its awe-inspiring natural environment.
 
Why, then, are Rep. Peter DeFazio and Sen. Ron Wyden working to push clear-cutting legislation through Congress that threatens to further degrade our public forests and renowned waterways in Western Oregon? They say it is to boost county revenue. But the federal logging-to-fund-local-counties strategy was rightly decoupled nearly 15 years ago because the arrangement was bad for water quality and salmon, bad for terrestrial species teetering on the brink of extinction, and bad for the quality of life in Oregon.
 
And they say it is to increase jobs. Yet shiploads of raw logs (and jobs) being exported to Shanghai and Tokyo from Coos Bay and Astoria are not being taxed to help counties. And Oregon mills are continuing to automate so as to be able to consume more logs with fewer workers. The milling capacity of Oregon sawmills is 25 percent greater today than in 1995.
 
ly 1 million acres of our federal public forestlands just east and west of the Interstate 5 corridor to the point that the nation’s leading scientists at the American Fisheries Society and Society for Conservation Biology have written letters to the senator and expressed serious concern over the bill’s impacts.
 
Wyden’s legislation follows on the heels of DeFazio’s even more egregious logging plan, which would effectively privatize 1.5 million acres of our federal lands in Western Oregon to ensure that clear-cutting proceeds unabated into the future. The two policy makers are trying to marry their reckless schemes in order to move them through Congress.
 
Our public forestlands in Western Oregon can no longer serve as ATMs for struggling counties. It is these rainforests that largely define our state. They give us some of the best and most plentiful drinking water in the world, stabilize our climate by storing more carbon per acre than any other ecosystem on Earth, give us fresh air to breath, provide habitat for imperiled species, offer unparalleled recreation opportunities, and attract cutting-edge employers and skilled employees — all at no cost to us. They are the ecological and economic lifeblood of our region.
 
Rather than recycle failed strategies for county funding, a fresh approach is in order. Lawmakers in Salem ought to raise the timber tax on private industrial timberlands to be in line with California and Washington. It’s time for the Weyerhaeusers of the world to pay their fair share when doing business in Oregon.
 
A few counties in Western Oregon most affected by budgetary woes have the lowest property taxes in the state and some of the lowest in the nation. Yet county leaders clamor for increased sheriff patrols and road repair dollars when federal subsidies are cut. Property tax rates must be modernized in these counties if basic services are desired. The cut-over public forests of Western Oregon shouldn’t have to continue to shoulder the county funding burden.
 
At a time when our region’s salmon and wildlife are facing extinction, climate change is rearing its ugly head through erratic weather events, and public desire for forest and water protection is high, we should be doing all we can to secure the integrity of our watersheds, not stripping their protections. It is these forestlands that make Oregon so special, and I’m ready to double down on that pitcher that they are a great part of the reason we’re trending so high on United Van Lines’ data sheets.
 
Josh Laughlin is the campaign director of Eugene-based Cascadia Wildlands
 
 
 

May20

Murrelets Found at East Hakki Land Sale on Elliott State Forest

by the Coos Bay World
May 19
 
COOS BAY — The new owners of a controversial tract of South Coast forest land auctioned off this spring may face new obstacles to harvesting its timber.
 
Coast Range Forest Watch, an environmentalist group that conducts marbled murrelet surveys in the Elliott State Forest, says it’s recently detected murrelet nesting behavior in the East Hakki Ridge parcel.
 
The parcel was recently auctioned off to Eugene-based Seneca Jones Timber.
 
The Department of State Lands cited the declining value of the state’s Common School Fund, fed by timber proceeds from the Elliott,Marbled Murrelet -large as its motivation for the sales.
 
Forest Watch volunteer Amanda St. Martin said that in order to determine marbled murrelet nesting behavior, surveyors need to witness murrelets flying at or below canopy height in that area.
 
She said that May 13 and 14, volunteers saw just that.
 
“Two surveyors on two separate days saw them flying below canopy height,” St. Martin said. “That’s a pretty good indication that they need that area to nest or to get to their nest.”
 
Logging in identified marbled murrelet habitat in the Elliott was barred in 2012 under a federal district court injunction.
 
But East Hakki Ridge wasn’t covered by that injunction because it had never been surveyed for murrelet nesting activity.
St. Martin said the group is trying to change that.
 
“We have already submitted the data to Oregon Department of Forestry, Fish and Wildlife and the Department of State Lands,” she said.
 
The East Hakki Ridge is already the subject of a lawsuit filed by Cascadia Wildlands, the Portland Audubon Society and the Center for Biological Diversity.
 
The groups are seeking to have the parcel’s sale to Seneca Jones blocked on the grounds that state law prohibits the sale of state forest lands originally belonging to the federal government.

 

May13

Oregon’s Wandering Wolf May Have Found a Mate

By Jeff Barnard
The Associated Press/Register-Guard
May 13
 
MEDFORD — Oregon’s famous wandering gray wolf, dubbed OR-7, may have found the mate he has trekked thousands of miles looking for, wildlife authorities said Monday. It’s likely the pair spawned pups and, if confirmed, the rare predators would be the first breeding pair of wolves in Oregon’s Cascade Range since the early 1900s.
 
Officials said cameras in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest in the southern Cascades captured several images of what appears to be a female wolf in the same area where OR-7’s GPS collar shows he has been living.OR7_odfw
 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist John Stephenson said it is not proof, but it is likely the two wolves mated over the winter and are rearing pups that would have been born in April. Biologists won’t start looking for a den until June, to avoid endangering the pups.
 
“It’s amazing that he appears to have found a mate,” Stephenson said.
 
“I didn’t think it would happen. It makes me more impressed with the ability of wolves to survive and find one another.”
 
Young wolves typically leave their pack and strike out for a new territory, hoping to find a mate and start a new pack.
OR-7 has been looking for a mate since leaving the Imnaha pack in Northeastern Oregon in September 2011.
 
His travels have taken him thousands of miles as he crossed highways, deserts and ranches in Oregon, moved down the spine of the Cascade Range deep into Northern California and then back to Oregon, all without getting shot, having an accident or starving.
 
Federal Endangered Species Act protections for wolves have been lifted in Eastern Oregon, where the bulk of them reside, but they remain in force in the Cascades. Protections for the animals have also ended in the past several years in the Northern Rockies and western Great Lakes.
 
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed ending the listing across most of the rest of the country as populations have rebounded. A final decision is expected later this year.
 
If a wolf was going to start a pack in a new part of Oregon, ranchers should be glad it is OR-7, who has no history of preying on livestock, said Bill Hoyt, past president of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association. The group supports Oregon’s wolf recovery plan and is looking forward to the day the predator’s numbers and range expand enough for their protections to be removed.
 
Steve Pedery, conservation director of Oregon Wild, said the news was “spectacular.” The conservation group won a court ruling barring the state from killing two members of OR-7’s home pack for preying on livestock and later won a settlement strictly limiting when wolves can be killed.
 
“It goes to show that when we act on America’s best impulses for the environment, amazing things can happen. We can bring endangered species back,” he said.
 
Stephenson expected the battery on OR-7’s GPS collar to die soon, so the biologist set up trail cameras based on the wolf’s most recent whereabouts. The GPS locations also showed OR-7 was staying within a smaller area, common behavior when wolves have pups to feed.
 
When he checked the cameras last week, Stephenson said one had recorded a black wolf he had not seen before. An hour later, OR-7 was photographed on the same camera.
 
The black wolf was confirmed to be female because she squatted to urinate.
 
Officials had planned to let OR-7’s collar die, but now that he appears to have found a mate, he will be fitted with a new one this summer to monitor the pack.
 
Stephenson said officials had no idea where the female came from.
 
Josh Laughlin, campaign director with Cascadia Wildlands, a Eugene-based nonprofit agency, hailed the news about OR-7 as “an incredible new chapter for wolf recovery in Oregon.”
 
This would be the first wolf pack in Oregon’s Cascades since they were “systematically exterminated” from the state more than 60 years ago, Laughlin said.
 
Today, Oregon is home to nine confirmed wolf packs and at least 64 wolves, he said.
 
“If confirmed, this is incredible for the wildlands and communities of Southwest Oregon, which have been devoid of wolf packs for too long,” Laughlin said in a statement.

 

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
 
 

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