Press Room

Aug05

Lawsuit Launched to Protect Northwest Prairie Bird Species

For Immediate Release, August 5, 2015
 
Contact:    
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 434-1463, nick@cascwild.org
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495, ngreenwald@biologicaldiversity.org
 
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.
 
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Jul29

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

NEWS RELEASE: August 29, 2015
Contact:
 
Gabe Scott, Cascadia Wildlands, 907.491.0856, gscott@cascwild.org
Liz Judge, Earthjustice, 415.217.2007, ljudge@earthjustice.org
Anne Hawke, 202-513-6263, ahawke@nrdc.org 
Jacob Eisenberg, 202-289-2391, jeisenberg@nrdc.org
 
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.

 

Jul24

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.

Jul23

Press Release: Cascadia Petitions for Emergency Action to Save Alaska Wolves

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
July 23, 2015
 
Contact:
Gabriel Scott, Cascadia Wildlands, (907) 491-0856
Rebecca Noblin, Center for Biological Diversity, (907) 274-1110 Rebecca Knight, Greater Southeast Alaska Conservation Community, (907) 772-9391
Larry Edwards, Greenpeace, (907) 747-7557
 
ANCHORAGE, Alaska— Environmental groups today asked three state and federal agencies to take decisive action to save the rapidly dwindling population of Alexander Archipelago wolves in the Prince of Wales Island area in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest.
 
Following up on a June report by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game indicating that the wolf population in the area is alarmingly low, the groups asked Fish and Game and the Federal Subsistence Board to cancel the area’s 2015-2016 trapping and hunting season. They also asked the U.S. Forest Service to suspend logging and road- building in its Big Thorne timber sale and to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement for the project to reconsider impacts to wolves.
 
“Alexander Archipelago wolves are an essential piece of what makes our little corner of Alaska so special,” said Hunter McIntosh, president of The Boat Company, an ecotourism company based in Southeast Alaska. “The opportunity to see these unique wolves in their old growth home draws people from all over the world. Killing off our wolves is bad business and bad stewardship.”
 
Alexander Archipelago wolves are a subspecies of gray wolves that den in the roots of old-growth trees in the Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2014 found that protecting Alexander Archipelago wolves under the Endangered Species Act “may be warranted.” The Service will decide whether to list the wolves under the Act by the end of this year. In the 1990s Prince of Wales Island was home to about one-third of all Alexander Archipelago wolves before the island’s population declined. Wolves on the island are genetically distinct and geographically isolated from the rest of the subspecies.
 
“Alexander Archipelago wolves are one-of-a-kind, and once they’re gone, they’re not coming back,” said Rebecca Noblin, Alaska director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “We have to protect the few remaining wolves on Prince of Wales Island right now, or they’ll be gone before the government can even decide whether they need Endangered Species Act protection.”
 
Fish and Game’s report estimated that the wolf population on and around Prince of Wales in fall 2014 was between 50 and 159, and most likely about 89 wolves, down from an estimated population of 250 to 350 in the mid-1990s. The report also stated that females have been reduced to only 25 percent of the dwindling population, posing a clear obstacle to the wolves’ ability to recover from their decline. The 2014 estimate does not account for the 29 wolves reported taken in the 2014/2015 winter trapping season, nor does it account for any illegal takes during that time or since, which studies indicate may be substantial.
 
The groups asked both the state and federal government to cancel the 2015/2016 hunting and trapping season in order to prevent extirpation of the wolves on Prince of Wales Island. They also asked the U.S. Forest Service to halt the Big Thorne timber project, which threatens to destroy large swaths of essential Prince of Wales habitat for Alexander Archipelago wolves and their primary prey, Sitka black-tailed deer. The Big Thorne project will also create new logging roads, increasing human access and the associated hunting and trapping pressure on wolf populations.
 
“This is clearly an emergency — wolves are falling at an alarming rate on Prince of Wales Island, and it has to stop immediately,” said Larry Edwards, Greenpeace forest campaigner in Sitka. “But the long-term solution to the wolves’ peril is to stop old-growth logging in the Tongass National Forest to preserve the last remaining big trees that wolves and so many other animals need. Without an end to old-growth logging, no amount of hunting regulations, alone, can save the wolves.”
 
The six organizations that submitted the letters to agencies are Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace, The Boat Company, the Greater Southeast Alaska Conservation Community and the Alaska Wildlife Alliance.
 
Note to reporters:
Copies of the letters and supporting documents are available on request.
Jun12

Press Release: Logging Industry Lawsuit Thrown out by Federal Appeals Court

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 12, 2015
 
Contact:
Kristen Boyles, Earthjustice, 206-343-7340 x1033
Joseph Vaile, KS Wild, 541-488-5789
Doug Heiken, Oregon Wild, 541-344-0675
Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands, 541-844-8182
 
Washington, D.C. — A logging industry lawsuit that sought to force the Bureau of Land Management to increase logging on public lands in southwest Oregon was thrown out today by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. The ruling vacates a 2013 decision that would have forced the Bureau of Land Management to sell timber even when those sales would have harmed salmon and had detrimental impacts on water quality and recreation.
 
“The appellate court today threw out an unprecedented, unworkable, and backward decision that could have forced the Bureau of Land Management to violate its duties to manage these lands for water, air, wildlife, and people, not just clearcuts,” said Kristen Boyles, an attorney at Earthjustice. “This ruling should discourage logging companies from demanding to cut 100- year-old forests because no one person and no particular private logging company is entitled to log wherever it wants.”owl_photo
 
“Our public lands provide clean drinking water, protect wild salmon, and preserve water quality in our rivers, lakes, and streams. These lands are home to some of the last remaining ancient forests in America,” said Joseph Vaile of the Oregon-based Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands
Center. “We should focus on a responsible plan for these forests and leave a legacy for future generations.”
 
“Dinosaurs in logging industry have claimed for years that they should have priority over protecting old-growth, clean water, wildlife, and recreation on America’s public lands. For 20 years science, the law, and the public have been telling them no,” said Doug Heiken, Oregon Wild Conservation and Restoration Coordinator.
 
The logging companies had argued that a 1937 law required the Bureau of Land Management to sell large amounts of timber from the Medford and Roseburg districts in southwest Oregon, regardless of harm to water quality, recreational use, and wildlife and fish. In 2013, a district court judge in Washington, D.C. sided with the logging industry, despite contrary legal decisions from other federal courts in the Oregon and the west. Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Oregon Wild and Cascadia Wildlands appealed as interveners in the timber lawsuit. The D.C. Circuit maintained that the logging companies and logging lobbying groups had failed to show that they were actually harmed by any Bureau of Land Management actions and dismissed the case entirely.
 
"This is good news for those who believe in clean water and big trees," says Josh Laughlin with Cascadia Wildlands. "It also underscores the need to create lasting safeguards for these values that make western Oregon so special."
 
“A number of prominent politicians cited this logging industry lawsuit when they proposed legislation to weaken environmental protections and increase clearcutting on our public forests,” said Doug Heiken, Oregon Wild Conservation and Restoration Coordinator. “The perceived timber industry threat is now gone, and it’s time to put those outdated ideas behind us—time to focus on a balanced plan that recognizes all the public benefits that flow from our public forests: clean water, carbon storage, fish and wildlife, recreation, and quality of life.”
 
(Spotted owl photo by USFWS)
 
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May27

Wolf Tracks

Willamette Week by Aaron Mesh
May 27, 2015
 
Nick Cady is thrilled to see the return of gray wolves to Oregon’s Cascade Range. He celebrated when the wolf dubbed OR-7 was spotted south of Crater Lake in 2011, more than 60 years after hunters wiped out the species from the state.
 
But even as wolves return to Oregon’s southwestern mountains, Cady fears the U.S. Forest Service will authorize logging and road building that could cut off the wolves’ range.
 
“Federal agencies are supposed to lay out how projects will impact species,” Cady says. “What we’ve seen with wolves is they say, ‘Oh, it won’t impact them at all.’ I don’t think that is true.”
 
This spring, Cady’s environmental nonprofit, Cascadia Wildlands, filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking all Forest Service plans for protecting wolves while selling off timber and building roads in Oregon and Washington’s national forests. Two months later, the agency hasn’t given him a single document.
 
So Cady’s group has gone to court, suing the Forest Service in U.S. District Court on May 20 for its failure to respond to Cascadia Wildlands’ records request.
 
Lawsuits accusing government agencies of violating the FOIA have become a reliable tool for environmental groups trying to watchdog public officials.
 
Cascadia Wildlands’ suit is the 10th lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for Oregon in the past decade by an environmental group seeking to force the release of public records. It’s the second in less than a month. On April 29, the Northwest Environmental Defense Center in Portland sued to see water-quality records from the Columbia Generating Station in Hanford, Wash.
 
Cascadia Wildlands says it filed the records request March 12, seeking communications between the Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The suit says Cascadia Wildlands then wrote letters in April and May offering to let the Forest Service release the documents gradually.
 
The Forest Service responded in May by saying it needed more time to review the request, because it had 20 other records requests ahead of Wildlands’.
 
Glen Sachet, a spokesman for the Forest Service’s Portland office, declined comment to WW on pending litigation.
 
Oregon officials estimate 77 wolves live in the state, but just seven of them are in the western half of the state. The largest Cascade Range wolf pack, called the Rogue Pack, includes OR-7, his mate and three pups.
 
Cady fears that commercial logging could disrupt the wolves’ range, expose them to cars and change the behavior of deer and elk, making it harder for wolves to find food. The group also says building new timber roads makes it easier for hunters to get deep into the wilderness and set wolf traps.
 
He says his group wants assurances from the Forest Service that the agency’s plans take into account protections for the Rogue Pack and the next generation of Oregon wolves.
 
“We just hope they’re taking a hard look at the science before proceeding with irretrievable resource damage and road construction,” Cady says. “They might have taken a good, hard look at this. But I don’t think that’s the case. We’ll find out.”
 
A copy of the complaint can be found here.
 
May05

Lawsuit Challenges Plan to Log Old-growth Trees on Alaska’s Mitkof Island

Press Release

For Immediate Release 

May 4, 2015

 

Contact:        

Larry Edwards, Greenpeace, (907) 747-7557, ledwards@greenpeace.org

Gabe Scott, Cascadia Wildlands, (907) 491-0856, gscott@cascwild.org

Rebecca Noblin, Center for Biological Diversity, (907) 350-4822, rnoblin@biologicaldiversity.org

Oliver Stiefel, Crag Law Center, oliver@crag.org

ANCHORAGE, Alaska— Five environmental organizations today challenged a plan to log the old-growth forests of Mitkof Island, near the Southeast Alaska community of Petersburg. The groups filed suit in Alaska District Court to overturn the U.S. Forest Service’s approval of this major logging project.Mail Attachment-6 copy

The groups say the agency violated federal environmental laws by concluding that logging 4,117 acres of important old-growth deer, wolf and goshawk habitat would not have a “significant” impact, without first completing the standard environmental impact statement. Instead the Forest Service broke with past practices by requiring only an environmental assessment — an abbreviated review typically used on far less significant projects.

“It is remarkable that, even in the face of huge controversy, the Forest Service stubbornly insists that thousands of acres of old-growth logging is without consequence,” said Dave Beebe with Greater Southeast Alaska Conservation Community. “This would set a terrible precedent for the management of public lands.”

The lawsuit was filed by GSACC, Greenpeace, the Center for Biological Diversity, Cascadia Wildlands and Alaska Wildlife Alliance, represented by the CRAG law center. Contrary to the claim that the logging and associated road construction would have insignificant impacts on the 134,000-acre island, the environmental groups catalogued a number of significant impacts:

  • Loss of winter habitat for deer, further stressing the local population;
  • Harm to subsistence hunters, particularly low-income residents who cannot afford to travel to distant islands for deer;
  • Threats to the Alexander Archipelago wolf, which is currently being considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act, from loss of deer habitat and the likelihood of increased trapping;
  • Damage to the Queen Charlotte goshawk, a raptor that relies on old-growth forest.

“It’s baffling that this agency could overlook such obvious impacts to the environment, but I suppose that if you don’t look for problems then you’re not going to find them,” said Rebecca Noblin, the Center for Biological Diversity’s Alaska director.

The groups decried the project’s impact on local communities and wildlife alike, noting that it will cause more problems with the Board of Game’s experimental predator control programs that target wolves.   

“Mitkof Island is a microcosm for a legacy of old-growth logging and habitat loss,” said Gabriel Scott, Alaska legal director for Cascadia Wildlands. “Subsistence deer hunting is already severely restricted. Continued destruction of old-growth habitat on the Tongass National Forest is not compatible with a continued subsistence lifestyle in places like Petersburg.”

“The Mitkof timber project is far and away the largest one ever done on the Tongass without an environmental impact statement,” said Larry Edwards, Greenpeace forest campaigner in Sitka. “We’ve tried every way we can to make the state and the Forest Service aware of critical impacts to deer, hunters and wolves. Instead of engaging the problems they simply ignored them. Going to court is, unfortunately, the only option we have left.”

 

Mar23

Cascadia Halts Huge Public Lands Clearcutting Outside Eugene

Press Release
For Immediate Release

March 23, 2015

Contact:
Nick Cady, Legal Director, Cascadia Wildlands, 314-482-3746
Doug Heiken, Conservation and Restoration Coordinator, Oregon Wild, 541-344-0675

Conservationists Halt Public Lands Clearcutting Outside of Eugene
BLM Pulls Decision After Lawsuit for Largest Lane Co Clearcut in 20 Years

EUGENE, Ore.— Public opposition and a legal challenge from Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild has prompted the Eugene Bureau of Land Management to place on hold its plans to clearcut 259 acres of public lands just outside of Springfield, Oregon near Shotgun Creek.  The “Second Show” timber sale would have been the largest clearcut on federal lands in Lane County in 20 years.

This logging proposal elicited over 700 public comments, largely in opposition to the proposed clearcutting .  Local residents raised concerns about clean water, Chinook salmon, and logging some of the last old forests in an already degraded watershed.

“I am extremely relieved that these mature trees may now have a chance to become a real old growth forest. They are located very near the BLM Shotgun Park and Recreation Area and I believe the BLM should focus on preserving our public lands for wildlife, recreation, and future generations,” said Ellen Furstner, a Marcola resident who commented on the sale.  “Protecting the old forest that is left should be our priority to fight global warming. It’s just a shame our federal agencies do not see it that way.”

After the BLM’s decision to move forward with logging, Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild filed a “protest” with BLM but BLM failed to pick up their mail at the post office and refused to consider the protest. Seneca Sawmill then purchased the sale, and Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild were forced to file suit in federal court arguing that the BLM neglected to analyze the effects of clearcutting in conjunction with ongoing commercial logging and road construction in the same area.  BLM withdrew their decision to log the Second Show timber sale on March 19 before answering the complaint and before the court could rule on the merits of the case.

“Our federal timber lands have been hammered by reckless clearcut logging for the past 90 years.  Salmon and spotted owl populations are plummeting, water quality is terribly diminished, and our federal timber lands have more roads than Los Angeles,” said Nick Cady, Legal Director of Cascadia Wildlands. “Yet despite the science and public opposition, the BLM continues to target mature forests.  The agency refuses to open its eyes.”
 
Decades of past clearcutting has resulted in federal lands that are now overstocked with dense young Douglas fir plantations.  Conservation groups have been working with the BLM for the past decade to meet timber targets by commercially thinning these younger forests.

“The Second Show proposal is a big step backward,” said Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild. “Restoration thinning has allowed the agency to meet its timber goals without clearcutting and without doing undue harm to wildlife habitat and watersheds. Clearcutting public lands should be put in the dust-bin of history where it belongs.”

The Second Show decision has been pulled, but the agency may again elect to proceed with the controversial logging after revising its analysis documents.  The revision process will be open to the public, and the BLM will respond to public concerns and questions about the proposed logging.  

For a copy of the complaint click here.

Mar17

White Castle in the News

by Mateusz Perkowski, Capital Press
 
A timber project aimed at testing new harvesting strategies on federal forests was rejected by a federal judge.
A federal judge has overturned the approval of a timber project that environmentalists claim is a “test case” for increased logging of mature forests.
 
The White Castle project calls for harvesting trees up to 110 years old on 187 acres of U.S. Bureau of Land Management property near Myrtle Creek, Ore.
 
The BLM intended for the project to demonstrate the “variable retention” model, in which patches of trees are harvested to recreate “early successional” habitat consisting of shrubs and other plant life.
 
While the agency argued the technique will improve the forest’s diversity and resilience, Oregon Wild and Cascadia Wildlands equated it with a return to clear-cutting federal forests and filed a lawsuit to stop the timber sale.
 
U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken has now agreed with the environmental groups that BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act by not conducting an in-depth scientific review of the project, known as an environmental impact statement or EIS.
 
“The project may be relatively small in size but it will adversely affect the northern spotted owl. Moreover, it represents a pilot test with effects that are likely to be highly controversial, highly uncertain and influential on future project planning,” Aiken said.
 
The judge has vacated BLM’s approval of the project, which means logging cannot proceed until the agency completes the EIS and corrects other shortcomings she identified.
 
In the agency’s existing environmental analysis, BLM failed to consider enough alternatives to removing trees older than 80 years old, Aiken said.
 
BLM should also have conducted a more extensive EIS because the project was subject to “scientific controversy” since its inception about possible effects on the spotted owl, a federally protected threatened species, she said.
Aside from the project’s uncertainties, Aiken also cited its precedential effect as a reason for further study.
 
While the BLM would not be required to follow the White Castle project’s example, the case was intended to test a more aggressive harvest approach that could replace the agency’s current risk-averse focus on thinning, she said.
“Approval of the White Castle project will not have binding impact on future projects, but it will, by design, shape BLM forestry methods and strategies moving forward,” Aiken said.
Mar17

Cascadia Wildlands Defeats White Castle Clearcutting in Court

Press Release: March 17, 2015

Contact: Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746

Judge Rejects "Eco-Forestry" Clearcutting on O&C Lands

Controversial "variable retention regeneration harvest" clearcuts in White Castle timber sale declared illegal; conservationists win on all counts.

A US District Court judge has ruled in favor of white castle treesconservation groups Oregon Wild and Cascadia Wildlands in their legal challenge of a controversial clearcut logging project on public lands in Douglas County. At stake in the case was the Bureau of Land Management’s “White Castle” logging project which proposed clearcutting 160 aces of 100-year old trees using a controversial methodology developed by Drs. Jerry Franklin and Norm Johnson referred to as “variable retention regeneration harvest” sometimes referred to as “eco-forestry.” In her ruling, Judge Ann Aiken found that the BLM’s environmental review fell far short of fully considering the full range of harm that could result from clearcutting.

“This ruling proves that BLM can’t just re-name a clearcut something else and then expect it to suddenly be acceptable,” said Sean Stevens, Executive Director of Oregon Wild. “The White Castle timber sale was a test to see if eco-forest clearcutting could pass legal muster or public scrutiny, and it failed.”

Attorney Jennifer Schwartz argued on behalf of the conservation plaintiffs and repeatedly highlighted the scientific dispute surrounding the project and “variable retention harvest,” especially its implementation in older forests and spotted owl critical habitat. The Court ultimately determined that “The [spotted owl’s] Recovery Plan, the [spotted owl’s] critical habitat proposal, comments from the public and scientists, and Franklin and Johnson's own reports demonstrated the existence of ‘a substantial dispute’ casting ‘serious doubt upon the reasonableness’ of BLM's decision to harvest forest stands over 80 years old.”

By the BLM’s own admission, the White Castle sale was intended as a prototype for greatly expanding clearcutting on other BLM O&C lands, a factor that weighed heavily in the judge’s ruling. The judge found the precedential nature of the project worthy of greater scrutiny: “Project materials describe the pilot projects as test of new harvest methods and ‘new policies’ that could supplant BLM's current ‘risk-adverse strategy’ of avoiding regeneration harvesting and other ‘active management’ methods.[] Approval of the White Castle Project will not have binding impact on future projects, but it will, by design, shape BLM forestry methods and strategies moving forward.

“The scariest part of this project was its potential to set the tone for logging across 2 million acres of Western Oregon BLM,” said Nick Cady, Legal Director of Cascadia Wildlands. “The project was mired in scientific uncertainty and was the obvious result of political pressure to bail out county politicians by returning clearcutting to our public forests. I hope this ruling convinces the BLM to revisit its intentions for our public lands.”

The proposed timber sale lies within publicly-owned forest in the South Myrtle Creek watershed, near the community of Canyonville. The Roseburg BLM District proposed the controversial “eco-forestry” logging method as justification to clearcut over 187 acres, including 160 acres of trees over a century old.

Bulldozing roads and other destructive activities associated with the project would also have targeted additional trees over 150 years old. Federal biologists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have acknowledged nearly 200 acres of habitat for threatened wildlife would be damaged or destroyed by the logging. In her ruling, the judge found the likely effects of this clearcutting to require the BLM to conduct a much more rigorous environmental analysis than they have done thus far.

buck rising white castleDespite the fact that BLM has been largely meeting its timber targets for the last 15 years, primarily through non-controversial thinning of young forests, the agency has recently pursued more controversial projects as a way to increase logging. BLM claimed that clearcutting the White Castle forest would benefit the environment by removing mature trees in order to favor shrubs and brush, even though such habitat is not rare like old forest. As part of the same planning process, Roseburg BLM carried out a similar and related clearcutting project in younger forests, known as Buck Rising. Conservationists did not challenge the Buck Rising project in court but they were not pleased with the results.

“BLM claims that since they intend to retain a few patches of standing trees , it isn't really a clearcut,” said Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild . “Anyone who has seen the aftermath of logging at Buck Rising would have a difficult time explaining the difference between acres of stumps and rutted earth created by eco-forestry and those created by old style clearcutting.”

 

A copy of the legal decision can be found here.

Photos of the White Castle forest can be found here. (please credit to Francis Eatherington)

Photos from the BLM's Buck Rising clearcuts can be found here. (please credit to Francis Eatherington)

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