In The Media


Cascadia Wildlands Joins Lawsuit to Protect Wild Salmon and Clean Water from Gold Mining

For Immediate Release, November 20, 2015
Forrest English, Rogue Riverkeeper, (541) 261-2030
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746
Jonathan Evans, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 844-7118
Glen Spain, PCFFA, (541) 689-2000
Conservation, Fishing Groups Move to Join Lawsuit to Protect Oregon From Gold Mining Impacts
Groups Defend Restrictions on Mining Practices Harmful to Salmon, Waterways, Wildlife
SpawningMEDFORD, Ore.— To defend an Oregon law designed to protect wildlife from damaging gold mining along waterways, a broad coalition of groups moved to intervene today in a lawsuit by mining interests challenging the restrictions. Passed by the Oregon Legislature in 2013, Senate Bill 838 placed restrictions on gold mining using suction dredges and other motorized equipment along streams to prevent harmful impacts to salmon and develop a permitting process to better protect Oregon’s waterways. Miners are now alleging that the state law conflicts with federal laws passed in the 1800s to encourage westward expansion.
“We are defending the state of Oregon and the choice by its residents to protect iconic waterways and scenic rivers from damaging mining practices,” said Nick Cady, legal director of Cascadia Wildlands. “Asserting there is a ‘right to mine’ granted by an antiquated law from the 1800s is simply ridiculous.”
Suction dredge mining involves the use of a large, gas-powered vacuum to suck up gravel on the bottom of rivers in search of gold flakes. This practice targets gravel beds critical to salmon spawning and reproduction, and damages water quality and river hydrology. Motorized mining along streams clears riparian vegetation important for keeping streams cool for salmon survival, increases erosion, damages streamside wetlands and alters the floodplain.
“Suction dredge mining pollutes our waterways with toxic mercury, clouds streams with sediment, hurts endangered fish and wildlife and destroys cultural resources,” said Jonathan Evans, environmental health legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Oregonians have the right to safeguard the health of their families, waterways and wildlife from this damaging, outdated form of mining.”
The bill does not ban the mining practices, but simply puts in place temporary restrictions to protect areas critical to salmon and bull trout reproduction. The restrictions buy the state time to develop a regulatory regime for the relatively new mining practice.
“Motorized mining in and along our sensitive salmon streams is harmful to fish and water quality,” said Forrest English with Rogue Riverkeeper. “It’s high time to put the brakes on these methods of mining until long term solutions are developed that protect clean water and habitat for salmon.”
Concerns over this mining practice were heightened when miners began targeting iconic and high-use Oregon waterways and their tributaries.  
“Several south coast salmon-rich rivers are under threat from heavy suction-dredge mining every summer, especially the world-famous Rogue River, the Chetco River and their tributaries,” said Cameron La Follette with Oregon Coast Alliance. “The salmon economy is critically important to local communities on the south coast such as Brookings and Gold Beach. Oregon must restrict suction dredging to protect salmon habitat, water quality and community livelihood."
There are also concerns by numerous commercial and recreational organizations that suction dredge and other motorized mining practices are disruptive and harmful to fishing, an industry that generates approximately $780 million a year in spending in Oregon.  
“Letting a handful of people suck up whole river bottoms looking for flecks of gold makes no economic sense, since it destroys salmon habitat and just puts more commercial fishing families out of work,” said Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, a major commercial fishing industry association that is also intervening. “Senate Bill 838’s passage by the legislature simply recognized that it is not a good idea for the state of Oregon to continue to use taxpayer money to heavily subsidize the destruction of our rivers.”
The groups are also looking to protect the public’s investment in salmon restoration.  Hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars have been expended to restore streams damaged by past mining and industrial practices. The use of suction dredges and motorized mining equipment has been undoing many of these efforts.
“Allowing gas-powered dredges and heavy equipment to damage our delicate salmon streams directly undermines the $254 million investment Oregonians have made in salmon habitat restoration,” said Mark Sherwood with the Native Fish Society. “Oregonians and wild salmon deserve better.”  
The intervening organizations include Rogue Riverkeeper, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations and Institute for Fisheries, the Center for Biological Diversity, Oregon Coast Alliance, Native Fish Society and Cascadia Wildlands. They are represented by Pete Frost of the Western Environmental Law Center and Roger Flynn of Western Mining Action Project.



Oregon Slammed for “Flawed” Scientific Basis for Wolf Delisting

Nick Cady, (314) 482-3746,
Amaroq Weiss, (707) 779-9613,
Steve Pedery, (503) 283-6343 x 212,
Scientists Slam Oregon’s ‘Fundamentally Flawed’ Proposal to Strip Wolves of State Endangered Species Protections
Top Researchers Determine Wolf Population Far From Recovered  

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.

PORTLAND, Ore.— A group of leading independent scientists this week voiced their opposition to a plan to remove state protections from Oregon’s wolves, saying the estimated population of only 83 wolves cannot be considered recovered. The scientists identified significant flaws in a “population viability analysis” conducted by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife that claims wolves are at low risk of extinction.
The researchers’ critical analyses of the delisting plan are included in comments submitted today by conservation groups from the Pacific Wolf Coalition to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission, which is scheduled to vote Nov. 9 on whether to strip state Endangered Species Act protection from wolves.
“It is logically indefensible, and contrary to the notion of recovery under the Endangered Species Act, to suggest that wolves are in some way recovered when they’re still missing from nearly 90 percent of their suitable range in Oregon,” said Dr. Michael P. Nelson, the Ruth H. Spaniol chair of renewable resources and a professor of environmental ethics and philosophy at Oregon State University. “Dropping state protections for wolves right now would suggest that politics, rather than science and law, are guiding wildlife management decisions in Oregon.”
The state currently has about 83 wolves living in 10 packs, with several breeding pairs.
Under Oregon’s state wolf plan, reaching four breeding pairs for three consecutive years in the eastern half of the state triggers a status review. With its wolf population having reached that population threshold at the end of 2014, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife prepared a status review and recommended that wolves be delisted. But the commission has failed to initiate a formal peer review of the department’s analysis by an independent panel of experts, as required by state law.
The sole outside scientist who was asked by the state to comment on its wolf population status review raised serious questions about the review’s findings. Dr. Carlos Carroll, a wildlife ecologist with the Klamath Center for Conservation Research, whose research focuses on habitat, viability and connectivity modeling for threatened and endangered species, expressed concern in his written analysis that the manner in which certain factors were applied in the analysis “is overly optimistic compared to data from well-studied wolf populations,” and that the status review relied on information “that doesn’t accurately represent what is currently known about genetic threats to small wolf populations.”  
The department’s delisting recommendation relies largely on a population viability analysis questioned by multiple scientists, including one who characterizes it as being “fundamentally flawed” and not providing adequate or realistic assessments of Oregon’s wolf population to meet legally required delisting criteria. The scientists also raised concerns about the department’s delisting criteria assessment and about its apparent lack of understanding regarding social tolerance for wolves and other large predators.
“There appears to be little scientific evidence to justify Oregon’s assertion that a population of only 85 wolves is recovered,” said Dr. Guillaume Chapron, associate professor in quantitative ecology at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, where his research focuses on large carnivore conservation and management, with a particular emphasis on modeling and viability analysis.
“According to some of the world's foremost experts in wolf and population biology, the state of Oregon's move to strip gray wolves of protection simply doesn't reflect reality,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The scientists’ comments make clear that removing protections for wolves now runs directly counter to the Oregon Endangered Species Act, which requires such decisions to be based on solid, verifiable science.”
The commission has received more than 22,000 comment letters from the public, plus substantial testimony at three public meetings this year, opposing delisting the wolves.
“Conservation groups and tens of thousands of Oregonians have told the commission that delisting of Oregon’s tiny wolf population is premature and that wolves still face threats to their continued existence in significant portions of their historic range — and the scientific community wholeheartedly agrees,” said Steve Pedery, executive director of Oregon Wild.
The state’s estimated population of around 80 wolves is only 5 percent of what peer-reviewed science says the state could support, and wolves are entirely absent from nearly 90 percent of their historic range in Oregon.
“We have repeatedly asked the commission to conduct an outside, expert peer-review of ODFW’s status review as required under Oregon law and the Department’s own regulations,” said Nick Cady, Legal Director of Cascadia Wildlands. “Conducting an external scientific peer review on the Department’s proposal to ensure it can move forward with legal and scientific confidence is the right and only path forward..”
The Pacific Wolf Coalition includes the following member organizations:
BARK – California Wilderness Coalition – California Wolf Center – California Chapter Sierra Club – Cascadia Wildlands – Center for Biological Diversity – Conservation Northwest – Defenders of Wildlife – Earthjustice – Endangered Species Coalition – Environmental Protection Information Center – Gifford Pinchot Task Force – Hells Canyon Preservation Council – Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center – Living With Wolves – Mountain Lion Foundation – National Parks Conservation Association – Natural Resources Defense Council – Northeast Oregon Ecosystems – Oregon Chapter, Sierra Club – Oregon Wild – Predator Defense – Project Coyote – The Larch Company – Washington Chapter Sierra Club – Western Environmental Law Center – Western Watersheds Project – Wildlands Network – Wolf Haven International
Public Comment Opportunity
Cascadia Wildlands has partnered with Oregon Wild, Defenders of Wildlife and the Center for Biological Diversity to host a training in order to give folks interested in testifying a chance to practice their testimony and help them to refine their message.  We will be meeting at the Cascadia Wildlands office in Portland, 5825 N. Greeley Ave, December 4, 2015 from 6 to 8 pm.  See more on that event here:
Cascadia Wildlands' most recent testimony to the Fish and Wildlife Commission can be found here.

Six Groups File for Emergency Listing for Alexander Archipelago Wolf

by Leila Kheiry, KRBD-Ketchikan
September 14, 2015
Six conservation groups on Monday petitioned for an emergency Endangered Species Act listing for the Alexander Archipelago wolf.
In a letter addressed to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Daniel Ashe and Regional Director Geoffrey Haskett, the groups cite the recent drop in the estimated wolf population on Prince of Wales Island, and the decision by state and federal officials to move forward with a wolf hunting and trapping season there.
Gabriel Scott is a spokesman for Cascadia Wildlands, one of the petitioners. He said the conservation groups hadAA wolf mom at den__ADF&G photo from Person & Larson (2013) asked that the annual wolf hunt be suspended for a year, but that request was denied.
The federal subsistence wolf hunting season started on Sept. 1, and the subsistence trapping season starts Nov. 15. The state hunting and trapping season opens Dec. 1. The quota for this year, state and federal, is nine wolves.
Scott said he’s disappointed that the request to hold off on this year’s hunt was rejected.
“Our view is just that it’s reckless to manage a wolf hunt the same way for a declining, very low population as it is for a healthy population,” he said. “The way they operate might be fine for a critter like deer that’s not in danger of extinction, but when you’ve got maybe a few dozen wolves left on the island, you can’t treat it the same way.”
A state-run population study, announced in June, indicated that 89 wolves were on Prince of Wales Island and surrounding islands. That’s a steep drop from the previous year’s estimate of 221. That study has prompted increased calls from conservation groups to protect the remaining wolves in Game Management Unit 2.
Scott said he can’t predict how long it will take government agencies to respond to the request for an emergency listing for POW wolves. He notes that the federal government has been reviewing a non-emergency request to list the wolves for a number of years. A decision on that request is anticipated by the end of this year.
Scott said depending on the results of the various requests regarding Prince of Wales Island wolves, a lawsuit is possible.
“Litigation is certainly an option,” he said. “We’d have to evaluate it at the time, but it’s definitely in the cards.”
The six conservation groups that signed on to Monday’s letter asking for an emergency listing are Alaska Wildlife Alliance, Cascadia Wildlands, Center for Biological Diversity, Greater Southeast Alaska Conservation Community, Greenpeace and The Boat Company.
(Alexander Archipelago wolf and den by AK Dept of Fish and Game)

Land Board Moves Ahead on Elliott Sale

Capitol Bureau by Hillary Borrud
August 13, 2015
SALEM — The Oregon State Land Board voted unanimously Thursday to move ahead with a plan to sell the Elliott State Forest to a buyer who will agree to conservation and job creation mandates.
The goal is to sever the connection between the forest and a state trust fund that provides money for K-12 public education. Currently, the state has a mandate to raise revenue from timber sales from the forest for schools. However, the listing of endangered species in the forest and subsequent environmental lawsuits forced the state to scale back timber harvests in recent years, to the point where the state lost money on the operation.
Under the plan the State Land Board approved Thursday, the state could select a buyer by December 2016 and close on the sale by DecemberElliott rainforest (photo by Cascadia Wildlands) 2017.
Department of State Lands director Mary Abrams during the State Land Board meeting Thursday in Salem that the new plan has the potential to resolve in 26 months an issue “that has frustrated the board, as trustees, for almost two decades.” The state could extend the deadline by one more year if necessary to finalize financing for a deal, Abrams said.
The land board is composed of the governor, secretary of state and state treasurer.
The state lost approximately $5 million on the Elliott State Forest over the last two years, and state officials expect the forest will continue to operate with an annual deficit of $500,000 to $1 million indefinitely under the status quo.
Environmental groups and individuals said during testimony Thursday they want the Elliott State Forest to remain in public ownership, whether that means the federal government or a state agency. The state faces the challenge of finding a buyer who can pay fair market value for the 84,000 acres in the Elliott forest, which is required because of the connection to the state school fund.
“We’re actually going to be asking for three appraisals and then a review appraisal to ensure we come up with a number that is truly defensible,” Abrams said of the property value.
Jim Green, deputy executive director of the Oregon School Boards Association, told the State Land Board members they were “actually in violation of your fiduciary responsibility” because the forest is currently losing money from the school fund. “You have a role as the trustees of the common school fund to ensure you get the highest value for the common school fund going forward.”
The protocol the land board approved on Thursday will require any buyer of the forest to purchase the entire property and allow public access for hiking, fishing, hunting and other recreation on at least 50 percent of the land. The buyer will also have to protect older timber stands in 25 percent of the forestland from harvest, and ensure at least 40 direct and indirect jobs are created annually over the next decade from logging, reforestation, recreation or other activities.
Finally, the buyer must maintain 120-foot stream buffers in all areas with salmon, steelhead or bull trout and areas upstream.
Potential buyers now have 14 months to formulate proposals, although they must notify the state of their interest by Dec. 15. Environmental groups said during testimony Thursday they hope to raise money from a combination of private and public sources to purchase the forest, then possibly transfer it to a public owner. A bill that would have established a state system to protect trust land such as the Elliott State Forest, House Bill 3474, died in committee earlier this year but some people said they hope lawmakers to revive the proposal in 2016.
Seth Barnes, director of forest policy for the Oregon Forest Industries Council, said the land board should consider that the timber industry remains an important part of the economy in the southwest region of the state.
“I was just encouraging them to keep in mind the timber revenue jobs that come off these properties are incredibly important to Oregon,” Barnes said after the meeting. Barnes said the plan approved Thursday could reduce annual timber harvests on the Elliott State Forest from 40 million board feet down to 20 million, and each 1 million board feet of timber harvested directly creates approximately 11 jobs.
Josh Laughlin, interim executive director of Eugene-based Cascadia Wildlands, said the group wants the state to require that any buyer allow public access to the entire forestland.
“We support you working with land trust organizations and other organizations to make the common school fund whole,” Laughlin said, but he added that Oregonians want to keep the forest in public ownership. Specifically, Laughlin said the state should transfer the Elliott State Forest to the Siuslaw National Forest and pay for the deal with a combination of federal, state and private money.
Christy Splitt, coordinator for the Oregon Conservation Network, said state officials should provide “bold leadership” to coordinate efforts to decouple the Elliott State Forest from the school fund in a way that preserves the forest for the public. Conservationists are “reaching out to people with capital, in the Silicon Valley” and across the country in an effort to line up money to purchase the Elliott State Forest. Splitt said the state’s time line might be too short for a trust land proposal to succeed, if lawmakers reboot the idea.
Abrams said the state plan allows time for a trust land plan, if one moves forward, and she said it is now time “to stop debating and get to work.”
“There has to be a little pressure put on the people who are interested in the future of the Elliott,” Abrams said.
(School kids in the Elliott State Forest, photo by Cascadia Wildlands)

Oregon Land Board May Seek Buyer for Elliott State Forest

The Associated Press by Jeff Barnard
August 7, 2015
GRANTS PASS — The Oregon State Land Board is scheduled to vote on a plan to find an unusual buyer for the Elliott State Forest: one that will pay a fair market price, conserve older trees, protect threatened fish and wildlife, produce logs for local mills, and leave it open to the public.
The board, made up of the governor, the secretary of state, and the state treasurer, meets Thursday in Salem to consider the 315-page proposal.
The 140-square-mile forest in the Coast Range north of Coos Bay was created in 1930 and 90 percent of it generates money for schools. It once produced $8 million a year but lately has been running $1 million a year in the red. Attempts to ramp up logging to produce $13 million annually for schools failed. Lawsuits continually blocked timber sales on grounds they failed to maintain habitat for federally protected coho salmon and IMG_4527the marbled murrelet, a seabird that nests in big old trees.
Department of State lands spokeswoman Julie Curtis acknowledges that finding such a buyer is a tall order, but a series of hearings identified all those elements as priorities for Oregon residents. The board rejected two other alternatives, to find a new manager for the forest, and to develop a new plan for protecting threatened salmon and wildlife that would produce more timber.
Curtis said the department has been meeting with representatives of local governments and agencies, timber companies and conservation groups, but so far all are keeping their intentions to themselves. If no buyers emerge, the department goes back to the board in December 2016. Two options would be to retain the forest while accepting losses of $1 million a year, or selling it without the conservation and public access restrictions.
Josh Laughlin of the conservation group Cascadia Wildlands said it would favor a public land trust buying the forest and selling it back to the federal government, so it could be returned to the Siuslaw National Forest. That would retain public access and conservation protections, particularly on the half of the forest that has never been logged.
Bob Ragon, director of Douglas Timber Operators, said he could not imagine a private timber company being interested in buying the forest, because of all the conditions being imposed.
"I think (the board has) struggled so hard trying to find a happy ground that would meet everybody's interest, that the simplest solution would be to sell it to the highest bidder, and put restrictions on it like no log exports, which would keep the highest return for the School Fund," he said.
(Rally to save the Elliott State Forest. Photo by Cascadia Wildlands.)

Lawsuit Launched to Protect Northwest Prairie Bird Species

For Immediate Release, August 5, 2015
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 434-1463,
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495,
Lawsuit Launched to Gain Stronger Protections for Northwest Bird
Gaping Loophole in Federal Protection Exempts Farming, Spraying, Airport Activities Harmful to Streaked Horned Larks in Oregon, Washington
Photo courtesy of US Fish and WildlifePORTLAND, Ore.— Four conservation groups filed a formal notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today seeking to strengthen protections for the streaked horned lark, which has lost 98 percent its grassland habitat. The lawsuit will challenge an October 2013 decision by the agency to protect the lark as “threatened” rather than the more protective “endangered” status and to exempt all agriculture, chemical spraying, and airport activities from the prohibitions of the Endangered Species Act regardless of whether they harm the lark.  
“Protecting the streaked horned lark under the Endangered Species Act means nothing if all of its threats are exempted from protection,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The lark exemption creates a loophole big enough for a combine or a 747. It seriously threatens the survival of these handsome, horned songbirds.”
Formerly a common nesting species in prairies west of the Cascade Mountains from southern British Columbia through Washington and Oregon, the lark was so abundant around Puget Sound that it was considered a nuisance by turn-of-the-century golfers. The widespread destruction of its grassland habitats, however, caused cataclysmic population declines. It has been extirpated from the San Juan Islands, northern Puget Sound, Oregon’s Rogue Valley and Canada. In Washington it currently breeds at only 10 sites, including Grays Harbor, Fort Lewis, the Olympia airport and islands in the Lower Columbia River. In Oregon it breeds in the lower Columbia River and Willamette Valley, including at the Portland, Salem, Corvallis, McMinnville and Eugene airports.
“The streaked horned lark is already gone from many of the places it used to call home and is continuing to decline,” said Andrew Hawley. “If the lark is going to have any chance at survival, it needs the full protections of the Endangered Species Act.”
The streaked horned lark is a small, ground-dwelling songbird with conspicuous feather tufts, or “horns,” on its head. Its back is heavily streaked with black, contrasting sharply with its ruddy nape and yellow underparts. They are part of a growing list of species that are imperiled by loss of prairies in the Willamette Valley and Puget Trough to urban and agricultural sprawl, including the Fender's blue butterfly, Taylor's checkerspot butterfly, Willamette daisy, Kincaid's lupine and others.  
“Many people don't even know that prairies were once a common feature in both the Willamette Valley and Puget Sound,” said Nick Cady, Legal Director with Cascadia Wildlands. “If we save the lark, we are protecting an important part of the Northwest's natural heritage.”
The groups on the lawsuit are the Cascadia Wildlands, Center for Biological Diversity, Northwest Environmental Defense Center, and Oregon Wild.  
Find a copy of the Notice of Intent here.



Appeals Court Affirms Roadless Protections on Tongass

E&E by Phil Taylor
Thursday, July 30, 2015
By the thinnest of margins, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday ruled to reinstate roadless protections on the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, marking a major victory for conservationists and tourism companies fighting to protect the temperate rainforest from new logging and a defeat for the state's declining timber industry.
The decision, backed by six of the panel's 11 judges, found that the George W. Bush administration failed to provide a "reasoned" explanation for exempting the lands from President Clinton's sweeping national roadless rule.
Clinton's 2001 rule banned most road building and logging across 58 million acres of the nation's forests, including roughly 9 million acres, or just over half, of the Tongass.Tongass NF (David Beebe)
Conservationists said the ruling would protect some of the last remaining stands of old-growth temperate rainforest in the world while allowing limited economic development including hydropower, transmission lines, mining and tourism projects.
"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, one of a dozen environmental litigants in the case.
The others were the Organized Village of Kake, the Boat Co., the Alaska Wilderness Recreation and Tourism Association, the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Tongass Conservation Society, Greenpeace, the Wrangell Resource Council, the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club.
But Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) argued the ruling would restrict access across forestlands the size of New Jersey. She plans to advance S. 631, a bill to permanently exempt the Tongass from the Clinton plan.
While southeast Alaska once boasted two massive pulp mills, it now contains just one significant mill, Viking Lumber on Prince of Wales Island. Timber harvests have fallen by 70 percent, causing jobs in the industry to fall from around 2,100 in 2000 to an average of about 100 last winter, Murkowski said, citing state data.
"The roadless rule may make sense in the Lower 48, where there are existing roads and utility lines on national forest lands, but in Alaska, where little, if any, infrastructure exists, it is truly counterproductive," she said.
Yesterday's ruling reverses a 2-1 decision in March 2014 by a smaller 9th Circuit panel that found the Bush administration's temporary rule in 2003 exempting the Tongass from roadless protections was "entirely rational" (Greenwire, March 27, 2014).
That ruling, which was cheered by former Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell (R) and the state's congressional delegation, had reversed a 2011 decision by a district court judge in favor of the Clinton rule.
But the full 9th Circuit found the three-member panel had gotten it wrong.
Namely, it said the Bush administration, in exempting the Tongass, had failed to reconcile two conflicting statements.
When the Clinton administration finalized its roadless rule in 2001, it included the Tongass on the grounds that current forest management in Alaska posed a high risk to the "extraordinary ecological values of the Tongass." The Bush administration, under legal pressure from Alaska, reversed course in 2003, finding "roadless values are plentiful on the Tongass and are well protected by the Tongass Forest Plan. The minor risk of the loss of such values is outweighed by the more certain socioeconomic costs of applying the roadless rule's prohibitions."
The Bush administration found that the roadless rule could eventually cost southeast Alaska 900 jobs.
But "the 2003 [decision] does not explain why an action that it found posed a prohibitive risk to the Tongass environment only two years before now poses merely a ‘minor’ one,” the 9th Circuit ruled in an opinion penned by Judge Andrew Hurwitz, a President Obama appointee. “The absence of a reasoned explanation for disregarding previous factual findings violates the [Administrative Procedure Act]."
As a result, the court added, the Clinton rule "remains in effect and applies to the Tongass."
While the court acknowledged that elections "have policy consequences," the Forest Service "may not simply discard prior factual findings
without a reasoned explanation."
But five of the panel's judges disagreed, writing in a dissent that "the policies of the new president will occasionally clash with, and supplant, those of the previous president."
"The majority has selected what it believes to be the better policy, and substituted its judgment for that of the agency, which was simply following the political judgments of the new administration," wrote Judge Milan Smith, a Bush appointee.
Alaska's attorneys in the case have argued that most of the Tongass roadless areas were already closed to logging in 2001, and that the exemption would only affect roughly 300,000 acres.
They argued that the Forest Service's change of course in 2003 was "well reasoned" and rested on the conclusion that Congress had found the Tongass was sufficiently protected by previous laws, namely the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980.
The agency "reweighed the balance of social and economic impacts" and decided the exemption would "best implement the spirit and letter of the law," the state said.
Judge Alex Kozinski, a Reagan administration appointee, joined Smith's dissent but wrote his own separate dissent noting the "absurdity" of the court still reviewing at the end of the Obama administration a policy issued at the beginning of the Bush administration.
"The glacial pace of administrative litigation shifts authority from the political branches to the judiciary and invites the type of judicial policymaking that Judge Smith points out," Kozinski wrote. "This is just one of the ways we as a nation have become less a democracy and more an oligarchy governed by a cadre of black-robed mandarins."
(photo by David Beebe of the Tongass National Forest)

Legal Battle Results in Protections for Alaska’s Tongass National Forest

NEWS RELEASE: August 29, 2015
Gabe Scott, Cascadia Wildlands, 907.491.0856,
Liz Judge, Earthjustice, 415.217.2007,
Anne Hawke, 202-513-6263, 
Jacob Eisenberg, 202-289-2391,
Ninth Circuit Ensures Continuing Protection of Roadless Areas of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest
Court rejects attempts to exempt the Tongass from the Roadless Rule
Juneau, AK — In a major victory for America’s last great rainforest, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit struck down a Bush administration exemption of the Tongass National Forest from the “Roadless Rule,” a landmark conservation rule adopted in 2001 to protect nearly 60 million acres of wild national forests and grasslands from new road building and logging. The Court held the Bush administration failed to provide a reasoned explanation for reversing course on the Tongass. It concluded the Roadless Rule “remains in effect and applies to the Tongass.”  
 “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 urge the State of Alaska to stop with these wasteful legal battles and recognize that it is a privilege, not a burden, to conserve these national treasures for future generations.”
This case originated in 2009 when a diverse coalition of Alaska Native, tourism industry, and environmental organizations, represented by attorneys from Earthjustice and Natural Resources Defense Council, challenged the Bush Administration’s 2003 rule “temporarily” exempting the Tongass from the Roadless Rule.  The Roadless Rule blocks expensive and controversial new logging roads and clearcuts in intact forests while allowing other economic development—including hydropower, transmission lines, mining, and tourism projects—to proceed.  The Tongass—occupying most of Southeast Alaska—is the nation’s largest and wildest national forest.  In 2011, a federal judge in Alaska ruled in the coalition’s favor, vacating the Tongass exemption and reinstating the Roadless Rule’s application to the Tongass. The State of Alaska then appealed the decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where a 3-judge panel last year reversed the Alaska judge’s opinion by a 2-1 split vote. Today’s order affirmed the district court’s decision and maintains protections for the roadless areas of the Tongass.
Attorneys from Earthjustice and the Natural Resources Defense Council represent the following groups in the case:  Cascadia Wildlands, 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, and Sierra Club.
For a copy of the opinion click here.



Cascadia’s Efforts to Save Alaskan Wolves in the News

by Leila Kheiry, Ketchikan Community Radio for Southern Southeast Alaska

Citing a state study that shows a sharp decline in the wolf population on Prince of Wales Island and surrounding islands, six conservation groups have asked state and federal officials to take steps to help preserve the remaining animals.

Specifically, the six organizations want the state to cancel the upcoming wolf trapping and hunting season on POW, the federal Office of Subsistence Management to cancel the subsistence wolf harvest, and the Forest Service to halt logging activity on the Big Thorne Timber Sale.

Gabriel Scott is the legal director with the Alaska office of Cascadia Wildlands. He said the population numbers for POW wolves has not been clearly known for a long time.

“There’s new data, just come out, with a reasonable population estimate. And it’s much, much lower than it ought to be,” he said. “So that’s the bottom line: The population appears to be crashing on the island, and we can’t afford to let that happen.”

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game last month released a report showing that the number of wolves in Game Management Unit 2 had dropped in a single year from 221 to 89. The numbers are estimates, based on a relatively small study area on Prince of Wales Island.

To get that estimate, the number of wolves in the study area is counted, and that number is expanded to the rest of the game management unit. The estimate of 89 wolves is the midpoint of a range. The population could be as low as 50, or as high as 159, according to Fish and Game.

Gabriel Scott said the only way to get those numbers up is to halt all hunting for the time being, and make sure adequate habitat is in place for the wolves and their main source of food, which is Sitka blacktail deer.

“One of the big pieces of this puzzle that often gets overlooked is the habitat component,” he said. “That’s where the rubber meets the road. The deer population is not high enough to support human hunters and wolves. And when that happens, the wolves are the ones who go.”

Habitat in this case means old-growth forest, which is why the groups want to stop logging on the Big Thorne Timber Sale.

Tongass National Forest Spokesman Kent Cummins confirms that the Forest Service has received the letter from the six conservation groups. He said officials will revisit the issue to see whether there is a need for a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, which is one of the requests in the letter.

“I think, with a sense of urgency, they’ll look at this information,” Cummins said. “If necessary, they’ll proceed with another supplement.”

He said the Forest Service takes its role as a steward of the land seriously. But, he said, it can be a delicate balancing act.

The Big Thorne Timber Sale is a critical project from an economic point of view, and it’s meant to help the timber industry stay afloat as it switches from old-growth to second-growth harvest.

“It gives a multi-year supply of timber there on Prince of Wales, and stability for jobs, and giving local businesses the opportunity to retool and seek new markets for the young growth trees,” Cummins said. “That’s the dilemma.”

He said logging is taking place now on the Big Thorne Timber Sale. Halting that activity immediately while the Forest Service looks into the wolf population report is unlikely without a court-ordered injunction.

And then there’s hunting and trapping.

Ryan Scott is Southeast Region Supervisor for Fish and Game. He said he hasn’t read the letter sent to the state asking for suspension of the coming wolf harvest on POW. However, he said that from the agency’s perspective, there isn’t a conservation concern about that wolf population.

“Even with the lower estimate, the number of animals there, and what we know about the animals there, suggests that they’re viable and they’re going to persist well into the future,” he said.

Ryan Scott said the state’s hunting and trapping season starts Dec. 1, which gives officials time to look into wolf numbers and options for the season. They’ve already reduced the maximum allowed harvest from 30 percent to 20 percent of the estimated population.

“Recognizing that we had such a decline in the estimates, I don’t think it’s very likely that we would open it to the maximum allowable harvest of 18 wolves,” he said. “Where that harvest quota would land, that’s undetermined at this point.”

Gabriel Scott of Cascadia said he doesn’t share the state’s confidence that POW wolves will be OK. He points to the fact that his organization is asking for a halt to the subsistence harvest as evidence of how serious they believe the situation has become.

“Asking to stop a subsistence hunt is a really extraordinary step for us to take,” he said. “It’s the absolute last thing that we would want to do.”

The subsistence harvest is set to start on Sept. 1. A call to the Federal Office of Subsistence Management in Anchorage wasn’t returned.

The six organizations that submitted the letters are Cascadia Wildlands, Center for Biological Diversity, Greater Southeast Alaska Conservation Community, the Boat Company, Alaska Wildlife Alliance and Greenpeace.

See the original article and listen to the radio interview here.


Wyden, Merkley Introduce New Oregon Wilderness Bill

The Statesman Journal by Zach Urness
June 25, 2015
Oregon senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley introduced a bill today that would provide new environmental protections for 200,000 acres of land and 250 miles of river in the Beaver State.
The Oregon Wildlands Act would create one new wilderness area in the Coast Range, expand another wilderness area in Southern Oregon and create two new national recreation areas.
The bill would create the 30,500-acre Devil's Staircase Wilderness from a remote canyon of old-growth forest east of Reedsport in the Central Coast Range. It would also designate 14.6 miles of Franklin and Wasson creeks — which runs through the Devil's Staircase area — as Wild and Scenic Rivers.
The bill expands the Wild Rogue Wilderness by 56,000 acres and creates the 95,000-acre Rogue Canyon National Recreation Area in southwest Oregon.
Both the Devil's Staircase Wilderness and Wild Rogue Wilderness addition have been targets for conservation for the past decade, and introduced in bills in the U.S. Senate and House multiple times.
"These world-class landscapes in western Oregon are long overdue for permanent protection," said Josh Laughlin with Eugene-based Cascadia Wildlands, which has been working for nearly a decade to safeguard the areas. "They are what make Oregon such a desirable place to live, provide anchor habitat for imperiled salmon and wildlife and give us some of the cleanest water around."
Closer to the Willamette Valley, the bill would also create the 24,000-acre Molalla National Recreation Area.
"Protecting some of Oregon's most breathtaking and unspoiled lands ensures healthy habitats for countless species of plants and animals, benefits local economies that depend on these areas and creates new recreation opportunities for Oregonians and visitors from across the country," Wyden said in a press release. "Preserving these lands is a top priority, and Senator Merkley and I are going to be working to do all that we can to protect them."
Click here to read each section by section of the bill.
(Photo of Devil's Staircase by Tim Giraudier,
we like it wild. Follow us Facebook Twiter RSS