In The Media

May02

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

For immediate release
May 2, 2016
 
Contact: Nick Cady, Legal Director, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746, nick@cascwild.org
 
Ethics Complaint Filed Against State Representatives Over Gray Wolf Delisting Legislation
 
EUGENE, OR – Today, Cascadia Wildlands submitted a complaint to the Oregon Government Ethics Commission alleging numerous false statements and misrepresentations made by State Representatives Greg Barreto, Brad Witt, and Sal Esquivel in order to secure passage of House Bill 4040 (HB4040) during this spring’s legislative session.  HB4040 legislatively removed the gray wolf from Oregon’s list of threatened and endangered species.
 
On November 9, 2015, Oregon’s Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to remove gray wolves from the state’s list of endangered species, despite only approximately 80 wolves residing in the state at the time.  This decision was widely criticized as unscientific and politically driven, and was challenged by Cascadia Wildlands, Oregon Wild and the Center for Biological Diversity in state court.  HB4040 referenced the delisting decision, but the three lawmakers, including Rep. Barreto, the bill’s author and sponsor, asserted both in the course of legislative hearings and through documents distributed to other state legislators that HB 4040 would have no impact on judicial review of the commission’s controversial delisting decision.
 
“Our government is founded upon a system of checks and balances, including access to the courtroom, and these politicians worked overtime to remove our ability to bring this important case in front of a judge,” says Nick Cady, Legal Director with Cascadia Wildlands. “Oregon’s small wolf population and advocates for democracy ended up being the losers.”
 
Conservation advocates repeatedly warned that HB4040 would in fact undermine the public’s ability to challenge the commission’s wolf delisting decision. However, it was not until after the bill’s passage through Oregon House of Representatives that an inquiry by Oregon’s Legislative Counsel Committee uncovered that the only effect of the bill was to prevent judicial review of the wolf delisting decision.
 
On April 22, Oregon’s Court of Appeals dismissed the legal case brought by the three conservation organization, specifically stating the “enactment of HB4040 renders the judicial review moot and dismisses the judicial review on that ground.”
 
ORS 171.764(1) regulating ethical conduct maintains that no public official shall make any false statement or misrepresentation to any legislative or executive official.
 
“Lawmakers undermine the public’s trust when they mislead their colleagues and make false statements,” says Nick Cady, Legal Director with Cascadia Wildlands. “The Oregon Government Ethics Commission should determine whether Representatives Barreto, Witt, and Esquivel were deliberately mischaracterizing HB4040 in their attempt to fast track the removal of protections for Oregon’s recovering wolf population. The misrepresentations surrounding HB4040 allowed the bill to pass through Oregon’s Legislature, and gray wolves will ultimately pay the price.”
 
The ethics complaint lists several instances of lawmakers declaring that HB4040 does not undermine judicial review.
 
 
If found in violation of ethics laws guarding against false statement or misrepresentation, lawmakers could face civil penalties.
Apr04

Fed’s Failure to Protect Wolverines Ruled Illegal

For Immediate Release                                        
April 4, 2015
 
Contacts:    
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, 314-482-3746, nick@cascwild.org
Matthew Bishop, Western Environmental Law Center, 406-422-9866, bishop@westernlaw.org  
Bethany Cotton, WildEarth Guardians, 406-414-7227, bcotton@wildearthguardians.org  
 
Wolverine (Guio gulo) adult on a frozen river during winter in the Rocky Mountains of Montana. Captive Animal

Wolverine (Guio gulo) adult on a frozen river during winter in the Rocky Mountains of Montana.

 
Judge Rules Feds Improperly Refused to Protect Wolverines
Orders Reconsideration of Safeguards for Species Imperiled by Climate Change
 
MISSOULA, Mont. – Today, the federal district court for Montana rejected a decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) to deny protections for wolverines in the contiguous U.S. The court ruled the Service improperly ignored science and violated the Endangered Species Act. A broad coalition of conservation organizations challenged the Service’s refusal to protect imperiled wolverines by listing them under the ESA.
 
“Today’s win is a victory not just for wolverine but for all species whose fate relies on the scientific integrity of the Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians. “We call on the agency to stop playing politics and start living up to its mandate to protect our country’s most imperiled species.”
 
Often called “southern polar bears,” wolverines are custom built for cold, snowy climates and depend on areas with spring snow for denning and year-round habitat. Science shows climate change may eliminate nearly two-thirds of the snowy habitat needed by wolverines in the contiguous U.S. within 75 years. This means significantly less habitat and/or worsened habitat fragmentation for the approximately 250-300 wolverines that remain in the lower 48 states.
 
The Service originally identified climate change, in conjunction with small population size, as the primary threat to wolverine existence in the contiguous U.S. Published, peer-reviewed research, the larger scientific community – including the Society for Conservation Biology – an independent scientific panel, the majority of experts who reviewed the decision, and the Service’s own biologists all verified this finding. The Service proposed listing the wolverine as a “threatened” species under the ESA in 2013. At the eleventh hour, however, the Service reversed course and chose not to protect wolverine, citing too many “uncertainties” in the scientific literature.
 
Today, the court rejected this excuse, holding the agency accountable for its decision to discount the best available science about climate impacts on wolverine. “[T]he Service’s decision against listing the wolverine as threatened under the ESA is arbitrary and capricious. No greater level of certainty is needed to see the writing on the wall for this snow-dependent species standing squarely in the path of global climate change. It has taken us twenty years to get to this point. It is the [Court’s] view that if there is one thing required of the Service under the ESA, it is to take action at the earliest possible, defensible point in time to protect against the loss of biodiversity within our reach as a nation. For the wolverine. That time is now." Opinion at page 83.
 
The court correctly noted that the ESA directs the Service to make listing decisions based on the best available science, not the best possible science. This means the agency cannot make the perfect the enemy of the good. Instead, it must use and rely on the best science available when making listing decisions, which it failed to do in this case.
 
“The court sent a clear message to the Service: don't let politics trump science,” said Matthew Bishop, a Western Environmental Law Center attorney who represented the conservation groups. “The Service cannot ignore the published literature and advice of its own biologists when making important listing decisions.”
 
Today’s ruling requires the agency to make a new final listing determination for wolverines. The ruling also restores the Service’s proposed rule to list wolverine and the wolverine’s status as a candidate species under the ESA.
 
“Cascadia Wildlands is very encouraged by the court's rejection of political game playing by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Nick Cady with Cascadia Wildlands. "As with all species, wolverines deserve conservation and protections based upon sound science. This legal victory sets the stage for further reform of a deteriorating U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the installment of protections for this struggling species across the West.”
 
“We hope the Fish and Wildlife Service wastes no more time in granting wolverines Endangered Species Act protection,” said Keith Hammer, chair of Swan View Coalition. “This rare species deserves all the help it can get as we hit record-setting temperatures here in Montana.”
 
“We need to do everything we can to protect wolverines and wolverine habitat in the face of climate change and a snowballing extinction crisis," said Greg Costello, executive director of Wildlands Network. “Our actions should be rooted in precaution and the best available science—not political nitpicking.”
 
“With only 300 wolverine spread across the Western U.S., it is refreshing to see the court appreciates the precarious state of wolverine populations and confirm the findings of the Fish and Wildlife Service's own biologists that the species merits ESA protection,” said ecologist George Wuerthner.
 
“Wolverines deserve protection, not political shenanigans,” said Arlene Montgomery of Friends of the Wild Swan. “The Fish and Wildlife Service must now do its job to protect and recover this imperiled animal.”
 
“It is reassuring to know that our court system is doing its job, even while other branches of government flounder,” said Larry Campbell of Friends of the Bitterroot. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is apparently willing to illegally sacrifice an awesome species and good science while ineptly playing politics. Go wolverines!”
 
A copy of the decision is available here.
 
A copy of the original complaint is available here.
 
Matthew Bishop and John Mellgren of the Western Environmental Law Center and Sarah McMillan of WildEarth Guardians represented WildEarth Guardians, Cascadia Wildlands, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Cottonwood Environmental Law Center, Footloose Montana, Friends of the Bitterroot, Friends of the Wild Swan, George Wuerthner, Helena Hunters and Anglers Association, Kootenai Environmental Alliance, Native Ecosystem Council, Oregon Wild, and the Swan View Coalition on the case.
 
Additional quotes from the decision:
 
“Why did the Service make the decision [to not list the wolverine]?…Based on the record, the Court suspects that a possible answer to this question can be found in the immense political pressure that was brought to bear on this issue, particularly by a handful of western states.” Opinion at page 56.
 
“This strikes the Court as the essence of arbitrary and capricious decision making.” Opinion at page 61 (discussing climate change claim).
 
“[A]s Plaintiffs’ counsel rightly pointed out … the Service’s stance here borders on the absurd – if evidence shows that wolverines need snow for denning purposes, and the best available science projects a loss of snow as a result of climate where and when wolverines den, then what sense does it make to deny that climate change is a threat to the wolverine simply because research has yet to prove exactly why wolverines need snow for denning?” Opinion at page 67 (discussing climate change claim).
 
“If ever there was a species for which conservation depends on foregoing absolute certainty, it is the wolverine.” Opinion at page 68 (discussing why we don’t need absolute certainty for why wolverine need deep persistent snow).
 
Background:
 
Wolverine number just 250-300 individuals in the contiguous U.S. and are dependent on high elevation habitat with deep winter snows. Imperiled by climate change, habitat loss and trapping, wolverine were first petitioned for ESA protections in 2000. The Service found the petition did not contain adequate information to justify a listing. A federal court overturned that decision in 2006. The Service then issued a negative 12-month finding in 2008, which was challenged in court resulting in a settlement that led to a new finding that wolverine should be protected under the ESA, but that other priorities precluded the listing at that time. A landmark settlement with WildEarth Guardians, which resolves the backlog of imperiled species awaiting protections, then guaranteed a new finding for wolverine. In February 2013, the Service proposed listing the wolverine as “threatened” under the ESA. In August 2014, however, the Service reversed course and issued a decision not to list the species, contradicting its own expert scientists’ recommendations. Today’s ruling is in response to the organizations’ legal challenge to that decision.
 
Image courtesy of © David J. Cox/NaturalExposures.com (high-res version here)
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Mar29

U.S. Supreme Court Denies Effort to Overturn Tongass National Forest Protections

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 29, 2016

CONTACTS

Gabe Scott | Cascadia Wildlands | gscott@cascwild.org | (907) 491-0856
Tom Waldo | Earthjustice | twaldo@earthjustice.org | (907) 500‐7123
Niel Lawrence | Natural Resources Defense Council | nlawrence@nrdc.org | (360) 534‐9900
Buck Lindekugel | Southeast Alaska Conservation Council | buck@seacc.org | (907) 586‐6942
Catalina Tresky | Defenders of Wildlife | ctresky@defenders.org | (202) 772‐0253
Virginia Cramer | Sierra Club | virginia.cramer@sierraclub.org | (804) 519‐8449

U.S. Supreme Court Denies Effort to Overturn Tongass National Forest Protections

Court leaves rules in place that protect Tongass rainforest
wildlands from damaging logging, road construction

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to hear a last‐ditch effort by the State of Alaska to exempt America’s largest national forest from a national rule protecting undeveloped, road‐free national forest areas from logging and road
construction. The State sought to overturn a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that
kept the Roadless Area Conservation Rule in effect in the vast Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska. The Ninth Circuit agreed with a federal District Court in Alaska that the Bush administration improperly exempted the Tongass from that landmark
conservation measure.

“The Tongass’ roadless rainforests are a national treasure, and the last, best intact wildlands in our bioregion,” said Gabriel Scott, Alaska legal director for Cascadia Wildlands. “We are pleased with the court’s decision and the recognition that it is a privilege, not a burden, to conserve these national treasures for future generations.”

A coalition including the Organized Village of Kake (a federally recognized Alaska Native tribe), tourism businesses, and conservationists joined the federal government in urging the Supreme Court to leave the lower court rulings intact.

“Today’s court order is great news for Southeast Alaska and for all those who visit this
spectacular place,” said Earthjustice attorney Tom Waldo. “The remaining wild and
undeveloped parts of the Tongass are important wildlife habitat and vital to local
residents for hunting, fishing, recreation, and tourism, the driving forces of the local
economy. The Supreme Court’s decision means that America’s biggest national forest—the Tongass—will continue to benefit from a common‐sense rule that applies
nationwide.”

“It feels terrific to put this case to bed once and for all,” added Niel Lawrence, senior
attorney and Alaska Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Punching
clearcuts and logging roads into America’s last great rainforest wildland produced
nothing but controversy, conflict, and uncertainty. The region can now move ahead on a
path that benefits from and sustains the fabulous natural values that attract people to
the Tongass. And all Americans can celebrate, knowing that we’ll pass on the crown
jewel of national forests to future generations as wild and wonderful as it is today.”

“Southeast Alaska has moved on,” said Buck Lindekugel, Grassroots Attorney for the
Southeast Alaska Conservation Council. “Clearcutting old‐growth forests in the remote
wildlands of our region, with expensive new logging roads no one can afford to
maintain, is a thing of the past. We are pleased to see the Supreme Court put this issue to rest and call on the State of Alaska to do the same.”

“The Supreme Court’s decision today is a victory for wildlife in the Tongass National
Forest, the state of Alaska, the region and the nation,” said Peter Nelson, senior policy
advisor for federal lands for Defenders of Wildlife. “The Roadless Rule protects the
wildlands that form the heart of America’s largest national forest within the most
expansive temperate rainforest in the world. Future generations will now have the
opportunity to experience the majesty of this ecosystem and the salmon, bears, wolves, birds and the myriad wildlife that depend on it.”

“The Roadless Rule protects our intact ancient forests that salmon, bears, and wolves
depend upon. Alaska’s temperate rainforest is a treasure and today’s decision will help
keep the Tongass protected from more logging and destruction,” said Marc Fink, Senior
Attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity.

“We're pleased to see the Roadless Rule upheld again. Over the past decade we’ve seen that the rule works. It has protected millions of acres of forests across the country,
ensuring that both wildlife and American families have space to live and explore. In the
face of a rapidly changing climate, protecting forests like the Tongass is even more
important," said Alli Harvey, with the Sierra Club's Our Wild America campaign in Alaska. "It's common sense to protect this wild national icon for future generations to enjoy."

Background

The so‐called “Roadless Rule” was designed to protect “large, relatively undisturbed
landscapes” in national forests from logging roads and clear‐cuts, while allowing other
economic development — including hydropower projects, transmission lines, tourism,
federally‐financed public roads, and even mining — to continue.

Today’s ruling is good news for the many residents of the region and local businesses
who use and depend on the Tongass’ outstanding natural values, as well as visitors who
come to see America’s last great rainforest, teeming with fish and wildlife that thrive in
its undeveloped roadless areas. Little practical change is expected, however, since even
when the Bush‐era exemption was in effect, cost and controversy kept almost all logging out of roadless areas. And last year, a federal advisory committee including
representatives of the timber industry and the State formally and unanimously
recommended against further logging of those wildlands.

The 17 million‐acre Tongass spans 500 miles of coastal Southeast Alaska, encompassing alpine meadows, deep fjords, calving glaciers, dense old‐growth rainforest, and over 1,000 islands and islets. After much debate and hundreds of thousands of comments, in 2001, the Agriculture Department decided that the Roadless Rule should apply to the Tongass but included special measures to blunt the impact of the rule on Alaska’s timber industry. Not applying the rule, the department found, “would risk the loss of important roadless values” in the Tongass. When the Bush administration reversed course and tried to exempt the Tongass from the Roadless Rule, it relied on factual findings at odds with those that justified its original decision and ignored the economic mitigation package for the Tongass. It asserted, without support, that the rule was not needed to protect Tongass wildlands and would cause widespread economic hardship.

The Ninth Circuit’s ruling — and today’s decision by the Supreme Court not to review
that ruling — reinforced the settled rule that federal agencies cannot arbitrarily change
policies and ignore previous factual findings simply because a new president has taken
office.

Attorneys from Earthjustice and the Natural Resources Defense Council represent the
following groups in the case: Organized Village of Kake, The Boat Company, Alaska
Wilderness Recreation and Tourism Association, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council,Natural Resources Defense Council, Tongass Conservation Society, Greenpeace, Wrangell Resource Council, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, and Cascadia Wildlands.

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Mar25

Federal Court in Oregon Rejects Miners’ Challenge to Suction-dredge Regulations

For Immediate Release
March 25, 2016
 
Contact
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands (541) 434-1463
Forrest English, Rogue Riverkeeper 541-261-2030
Roger Flynn, Mining Action Project 303-823-5738
Lori Ann Burd, Center for Biological Diversity 971-717-6405
Jake Crawford, Native Fish Society (720) 253-8485
 
Federal Court Upholds Oregon’s Right to Protect Water Quality and Fish Habitat
Court Finds That Restrictions on Mining Methods Are Clearly Within the State’s Authority
 
Medford, OR — This morning a federal court upheld an Oregon law restricting motorized gold mining in and along sensitive salmon streams. The District of Oregon court held that the State of Oregon has the right to regulate both state and federal land to protect water quality and fish habitat, and it has done so in a manner that does not conflict with federal law.
 
“The court correctly found that mining operations on federal land must comply with state laws enacted to protect public health and the environment,” noted Roger Flynn, with the Western Mining Action Project and one of the attorneys representing conservation and fishing groups that joined the case to help defend the Oregon law.  “This decision supports a growing effort in Western states to protect clean water and fisheries from mining pollution and wildlife habitat damage,” said Flynn.
 
At issue in the case is Oregon’s Senate Bill 838, passed  in 2013 to implement temporary restrictions on equipment such as suction dredges and other motorized mining equipment in and nearby habitat essential for salmon, and to protect water quality. The law went into effect this January and remains in effect through 2021. The 2013 law came about due to increasing concern throughout the state about the cumulative effects of these gold mining techniques on streams and rivers.
 
“With these protections Oregon has taken the first step towards addressing threats to our salmon runs and water quality from mining,” said Forrest English of Rogue Riverkeeper. “We look forward to sensible regulation that extends beyond 2021 and that ensures these values are protected for all future Oregonians, the court has made it clear that we can do that.”
 
Peer reviewed science shows that suction dredging can mobilize toxic mercury into rivers and streams, as well as reduce salmon spawning success due to alterations in habitat. Additionally in hot spots, such as the Umpqua and Rogue Rivers, the number of dredges has created conflicts with anglers and other recreationists.
 
“Oregonians can breathe a sigh of relief that many of our rivers and most sensitive salmon fisheries will be protected this summer from the toxic plumes of mercury that suction dredge mining releases,” said Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director at the Center for Biological Diversity.
 
Gold miners brought a lawsuit against the State of Oregon last October alleging that federal laws denied Oregon the right to protect environmental resources within the state. Environmental groups and commercial fishing interests including Rogue Riverkeeper, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Oregon Coast Alliance, Cascadia Wildlands, Native Fish Society and the Center for Biological Diversity intervened on behalf of the state and are represented by the Western Environmental Law Center and Western Mining Action Project.
 
“We are very pleased the Court has clarified that the State of Oregon has the power to protect our cherished rivers from destructive suction-dredge mining, especially the famous Rogue River and its tributaries — one of the most important salmon rivers in Oregon,” said Cameron La Follette with Oregon Coast Alliance. “State environmental laws are a crucial means of protecting the public's investment in salmon habitat restoration in our public waterways.”
 
"We are incredibly encouraged that the Court made the common sense decision to permit Oregon to regulate harmful mining practices in some of Oregon's most cherished waterways," said Nick Cady with Cascadia Wildlands.  "Oregonians have a right to protect the things they value, including clean water and salmon."
 
“This decision will help keep Oregon’s iconic wild salmon healthy for future generations,” said Jake Crawford with Native Fish Society. “It bolsters similar protections in California and Idaho, while giving Washington a path forward for protecting wild salmon and water quality from suction dredge mining.”
 
A copy of the decision can be found here.
                                                                        ####
Mar22

Governor Brown’s Environmental Record Far from Green

Register-Guard guest opinion by Shawn Donnille
 
When Gov. Kate Brown took office, she promised the most open, transparent and responsive administration possible. She would do away with back-room deals cut with special-interest lobbyists, she said, and instead would conduct business in the full light of day. One year later, the gap between Brown’s promises and her actions on environmental policy is as wide as the Willamette River.
 
In just 12 months, she has racked up a remarkably bad environmental record that has not only caught the attention of the environmental community, but the natural and organic products industry as well.
 
Soon after Brown took office, the state Department of Forestry joined with timber and chemical lobbyists to block a bill in the Oregon legislature intended to reform aerial spraying of pesticides by the logging industry.
 
Their actions meant that rural families continue to be exposed to cancer-causing chemicals, without adequate buffers to protect homes and schools, or even advance notice before sprays occur. In addition to imminent threats to rural communities, aerial spraying is now compromising organic farms throughout the state, thus crippling a thriving and sustainable industry.
 
During the 2015 legislative session, Gov. Brown also tried to cut a back-room deal with fossil fuel lobbyists to repeal Oregon’s landmark Clean Fuels law. This tactic was aimed at buying Republican votes for a transportation package, but her plan fizzled when pro-­environment Democrats in the House of Representatives rebelled.
 
The 2015 session also saw Brown’s administration push ahead with plans to privatize the Elliott State Forest, the only state land in Oregon still containing significant old growth. Such a move would almost certainly result in this old growth being clear-cut, and the public being shut out of the process.
 
Earlier this year, Portland residents were stunned to learn of toxic contamination from glass manufacturing plants near residential neighborhoods.
 
Even more shocking was that the state Department of Environmental Quality and Brown’s administration knew about the problem for more than a year, but failed to act.
 
The governor has since called for soil testing and more money from the federal government, but she has not addressed the cozy relationship between her agency and polluting industries.
 
Her inaction isn’t limited to Portland. Despite repeated warnings, Brown’s administration failed to act on much-needed improvements to Oregon’s weak and outdated Forest Practices Act. On March 11, the federal Environmental Protection Agency, fed up with excuses, froze $1.5 million in federal funding to Oregon over Brown’s failure to protect clean water and salmon from rampant clear-cutting.
 
During the 2016 legislative session, Oregon’s tiny population of endangered gray wolves was also in the governor’s crosshairs. Her staff partnered with livestock industry lobbyists to craft a bill to circumvent the Oregon Endangered Species Act, and to block Oregon citizens from challenging a state Department of Fish and Wildlife decision to remove conservation safeguards from wolves.
 
While some environmental gains have been made over the past year, including important legislation to address climate change, those measures came because of the threat of a citizens’ ballot initiative.
 
It should not take the threat of a citizens’ referendum to force Brown and the Legislature to protect our air, water and wildlife; these values should be safeguarded by the head of our state.
 
Her arrangements made with lobbyists who work against wilderness and wildlife, or schemes to protect polluters rather than public health, don’t fit the kind of open and transparent administration Brown promised our state.
 
My business, Mountain Rose Herbs, employs more than 200 people in Lane County. We relocated to Oregon more than a decade ago because we wanted to live in a place with protected wildlands, healthy rivers and abundant wildlife.
 
Oregon’s reputation as an environmental leader has been an important part of our success, from attracting world-class employees to maintaining the trust of our hundreds of thousands of customers around the world. Our governor is putting that reputation at risk.
 
Gov. Brown is now running for re-election, and she does not have a serious challenger in the Democratic primary.
 
This is unfortunate, because I feel that would keep her honest to our ecological heritage as Oregonians and would remind her of the importance we place upon the health of our communities and the health of our living landscape.
 
Shawn Donnille is vice president and co-owner of Mountain Rose Herbs in Eugene.
 
Feb25

House Bill 4040 and the Politics of Delisting Oregon’s Wolves

by Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands legal director
 
California's Shasta Pack (CDFW photo)

Shasta Pack

It is astonishing to folks at Cascadia Wildlands that House Bill 4040 (HB4040) was even a topic of conversation this "short" legislative session. Every other year, the Oregon legislature holds a short session that only lasts around one month, and because of the limited time for discussion and debate, usually only non-controversial bills are taken up.
 
However, this session the House passed and the Senate is seriously deliberating over HB4040 despite tremendous controversy, deceit, and enormous amounts of misinformation.  HB4040 would legislatively remove the gray wolf from the state list of threatened and endangered species, precluding the public's right to judicial review to ensure that the delisting is scientifically and legally sound.  
 
This bill's success thus far has been unbelievable for a number of reasons.  First, Oregon still only has around one hundred wolves in the state.  This is approximately seven percent of the state's purported ecological capacity, and the wolves only occupy about 12 percent of their suitable habitat in the state.  Most of the wolves are still concentrated in the northeast corner of Oregon.  We believe that these statistics alone show that wolves, while on the path to recovery (we had zero wolves 10 years ago), have not fully recovered and are not ready for critical protections to be removed. The scientific community has largely agreed with us and offered widespread critique of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission's proposal to delist.
 
Second, Oregon has democratic majorities in both the House and the Senate. We believed, as did the Salem Statesman Journal, that democrats supported the concept that environmental decisions should be made on the basis of sound science and not politics.  In the past, democrats in Oregon have prevented the intervention of special interests in wildlife management, especially when involving threatened or endangered species. For example, four of the past five years extremists in the livestock industry and their lobbyists in Salem have introduced bills aimed at removing protections for wolves, and these bills never got serious attention, largely through pushback by democrats.  We are dumbfounded as to why democratic legislators in Salem are now kowtowing to special interests given that 96% of people who commented on the delisting encouraged retaining the wolf's listed status.
 
Photo taken July 6, 2013 of OR17 with a 2013 pup of the Imnaha pack.  Subadult wolves assist in the raising of the pups. Photo courtesy of ODFW. Download high resolution image.

Photo taken of OR17 with a 2013 pup of the Imnaha pack.

Third, the bill is undemocratic because it precludes judicial review of ODFW's delisting decision.  Essentially, judicial review functions as a crucial part of our government's system of checks and balances.  The legislature makes laws — general guidelines for agency behavior.  The executive or administrative agencies enforce these laws and carry out their execution.  The judicial branch ensures that agency actions comply with the laws.  Here, ODFW and its Commission delisted the gray wolf. Pursuant to our state laws concerning endangered species, such a finding is required to be based upon the best available science and make certain findings, like whether or not wolves have recovered throughout a significant portion of their range in the state.  We believed that because wolves only occupied a small percentage of their range, ODFW failed to make the required findings, and we and our colleagues sought judicial review of the agency decision.  HB4040 amounts to the legislature changing the rules of the game after the agency has already made the decision, exempting ODFW from having to make the requisite scientific findings.  Again, the Salem Statesman Journal put it well: "It would be grossly unfair, and a bad precedent, for the Legislature to change the rules after the litigation has started."
 
Fourth, the bill's proponents weren't being truthful in order to pass it through the House.  When the bill first popped up, Cascadia Wildlands directed its supporters interested in the wolf topic to contact their representatives and tell them to not vote for the bill for all of the reasons above.  The message that was repeatedly received was the representative was supporting the bill because it was simply "a pat on the back" for ODFW, and would not preclude judicial.  We were dumbfounded. Upon close scrutiny, the only reason for this bill, its sole effect, is to preclude judicial review of the wolf delisting. Obviously, lobbyists and even legislators pushing this bill were not being truthful about its effects, and legislators regurgitating this refrain either refused to look at the bill or made a conscious choice to spread the misinformation further.  
 
The true purpose of the bill was uncovered before the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources this week through the honorable efforts of Senators Michael Dembrow and Floyd Prozanski. But instead of killing the bill because of the blatant deceit or at the very least sending it back down to the House with full disclosure about the bill's intent and effects, the Senate Committee passed the bill with a vote of 3 to 2, with Senators Dembrow and Prozanski voting against the bill, and Senator Chris Edwards (D-Eugene) supporting it along with two republicans on the Committee.
 
It appears the divisive politics paralyzing Washington DC and partisan game playing have now infected our state.  
 
We have allies in this fight for sound science.  State Senators Dembrow and Prozanski have worked hard to defeat the bill.  Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR) has taken up the effort, calling out fellow state democrats for their betrayal of sound science for political games.  
 
This fight is not over yet, and there is still opportunity to turn senators who are on the fence about this bill.  Take action now and also call your local state senator to urge them to vote "no" on HB4040.  And thank you for standing up for Oregon's recovering wolves. 

 

 

Feb03

Cascadia Wildlands Challenges Wildlife Services’ Wolf Killing in Oregon

For Immediate Release, February 3, 2016
 
Contacts:
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 434-1463, nick@cascwild.org
John Mellgren, Western Law Environmental Center, (541) 359-0990, mellgren@westernlaw.org
Amy Atwood, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 504-5660, atwood@biologicaldiversity.org
Bethany Cotton, WildEarth Guardians, (503) 327-4923, bcotton@wildearthguardians.org
Brooks Fahy, Predator Defense, (541) 937-4261, brooks@predatordefense.org
Camilla Fox, Project Coyote, (415) 690-0338, cfox@projectcoyote.org
 
Lawsuit Challenges Wildlife Services' Authority to Kill Wolves in Oregon
 
PORTLAND, Ore. – Conservation groups filed a lawsuit today challenging the authority of the federal wildlife-killing program Wildlife Services to kill any of the approximately 81 remaining gray wolves in Oregon. The legal challenge, filed by the Western Environmental Law Center on behalf of four conservation groups, with Cascadia Wildlands representing itself, comes weeks after a federal court ruled that Wildlife Services’ controversial wolf killing program in Washington is illegal.
 
The groups contend that Wildlife Services failed to explain why killing wolves on behalf of livestock interests should replace common-sense, proactive and nonlethal alternatives such as those reflected in the Oregon Gray Wolf Management Plan. The National Environmental Policy Act requires this analysis and public disclosure. In Oregon and Washington, Wildlife Services completed vague plans to target wolves for livestock depredations but did not explain why nonlethal alternatives would be inadequate.
 
“Federal law requires Wildlife Services to conduct a full and fair evaluation of the ecological impacts of its wolf-killing program in Oregon, and it failed to do so,” said John Mellgren, the Western Environmental Law Center attorney arguing the case. “In addition to protecting gray wolves from being killed, our recent victory in Washington will help to shed light on this secretive federal program, and we hope to continue that process in Oregon.”
 
A federal extermination program under the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Wildlife Services kills roughly 1.5 million to 3 million native animals per year, including wolves, grizzly bears, mountain lions, otters, foxes, coyotes, birds and even domestic pets — with little oversight or accountability. Wildlife Services employs inhumane tools to kill wildlife including aerial gunning, leghold traps, snares and poisons. A 2013 internal audit revealed that Wildlife Services’ accounting practices lacked transparency and violated state and federal laws.
 
“Wildlife Services has for decades taken advantage of a legal loophole to avoid conducting any meaningful analysis of its deplorable killing program, or any assessment of whether its programs are effective at all,” said Nick Cady, legal director at Cascadia Wildlands. “We believe if the agency truly takes a hard look at its activities, the impacts and the costs, these killing programs will be terminated.”
 
NEPA requires Wildlife Services to rigorously examine the environmental effects of killing wolves and to consider alternatives that rely on proven nonlethal methods like range riders, livestock-guarding dogs and shepherds, and disposing of livestock carcasses to avoid attracting wolves and other predators. In both Oregon and Washington, Wildlife Services completed vague analyses that did not consider alternatives and rejected evidence that nonlethal methods are more effective. NEPA also mandates a public comment period for the proposal.
 
“Oregon is no place for Wildlife Services,” said Amy Atwood, endangered species legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Wildlife Services is a rogue agency that uses ineffective, cruel and costly methods to kill wolves instead of common-sense, nonlethal methods that foster coexistence.”
 
“Wildlife Services’ refusal to ensure its activities are based on the best available science leads to unnecessary and harmful killing and strips the public of an opportunity to meaningfully understand and contribute to decisions impacting the health of ecosystems on which we all depend,” said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director at WildEarth Guardians. “It's past time the dark practices of Wildlife Services are subjected to the sunshine of a transparent public process.”
 
Wildlife Services claims that killing wolves reduces wolf-related losses of livestock, yet recent peer-reviewed research finds that killing wolves leads to an increase in wolf-livestock conflicts. Wildlife Services also failed to address the effects of killing wolves in Oregon, including impacts on ecosystems, wolf populations in neighboring states and on non-target animals that may be killed or injured as a result of the wolf killing program.
 
“It is telling that Wildlife Services was formerly called Animal Damage Control,” said Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense. “They changed their name, but nothing more. This misnomer of a program is notorious for abuse of power, lack of transparency, illegal activity and brutal treatment of wildlife. It has been criticized by members of Congress, the public and leading predator biologists. Further scrutiny of Wildlife Services’ activities in Oregon is long overdue, particularly now, as the gray wolf faces imminent delisting from state endangered species protections.”
 
“Wildlife Services’ predator control program is ecologically destructive, ethically indefensible and economically unjustifiable,” said Camilla Fox, founder and executive director of Project Coyote. “The science is clear that killing wolves is not effective at reducing conflicts and likely exacerbates problems by destabilizing wolf social structures. How many lawsuits will it take for Wildlife Services to do what’s right?”
 
Wolves were driven to extinction in Oregon by the late 1940s through a government-sponsored eradication program. The species began to return to Oregon from neighboring states and Canada in the early 2000s. In 2012, wolf recovery got back on track in Oregon. It took a legal challenge, but the state’s wolf killing program (separate from Wildlife Services') was put on hold and the wolf population grew from 29 to 81. In November 2015, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission stripped Oregon’s wolves of much needed state endangered species protections. Oregon's wolves face a long road to recovery and ongoing threats — including that of being shot and killed by Wildlife Services.
 
John Mellgren of the Western Environmental Law Center and Nick Cady with Cascadia Wildlands represent the following organizations in the lawsuit: Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians, Predator Defense and Project Coyote.
 
Download a copy of the complaint here.
 
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Jan14

Stand Up for Public Lands!

In the midst of the ridiculous scene unfolding at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, bigger, darker, and more intelligent forces are working to give away our public lands. 

mt juneOur public lands, our National Forests, our Wildlife Refuges, our National Parks, our Wild and Scenic Rivers, these are cherished and revered places across the Northwest.  They provide so many different values for so many different people and communities. However, consistent efforts driven by the oil and gas industry to give away these lands are gaining traction and need to be met with staunch opposition from the communities that love and thrive off these public treasures.

The recent occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by militant extremists is part of this movement to give away our public lands.  With these lands ceded to local control, all semblances of science-based management and conservation will be replaced with aggressive resource extraction at the cost of our local communities, our economies, clean water, and recreation.

The actions of these extremists is being capitalized upon by industry and their political puppets, and proposals continue to be rolled out to blatantly steal these lands from the American people.

Stand up for our Public Lands, and Loudly Voice your Support!

Contact your local representatives, your mayors, your city council members, tell them you support public lands and that your community should as well.  Public rallies are being planned across the Pacific Northwest in communities big and small across Oregon and Washington.  Make signs, break out the costumes, let us hear your high school marching band tuba!  It is time to show this nation how we feel about our public forests, mountains, and rivers.

Jan14

Public Lands Rallies Planned Across Oregon

#RefugeRally Announced for Tuesday, Jan 19th
Public will gather to support Malheur refuge, celebrate national public lands
 
3.10.10_D7C3745OREGON/WASHINGTON- Rallies supporting Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and public lands will be held across Oregon and Washington Tuesday, January 19th at noon.
 
The public is invited to join this statewide event expressing appreciation for national public lands, their public servant caretakers, and the positive collaborative efforts between refuge officials, ranchers, environmentalists, and Native Americans that have been underway on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for a decade. Speakers will highlight the importance of protecting special places like the Malheur NWR that provide integral wildlife habitat, clean water, climate change mitigation, and recreational opportunities available as a benefit to all Americans.
 
Events are listed below, with details and more events across the state currently being planned. Participants can contact Cascadia Wildlands to receive up-to-date event information, and follow the conversation using #RefugeRally.  This page will continue to be updated.
 
Because of the volatile situation at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, public lands supporters are strongly discouraged from visiting Harney County at this time.
 
Unless otherwise specified, all events will take place at noon:
 
Eugene
Old Federal Building
211 E. 7th Ave, Eugene
 
Press Contacts:
Oregon Wild – Doug Heiken (541-344-0675) dh@oregonwild.org
Cascadia Wildlands – Nick Cady (314) 482-3746 nick@cascwild.org
Center for Biological Diversity – Jared Margolis (802) 310-4054 jmargolis@biologicaldiversity.org
 
***Also in Eugene, Cascadia Wildlands will be hosting a sign-making party on Monday night prior to the rally.  The event will take place at Cascadia Wildlands office at 1247 Willamette Street in Eugene at 5:30pm.  Pizza and beverages will be provided, come help us think up some clever slogans!  More on that event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/446690202205647/
 
Portland
Holladay Park
NE 11th Ave, Portland
 
Press Contacts:
Oregon Wild – Arran Robertson (971) 241-0103 ar@oregonwild.org
Portland Audubon – Bob Sallinger 503 380 -9728 bsallinger@audubonportland.org
Center for Biological Diversity – Tierra Curry (928) 522-3681 tcurry@biologicaldiversity.org
 
Bend
Riverfront Plaza
Brooks St, Bend
 
Press Contact
Oregon Natural Desert Assoc – Dan Morse, (541) 330-2638 dmorse@onda.org
 
La Grande
Pro-Public Lands Potluck
105 Fir St Suite #327
 
Press Contact: Hells Canyon Preservation Council – Darilyn Parry Brown (541) 963-3950 darilyn@hellscanyon.org
 
Seattle:
Federal Building / GSA
Seattle’s Henry M. Jackson Federal Building, 915 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA 98104
             
           Press Contact: Conservation Northwest – Chase Gunnel (206) 675-9747
 
Corvallis:
TBD
Jan06

Cascadia Files Petition to Extend Wolf Monitoring

Legal Petition Seeks Extension of Federal Monitoring for Northern Rockies Wolves
New Study: Hunting Likely Spurring Harmful Declines in Northern Rocky Wolves
 
VICTOR, Idaho — Five conservation groups filed a petition today requesting that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service continue monitoring northern Rocky Mountain gray wolves for another five years. The existing monitoring program, which is required by the Endangered Species Act after protections are removed for a species, is set to expire in May. The monitoring is crucial to ensure that the wolf population doesn’t slip to levels at which Endangered Species Act protections are again needed.
 
The groups based today’s request in part on a new study in the journal Science that found the Fish and Wildlife Service and states of Montana and Idaho have underestimated the impacts and risks of aggressive hunting policies for gray wolves instituted since protections were lifted. Since federal safeguards were first stripped in 2009, more than 2,300 wolves have been killed by hunters or trappers in the two states.
 
“This research confirms what many scientists have been saying all along,” said Andrea Santarsiere, staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Aggressive hunting of wolves is harming the gray wolf population in the northern Rockies. Left unchecked, the numbers will continue to decline — a sad fact for an animal that we fought so hard to bring back from the brink of extinction. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service clearly needs to continue to keep an eye on this situation.”  
 
In first removing Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in 2009, the Fish and Wildlife Service said that the required post-delisting monitoring period would be extended for an additional five years if any one of three criteria are met. One criterion requires an extension if a significant change in state law or management would significantly increase threats to the wolf population. Both Idaho and Montana have repeatedly increased hunting and trapping quotas in an effort to substantially reduce wolf populations, which according to the new study are almost certainly resulting in population declines.
 
“Antagonism towards wolves is one of the main threats that put them on the endangered species list in the first place. This has hardly changed, and the states have further demonstrated their continued aggression towards wolves by increasing killing efforts and liberalizing hunting and trapping of wolves” said Ken Cole, Idaho director for Western Watersheds Project.  “The Fish and Wildlife Service should extend their oversight of wolf management by the states to ensure stable and viable wolf populations”
 
“As a backcountry elk and deer hunter myself, I find it appalling that in Montana hunters and trappers can legally kill up to five wolves annually, including deep within our Wilderness areas,” said Matthew Koehler, director of the Montana-based WildWest Institute. “Essentially this allows hunters or trappers to legally wipe out an entire wolf pack.”
 
Idaho has been especially aggressive in trying to reduce the wolf population. In 2014 the Idaho Legislature created the Idaho Wolf Control Board, allocating hundreds of thousands of dollars to killing wolves. Idaho has also contracted with the federal Wildlife Services to hunt, trap and aerially gun down wolves in the Lolo Zone and hired a professional trapper to eliminate two wolf packs in the Frank-Church-River-of-No Return Wilderness last winter. The agency has also turned a blind eye to an annual predator derby contest, in which participants win cash and prizes for killing wolves and coyotes, despite an agency policy condemning predator hunting contests as unethical.
 
“Idaho has been waging a war against wolves in the Lochsa and North Fork Clearwater basins, one of the wildest areas in the lower 48 states,” said Gary MacFarlane, ecosystem defense director of Friends of the Clearwater. “Further monitoring of this ill-advised program is needed.”
 
“The primary threat to wolves is active eradication efforts occurring throughout the Rocky Mountain distinct population segment,” said Nick Cady, legal director of Cascadia Wildlands.  “Continued monitoring of this still-fragile population is without question necessary and critical to the wolf’s recovery in the United States.”
 
The Fish and Wildlife Service has argued that the wolf population has stayed relatively constant despite hunting, but according to the new study this conclusion is questionable. Among other problems, Montana has changed its counting methodology after delisting, and Idaho continues to rely on a convoluted mathematical equation that is likely to overestimate the wolf population, making it difficult to accurately determine population trends.  
 
“Idaho and Montana aren’t safe places for wolves right now,” Santarsiere said. “This is no time for the Fish and Wildlife Service to walk away from its duty to ensure this population survives and thrives. We know these wolves have been hammered by hunting and aggressive state policies and still need help.”
 
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