California Wolf Center * Cascadia Wildlands * Center for Biological Diversity * Defenders of Wildlife * Earthjustice * Endangered Species Coalition * Humane Society of the United States * Living with Wolves * National Parks Conservation Association * Natural Resources Defense Council Oregon Wild * Project Coyote * Western Watersheds Project * WildEarth Guardians Wildlands Network * Wolf Conservation Center
For Immediate Release, March 31, 2013
Leda Huta, Endangered Species Coalition, (202) 320-6467
Bob Ferris, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 434-1463
Melanie Gade, Defenders of Wildlife, (202) 772-0288
Kierán Suckling, Center for Biological Diversity, (520) 275-5960
Sean Stevens, Oregon Wild, (503) 283-6343 x211
Kari Birdseye, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2098
Maggie Howell, Wolf Conservation Center, (914) 763-2373
Nearly 500,000 More Americans Speak Out Against Federal Plan to Strip Gray Wolves of Protection Scientific Peer Review Questioning Wolf Proposal Prompts Many to Write Administration
WASHINGTON—More than 460,000 Americans filed official comments calling on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to scrap its controversial proposal to remove federal protections from the gray wolf and instead work to advance wolf recovery in the United States. A scientific peer review released in early February 2014 unanimously concluded that a federal plan to drop protections for most gray wolves was not based on the best available science. These new comments and the results of the scientific peer review follow on the heels of the submission of approximately one million comments in late 2013 requesting that FWS continue to protect gray wolves. These comments represent the highest number of submissions ever to FWS on an endangered species, showing America’s overwhelming support for the charismatic wolf.
“When it comes to taking the wolf off of the endangered species list, Secretary Jewell told the public, ‘It’s about the science. And you do what the science says.’ It’s now time to stand by both her stated commitment to follow science and the will of the American people. She must immediately rescind the wolf delisting rule,” said Leda Huta, Executive Director of the Endangered Species Coalition. “As the top official in charge of wildlife and wild places, Secretary Jewell should ensure that gray wolves have the chance to fully recover wherever there is suitable habitat. Policy decisions about wolves and other wildlife should be based on the best science, not politics.”
“Science should be the lynchpin of every species listing decision and science should be the most significant factor guiding decisions on what ‘recovery’ looks like for our nation’s imperiled plants and animals,” said Defenders of Wildlife President Jamie Rappaport Clark. “The Fish and Wildlife Service should withdraw the delisting proposal for wolves and instead put science first to chart a sustainable recovery path for wolves throughout the U.S.”
“It’s time for the Obama administration to acknowledge what a growing number of Americans and our top scientists see very clearly — America’s gray wolves still need federal protection,” said Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “That’s what the public comment period and scientific peer review is all about – to make sure we get it right when it comes to protecting our most imperiled species. Now the only question is whether the Obama administration will follow the science or the politics.”
There were once up to 2 million gray wolves living in North America, but the animals were driven to near-extinction in the lower 48 states by the early 1900s. After passage of the federal Endangered Species Act in 1973 and protection of the wolf as endangered, federal recovery programs resulted in the rebound of wolf populations in limited parts of the country. Roughly 5,500 wolves currently live in the continental United States — a fraction of the species’ historic numbers.
“Instead of restoring wolves to their rightful places from coast to coast — as it did for bald eagles – the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to abandon wolf recovery before the job is done,” said Marty Hayden, Earthjustice vice-president for policy and legislation. “More than a million people have now told FWS to go back to work and protect our wolves.”
Last year the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed removing federal Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves across most of the lower 48 states. The Obama administration’s proposal would remove protections for wolves everywhere except Arizona and New Mexico, where the Mexican wolf is struggling to survive with just 84 wolves in the wild. This proposal would abandon protections for wolves in places where recovery remains in its infancy, such as Oregon and Washington, and would prevent wolves from recovering in places where good wolf habitat has been identified, including northern California, the southern Rocky Mountains and the Northeast.
"There are many places in the West—mainly on federal lands—that can and should support wolves,” said Bob Ferris, executive Director of Cascadia Wildlands. “It is disingenuous for the USFWS to leverage human intolerance as a rationale for delisting when that was one of two contributing factors to endangerment. They need to materially address this cause, not use it as an excuse to ignore science and not to do their jobs.”
“Oregon wolves have taken the first tentative steps towards recovery in the last few years," said Sean Stevens, executive director with Oregon Wild. "If the Obama administration takes away the strong protections of the Endangered Species Act, we pull the rug out from the fragile success story here on the West Coast and leave the fate of wolves in the hands of state agencies in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming who have proven incapable of balanced management."
The independent scientific peer review released in early February was commissioned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and conducted by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis. The panel of independent scientists concluded unanimously that FWS’s national wolf delisting rule does not currently represent the “best available science.” In light of these findings, FWS’s proposed delisting rule contravenes the Endangered Species Act, which mandates that protection decisions must be based on the best available science. In addition to the nearly half a million comments submitted by the American public in recent weeks, ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee Peter DeFazio (D-OR) released a bipartisan letter co-signed by 73 House members urging Secretary Jewell to continue protections for gray wolves and rescind the proposed delisting rule immediately.
Contacts: Daniel Kruse, Attorney at Law, 541.337.5829
Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands, 541.844.8182
Bob Sallinger, Audubon Society of Portland, 503.380.9728
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, 503.484.7495
Eugene, OR — Three conservation organizations filed a notice of intent today to sue any potential timber purchasers of nearly 3,000 acres of the Elliott State Forest recently authorized for sale by the State of Oregon. Audubon Society of Portland, Cascadia Wildlands and the Center for Biological Diversity argue that if timber companies knowingly buy and log the tracts that contain marbled murrelet habitat, they will be in violation of the federal Endangered Species Act.
“The state knows that it is illegal to log these lands, which is why they are proposing to sell them in the first place. Any purchaser should be keenly aware of the liability associated with logging marbled murrelet habitat in these parcels, particularly since we have already obtained an injunction against the current owner,” said Daniel Kruse, attorney for the groups serving the notice. “We plan to prosecute anyone who would purchase and log this important habitat for marbled murrelets, just as we successfully prosecuted the state.”
The Endangered Species Act has a strict prohibition against “taking” listed species like the marbled murrelet, which was listed as threatened with extinction in 1992. Take is broadly defined to include harassing, harming or wounding a species on the endangered species list. Past court cases have shown that logging murrelet habitat causes take of the species.
The land disposal, which has a March 28 deadline for sealed bids, comes in response to recent marbled murrelet “take” litigation by the three conservation groups that resulted in a preliminary injunction against logging in occupied marbled murrelet habitat on the Elliott State Forest, followed by the cancelation of 26 timber sales in murrelet habitat on the forest and significant changes to the state’s murrelet protection policy. Marbled murrelets are unique among seabirds in that they nest on the wide branches of large, old trees, making a daily trip of up to 35 miles inland to bring fish to their young. Logging of their forested habitat is the primary threat to their survival.
“Privatizing public forests that give Oregonians clean air and pure water is bad public policy,” said Francis Eatherington, conservation director with Cascadia Wildlands. “Moreover, these state forests anchor wild salmon runs and house endangered wildlife like the marbled murrelet which is in jeopardy of extinction.”
Conservation organizations have expressed significant concern with the amount of the minimum bids set for the parcels when compared to their actual value. According to the State of Oregon, the timber value of the parcels currently for sale is $12.5 million. The minimum bid is $3 million.
“It would be a tragic story if Big Timber ended up with stately tracts of pubic old-growth forests at rock bottom prices,” said Bob Sallinger, conservation director at the Audubon Society of Portland. “This would be a huge loss for the Oregon taxpayer who may well end up with nothing but clearcuts and muddy rivers.”
“By selling off a portion of Oregon’s oldest state forest to the highest bidder the state is not only putting threatened murrelets at risk but failing to protect the public’s highest interests,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We are determined to make sure the law is followed and these rare seabirds and their irreplaceable habitat are protected from the irreversible impacts of destructive logging.”
The 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest, overseen by the State Land Board, is located northeast of Coos Bay and has a mandate to produce revenue for county and state services. Rather than clearcut older trees on the forest to help fund schools and roads, the conservation organizations have long encouraged the State Land Board, made up of Secretary of State Kate Brown, Treasurer Ted Wheeler and Gov. John Kitzhaber, to pursue beneficial opportunities on the forest. The conservation groups recommend the sale of key habitat on the Elliott to land trusts or other conservation interests; a timber program that focuses on restoration thinning of dense plantation forests; or a combination of both.
Amaroq Weiss, Center for Biological Diversity, (707) 779-9613
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 434-1463
Suzanne Stone, Defenders of Wildlife, (208) 861-4655
Tim Coleman, Kettle Range Conservation Group, (509) 775-2667/(509) 435-1092 (cell)
Rebecca J. Wolfe, Washington State Chapter of the Sierra Club, (425) 750-4091
OLYMPIA, Wash.— Eleven conservation organizations representing hundreds of thousands of Washington residents sent a letter to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife today urging the agency to rescind its support for stripping wolves of federal Endangered Species Act protections. The department has repeatedly expressed support for dropping the federal safeguards, most recently in a letter sent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Dec. 13, 2013. The delisting runs counter to the best available science and ignores the values of the vast majority of Washington residents who want to see federal wolf protections maintained.
“Most people in Washington want wolves protected. The state department’s perplexing stance is out of step with the science and the values of local residents,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Wolves are just beginning to recover in Washington and face continued persecution. Federal protection is clearly needed to keep recovery on track.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in June 2013 proposed to remove federal endangered species protections for gray wolves across most of the lower 48 states, including in the western two-thirds of Washington. The science underlying the proposal has been sharply criticized by many scientists, including a peer review panel contracted by the federal agency, which unanimously concluded the proposal was not based on the best available science.
“The department should have never endorsed the delisting given the extremely controversial and political nature of this issue,” said Nick Cady of Cascadia Wildlands. “The department should instead be focused on ironing out significant shortcomings within its own wolf program, in order to prevent future regretful decisions, like the extermination of the Wedge pack.”
Washington’s wolf population has grown from zero wolves in 2007 to roughly 51 wolves in 10 packs at the start of 2013, with new numbers to be announced this week. The recovery has largely been driven by federal Endangered Species Act protections, which led to the reintroduction of wolves in adjacent Idaho and made it against the law to kill wolves. Wolf recovery in Washington was almost upended when several members of the state’s first pack, known as the Lookout pack, were poached. In 2011 the poachers were caught and prosecuted under federal law and the pack has started to make a comeback. In 2012 the Wedge pack was killed in a department lethal control action over wolf-livestock conflicts on public land. The mass killing resulted in public outrage that the department had acted in violation of the state wolf plan and that the rancher involved had refused to adequately protect his cattle.
In February, a wolf was found illegally shot and killed in Stevens County.
“The scientific peer review panel was unified in rejecting the federal government’s scientific basis for proposing the national delisting of gray wolves,” said Suzanne Stone with Defenders of Wildlife. “Washington state should withdraw its support of the Service’s delisting proposal and instead advocate that the Service follow the best available science, as required by law, to chart a sustainable recovery path for wolves in Washington and throughout the U.S.”
The Department’s support for dropping federal protections for wolves runs contrary to the sentiments of Washington residents, nearly three-quarters of whom oppose delisting, according to a September 2013 poll. That matches the strong support nationwide for continued federal wolf protections demonstrated in a national poll conducted in July 2013.
“The protection of wolves as part of our Washington state wildlife is a public trust issue,” said Rebecca Wolfe of the Washington State Chapter of the Sierra Club. “It is the duty of the department to care for the wildlife entrusted to them by the people.”
“It’s time for the department to lead, governed by science, not pandering to special interests, mythology, science fiction or their desire to sell hunting licenses,” said Timothy Coleman, executive director of Kettle Range Conservation Group. “Gray wolf reintroduction to Yellowstone National Park showed the species is essential to ecosystem health. Washington citizens strongly support gray wolf recovery and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife should do all it can to make that happen.”
The letter to the department was filed by groups representing hundreds of thousands of Washington residents, including the Center for Biological Diversity, Cascadia Wildlands, The Humane Society of the United States, Western Environmental Law Center, Defenders of Wildlife, Washington State Chapter of the Sierra Club, Wolf Haven International, Gifford Pinchot Task Force, Kettle Range Conservation Group, The Lands Council and Wildlands Network.
Wyden-style Clearcut Causes Mudslide on O&C Lands
Mudslide found by neighboring resident at Buck Rising Timber Sale (Photo by Francis Eatherington)
Roseburg, OR Feb 27, 2014
Earlier this week, neighboring landowners discovered a mudslide in the "experimental" Buck Rising clearcut logging project on public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management in Douglas County. The type of clearcutting used in the project has been the model for US Senator Ron Wyden's plan to double logging levels on O&C lands in Western Oregon.
“I am frustrated that Senator Wyden wants more clearcutting in my community and in our state,” said neighboring landowner Ann Chamberlain. "Clearcuts cause mudslides. We see this everywhere on private logging lands, and Wyden and the BLM should stop making the problem worse.”
Pictures of a Buck Rising clearcut are featured in an anti-clearcutting billboard on I-5 near Eugene.
Neighboring landowners also found a second area that may soon give way and generate another mudslide. The slides are occurring on moderate slopes, in an area clearcut in 2013 using a controversial logging practice euphemistically called "variable retention regeneration harvest" or “ecoforestry.” Approximately 70% of the trees in the stand were clearcut, with just a few patches around the edges and in isolated islands left. The timing of the slide is especially troubling, given that recent rainfall was not outside the norm for the area.
"No matter what you call it, a clearcut is still a clearcut," said Cindy Haws, a landowner and family farmer facing a similar clearcutting proposal in the White Castle forest. “Clearcuts and mudslides like this damage our rivers and pollute our water, putting farms like mine at risk.”
Despite its "experimental" status, US Senator Ron Wyden has proposed federal legislation that would mandate this style of clearcutting across approximately one million acres of public land in Western Oregon in order to generate money to bail out county politicians facing budget shortfalls. Wyden's bill overturns key provisions of the Northwest Forest Plan, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act to permit this aggressive clearcut logging.
In addition, the BLM is copying Buck Rising's clearcut logging practices in a half dozen other logging projects around Western Oregon, including the controversial White Castle forest. That clearcutting plan has already drawn a legal challenge from the conservation groups Oregon Wild and Cascadia Wildlands. A group of tree sitters has weathered winter storms in one corner of the White Castle sale in an effort to save a stand of old-growth trees from the chainsaws.
"Senator Wyden and the BLM should stop trying to resurrect the clearcutting and land abuse of the 1970’s,” concluded Francis Eatherington with Cascadia Wildlands. “In 2014, we can do better than clearcutting our public lands to bail out county politicians.”
A scientific peer review released today greatly questions the science behind the Obama administration’s proposal to strip protections for gray wolves across nearly all of the lower 48 states. The report was initiated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the federal agency that proposed the delisting, and should compel the administration to maintain protections for the species in much of the US where it is currently listed as an endangered species.
“It is high time that the US Fish and Wildlife Service re-evaluate its questionable strategy of ignoring clear science and broad public sentiment to curry favor and avoid conflict with livestock users of public lands and the narrow and misguided interests of trophy hunters,” said Bob Ferris, executive director of Cascadia Wildlands and part of the biologist team that helped reintroduce wolves to Yellowstone and central Idaho in the mid-1990s. “At its very core, this is a case of the Service whittling the edges off a square peg to fit it in a round hole.”
The 1978 re-listing of the gray wolf under the federal Endangered Species Act justifiably listed the species as a whole, eschewing subspecies designations and acknowledging that the wolf was an important ecological component and an evolving species. This was done because it was known that wolves disperse over long distances — freely exchanging genetic materials in the process — and therefore it was felt that the wolf subspecies designations established by historic skull measurements were no longer appropriate or at the very least changing with the movement of genetic materials. The Services’ recent reclassification of the gray wolf ignored current science and embraced an invalidated approach that is political convenient, but not scientifically supportable.
“The proposed rule states that even if wolves were to recolonize parts of the PNW [Pacific Northwest] west of the NRM [northern Rocky Mountains] DPS [Distinct Population Segment] that they would not be ecologically or genetically distinct. The rule, however, also acknowledges the differing ecology in this area and the historically distinct wolves that used to occupy it (once considered their own subspecies). Additionally, recent research indicates that wolves just north of the PNW demonstrate ecological and genetic uniqueness typical of a ‘coastal ecotype’ (Leonard et al. 2005, Munoz et al. 2009, Weckworth et al. 2010, vonHoldt et al. 2011). Therefore, it does not seem to logically follow that wolves establishing west of the NRM DPS in the PNW would not be ecologically and genetically unique.” Dr. Sylvia Fallon in peer review document.
In addition to the wolf classification misstep in the Northwest (see above), there is also an issue relating to potential recovery areas in the Southern Rockies and the Northeast. Although the peer reviewers were not asked directly to address the issue of how many wolves in how many areas constitutes recovery, some of the reviewers questioned the appropriateness of Services’ rejection of potential recovery areas and delisting of wolves before they had a chance to recover.
“Based on the peer review, there is no way the Obama administration can proceed with its premature plan of stripping protections for the gray wolf,” said Josh Laughlin, campaign director with Cascadia Wildlands. “It is time for the administration to put the politics aside and use the best available science to recover the species, just like we did with the American alligator and bald eagle.
The peer review has triggered another 45-day public comment period. This new round of comments will be considered by the Service before it makes its final decision on whether to remove federal protections for the recovering species. By the end of December 2013, the agency received over one-million public comments opposing its plan to strip protections for gray wolves.
Gray wolves were systematically eradicated across much of the lower 48 by the mid-1900s through trapping, hunting and poisoning. Gray wolves have rebounded in a few regions of the US, including the western Great Lakes and northern Rockies Mountains, to the point of having their Endangered Species Act protections removed. Packs have begun to establish in Oregon and Washington in recent years. Eastern Oregon is home to seven packs, while Washington has 10 packs, three of them as far west as the Cascade Mountains.
Recently, wolves have wondered into states like California, Utah and Colorado, where significant habitat and prey bases exist. Cascadia Wildlands believes it is critical federal protections are maintained in these states and others, where wolves are just beginning to gain a toehold.
Amaroq Weiss, Center for Biological Diversity, (707) 779-9613
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 434-1463
Jessica Walz Schafer, Gifford Pinchot Task Force (503) 221-2102 x 101
Groups Urge More Cautious Approach on Washington’s Wolf-kill Policy
Letter Urges Revision to State’s Policies on Lethal Control of Recovering Wolf Populations
OLYMPIA, Wash.— Twelve conservation organizations sent a letter to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife today raising concerns about the agency’s increasingly aggressive approach to killing endangered wolves and urged a more protective stance when it comes to the state's fledgling wolf population. The groups, working together as the Washington Wolf Collaborative, are requesting that the department revise its protocol for lethal control of wolves involved in wolf-livestock conflicts. Specific requests include a greater emphasis on nonlethal measures to keep livestock away from wolves and ensuring that Washington’s wolf lethal control policy is at least as protective of wolves as policies in place for wolves in neighboring Oregon.
“Washington’s wolves need tolerance and patience, not policies that are quick on the trigger,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The current protocol would allow wolves to be killed after just one or two conflicts with livestock, even though there’s no scientific literature confirming that killing wolves even solves the problem. Wolves are an endangered species and shouldn’t be managed like deer, elk or other game where the answer to every problem is just to start shooting.”
Washington’s wolf plan was crafted over five years by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife with input from a 17-member stakeholder group; it included more than 65,000 written comments from the public and a peer review by 43 scientists and wolf managers from outside the state.
Unfortunately, after the wolf plan was adopted in 2011, the state agency immediately transferred management authority over wolves from the Endangered Species Division to the Game Management division. Since then, agency actions toward wolves have strayed from the very conservative approach that is appropriate and necessary for recovering an endangered species. On Jan. 24, the agency issued a lethal control protocol, granting itself authority to kill wolves under circumstances that are a far cry from the precautionary approach that should be taken in the management of a recovering endangered species.
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495
Bob Sallinger, Audubon Society of Portland, (503) 380-9728
Settlement Protects Marbled Murrelet on Oregon State Forests, Cancels 28 Timber Sales
Agreement Also Ensures Future Logging Won’t Harm Rare Seabird
Portland, Ore.— Three conservation organizations secured a major victory today for Oregon’s coastal forests, reaching a settlement agreement with the state that cancels 28 timber sales in habitat for the threatened marbled murrelet on the Elliott, Clatsop and Tillamook state forests and improves future management practices to ensure the rare seabird is not harmed.
“This agreement provides immediate relief for the dwindling population of the marbled murrelet,” said Francis Eatherington, conservation director of Cascadia Wildlands. “The state of Oregon needs to see more in our state forests than timber volume.”
The agreement settles a legal challenge brought by the conservation organizations in 2012 arguing that logging of state forests authorized by the Oregon Department of Forestry harms the seabird, which is protected as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Marbled murrelets are unique among seabirds in that they nest on the wide branches of large, old trees, making a daily trip of up to 35 miles inland to bring fish to their young. Logging of their forest homes is the primary threat to their survival.
“This is a huge win for marbled murrelets and other species that depend on older forests,” said Bob Sallinger, conservation director of the Audubon Society of Portland. “The number of cancelled sales speaks to how out of alignment the state’s practices were with the law. Hopefully this marks the beginning of a new era of responsible and sustainable management of our state’s forests.”
“If we’re going to save the marbled murrelet, we have to protect the old forests this unique seabird calls home,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The state of Oregon and ODF flouted the law for years and now are paying the price. It’s time for the state to find a path forward that generates income for schools, but doesn’t drive species extinct in the process.”
ODF previously had a habitat conservation plan for the Elliott State Forest that allowed it to log some older forest habitat in exchange for protecting other areas critical for threatened and endangered species in the long term and was working on a plan for the Tillamook and Clatsop state forests. ODF then abandoned its plans in order to log areas it had previously promised to protect. This broken promise left the state vulnerable to the litigation filed by the groups in May 2012.
Under the settlement agreement, the state will now have to protect more habitat for murrelets on state forests. This habitat is key to protecting the species, as current research in the Pacific Northwest shows that murrelet populations are declining by approximately 4 percent per year. Clearcutting of older forest on the three coastal state forests is a contributing factor. The Elliott State Forest is a 93,000-acre forest located in the Coast Range east of Coos Bay. The Clatsop and Tillamook are made up of over 500,000 acres in the northwest Oregon Coast Range.
In addition to providing habitat for imperiled species, these forests have a mandate to generate revenue for county and state services. Rather than clearcut older trees in the three forests to help fund schools and roads, the conservation organizations have long encouraged the state to pursue beneficial opportunities. They recommend protection of the forests for use in carbon markets, a timber program that focuses on restoration thinning of dense plantation forests, the sale of key habitat to land trusts or other conservation interests, or a combination of these mechanisms.
The three conservation organizations on the suit are the Audubon Society of Portland, Cascadia Wildlands and the Center for Biological Diversity. The groups are represented by Daniel Kruse of Eugene, Tanya Sanerib of the Center for Biological Diversity, Nick Cady of Cascadia Wildlands, Chris Winter of the Crag Law Center, Susan Jane Brown of the Western Environmental Law Center and Scott Jerger of Field Jerger LLP.
Conservationists go to court to stop controversial clearcutting plan in White Castle forest; century-old trees on chopping block in sale that mimics Wyden O&C logging plan.
(Eugene, Oregon) - Two conservation organizations filed a legal challenge today aimed at blocking a controversial plan to clearcut 100-year old trees on publicly-owned Bureau of Land Management lands in Douglas County. The White Castle logging project targets century old forest, including some trees over 150 years old, using a controversial logging method euphemistically referred to as "variable retention regeneration harvest."
"No matter what you call it, a clearcut is still a clearcut," said Sean Stevens, Executive Director of Oregon Wild. "Clearcutting century-old forests that offer habitat for threatened wildlife on public lands in Oregon is not only immoral, in this case it's illegal."
At stake are 438 acres of publicly-owned forest in the South Myrtle Creek watershed, near the community of Canyonville. The Roseburg BLM District plans to use a controversial logging method known as "variable retention regeneration harvest" to clearcut over 187 acres, including trees over a century old. Bulldozing roads and other destructive activities associated with the project would target additional trees over 150 years old. Federal biologists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have acknowledged nearly 200 acres of habitat for threatened wildlife would be damaged or destroyed by the logging.
"The BLM's White Castle clearcutting plan is a throwback to the logging epidemic that ravaged Oregon in the 1970s and 80s," said Cindy Haws, a former Forest Service biologist who owns land downstream in the Myrtle Creek watershed. "This kind of aggressive clearcutting harms our salmon and native wildlife, and increases the risk of mudslides and pollution of our rivers."
Despite controversy surrounding the sale, the BLM is claiming that clearcutting the White Castle forest will benefit the environment by removing large areas of mature and old-growth trees to create open spaces. They claim that since they intend to leave a few patches of trees around the edges and in small clumps, it isn't really a clearcut.
A similar and related clearcutting project, known as the Buck Rising, was carried out on Roseburg BLM lands last summer and has been highly controversial. Pictures of a Buck Rising clearcut appeared in an anti-clearcutting billboard on I-5 near Eugene, and citizen activists have occupied a portion of the White Castle forest with a tree-sitting protest, braving frigid temperatures, rain, and high winds in an attempt to protect the area.
The legal challenge raises a number of issues, including:
The destruction of almost 200 acres of forest habitat for threatened wildlife.
Failure to conduct a complete analysis of likely environmental damage from clearcutting.
Failure to consider environmentally responsible alternatives, including thinning smaller trees instead of clearcutting older forests.
Failure to consider the existing clearcuts that scar the watershed. Though BLM claims the logging is needed to create open patches and young forest, their own data shows that 27% of the forests on federal lands in the region are under 30 years old.
"The BLM wants to clearcut this forest to try and placate politicians and logging interests, plain and simple," said Francis Eatherington with Cascadia Wildlands. "They are trying to use euphemisms like 'variable retention regeneration harvest' to put lipstick on the pig."
The BLM is facing intense political pressure from logging corporations and some politicians to increase clearcutting, despite the fact that the agency has largely met its timber targets for the last decade by thinning young forests instead of clearcutting older ones.
A bill proposed by Senator Ron Wyden in late November would expand projects like the White Castle clearcuts to more than a million acres of public land in Western Oregon to generate money to bail out some county governments facing budget shortfalls. Wyden's bill overturns key provisions of the Northwest Forest Plan, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act, and like the BLM, has used the opinions of two prominent forestry professors to justify such logging.
Amaroq Weiss, Center for Biological Diversity, (707) 779-9613
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 434-1463
John Mellgren, Western Environmental Law Center, (541) 359-0990
In Washington, Opposition Mounts to Notorious Federal Program’s Attempt to Grab Wolf-killing Powers
OLYMPIA, Wash.— Eight conservation groups representing tens of thousands of Washington residents filed official comments today opposing a controversial federal agency’s attempt to give itself authority to kill endangered wolves in the state. In December the U.S. Department of Agriculture/ APHIS Wildlife Services published a draft “environmental assessment” proposing to broaden its authority to assist the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife killing wolves in response to livestock depredations.
Conservation organizations are calling for Wildlife Services to prepare a more in-depth “environmental impact statement” because the less-detailed assessment already completed contains significant gaps and fails to address specific issues that will significantly affect wolves and the human environment. The document prepared by Wildlife Services failed to provide data to support some of its core assertions, including whether killing wolves actually reduces wolf-caused losses of livestock. It also failed to address the ecological effects of killing wolves in Washington, including impacts on wolf populations in neighboring states and on nontarget animals — from federally protected species such as grizzly bears and Canada lynx to wolverines, which are now proposed for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act.
“Allowing a notoriously anti-predator program like Wildlife Services to kill wolves will hobble wolf recovery in Washington, where they remain an endangered species,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Wildlife Services is nothing but a killing machine for the livestock industry. There are certainly better options to protect livestock than killing these beautiful animals that are so important to ecosystems.”
Wildlife Services is a stand-alone program under the USDA that kills roughly 1.5 million animals per year, including wolves, grizzly bears, otters, foxes, coyotes, birds and many others, with little public oversight or accountability. Thousands of animals killed by Wildlife Services each year are nontarget wildlife species, endangered species and even people’s pets that unwittingly get caught in traps or ingest poisons intended for target species.
“There is no place for Wildlife Services in Washington wolf management,” says Nick Cady, legal director with Cascadia Wildlands. “This unaccountable agency program appears to have one mission only — to sanitize the landscape of America’s wild animals that interfere with agricultural operations.”
Long criticized as a rogue entity, Wildlife Services was recently the subject of a prize-winning newspaper exposé of its shadowy operations, as well as a documentary containing firsthand descriptions by former program personnel of illegal and cruel practices perpetrated on wildlife and domestic animals. Conservation groups petitioned the USDA in December demanding reform of Wildlife Services’ entire operations. Since then there have been congressional calls for an investigation into the program’s questionable operations, nontransparency and lack of accountability.
“Given the pending USDA Inspector General investigation into Wildlife Services, now is not the time to be granting this program new authority to kill wolves in Washington,” said John Mellgren, staff attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center. “Broadening its killing authority would introduce new roadblocks to wolf recovery in Washington, and with the use of questionable and inhumane tactics.”
Wildlife Services acted in an advisory capacity in the 2012 killing of the Wedge pack by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. In that instance, the department killed seven wolves after depredations of livestock on public lands, despite the rancher’s failure to take sufficient action to protect his cattle. The public, in Washington and across the nation, was outraged, and a Washington state senator called for an investigation into the Wedge pack’s annihilation.
"Wildlife Services consistently fails to consider the ecological value of wolves and other large carnivores to maintaining ecosystem health, integrity and resilience," said Camilla Fox, founder and executive director of Project Coyote. "It's high time Wildlife Services factored in these values and put its money where its mouth is by implementing and emphasizing non-lethal methods to reduce livestock-predator conflicts."
Wolves were driven to extinction in Washington in the early 1900s by a government-sponsored eradication program on behalf of the livestock industry. They began to return to Washington from neighboring Idaho and British Columbia in the early 2000s, and their population has grown to the current 10 confirmed packs and two probable packs. While this represents solid growth, wolves in the state are far from recovered and face ongoing threats. Wildlife Services’ proposal poses a new, significant threat to the full recovery of wolves in Washington.
The organizations calling on Wildlife Services to prepare a full environmental impact statement include Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity, Western Environmental Law Center, Project Coyote, Predator Defense, WildEarth Guardians, Kettle Range Conservation Group and The Lands Council.
Amaroq Weiss, Center for Biological Diversity, 707-779-9613
Jasmine Minbashian, Conservation Northwest, 360-671-9950 x129
Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands, 541-844-8182
Joseph Vaile, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, 541-488-5789
Lauren Richie, California Wolf Center, 443-797-2280
Pamela Flick, Defenders of Wildlife, 916-203-6927
Rob Klavins, Oregon Wild, 503-283-6343 x210
SEATTLE— Demonstrating Americans’ broad opposition to the Obama administration’s plan to strip Endangered Species Act protections from gray wolves, members of the Pacific Wolf Coalition submitted 101,416 comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today favoring continued wolf protections. The comments on behalf of the coalition’s members and supporters in the Pacific West join 1 million comments collected nationwide expressing Americans’ strong disapproval of the Fish and Wildlife Service proposal to remove federal protections from gray wolves across most of the continental United States.
“The gray wolf is one of the most iconic creatures of the American landscape and wolves play a vital role in America’s wilderness and natural heritage,” said Pamela Flick, California representative of Defenders of Wildlife. “Californians, Oregonians and Washingtonians want to see healthy wolf populations in the Pacific West. In fact, recent polling clearly demonstrates overwhelming support for efforts to restore wolves to suitable habitat in our region. Removing protections would be ignoring the voices of the majority.”
The strong support for maintaining wolf protections was apparent in recent weeks as hundreds of wolf advocates and allies turned out for each of five public hearings held nationwide. At the only hearing in the Pacific West, Nov. 22 in Sacramento, Calif., more than 400 wolf supporters demanded the Fish and Wildlife Service finish the job it began 40 years ago.
"Gray wolves are just beginning their historic comeback into the Northwest, and they need federal protections maintained at this sensitive time," said Josh Laughlin, Campaign Director with Cascadia Wildlands. "Politics shouldn't trump science during this critical recovery period."
Wolves are just starting to return to the Pacific West region, which includes the western two-thirds of Washington, Oregon and California. This area is home to fewer than 20 known wolves with only three confirmed packs existing in the Cascade Range of Washington and a lone wolf (OR-7) that has traveled between eastern Oregon and northern California. Wolves in the Pacific West region migrated from populations in British Columbia and the northern Rockies.
“Wolf recovery has given hope to Americans who value native wildlife, but remains tenuous on the West Coast,” said Rob Klavins, wildlife advocate with Oregon Wild. “Wolves are almost entirely absent in western Oregon, California and Washington. Especially as they are being killed by the hundreds in the northern Rockies, it's critical that the Obama administration doesn’t strip wolves of basic protections just as recovery in the Pacific West begins to take hold.”
“The current proposal by the Fish and Wildlife Service to prematurely strip wolves of federal protection would limit recovery opportunities for the Pacific West’s already small population of wolves,” said Lauren Richie, director of California wolf recovery for the California Wolf Center. “Scientists have identified more than 145,000 square miles of suitable habitat across the region, including California, where wolves have yet to permanently return.”
“It’s a powerful statement when nearly 1 million Americans stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the nation’s top wolf experts in their conviction that gray wolves still need federal protections,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Wolf recovery on the West Coast is in its infancy, and states where protections have been lifted are hunting and trapping wolves to bare bones numbers.”
To promote gray wolf recovery in the Pacific West and combat misinformation, the Pacific Wolf Coalition has launched its new website — www.pacificwolves.org. The site, which offers easy access to factual information and current wolf news, is part of the coalition’s ongoing work to ensure wolf recovery in the West.
“OR-7’s amazing journey shows us that wolves can recover to the Pacific West, if we give them a chance” said Joseph Vaile, executive director of Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center.
“Americans value native wildlife. Spreading the word on what is happening with wolves here and across the country has never been more important. That is why the Pacific Wolf Coalition is using the end of the public comment period as an opportunity to launch our new website,” said Alison Huyett, coordinator of the Pacific Wolf Coalition. “The website will provide the public with current, reliable information on what is happening with wolves and describe how citizens can become involved in protecting this majestic and important animal.”
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The Pacific Wolf Coalition represents 29 wildlife conservation, education and protection organizations in California, Oregon and Washington committed to recovering wolves across the region, and includes the following member groups:
California Wilderness Coalition – California Wolf Center – Cascadia Wildlands – Center for Biological Diversity – Conservation Northwest – Defenders of Wildlife – Endangered Species Coalition – Environmental Protection Information Center – Gifford Pinchot Task Force – Greenfire Productions – Hells Canyon Preservation Council – Humane Society of the U.S. – Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center – Living with Wolves – National Parks Conservation Association – Natural Resources Defense Council – Northeast Oregon Ecosystems – Oregon Sierra Club – Oregon Wild – Predator Defense – Project Coyote – Sierra Club – Sierra Club California – Sierra Club Washington State Chapter – The Larch Company – Western Environmental Law Center – Western Watersheds Project – Wildlands Network – Wolf Haven International