Posts Tagged ‘Cascadia Wildlands’

Feb03

Cascadia Wildlands Challenges Wildlife Services’ Wolf Killing in Oregon

For Immediate Release, February 3, 2016
 
Contacts:
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 434-1463, nick@cascwild.org
John Mellgren, Western Law Environmental Center, (541) 359-0990, mellgren@westernlaw.org
Amy Atwood, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 504-5660, atwood@biologicaldiversity.org
Bethany Cotton, WildEarth Guardians, (503) 327-4923, bcotton@wildearthguardians.org
Brooks Fahy, Predator Defense, (541) 937-4261, brooks@predatordefense.org
Camilla Fox, Project Coyote, (415) 690-0338, cfox@projectcoyote.org
 
Lawsuit Challenges Wildlife Services' Authority to Kill Wolves in Oregon
 
PORTLAND, Ore. – Conservation groups filed a lawsuit today challenging the authority of the federal wildlife-killing program Wildlife Services to kill any of the approximately 81 remaining gray wolves in Oregon. The legal challenge, filed by the Western Environmental Law Center on behalf of four conservation groups, with Cascadia Wildlands representing itself, comes weeks after a federal court ruled that Wildlife Services’ controversial wolf killing program in Washington is illegal.
 
The groups contend that Wildlife Services failed to explain why killing wolves on behalf of livestock interests should replace common-sense, proactive and nonlethal alternatives such as those reflected in the Oregon Gray Wolf Management Plan. The National Environmental Policy Act requires this analysis and public disclosure. In Oregon and Washington, Wildlife Services completed vague plans to target wolves for livestock depredations but did not explain why nonlethal alternatives would be inadequate.
 
“Federal law requires Wildlife Services to conduct a full and fair evaluation of the ecological impacts of its wolf-killing program in Oregon, and it failed to do so,” said John Mellgren, the Western Environmental Law Center attorney arguing the case. “In addition to protecting gray wolves from being killed, our recent victory in Washington will help to shed light on this secretive federal program, and we hope to continue that process in Oregon.”
 
A federal extermination program under the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Wildlife Services kills roughly 1.5 million to 3 million native animals per year, including wolves, grizzly bears, mountain lions, otters, foxes, coyotes, birds and even domestic pets — with little oversight or accountability. Wildlife Services employs inhumane tools to kill wildlife including aerial gunning, leghold traps, snares and poisons. A 2013 internal audit revealed that Wildlife Services’ accounting practices lacked transparency and violated state and federal laws.
 
“Wildlife Services has for decades taken advantage of a legal loophole to avoid conducting any meaningful analysis of its deplorable killing program, or any assessment of whether its programs are effective at all,” said Nick Cady, legal director at Cascadia Wildlands. “We believe if the agency truly takes a hard look at its activities, the impacts and the costs, these killing programs will be terminated.”
 
NEPA requires Wildlife Services to rigorously examine the environmental effects of killing wolves and to consider alternatives that rely on proven nonlethal methods like range riders, livestock-guarding dogs and shepherds, and disposing of livestock carcasses to avoid attracting wolves and other predators. In both Oregon and Washington, Wildlife Services completed vague analyses that did not consider alternatives and rejected evidence that nonlethal methods are more effective. NEPA also mandates a public comment period for the proposal.
 
“Oregon is no place for Wildlife Services,” said Amy Atwood, endangered species legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Wildlife Services is a rogue agency that uses ineffective, cruel and costly methods to kill wolves instead of common-sense, nonlethal methods that foster coexistence.”
 
“Wildlife Services’ refusal to ensure its activities are based on the best available science leads to unnecessary and harmful killing and strips the public of an opportunity to meaningfully understand and contribute to decisions impacting the health of ecosystems on which we all depend,” said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director at WildEarth Guardians. “It's past time the dark practices of Wildlife Services are subjected to the sunshine of a transparent public process.”
 
Wildlife Services claims that killing wolves reduces wolf-related losses of livestock, yet recent peer-reviewed research finds that killing wolves leads to an increase in wolf-livestock conflicts. Wildlife Services also failed to address the effects of killing wolves in Oregon, including impacts on ecosystems, wolf populations in neighboring states and on non-target animals that may be killed or injured as a result of the wolf killing program.
 
“It is telling that Wildlife Services was formerly called Animal Damage Control,” said Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense. “They changed their name, but nothing more. This misnomer of a program is notorious for abuse of power, lack of transparency, illegal activity and brutal treatment of wildlife. It has been criticized by members of Congress, the public and leading predator biologists. Further scrutiny of Wildlife Services’ activities in Oregon is long overdue, particularly now, as the gray wolf faces imminent delisting from state endangered species protections.”
 
“Wildlife Services’ predator control program is ecologically destructive, ethically indefensible and economically unjustifiable,” said Camilla Fox, founder and executive director of Project Coyote. “The science is clear that killing wolves is not effective at reducing conflicts and likely exacerbates problems by destabilizing wolf social structures. How many lawsuits will it take for Wildlife Services to do what’s right?”
 
Wolves were driven to extinction in Oregon by the late 1940s through a government-sponsored eradication program. The species began to return to Oregon from neighboring states and Canada in the early 2000s. In 2012, wolf recovery got back on track in Oregon. It took a legal challenge, but the state’s wolf killing program (separate from Wildlife Services') was put on hold and the wolf population grew from 29 to 81. In November 2015, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission stripped Oregon’s wolves of much needed state endangered species protections. Oregon's wolves face a long road to recovery and ongoing threats — including that of being shot and killed by Wildlife Services.
 
John Mellgren of the Western Environmental Law Center and Nick Cady with Cascadia Wildlands represent the following organizations in the lawsuit: Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians, Predator Defense and Project Coyote.
 
Download a copy of the complaint here.
 
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Sep28

Oregon Wolf Delisting Training

2019372475by Legal Director Nick Cady
 
You may have heard the terrible news out of northeast Oregon last week that two wolves, the alpha male and female of the newly formed Sled Springs pack, were found dead next to each other.  It is highly likely that these animals were poached; poisoned given the unusual circumstances surrounding their demise, and the absence of bullet wounds.
 
This pair had just recently given birth to a litter of wolf pups, and now these five-month old pups must survive the winter on their own — a tall order.  The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is reaching out for information concerning the deaths of these wolves, but we are not hopeful.
 
Recently in Washington, a man admitted to running down an endangered wolf with his truck, and then shooting the animal.  After acknowledging poaching an endangered species, the man was released with a hundred dollar fine and a six month's probation.  (See more on this story here.) Last fall, the alpha female of the Teeanaway pack near Cle Elem was poached.
 
odfw imageThis tragic sequence of events is occurring in the midst of efforts by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to remove state endangered species protections for the species. Aside from all the practical and legal implications, we are worried this delisting effort will send a message to those out there hostile to wolves that it is open season. 
 
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission is hosting a hearing on October 9th in Florence, Oregon concerning its proposal to remove wolves from the state endangered species list. Your testimony is welcomed.
 
Cascadia Wildlands has partnered with Oregon Wild, Defenders of Wildlife and the Center for Biological Diversity to host a training in order to give folks interested in testifying a chance to practice their testimony and help them to refine their message.  We will be meeting at the Cascadia Wildlands office in Eugene, 1247 Willamette Street, October 8, 2015 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. 
 
Food is being generously donated by Falling Sky and Oakshire has donated beverages for the event.  Don't be shy, come meet people working on these issues, and help stand up for wolves in Oregon!
 
(Washington wolf pup photo by Conservation Northwest)
Sep28

Goose Timber Sale is Back!

View of Mt. Hood from Lookout Mountain

Two years ago the community of McKenzie Bridge was surprised to find pending timber harvest signs on their property boundaries with the Willamette National Forest.  The community started askng questions and realized that the Forest Service had planned a massive timber harvest that entirely surrounded the town.  The sale involved mature forest clearcutting, extensive riverside logging along streams that directly feed the McKenzie River, logging and road building within the Lookout Mountain potential wilderness.
 
The community organized against the sale, gathered over 5,000 signatures of residents opposed to the sale, and Cascadia Wildlands went to court to protect this highly prized area.  We prevailed in District Court, and the Forest Service was ordered to conduct a more thorough analysis of the projects effects to the environment and involve the local community. 
 
See more on this victory here.
 
We were excited about the victory, but remained cautious because the Forest Service had already entered contracts for the sale of the timber to industrial timber companies.  We knew that these companies would not let the Forest Service off the hook.  After a timber sale is invalidated by a court, the Forest Service has legal mechanisms to escape these contracts, but all too often we witness the Forest Service go through a paper exercise to attempt to satisfy the Court, and a regurgitation of the same archaic and illegal timber sale.
 
This is exactly was has happened with the Goose timber sale.
 
We are now again faced with this terrible and massive timber sale, but the good news is that the Forest Service is accepting objections to the project from the public into October.  The Forest Service needs to be reminded  that OUR forests are not beholden to the interests of the private industrial timber complex, especially those forests that shelter the critically important McKenzie River. 
 
If you would like to help Cascadia through this process, please send us your stories, examples of the importance of this area to you personally.  We will use these examples from our membership to demonstrate to the Forest Service that this area is cherished by many, and urge them to abandon the project.  Just put GOOSE in the subject line of you email.  Thanks so much, we will keep you updated on the project.
 
 
Sep24

Marching in Francis’ Army

by Josh Laughlin, Executive Director
 
I remember first meeting Francis Eatherington the day she rolled into an Earth First! road blockade high up on the Umpqua National Forest on her motorcycle. She was wearing a leather biking jacket, had a stack of timber sale maps under her arm, a compass dangling from her neck and a ruffled brow, shaking her finger in the air, furious that the Forest Service was intent on punching roads and logging units into the adjacent Mt. Bailey roadless area.
 
“I want to be in her army,” I thought.
          
FrancisBy my count, I’ve been in Francis’ army for 17 years, working side-by-side to defend the ecological integrity of the renowned Umpqua basin. From its headwaters near Crater Lake, through the storied old-growth forests of the Cascades and Coast Range all the way down to the Oregon Dunes, the Umpqua is a world-class landscape and has never had a better advocate.
          
A perpetual thorn in the industry’s and agency’s side, Francis has never been afraid to speak her conscience, calling out BS when a timber sale was masquerading as restoration or would have compromised the wild nature of this region. She knows as well as anyone how to build a legal record based on thorough field checking and document review and comment, and our environmental attorneys like that about her.
          
Francis has spent the past six months mentoring Robin Meacher, Cascadia Wildlands’ Umpqua Regional Director, sharing the tools and institutional knowledge that has made her such an effective advocate for the region. This summer, Francis transitioned off the staff of Cascadia Wildlands to become our Umpqua Regional Advisor.
          
She hasn’t skipped a beat in her new capacity, and it’s become clear you can’t take the Francis out of Francis. Today, she is sitting on the steps of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission headquarters in Washington, DC fasting as part of a mass protest against any further federal permitting of fossil fuel development in the US, including the 230-mile Pacific Connector Pipeline and associated Jordan Cove liquified natural gas (LNG) export terminal proposed for southwest Oregon. She will soon return home to the heart of the Umpqua and will undoubtedly continue fighting for the species, wildlands and waters that make her watershed so special.
          
Cascadia Wildlands is forever grateful for Francis’ passion, commitment and friendship, and continues to march in her army.
          
Thank you for believing in us and supporting the tireless work of Francis over the years.
 
 
Above photo: Francis Eatherington in her native habitat
 
Sep15

Six Groups File for Emergency Listing for Alexander Archipelago Wolf

by Leila Kheiry, KRBD-Ketchikan
September 14, 2015
 
Six conservation groups on Monday petitioned for an emergency Endangered Species Act listing for the Alexander Archipelago wolf.
 
In a letter addressed to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Daniel Ashe and Regional Director Geoffrey Haskett, the groups cite the recent drop in the estimated wolf population on Prince of Wales Island, and the decision by state and federal officials to move forward with a wolf hunting and trapping season there.
 
Gabriel Scott is a spokesman for Cascadia Wildlands, one of the petitioners. He said the conservation groups hadAA wolf mom at den__ADF&G photo from Person & Larson (2013) asked that the annual wolf hunt be suspended for a year, but that request was denied.
 
The federal subsistence wolf hunting season started on Sept. 1, and the subsistence trapping season starts Nov. 15. The state hunting and trapping season opens Dec. 1. The quota for this year, state and federal, is nine wolves.
 
Scott said he’s disappointed that the request to hold off on this year’s hunt was rejected.
 
“Our view is just that it’s reckless to manage a wolf hunt the same way for a declining, very low population as it is for a healthy population,” he said. “The way they operate might be fine for a critter like deer that’s not in danger of extinction, but when you’ve got maybe a few dozen wolves left on the island, you can’t treat it the same way.”
 
A state-run population study, announced in June, indicated that 89 wolves were on Prince of Wales Island and surrounding islands. That’s a steep drop from the previous year’s estimate of 221. That study has prompted increased calls from conservation groups to protect the remaining wolves in Game Management Unit 2.
 
Scott said he can’t predict how long it will take government agencies to respond to the request for an emergency listing for POW wolves. He notes that the federal government has been reviewing a non-emergency request to list the wolves for a number of years. A decision on that request is anticipated by the end of this year.
 
Scott said depending on the results of the various requests regarding Prince of Wales Island wolves, a lawsuit is possible.
 
“Litigation is certainly an option,” he said. “We’d have to evaluate it at the time, but it’s definitely in the cards.”
 
The six conservation groups that signed on to Monday’s letter asking for an emergency listing are Alaska Wildlife Alliance, Cascadia Wildlands, Center for Biological Diversity, Greater Southeast Alaska Conservation Community, Greenpeace and The Boat Company.
 
(Alexander Archipelago wolf and den by AK Dept of Fish and Game)
 
 
Aug19

Last Chance to Comment on BLM’s Western Oregon Plan Revision

white castle treesThe Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages over 2.6 million acres of public forests in western Oregon and has recently undertaken efforts to revise all of its forest plans. These plans aim to dramatically increase timber harvests by 60% and ressurect the archaic practices of clearcutting older forests.
 
The draft of the proposed plan is currently undergoing a comment period where members of the public can weigh in on the proposed changes. The BLM is required to consider all comments submitted by the public. Cascadia Wildlands has worked up extensive comments on the proposed ramp-up as part of a broad conservation coalition effort, but it is also critical that the BLM hear from general members of the public on how these changes will affect them, or their opinions on what the BLM is doing with these lands that belong to each and every one of us.
 
The comment period ends this Friday, August 21, 2015, and it is critical that the BLM hear from YOU. That you oppose more roads and clearcuts and that you value our public lands for the clean water, native species, and amazing recreation oppurtunities.

Click here to personalize your comments that can be submitted by email.Every voice counts. Thank you!

 
 
There is a lot at stake for you and I with the looming forest plan revisions, including:
  • Water and Salmon. While droughts in neighboring regions also draw attention to water conservation. The impact that clearcutting has on the incredible water-storage capacity of these old rainforests cannot be overstated. When you clearcut, you lose the “sponge effect.” In an environment with vegetative cover, the soil acts like a gigantic sponge, storing a vast quantity of water that is used by plants and trees or released gently into streams and rivers. Without this extensive nutrient exchange network and it’s crucial water storage capacity, the affects on salmon and human communities who rely on abundant clean water can be devastating. Water is the lifeblood of our region, and we will vigorously defend it.
  • Livability. Oregon’s great outdoors play a major part in the reason why many of us live here. From the boundless streams and rivers to the tracts of roadless wilderness in the region, it is easy to understand why Oregon was named the top place in the country people moved to last year. Join us in the fight for the cornerstone of what makes our region so special.
  • Climate Change. The old rainforest in western Oregon play a pivotal role in regulating our climate. The stately forests in our region store more carbon per acre than any other forested ecosystem in the world, and for that we must do all we can to ensure they remain standing so they can continue to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. We are facing this challenge with the fierce determination it calls for.
  • Iconic Wildlife. From the secretive marbled murrelet and majestic northern spotted owl to the elusive Pacific fisher, these older-forest-dependent species need increased protections for their survival. Wildlife needs a voice, and we will continue our role as a champion for wildlife.
After submitting your comments, please consider making a donation to help support this critical work.
 
Aug10

Oregon Land Board May Seek Buyer for Elliott State Forest

The Associated Press by Jeff Barnard
August 7, 2015
 
GRANTS PASS — The Oregon State Land Board is scheduled to vote on a plan to find an unusual buyer for the Elliott State Forest: one that will pay a fair market price, conserve older trees, protect threatened fish and wildlife, produce logs for local mills, and leave it open to the public.
 
The board, made up of the governor, the secretary of state, and the state treasurer, meets Thursday in Salem to consider the 315-page proposal.
 
The 140-square-mile forest in the Coast Range north of Coos Bay was created in 1930 and 90 percent of it generates money for schools. It once produced $8 million a year but lately has been running $1 million a year in the red. Attempts to ramp up logging to produce $13 million annually for schools failed. Lawsuits continually blocked timber sales on grounds they failed to maintain habitat for federally protected coho salmon and IMG_4527the marbled murrelet, a seabird that nests in big old trees.
 
Department of State lands spokeswoman Julie Curtis acknowledges that finding such a buyer is a tall order, but a series of hearings identified all those elements as priorities for Oregon residents. The board rejected two other alternatives, to find a new manager for the forest, and to develop a new plan for protecting threatened salmon and wildlife that would produce more timber.
 
Curtis said the department has been meeting with representatives of local governments and agencies, timber companies and conservation groups, but so far all are keeping their intentions to themselves. If no buyers emerge, the department goes back to the board in December 2016. Two options would be to retain the forest while accepting losses of $1 million a year, or selling it without the conservation and public access restrictions.
 
Josh Laughlin of the conservation group Cascadia Wildlands said it would favor a public land trust buying the forest and selling it back to the federal government, so it could be returned to the Siuslaw National Forest. That would retain public access and conservation protections, particularly on the half of the forest that has never been logged.
 
Bob Ragon, director of Douglas Timber Operators, said he could not imagine a private timber company being interested in buying the forest, because of all the conditions being imposed.
 
"I think (the board has) struggled so hard trying to find a happy ground that would meet everybody's interest, that the simplest solution would be to sell it to the highest bidder, and put restrictions on it like no log exports, which would keep the highest return for the School Fund," he said.
 
(Rally to save the Elliott State Forest. Photo by Cascadia Wildlands.)
 
 
Aug05

Lawsuit Launched to Protect Northwest Prairie Bird Species

For Immediate Release, August 5, 2015
 
Contact:    
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 434-1463, nick@cascwild.org
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495, ngreenwald@biologicaldiversity.org
 
Lawsuit Launched to Gain Stronger Protections for Northwest Bird
Gaping Loophole in Federal Protection Exempts Farming, Spraying, Airport Activities Harmful to Streaked Horned Larks in Oregon, Washington
 
Photo courtesy of US Fish and WildlifePORTLAND, Ore.— Four conservation groups filed a formal notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today seeking to strengthen protections for the streaked horned lark, which has lost 98 percent its grassland habitat. The lawsuit will challenge an October 2013 decision by the agency to protect the lark as “threatened” rather than the more protective “endangered” status and to exempt all agriculture, chemical spraying, and airport activities from the prohibitions of the Endangered Species Act regardless of whether they harm the lark.  
 
“Protecting the streaked horned lark under the Endangered Species Act means nothing if all of its threats are exempted from protection,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The lark exemption creates a loophole big enough for a combine or a 747. It seriously threatens the survival of these handsome, horned songbirds.”
 
Formerly a common nesting species in prairies west of the Cascade Mountains from southern British Columbia through Washington and Oregon, the lark was so abundant around Puget Sound that it was considered a nuisance by turn-of-the-century golfers. The widespread destruction of its grassland habitats, however, caused cataclysmic population declines. It has been extirpated from the San Juan Islands, northern Puget Sound, Oregon’s Rogue Valley and Canada. In Washington it currently breeds at only 10 sites, including Grays Harbor, Fort Lewis, the Olympia airport and islands in the Lower Columbia River. In Oregon it breeds in the lower Columbia River and Willamette Valley, including at the Portland, Salem, Corvallis, McMinnville and Eugene airports.
     
“The streaked horned lark is already gone from many of the places it used to call home and is continuing to decline,” said Andrew Hawley. “If the lark is going to have any chance at survival, it needs the full protections of the Endangered Species Act.”
 
The streaked horned lark is a small, ground-dwelling songbird with conspicuous feather tufts, or “horns,” on its head. Its back is heavily streaked with black, contrasting sharply with its ruddy nape and yellow underparts. They are part of a growing list of species that are imperiled by loss of prairies in the Willamette Valley and Puget Trough to urban and agricultural sprawl, including the Fender's blue butterfly, Taylor's checkerspot butterfly, Willamette daisy, Kincaid's lupine and others.  
 
“Many people don't even know that prairies were once a common feature in both the Willamette Valley and Puget Sound,” said Nick Cady, Legal Director with Cascadia Wildlands. “If we save the lark, we are protecting an important part of the Northwest's natural heritage.”
 
The groups on the lawsuit are the Cascadia Wildlands, Center for Biological Diversity, Northwest Environmental Defense Center, and Oregon Wild.  
 
Find a copy of the Notice of Intent here.
 
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Jul30

Appeals Court Affirms Roadless Protections on Tongass

E&E by Phil Taylor
Thursday, July 30, 2015
 
By the thinnest of margins, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday ruled to reinstate roadless protections on the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, marking a major victory for conservationists and tourism companies fighting to protect the temperate rainforest from new logging and a defeat for the state's declining timber industry.
 
The decision, backed by six of the panel's 11 judges, found that the George W. Bush administration failed to provide a "reasoned" explanation for exempting the lands from President Clinton's sweeping national roadless rule.
 
Clinton's 2001 rule banned most road building and logging across 58 million acres of the nation's forests, including roughly 9 million acres, or just over half, of the Tongass.Tongass NF (David Beebe)
 
Conservationists said the ruling would protect some of the last remaining stands of old-growth temperate rainforest in the world while allowing limited economic development including hydropower, transmission lines, mining and tourism projects.
 
"The Tongass' roadless rainforests are a national treasure, and the last, best intact wildlands in our bioregion," said Gabriel Scott, Alaska legal director for Cascadia Wildlands, one of a dozen environmental litigants in the case.
 
The others were the Organized Village of Kake, the Boat Co., the Alaska Wilderness Recreation and Tourism Association, the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Tongass Conservation Society, Greenpeace, the Wrangell Resource Council, the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club.
 
But Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) argued the ruling would restrict access across forestlands the size of New Jersey. She plans to advance S. 631, a bill to permanently exempt the Tongass from the Clinton plan.
 
While southeast Alaska once boasted two massive pulp mills, it now contains just one significant mill, Viking Lumber on Prince of Wales Island. Timber harvests have fallen by 70 percent, causing jobs in the industry to fall from around 2,100 in 2000 to an average of about 100 last winter, Murkowski said, citing state data.
 
"The roadless rule may make sense in the Lower 48, where there are existing roads and utility lines on national forest lands, but in Alaska, where little, if any, infrastructure exists, it is truly counterproductive," she said.
 
Yesterday's ruling reverses a 2-1 decision in March 2014 by a smaller 9th Circuit panel that found the Bush administration's temporary rule in 2003 exempting the Tongass from roadless protections was "entirely rational" (Greenwire, March 27, 2014).
 
That ruling, which was cheered by former Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell (R) and the state's congressional delegation, had reversed a 2011 decision by a district court judge in favor of the Clinton rule.
 
But the full 9th Circuit found the three-member panel had gotten it wrong.
 
Namely, it said the Bush administration, in exempting the Tongass, had failed to reconcile two conflicting statements.
 
When the Clinton administration finalized its roadless rule in 2001, it included the Tongass on the grounds that current forest management in Alaska posed a high risk to the "extraordinary ecological values of the Tongass." The Bush administration, under legal pressure from Alaska, reversed course in 2003, finding "roadless values are plentiful on the Tongass and are well protected by the Tongass Forest Plan. The minor risk of the loss of such values is outweighed by the more certain socioeconomic costs of applying the roadless rule's prohibitions."
 
The Bush administration found that the roadless rule could eventually cost southeast Alaska 900 jobs.
 
But "the 2003 [decision] does not explain why an action that it found posed a prohibitive risk to the Tongass environment only two years before now poses merely a ‘minor’ one,” the 9th Circuit ruled in an opinion penned by Judge Andrew Hurwitz, a President Obama appointee. “The absence of a reasoned explanation for disregarding previous factual findings violates the [Administrative Procedure Act]."
 
As a result, the court added, the Clinton rule "remains in effect and applies to the Tongass."
 
While the court acknowledged that elections "have policy consequences," the Forest Service "may not simply discard prior factual findings
without a reasoned explanation."
 
But five of the panel's judges disagreed, writing in a dissent that "the policies of the new president will occasionally clash with, and supplant, those of the previous president."
 
"The majority has selected what it believes to be the better policy, and substituted its judgment for that of the agency, which was simply following the political judgments of the new administration," wrote Judge Milan Smith, a Bush appointee.
 
Alaska's attorneys in the case have argued that most of the Tongass roadless areas were already closed to logging in 2001, and that the exemption would only affect roughly 300,000 acres.
 
They argued that the Forest Service's change of course in 2003 was "well reasoned" and rested on the conclusion that Congress had found the Tongass was sufficiently protected by previous laws, namely the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980.
 
The agency "reweighed the balance of social and economic impacts" and decided the exemption would "best implement the spirit and letter of the law," the state said.
 
Judge Alex Kozinski, a Reagan administration appointee, joined Smith's dissent but wrote his own separate dissent noting the "absurdity" of the court still reviewing at the end of the Obama administration a policy issued at the beginning of the Bush administration.
 
"The glacial pace of administrative litigation shifts authority from the political branches to the judiciary and invites the type of judicial policymaking that Judge Smith points out," Kozinski wrote. "This is just one of the ways we as a nation have become less a democracy and more an oligarchy governed by a cadre of black-robed mandarins."
 
(photo by David Beebe of the Tongass National Forest)
Jun30

Blog: Loaf(er)ing around the North Umpqua

by Jaclyn Hise and Amanda Martino, Cascadia Wildlands summer legal interns
    
Our first overnight field excursion as summer interns was visiting the Loafer timber sale in the Umpqua National Forest in the southern Oregon Cascades near the Umpqua Hot Springs. The units to be logged span both sides of the North Umpqua River, whose picturesque winding curves, clear blue water, and rushing rapids guarantee breathtaking views from any stop. The Loafer sale units will have logging of varying degrees, such as thinning or gap creation. One of the biggest concerns we have regarding the Loafer sale are the 5.6 miles of new temporary roads and 3 miles of reconstructed temporary roads to be built, as well as an additional 31 miles of road maintenance proposed for the haul operations that will accompany the sale.
 
As they usually are during the hot days of summer, the Umpqua Hot Springs and adjacent campsites were bustling with hikers, cyclists, families, and their four-legged friends. After seeing how busy the campsites along the Umpqua River were, we found a spot along the nearby road with a coveted picnic table and fire pit and set up camp. Tucked along the edge of the forest and set back from the road, sunlight streamed through theThe Loafer timber sale would log native forests just above the headwaters of the North Umpqua River (photo by Francis Eatherington) clearing and we remarked at our luck at finding the spot. Only after consulting the map did we find that this beautiful camping site was marked to become a future helicopter land spot. Three more camping sites along the road would also be sacrificed to landing helicopters used during the logging process.
 
We set off to walk through the first set of units that will be thinned from their thick and natural growth. We hiked off the road and followed Forest Service tape marking where new roads would traverse the units and allow truck access. We received a crash course in tree identification from our Conservation Director Francis Eatherington as we walked through sugar, white, ponderosa, and lodge pole pines, hemlocks, cedars, white fir and Douglas fir trees in our search for old-growth trees. Not to be disappointed, we soon stumbled upon these gentle giants. Estimated to be at least 600 years old and with diameters between 6 and 7 feet, these magnificent trees had a humbling effect on our group as we stood beside them. Some of these old-growth trees bear the blackened scars of past fires, true visual testaments to all they have survived, and the times they have stood strong throughout. We marveled at the tumult and storms they had weathered and the services they had provided the forest in their lifetimes. These old-growth trees are crucial desired habitat for the northern spotted owl, a threatened species that faces increasing pressures from deforestation and increased competition from the more aggressive barred owl. Although the old growth themselves would not be logged, the surrounding forest will be in this sale. Protecting old growth trees such as these and the areas surrounding old growth will be paramount in protecting the spotted owl from further losses and ensuring its survival. To think we could one day lose both an iconic species and these towering forest pillars was a sobering thought.
 
Unit 29After a long day of hiking through the forest, we walked up to the hot springs to relax and enjoy its picturesque views. The hot springs are on the side of a ridge and look out over the North Umpqua River – and several of the units that will be logged in the Loafer sale. The view of the winding blue river and thick surrounding forest in the late afternoon sun was magnificent, and there were plenty of visitors to take in the sights. We wondered if they knew what the view would look like after the logging was done – the once full and lush forest riddled with roads and whole areas thinned.
 
The next day we hiked along the side of the Umpqua River, along the North Umpqua Trail. The mountain wall rose up directly next to us and beautiful waterfalls of natural spring water flowed down its side into the Umpqua. Several waterfalls had chiseled out unique rock formations and walls of moss dripped spring water into flowing streams at our feet. One of the units to be logged lay directly above our heads and these stunning hydrological features. Any logging above would surely be felt below – the sounds of machinery and trucks, the dust, dirt, and pollution, and the gaps in the tree coverage above. Pollution and debris from the logging would be carried down via these springs and waterfalls into the Umpqua and the numerous campsites between it and the trail. All those who visit this area, cyclists, backpackers, hikers, campers, would notice a change to the peace, beauty, and natural setting of the trail and riparian area.
 
We surveyed several other units that would be thinned for meadow restoration and winter elk habitat. By the abundance of elk tracks and other indicators throughout all of the units, it didn’t seem like there was any shortage of habitat for them. We wound our way through several sunlit meadows full of ferns taller than ourselves and around brush, bushes, and wild strawberries. Frogs jumped from puddles of water into nearby vegetation.
 
Tired from our two-day trek up and down hillsides, we headed to soak our feet in the Umpqua and to reflect over all we had seen. It’s one thingUnit 26 to read about the proposed road construction and maintenance and logging plans, and another to touch the sides of trees that will be cut for roads, to stand in the shadows of 600 years of growth and resilience that will be surrounded by cutting, to drink water from a natural cascading spring, and to wake up in a sunlit campsite. The proposed Loafer timber sale will forever alter the natural beauty of the Umpqua National Forest, the Umpqua Hot Springs, and the North Umpqua Trail. We returned home with more determination to preserve this amazing forest for all who wish to visit the area and have these experiences. Cascadia Wildlands is currently commenting on the Forest Service’s new Environmental Assessment and making formal administrative objections to the Loafer timber sale.
 
(Photos by Francis Eatherington from top to bottom: Campsite along the North Umpqua River during a recent fieldcheck of the Loafer timber sale; Unit 29 of the Loafer timber sale, old-growth trees marked for retention; Field checking unit 26 of the Loafer timber sale, old-growth trees marked for retention)
 
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