Press Room


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 “Oregonians have the right to safeguard the health of their families, waterways and wildlife from this damaging, outdated form of mining.”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 Fish and Wildlife Commission Removes Protections for Imperiled Gray Wolf

Press statement
November 10, 2015
Contact: Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands Legal Director, 314.482.3746
In the face of overwhelming opposition from the public, political leaders, and the scientific community, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted last evening to remove the gray wolf from the state's list of endangered species.  There are approximately 80 wolves in the state.
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.


Many leading and independent wolf scientists have recently written scathing critiques of the plan to strip key protections for Oregon’s recovering wolves.
Last week, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) sent a sharp response to the Commission about the department’s proposal to remove protections.
Wolf advocates believe the decision is premature and worry that removing key protections for Oregon wolves at such an early juncture in recovery will signal to others that it is OK to resort to the old ways of dealing with wolves through trapping, poisoning and shooting. Wolves are in the early stages of recovery since reestablishing themselves back into the state in 2008.
Statements from Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands Legal Director:
"The decision to strip key protections for wolves at this early stage of recovery is disappointing," said Nick Cady, Legal Director of Cascadia Wildlands.  "It is readily apparent that the Department and Commission are kowtowing to fringe, special interest groups in flagrant disregard to their responsibility to the public and to use good science.  With approximately 80 wolves in the entire state, this decision does not pass the laugh test."
“Decisions to remove protections for animals returning from the brink of extinction must be grounded in science,” says Nick Cady, Legal Director of Cascadia Wildlands. “Unfortunately, politics appear to be hampering the process here, and the imperiled gray wolf will be the one that loses out.”
(Photo of Oregon wolves by ODFW)

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.

Win on the Tongass: Forest Service Withdraws Mitkof Island Old-Growth Timber Sale

For Immediate Release
October 12, 2015
Gabe Scott, Cascadia Wildlands, (907) 491-0856,
Becky Knight , GSACC, (907) 772-9391,
Oliver Stiefel, Crag Law Center, (503) 227-2212,
Larry Edwards, Greenpeace, (907) 747-7557,
Randy Spivak, Center for Biological Diversity, (310) 779-4894,
Patricia O'Brien AWA-SE chapter, (907) 789-9405,
PETERSBURG, Alaska — In a federal court filing last Friday the U.S. Forest Service announced it will withdraw its decision on the Mitkof Island Project, a large 35 million board foot timber sale. The project is in the center of the Tongass National Forest, near the communities of Petersburg  and Kupreanof.
Petersburg District Ranger Jason Anderson signed the Forest Service's decision in March. In May five environmental organizations filed the lawsuit, GSACC v. Anderson. They are the Greater Southeast Alaska Conservation Community, Cascadia Wildlands, Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace, and the Alaska Wildlife Alliance.  The organizations are represented by Chris Winter and Oliver Stiefel of Crag Law Center (Portland) and Gabriel Scott, Cascadia Wildlands' Alaska legal director.


Tongass1"Faced with the realities brought forth in our lawsuit, the Forest Service is withdrawing the Mitkof project rather than defend it in court. This is a victory for old growth, wildlife, and subsistence hunters, although we don't yet know whether the agency will attempt resurrecting the project with future planning," said  Cordova-based Gabriel Scott of Cascadia Wildlands.
At issue in the lawsuit is the harm caused by logging old-growth and to the species dependent on old growth forests including Sitka black-tailed deer-an essential resource for subsistence hunters-the Alexander Archipelago wolf, and the Queen Charlotte goshawk. 
Petersburg resident Becky Knight of GSACC  said: "Mitkof Island has been hard hit by 60 years of industrial logging.  Subsistence hunters from the community rely on deer as a primary source of protein, but for years have been faced with critically low deer populations and severe harvest restrictions.  This area of the Tongass needs a long period of recovery, but this sale targeted some of the few remaining stands of important winter deer habitat."
Randi Spivak with the Center for Biological Diversity said, "During the planning process for this sale, the Forest Service tried to downplay and hide from the public the full scope of the damage this logging would cause." Spivak added: "The agency initially told the public this was a 'small sale' involving only a local logging  opportunities, but the project ballooned to a major timber sale designed for a large regional or out-of-state timber operator."
"The Forest Service must take a hard look at the environmental consequences of its actions, especially with respect to species like the deer and the goshawk that depend on old-growth forests," said Oliver Stiefel of Crag Law Center.  "In a rush to approve yet another major old-growth timber sale, the Tongass National Forest brushed aside these environmental concerns and fast-tracked the project."  
In the court filing, the Forest Service asked for an extension of the briefing schedule in the case to give the agency time to formalize its withdrawal notice.  The extension request is for 60 days.  
(Tongass National Forest photo by US Forest Service)

Hiking Southern Oregon: Author Zach Urness to Present in Eugene on October 14

Hiked Opal Creek Trail one too many times? Sick of the crowds at Mount Hood and the Columbia River Gorge? Looking to have a close encounter with Bigfoot? If you answered yes to any of these questions, than you may want to consider a road trip to Southern Oregon.
ZachSMALLERTo get you started, Statesman Journal outdoors writer and Oregon author Zach Urness will give a presentation focused on the best day hikes and backpacking trips in the state's southern half from 6:30-8:00 pm on Wednesday, October 14 at Hop Valley Brewing tasting room (990 W. 1st Ave. in Eugene). The free event is sponsored by Cascadia Wildlands and Hop Valley Brewing.
The presentation is based on a book Urness co-wrote with longtime author Art Bernstein called "Hiking Southern Oregon," which features hikes among the world's tallest trees, United States' deepest lake and Oregon's third-highest waterfall.
He'll be showing videos and pictures from hikes that are easy and family-friendly, along with those traveling deep into remote wilderness areas where meeting another person is about as likely as coming across Bigfoot.
The book covers hikes from southeast Oregon's Steens Mountain, past Crater Lake and the Southern Cascades, into the wilderness areas of the Siskiyou Mountains and finally to the redwood coast in extreme northwest California.
About Zach Urness: Zach has been an outdoors writer, photographer and videographer in Oregon for eight years. He covers the outdoors andHop Valley environment at the Salem Statesman Journal newspaper, and has written for USA Today, The Oregonian, the Eugene Register-Guard, Mail Tribune and the Grants Pass Daily Courier. When he isn’t hanging out with his 10-month-old daughter Lucy, you’ll find him kayaking, mountain biking or generally exploring wild places all over the Beaver State.

Press Release: Josh Laughlin Hired as Executive Director of Cascadia Wildlands

For immediate release
September 10, 2015
Contact: Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands Executive Director, 541.434.1463
Eugene, OR — The Cascadia Wildlands Board of Directors is excited to announce that Josh Laughlin has been hired as Executive Director of Eugene-based Cascadia Wildlands in a permanent capacity. Josh has been leading the organization as Interim Executive Director since January 2015.
Josh started his career at Cascadia Wildlands in 2001 and has been a tireless advocate for the wild places and wildlife of the region ever since. He has worn a number of hats with the organization over the years, most recently as Campaign Director, where he oversaw gray wolf recovery in the region, a halt of old-growth clearcutting on the Elliott State Forest, passage of legislation to reform harmful suction dredge mining in wild salmon waterways, and much more.
Josh Laughlin
“The Board of Directors is so pleased that Josh has embraced the role of permanent Executive Director, which will provide the organization with a strong and stable foundation for the years to come,” says Cascadia Wildlands Board President Sarah Peters. “His nearly 15 years with the organization gives him unique insight into what it takes to successfully run an organization of this caliber and will greatly assist in Cascadia Wildlands’ efforts to safeguard the species, waters and wildlands of the region.”
Josh hails from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and moved to Eugene in 1993 to attend the University of Oregon where he received degrees in Journalism and Environmental Studies. While in college, he spent considerable time advocating for protection of the remaining old-growth forests in the region. His forest advocacy on campus played a key role in the genesis of Cascadia Wildlands. He currently lives in Eugene with his wife and two children.
Cascadia Wildlands was officially founded in 1998 by students, forest workers, scientists, concerned community members, and business owners in response to the rampant clearcutting of old-growth forests on public lands in Western Oregon. Today, the organization has five staff, eight board members and a wide array of volunteers and interns that propel its conservation campaigns, including restoring wolves and other imperiled species in the Pacific West, designating Devil’s Staircase and the Wild Rogue as Wilderness, halting reckless logging on public lands, stopping the Pacific Connector gas pipeline in southwest Oregon, and much more. The organization is sustained by individual donors, local businesses, grant making foundations and fundraising events. More information about Cascadia Wildlands can be found on its website,
Photo of Josh Laughlin at the proposed Devil's Staircase Wilderness in the Oregon Coast Range. 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.



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.


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

July 23, 2015
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.
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