Press Room

Jul06

Oregon Wolf Delisting Challenge Reinstated by Court of Appeals

For Immediate Release
July 6, 2016
 
Contact:
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746, nick@cascwild.org    
Amaroq Weiss, Center for Biological Diversity, (707) 779-9613, aweiss@biologicaldiversity.org
Steve Pedery, Oregon Wild, (503) 283-6343 ext. 212, sp@oregonwild.org
      
Oregon Appeals Court Reinstates Legal Challenge to Premature Wolf Delisting
 
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.

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PORTLAND, Ore.— The Oregon Court of Appeals has ruled that Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity and Oregon Wild can proceed with their legal challenge to the state’s decision to prematurely strip endangered species protections from Oregon’s small population of gray wolves. Fewer than 120 of the animals are known to exist in the state.
 
“In no way should management of Oregon’s small population of recovering wolves be dictated by the livestock industry and its anti-wolf allies in Salem,” says Nick Cady, legal director with Cascadia Wildlands. “This ruling is a hopeful first step to ensure politics do not trump science when it comes to managing our treasured wildlife.”  
 
The ruling by the court late Tuesday reinstates a legal challenge filed in December by the conservation groups to last fall’s controversial 4-2 decision by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to strip state Endangered Species Act protections from gray wolves. Following that decision lobbyists with the livestock industry worked with several legislators during the 2016 legislature to pass House Bill 4040, a bill blocking judicial review of wolf delisting. Subsequent public records releases documented that despite public denials, the staff of Oregon Gov. Kate Brown was heavily involved in the legislation.
 
In April the conservation groups’ legal challenge was dismissed after the Oregon Department of Justice argued that the lawsuit was potentially moot due to H.B. 4040.  However, wolf advocates sought reconsideration by the court of this decision on the basis that H.B. 4040 was unconstitutional because it violated the separation of powers doctrine, among other issues.
 
In yesterday’s ruling Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals Erika Hadlock wrote that the issues presented by conservation advocates’ legal challenge “are complex matters of public importance” that deserve further consideration by the appellate court.
 
“Oregon’s wolves will now get their day in court to reveal the flawed process that stripped their protection,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Gov. Brown’s wildlife commission ignored the best science to illegally delist wolves, then her staff was actively involved in the passage of legislation to eliminate the public’s right to challenge that decision.”
 
The wildlife commission’s decision to delist wolves was based on an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife analysis of the state’s wolf population that numerous leading scientists characterized as severely flawed and illogical.
 
“Access to the courts to ensure that our government obeys its own laws is a cherished right of Oregonians,” said Steve Pedery, conservation director of Oregon Wild. “Using H.B. 4040, Gov. Brown, legislators and livestock industry lobbyists tried to revoke that right when it came to wolves, and now it appears to have backfired on them.”
 
The wolf advocates’ opening brief is due to the appellate court on Aug. 23.
 
Cascadia Wildlands educates, agitates, and inspires a movement to protect and restore Cascadia's wild ecosystems. We envision vast old-growth forests, rivers full of wild salmon, wolves howling in the backcountry, and vibrant communities sustained by the unique landscapes of the Cascadia bioregion.
 
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
 
Oregon Wild was founded in 1974 and works to protect & restore Oregon’s wildlands, wildlife, and waters as an enduring legacy for future generations.
 
Jun21

Greater Protections Sought for Marbled Murrelets in Oregon

For Immediate Release
June 21, 2016
 
Contact: Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, 314-482-3746
             Tierra Curry, Center for Biological Diversity, 928-522-3681
              Steve Pedery, Oregon Wild, 503-283-6343 ext. 212
              Bob Sallinger, Portland Audubon, 503-380-9728
 
Greater Protections Sought for Threatened Marbled Murrelets in Oregon
 
PORTLAND, Ore.– Conservation groups submitted petitions today asking the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) and the Oregon Board of Forestry to take new measures to better identify and protect important forest areas for protected marbled murrelets. The petition to ODFW requests that the agency “uplist” the marbled murrelet to “endangered” status under the Oregon Endangered Species Act (OESA). The petition to the Board of Forestry asks the agency to identify and protect important forest sites critical to the species’ survival.
 
The agencies are required to work together to recover murrelets. Cascadia Wildlands, Oregon Wild, Coast Range Forest Watch, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Audubon Society of Portland and the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club signed on to the petition, citing Oregon’s weak Forest Practices Act and the continuing clear-cutting of the sea-bird’s habitat. While murrelets have been listed as a “threatened” species for nearly 30 years, Oregon has never developed a plan to recover them or protect the old-growth forests where they live.
 
“Because murrelets are currently listed as ‘threatened’ under state law, Oregon has a duty to protect and recover this species and its habitat,” said Nick Cady, Legal Director at Cascadia Wildlands. “Not only has the state failed to take any meaningful measures to recover and protect murrelets, the state itself, through aggressive clearcut logging on its state forests, is primarily responsible for the recent dramatic loss in breeding habitat. ‘Endangered’ protections will not only more accurately reflect how vulnerable Oregon’s murrelets and old-growth forests are, but also ensure the development of a plan to protect and recover these elusive sea-birds and their habitat.”
 
The marbled murrelet was originally listed under the Oregon Endangered Species Act in 1987. Despite this listing and commitment to recovery, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has not developed survival guidelines for the species, leaving the murrelet in limbo with no enforceable mechanism from Oregon to help their population recover. The Oregon Board of Forestry has similarly neglected responsibilities to identify and protect forest areas critical to murrelet recovery on state and private lands.
 
Clearcutting on private lands to export raw logs to Asia, and clearcutting of older forests and potential habitat on state lands has fragmented Oregon’s coastal rainforests and put the bird at even greater risk of extinction. Conservation efforts from these two agencies should result in the identification of critical habitat areas for the species and compel the development of rules to protect these areas.
 
“For the last 30 years, Oregon’s plan for marbled murrelets has been to look the other way while their habitat is clear-cut,” said Oregon Wild Conservation Director Steve Pedery. “Oregonians expect better from our governor and state agencies. They need to develop a plan to protect murrelets and their habitat, and they need to stand up to pressure from the clearcut lobby and the county politicians who do their bidding.”
 
Murrelets only nest and roost in old-growth and mature forests — forest that are at risk from proposals to increase logging on Bureau of Land Management lands in western Oregon, and from Oregon’s efforts to ramp up logging on state forests and privatize the 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest east of Coos Bay. The murrelet monitoring report released last month by leading murrelet biologists stressed the urgent need to “arrest the loss of suitable habitat on all lands, especially on non-federal lands in the relatively near term.”
 
“We live in a state where Oregonians treasure our old-growth forests and wildlife, but where there is a growing gap between the public’s values and the actions of our politicians and state agencies,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “State regulators and Gov. Brown have a legal and moral responsibility to protect murrelets and their forest habitat.”
 
According to statute, ODFW has, as its primary mission, an obligation “to prevent the serious depletion of any indigenous species.” However, the agency currently spends 2 percent of its budget on conservation, and in recent years has come under increasing criticism for prioritizing logging, grazing and other extractive interests over its conservation mission.
 
"Oregonians treasure our old-growth forests and wildlife, and the state has an obligation to conserve these iconic species and habitats for the enjoyment of present and future generations,” said Chris Smith with the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Our management policies and practices need to align with these values and ODFW's responsibility."
 
“Marbled murrelet populations are spiraling downward in the Pacific Northwest and the State's outdated clearcutting policies are a big part of the problem," said Audubon Conservation Director, Bob Sallinger. "If we are going to have any hope of recovering this species, the State needs to step-up and recognize its responsibility to protect marbled murrelets and other old-growth dependent species."
 
Background: The marbled murrelet is a member of the auk family, which includes birds like auklets, guillemots and puffins. These sea-birds get their name from the marbling pattern of black, gray and white that covers their backs during the non-breeding season. When murrelets are breeding, they molt to a plain brown plumage. They form lifelong breeding pairs and feed on small, schooling fish, such as herring.
 
Populations of marbled murrelets are closely tied to the amount of old forest habitat available for nesting. The central Oregon coast is one of the last strongholds for murrelets. While forest practices have changed on federal lands managed by the Siuslaw National Forest, scientists warn that more needs to be done to protect murrelet habitat on state and private lands where logging practices continue to indiscriminately remove nesting habitat.
 
Expected Timeline: ODFW must acknowledge receipt of the petition within 10 working days, and determine within two years whether the marbled murrelet warrants “endangered” status. The Board of Forestry has 90 days to either begin rulemaking or deny the petition.
####
Jun14

Oregon Court of Appeals Set to Rule on Plan to Sell off Elliott State Forest

For Immediate Release
June 14, 2016
 
Contact: Robin Meacher, Cascadia Wildlands, 541.434.1463
              Bob Sallinger, Audubon Society of Portland, 503.380.9728
              Tanya Sanerib, Center for Biological Diversity, 971.717.6407
              Dan Kruse, Attorney for Plaintiffs, 531.337.5829
 
Oregon Appeals Court Set to Rule on Plan to Sell off Elliott State Forest
Case Could Cast Uncertainty on State’s Larger Privatization Effort for the Forest
 
PORTLAND, Ore. – The Oregon Court of Appeals is set to decide the legality of a 788-acre timber sale on the Elliott State Forest following a court hearing last Friday. The lawsuit, brought by Cascadia Wildlands, Audubon Society of Portland, and Center for Biological Diversity, argues that the Oregon Department of State Lands violated the law when it sold the East Hakki Ridge parcel in 2014 to Seneca Jones Timber Company. The case could have a significant bearing on the state’s plan to sell off the rest of this public forest by casting significant uncertainty to its legality.
 
“Laws are meant to be followed, and we believe the state of Oregon acted outside the law when it privatized this swath of the Elliott State Forest,” said Robin Meacher, Wildlands Campaign Director with Cascadia Wildlands. “Oregonians are now met with no trespassing signs upon entering this part of the forest, and that should be reversed by the court so that public access is maintained.”
 
The Elliott State Forest is a 93,000-acre state forest in the Oregon Coast Range southeast of Reedsport. The forest contains rare mature and old-growth forest, harbors imperiled salmon and wildlife, and is enjoyed for its camping, hiking, birding, hunting and fishing opportunities. The forest also has an historic mandate to generate revenue for the Common School Fund in Oregon.
 
A federal court in 2012 found that the state of Oregon – in its quest to ramp up clearcutting on the Elliott – violated the federal Endangered Species Act, which forced the cancellation of 28 old-growth timber sales. The state responded by selling off nearly 1,500 acres of the Elliott, including the East Hakki parcel, and is currently moving to dispose of the entire public forest through a process adopted by the State Land Board. The board, made up of Gov. Kate Brown, Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins and Treasurer Ted Wheeler, oversees the management of the Elliott State Forest and other Common School Fund lands in Oregon.
 
“The public cares deeply about public lands and doesn’t want them sold to industrial timber companies or any other private business,” said Bob Sallinger with Audubon Society of Portland. “Oregonians already rejected one attempt to privatize public lands at Malheur earlier this year. Governor Brown, Treasurer Wheeler and Secretary of State Atkins need to reverse course on the Elliott and stand with Oregonians who treasure this public forest for all its incredible values to ensure it doesn’t get acquired by private interests and liquidated.”
 
At issue in the East Hakki case is Oregon Revised Statue 530.450, which prohibits the sale of most of the Elliott State Forest. The state agrees that the statute forbids the sale of the forest, but argues that the law “unduly burdens” its ability to manage the Elliott.
 
“The Elliott State Forest provides essential habitat for imperiled species in Oregon like salmon and marbled murrelets,” said Tanya Sanerib with Center for Biological Diversity. “It is essential we safeguard this unique coastal forest for future generations.”
 
Oregonians have long advocated that the state and State Land Board maintain the Elliott in public ownership and managed for ecological, social, and recreational purposes in addition to its Common School Fund mandate.
 
“The Elliott can, and should, be managed in a way that balances ecological and recreation needs with revenue production,” continued Meacher. “Approximately half the Elliott is a dense, second-growth tree farm that could benefit from restoration thinning which would generate much needed jobs for the local economy. The State Land Board should jettison the current privatization process and take real leadership to create a balanced forest plan that keeps the Elliott in public ownership.”
 
The Department of State Lands, which manages the Elliott on behalf of the State Land Board, anticipates receiving acquisition proposals in November, and could make a decision to sell off the forest by December. Earlier this spring, a letter was sent by the plaintiffs of two recent lawsuits regarding the Elliott to interested parties outlining the liability associated with owning and managing the Elliott based on past and present litigation.
 
The plaintiffs are represented by attorneys Daniel Kruse of Eugene and Nicholas Cady with Cascadia Wildlands. 
May16

Cascadia Wildlands and Conservation Allies Challenge BLM Forest Plans in Oregon

For Immediate Release
 May 16, 2016
 
Contacts:
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, 314-482-3746, nick@cascwild.org
Todd True, Earthjustice, 206-343-7340, ext. 1030, ttrue@earthjustice.org
Susan Jane Brown, Western Environmental Law Center, 503-680-5513, brown@westernlaw.org
Joseph Vaile, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, 541-488-5789, joseph@kswild.org  
Glen Spain, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, 541-689-2000, fish1ifr@aol.com
Steve Holmer, American Bird Conservancy, 202-888-7490, sholmer@abcbirds.org
John Kober, Pacific Rivers, 503-915-6677, john@pacificrivers.org
 
Groups Protest Oregon Timber Plan Riddled With Loopholes
Latest BLM Plan Increases Clearcutting and Dismantles Streamside Forest Protections for Clean Water, Salmon, and Communities
 
Washington D.C.—Today, Earthjustice and the Western Environmental Law Center, on behalf of 22 conservation and fishing groups, filed a formal protest with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) objecting to its proposed management plans for western Oregon. The BLM plan eliminates protections for streamside forests, increases clearcutting, and removes 2.6 million acres of these federally managed public forests from the 1994 Clinton Northwest Forest Plan.
 
The plan proposes to increase logging levels by 37 percent, which will boost carbon emissions and make the forest less resilient to climate change and other disturbances. But the fishing organizations are most concerned about the reduction in streamside forest protection.
 
“The last, best salmon habitat in Oregon is within these BLM-managed forests,” said Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA), a major fishing industry trade association that also joined the petition.  “Productive salmon streams are far more valuable for the salmon-related jobs they create than for the market value of the lumber you could generate from logging them. Stronger stream protection makes excellent economic sense, logging them does not!”  
 
“Clearcutting kills fish,” said Joseph Vaile of the  southern Oregon-based KS Wild. “We don’t need more clearcuts. We need common-sense management that protects our water sources, stores carbon in ancient forests, and keeps the public at the table.”
In southern Oregon, the BLM plan would remove the Applegate Adaptive Management Area that has enabled community input in land management.
 
BLM first attempted to revise its resource management plans in 2008. That plan, called the Western Oregon Plan Revision (WOPR and pronounced “whopper”), was the result of a sweetheart settlement between the Bush administration and the timber industry was withdrawn by the Obama administration in 2009, resurrected by a federal judge in 2011 in response to a timber industry lawsuit, and finally rejected by a second federal judge in 2012.
 
“The latest proposal is like a zombie in a bad horror movie,” said Todd True, an attorney with Earthjustice. “The Bush administration’s fatally flawed WOPR is back from the dead to open up protected forests to clear-cut logging.”
 
“This plan would  impact the quality of life of rural residents, drinking water quality, wildlife habitat, and carbon storage, needed to combat climate change,” said Susan Jane Brown, staff attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center. “We need to get this right. We must protect special places that Oregonians love while we work to restore forests and watersheds. A holistic view should drive our public land decisions — not simply finding ways to maximize logging.”
 
The BLM’s new management plan revision cuts corners scientifically and legally. It has significant problems, including:
•    The proposed plan eliminates the strong water quality and habitat provisions of the Northwest Forest Plan, reducing streamside no-logging buffers by half or more (a loss of 300,000 acres of streamside reserves). These reductions threaten wild native fish, water quality, terrestrial species, and aquatic recreational opportunities.
 
•    The proposed plan leaves many mature and old-growth forests and habitat unprotected. It includes loopholes for logging large and old trees, and would reduce buffers or eliminate survey requirements for sensitive wildlife that depend on old forest habitat.
 
•    BLM's chosen plan represents the least ambitious carbon sequestration alternative analyzed. Over the next century, the Northwest Forest Plan would sequester twice as much carbon.
 
•    The BLM’s plan focuses on more intensive, clearcut-style logging on nearly half a million acres of forests, abandoning the direction towards restoration of forests and watersheds under the Northwest Forest Plan.
 
•    While additional recreation areas are designated under the plan, in many of these areas logging and off-road motorized use take precedence and could diminish the types of recreation the vast majority of Oregonians enjoy.
 
“Years ago, many of the BLM lands were sacrifice zones, where logging, mining, and grazing were king. Then came the Northwest Forest Plan which established a sustainable balance between conservation and management,” said Nick Cady of Cascadia Wildlands. “Today, more people live and work in western Oregon because they were drawn to its recreational opportunities and amenity economy, not the extractive industries of the past. It’s time for the BLM to wake up and manage these lands as the vast majority of Oregonians and Americans demand.”
 
“The best available science shows that unsustainable logging of our public forests has harmed clean water and healthy streams, pushed wildlife toward extinction, contributed to global warming, and destroyed much of Oregon’s old-growth forests,” said Oregon Wild’s Doug Heiken. “BLM’s proposed plan is a throwback to this terrible legacy. Today, our public forests should be preserved to address new realities — the need to mitigate global warming, recover endangered species, protect clean water, and restore ecosystem function and resilience.”
 
“Over 1.8 million Oregonians rely on BLM lands for their drinking water,” said John Kober of Pacific Rivers. “Many of Oregon’s most iconic rivers, such as the Rogue, Umpqua and McKenzie are sustained by the highly effective aquatic protections that have been in place for over 20 years. Scrapping proven stream protections in order to increase timber harvest is simply too risky given the benefits that our rivers provide.”
 
A copy of the protest is available here.
###
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.
Apr15

Lawsuit Challenges Alaska Road Project from Ketchikan to Shelter Cove

For Immediate Release, April 14, 2016
 
Contact:    
Larry Edwards, Greenpeace, (907) 747-7557, larry.edwards@greenpeace.org
Gabe Scott, Cascadia Wildlands, (907) 491-0856, gscott@cascwild.org
Dune Lankard, Center for Biological Diversity, (907) 952-5265, dlankard@biologicaldiversity.org
 
Lawsuit Challenges Road Project From Ketchikan to Shelter Cove
 
KETCHIKAN, Alaska  Five environmental groups sued the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers today in the federal district court at Anchorage to force supplemental analysis on the environmental consequences of the Ketchikan-to-Shelter-Cove road project on Revillagigedo Island in southeastern Alaska. The project is out for bids, which are due today.
 
The lawsuit challenges the Forest Service's recent approval of a right-of-way easement for a one-mile segment of the road that would cross national forest land, and the Army Corps of Engineers' issuance of a wetland fill permit, which allows seven miles of road (including the national forest segment) to be built. The rest of the construction would be on state land.
 
The road construction would connect Ketchikan to about 53 miles of existing logging roads in the Saddle Lakes area. That region already has a very high road density of nearly two miles of road per square mile; local wildlife populations are already stressed from about 14,000 acres of clearcut logging over the past two decades.
 
"At issue is the connection of Ketchikan to the presently isolated area beyond George Inlet, which has an existing high density of logging roads," said Larry Edwards of Greenpeace. "Making road connections from communities to areas that have a high road density is known to pose a threat to the sustainability of populations of Alexander Archipelago wolves, marten and other sensitive wildlife species due to increased hunting and trapping pressure, including poaching."
 
The 7.3-mile, one-lane gravel road link would be built by the State of Alaska, which put it out for bids March 14. The expected cost is $19 million, and $21 million is budgeted. The construction would extend eastward from the existing White River Road, which now ends at Leask Creek. It would proceed to Salt Lagoon, at the head of George Inlet, and then northward. The north end would connect to an existing logging road that goes eastward to Shelter Cove, on Carroll Inlet.
 
"The federal agencies did not follow federal law to consider hunting and trapping pressure, wildlife disturbance and user conflicts that the road connection will cause," said Gabe Scott of Cascadia Wildlands. "It is important that the agencies go back to the drawing board to ensure that wildlife, hunters and recreational users are fully considered."
 
The suit has no effect on road access from Ketchikan to upper George Inlet or on the potential for a boat launch ramp and dock somewhere along the inlet's shore between the White River and Leask Creek.
 
"Plowing forward with this road connection before determining the consequences of doing so has the process entirely backward," said Dune Lankard, the Center for Biological Diversity's representative in Alaska. "This project is part of the logging industry's grand scheme to access old-growth forests that we're determined to protect."
 
The plaintiffs are the Greater Southeast Alaska Conservation Community, Cascadia Wildlands, Greenpeace, Center for Biological Diversity and The Boat Company. 
 
Plaintiffs are represented by Crag Law Center, of Portland, Ore.
Apr12

Press Release: BLM to Weaken Environmental Protections in Western Oregon

For Immediate Release
April 12, 2016
 
Contact:
Josh Laughlin, Executive Director, Cascadia Wildlands
541-844-8182, jlaughlin@cascwild.org
Doug Heiken, Conservation & Restoration Coordinator, Oregon Wild
541-344-0675, dh@oregonwild.org
Joseph Vaile, Executive Director, Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center
541-488-5789, joseph@kswild.org
 
Bureau of Land Management to Weaken Environmental Protections in Western Oregon
Clean water, wildlife protections, and recreation suffer in new logging plan
 
Portland – The Bureau of Land Management today released new plans that will guide recreation, wildlife habitat protection, water quality, and logging on 2.6 million acres of federal forests in western Oregon. Home to salmon and ancient forests, these public lands also provide drinking water for nearly 1.8 million Oregonians. If made final, the Proposed Resource Management Plan would weaken key protections of the Northwest Forest Plan that has guided management and ecosystem restoration on these forests for the past two decades.
 
“The Obama administration has an opportunity to embrace recreation, clean drinking water, and carbon sequestration to fight global warming with these plans,” said Doug Heiken from Oregon Wild. “But instead we see weakened stream buffers, increased carbon emissions, and relaxed standards for salmon and wildlife, all to increase certainty for the logging industry.”
 
The Northwest Forest Plan took a science-based ecosystem management approach to forest management to protect rivers, old-growth forests, and populations of native plants and animals that were decimated by decades of unsustainable logging.  Monitoring reports released in 2015 revealed the Northwest Forest Plan has succeeded in restoring watersheds and the old-growth ecosystem over the last 20 years as intended, something the new BLM plan will set back.
 
Under the new plan, streamside buffers essential for salmon recovery will be cut in half, the reserve network for old-growth habitat will be significantly reduced, and a program to protect rare species, known as Survey and Manage, will be eliminated entirely.
 
A key element of the Northwest Forest Plan is the Aquatic Conservation Strategy (ACS), which protects designated buffers around streams where logging is not allowed, and other important protections for streamside forests, clean water, and fish. The proposed new plan cuts this buffer zone in half, with impacts to water quality, and fish and wildlife habitat.
 
“The forests and rivers managed by the BLM are essential to clean drinking water and native salmon runs. Desire has never been higher to protect these public resources, so it is unthinkable that the BLM would slash the buffers in half that protect water quality,” says Josh Laughlin, Executive Director of Cascadia Wildlands.
 
The proposed plan would log 278 million board feet a year – a 37% increase over current annual harvest levels. Increased logging will likely have negative impacts on public recreation values and ignores the recreation-based economy in the state.
 
The BLM’s new plan does not place as much of an emphasis on recreation as many in the public are demanding. But according to a recent study on the economic impact of “quiet recreation” on BLM lands, activities like camping, hunting, and fishing contribute $214 million to Oregon communities and support 2,322 jobs.  BLM timber, wood, and non-wood product sales generate only $58 million.
 
“We should embrace the role of the expanding recreation economy in Oregon,” said Joseph Vaile from the Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center. “People from all over the world are visiting our state to celebrate its natural beauty. If the BLM caves to political pressure from the timber industry, this plan will put our growing recreation economy at risk.”
                                                                XXXX
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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Mar31

Press Release: State of Oregon to Kill Alpha Pair and Two Others in Imnaha Wolf Pack

March 31, 2016
For immediate release
Contact:
Nick Cady, Legal Director, Cascadia Wildlands, 314-482-3746; nick@cascwild.org
 
UPDATE: At 2:49 pm today we received communication from ODFW that the agency lethally removed the four wolves.
 
Following a series of cattle and sheep depredations in Wallowa County, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has authorized lethal control of four Imnaha Pack wolves, including the alpha male (OR-4), the alpha female (OR-39), and two young wolves.
 
"We are deeply saddened by the difficult situation that has arisen for these Imnaha Pack wolves," said Nick Cady, Legal Director of Cascadia Wildlands.  “Although the situation appears to be escalating in Wallowa County, we don’t condone using public taxpayer dollars to kill wolves on behalf of private interests.
 
OR-4 is one of the original alpha males in Oregon and has played a significant role in wolf recovery across the state.
 
"This is a particularly difficult day as OR-4 has sired an incredible number wolf pups over the years, which has fueled wolf recovery across the state,” says Josh Laughlin, Executive Director of Cascadia Wildlands. “His role and that of the other three wolves should be celebrated and remembered."
 
Four other members of the Imnaha Pack appear to have split from this group of four, and are not being targeted, according to ODFW. The separation of the pack, and the advanced age and condition of both OR-4 and OR-39, could indicate the pack is splitting and may be contributing to the spike in livestock depredations.
 
Lethal control under these circumstances, like when pro-active nonlethal techniques are used to deter conflict, is contemplated in the Oregon Wolf Plan, and it appears the state has meaningfully deliberated over its decision.
 
More background on gray wolf recovery in the Pacific West can be found here.
 
                                                                  ####
Mar31

Lawsuit Challenges Frankenfish Approval

 
March 31, 2016
Media contacts:
Gabriel Scott, Alaska Legal Director, Cascadia Wildlands, 907-491-0856; gscott@cascwild.org
George Kimbrell, Senior Attorney, Center for Food Safety, 571-527-8618; gkimbrell@centerforfoodsafety.org
Brettny Hardy, Earthjustice, 415-217-2142; bhardy@earthjustice.org
Dune Lankard, Center for Biological Diversity, (907) 952-5265; dlankard@biologicaldiversity.org
 
Lawsuit Challenges FDA’s Approval of Genetically Engineered Salmon
Coalition of Fishing, Consumer, and Environmental Groups Say First-ever Approval of Laboratory-Created Food Animal Violated Laws and Ignored Risks to Wild Salmon and Fishing Communities 
 
SAN FRANCISCO, CA—A broad coalition of environmental, consumer, and commercial and recreational fishing organizations today sued the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approving the first-ever genetically engineered (GE) food animal, an Atlantic salmon engineered to grow quickly. The man-made salmon was created by AquaBounty Technologies, Inc. with DNA from three fish: Atlantic salmon, Pacific king salmon, and Arctic ocean eelpout. This marks the first time any government in the world has approved a GE animal for commercial sale and consumption.
 
The plaintiff coalition, jointly represented by legal counsel from Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice, includes Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Institute for Fisheries Resources, Golden Gate Salmon Association, Kennebec Reborn, Friends of Merrymeeting Bay, Ecology Action Centre, Food & Water Watch, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Cascadia Wildlands, and Center for Food Safety.
 
In approving the GE salmon, FDA determined it would not require labeling of the GE fish to let consumers know what they are buying, which led Congress to call for labeling in the 2016 omnibus spending bill. FDA’s approval also ignored comments from nearly 2 million people opposed to the approval because the agency failed to analyze and prevent the risks to wild salmon and the environment, as well as fishing communities, including the risk that GE salmon could escape and threaten endangered wild salmon stocks.
 
AquaBounty’s GE salmon will undertake a 5,000-mile journey to reach U.S. supermarkets. The company plans to produce the GE salmon eggs on Prince Edward Island, Canada. The GE salmon will then be grown to market-size in a facility in Panama, processed into fillets, and shipped to the U.S. for sale. That complicated scheme is only for the initial approval, however. AquaBounty has publicly announced plans to ultimately grow its GE fish in the U.S. rather than Panama, and sell it around the world. Despite this, FDA’s approval only considered the current plans for the far-flung facilities in Canada and Panama, leaving the risk of escape and contamination of U.S. salmon runs unstudied.
 
The lawsuit challenges FDA’s claim that it has authority to approve and regulate GE animals as “animal drugs” under the 1938 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Those provisions were meant to ensure the safety of veterinary drugs administered to treat disease in livestock and were not intended to address entirely new GE animals that can pass along their altered genes to the next generation. The approval of the GE salmon opens the door to other genetically engineered fish and shellfish, as well as chickens, cows, sheep, goats, rabbits and pigs that are reportedly in development.
 
The lawsuit also highlights FDA’s failure to protect the environment and consult wildlife agencies in its review process, as required by federal law. U.S. Atlantic salmon, and many populations of Pacific salmon, are protected by the Endangered Species Act and in danger of extinction. Salmon is a keystone species and unique runs have been treasured by residents for thousands of years. Diverse salmon runs today sustain thousands of American fishing families, and are highly valued in domestic markets as a healthy, domestic, “green” food.
 
When GE salmon escape or are accidentally released into the environment, the new species could threaten wild populations by mating with endangered salmon species, outcompeting them for scarce resources and habitat, and/or introducing new diseases. Studies have shown that there is a high risk for GE organisms to escape into the natural environment, and that GE salmon can crossbreed with native fish. Transgenic contamination has become common in the GE plant context, where contamination episodes have cost U.S. farmers billions of dollars over the past decade.  In wild organisms like fish, it could be even more damaging.
 
The world’s preeminent experts on GE fish and risk assessment, as well as biologists at U.S. wildlife agencies charged with protecting fish and wildlife heavily criticized the FDA decision for failing to evaluate these impacts. FDA ignored their concerns in the final approval. 
 
Statements from counsel and plaintiff coalition:
“FDA’s decision is as unlawful as it is irresponsible,” said George Kimbrell, senior attorney for Center for Food Safety and co-counsel for the plaintiffs. “This case is about protecting our fisheries and ocean ecosystems from the foreseeable harms of the first-ever GE fish, harms FDA refused to even consider, let alone prevent. But it’s also about the future of our food: FDA should not, and cannot, responsibly regulate this GE animal, nor any future GE animals, by treating them as drugs under a 1938 law.”
 
“FDA has not answered crucial questions about the environmental risks posed by these fish or what can happen when these fish escape,” said Earthjustice attorney Brettny Hardy and co-counsel for plaintiffs. “We need these answers now and the FDA must be held to a higher standard. We are talking about the mass production of a highly migratory GE fish that could threaten some of the last remaining wild salmon on the planet. This isn’t the time to skimp on analysis and simply hope for the best.”
 
“Atlantic salmon populations including our endangered Gulf of Maine fish are hanging on by a thread– they can’t afford additional threats posed by GE salmon,” said Ed Friedman from Friends of Merrymeeting Bay, one of the parties who successfully petitioned to classify most Maine Atlantic salmon as endangered. “The law requires agencies like FDA, who aren’t fisheries biologists, to get review and approval from scientists with that expertise. FDA’s refusal to do this before allowing commercialization of GE salmon is not only irresponsible, it violates the law.”
 
“On Prince Edward Island and across Atlantic Canada, indigenous peoples, anglers and community groups are working hard to protect and restore endangered salmon populations and rivers. Genetic contamination threatens all this work and in return there is little or no economic benefit to the region,” said Mark Butler, policy director at Ecology Action Centre in Nova Scotia.
 
There’s never been a farmed salmon that hasn’t eventually escaped into the natural environment. Why should we believe that long term, these frankenfish won’t be the same?” asked Golden Gate Salmon Association executive director John McManus.
 
“Once they escape, you can’t put these transgenic fish back in the bag. They’re manufactured to outgrow wild salmon, and if they cross-breed, it could have irreversible impacts on the natural world,” said Dune Lankard, a salmon fisherman and the Center for Biological Diversity’s Alaska representative. “This kind of dangerous tinkering could easily morph into a disaster for wild salmon that will be impossible to undo.”
 
“FDA’s action threatens and disrespects the wild salmon ecosystems, cultures and industries that are treasured here in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska,” said Gabriel Scott, Alaska legal director for Cascadia Wildlands. “These folks think a salmon is just a packet of protein, but we in Salmon Nation know better. From Alaska to California, Americans are intimately related with diverse runs of salmon and we’ve learned their unique attributes and incredible value. We’ve worked very hard to be good stewards of our natural heritage, and refuse to allow that to be undone by one company’s irresponsible experiment.”
 
“The FDA has failed to adequately examine the risks associated with transgenic salmon,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “The long term effects of people eating genetically modified foods have never been adequately addressed—and this GE salmon is no exception. This fish is unnecessary, so why take the risk?”
 
“It’s clear that the market has rejected GE salmon despite FDA’s reckless approval,” said Dana Perls, food and technology campaigner for Friends of the Earth. “Major retailers including Costco, Safeway and Kroger won’t sell it and polls show the vast majority of people don’t want to eat it. Yet under this approval it won’t be labeled, violating our fundamental right to know what we are feeding our families.”
 
 
 
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