Posts Tagged ‘Cascadia Wildlands’

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)
 
Jun29

Wyden, Merkley Introduce New Oregon Wilderness Bill

The Statesman Journal by Zach Urness
June 25, 2015
 
Oregon senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley introduced a bill today that would provide new environmental protections for 200,000 acres of land and 250 miles of river in the Beaver State.
 
The Oregon Wildlands Act would create one new wilderness area in the Coast Range, expand another wilderness area in Southern Oregon and create two new national recreation areas.
 
9.15.10_D7C8606
The bill would create the 30,500-acre Devil's Staircase Wilderness from a remote canyon of old-growth forest east of Reedsport in the Central Coast Range. It would also designate 14.6 miles of Franklin and Wasson creeks — which runs through the Devil's Staircase area — as Wild and Scenic Rivers.
 
The bill expands the Wild Rogue Wilderness by 56,000 acres and creates the 95,000-acre Rogue Canyon National Recreation Area in southwest Oregon.
 
Both the Devil's Staircase Wilderness and Wild Rogue Wilderness addition have been targets for conservation for the past decade, and introduced in bills in the U.S. Senate and House multiple times.
 
"These world-class landscapes in western Oregon are long overdue for permanent protection," said Josh Laughlin with Eugene-based Cascadia Wildlands, which has been working for nearly a decade to safeguard the areas. "They are what make Oregon such a desirable place to live, provide anchor habitat for imperiled salmon and wildlife and give us some of the cleanest water around."
 
Closer to the Willamette Valley, the bill would also create the 24,000-acre Molalla National Recreation Area.
 
"Protecting some of Oregon's most breathtaking and unspoiled lands ensures healthy habitats for countless species of plants and animals, benefits local economies that depend on these areas and creates new recreation opportunities for Oregonians and visitors from across the country," Wyden said in a press release. "Preserving these lands is a top priority, and Senator Merkley and I are going to be working to do all that we can to protect them."
 
Click here to read each section by section of the bill.
 
(Photo of Devil's Staircase by Tim Giraudier, beautifuloregon.com)
 
Jun12

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 12, 2015
 
Contact:
Kristen Boyles, Earthjustice, 206-343-7340 x1033
Joseph Vaile, KS Wild, 541-488-5789
Doug Heiken, Oregon Wild, 541-344-0675
Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands, 541-844-8182
 
Washington, D.C. — A logging industry lawsuit that sought to force the Bureau of Land Management to increase logging on public lands in southwest Oregon was thrown out today by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. The ruling vacates a 2013 decision that would have forced the Bureau of Land Management to sell timber even when those sales would have harmed salmon and had detrimental impacts on water quality and recreation.
 
“The appellate court today threw out an unprecedented, unworkable, and backward decision that could have forced the Bureau of Land Management to violate its duties to manage these lands for water, air, wildlife, and people, not just clearcuts,” said Kristen Boyles, an attorney at Earthjustice. “This ruling should discourage logging companies from demanding to cut 100- year-old forests because no one person and no particular private logging company is entitled to log wherever it wants.”owl_photo
 
“Our public lands provide clean drinking water, protect wild salmon, and preserve water quality in our rivers, lakes, and streams. These lands are home to some of the last remaining ancient forests in America,” said Joseph Vaile of the Oregon-based Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands
Center. “We should focus on a responsible plan for these forests and leave a legacy for future generations.”
 
“Dinosaurs in logging industry have claimed for years that they should have priority over protecting old-growth, clean water, wildlife, and recreation on America’s public lands. For 20 years science, the law, and the public have been telling them no,” said Doug Heiken, Oregon Wild Conservation and Restoration Coordinator.
 
The logging companies had argued that a 1937 law required the Bureau of Land Management to sell large amounts of timber from the Medford and Roseburg districts in southwest Oregon, regardless of harm to water quality, recreational use, and wildlife and fish. In 2013, a district court judge in Washington, D.C. sided with the logging industry, despite contrary legal decisions from other federal courts in the Oregon and the west. Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Oregon Wild and Cascadia Wildlands appealed as interveners in the timber lawsuit. The D.C. Circuit maintained that the logging companies and logging lobbying groups had failed to show that they were actually harmed by any Bureau of Land Management actions and dismissed the case entirely.
 
"This is good news for those who believe in clean water and big trees," says Josh Laughlin with Cascadia Wildlands. "It also underscores the need to create lasting safeguards for these values that make western Oregon so special."
 
“A number of prominent politicians cited this logging industry lawsuit when they proposed legislation to weaken environmental protections and increase clearcutting on our public forests,” said Doug Heiken, Oregon Wild Conservation and Restoration Coordinator. “The perceived timber industry threat is now gone, and it’s time to put those outdated ideas behind us—time to focus on a balanced plan that recognizes all the public benefits that flow from our public forests: clean water, carbon storage, fish and wildlife, recreation, and quality of life.”
 
(Spotted owl photo by USFWS)
 
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Jun04

Bills Easing State Land Sales Worry Environmentalists

Capital Bureau by Hillary Borrud
May 31, 2015
 
SALEM — Environmental groups that pushed for legislation to protect Oregon’s Elliott State Forest from commercial logging had little success in Salem this year.
 
A bill that would have established a system to protect state trust land such as the Elliott State Forest, House Bill 3474, died in committee earlier this year. Now, conservationists are worried about a different bill that would make it easier for the state to sell land in the forest, which is near the southwest Oregon coast. House Bill 3533 would allow Oregon to sell state forest land, if the State Land Board — composed of the governor, secretary of state and state treasurer — passes a resolution to do so.Elliott rainforest (photo by Cascadia Wildlands)
 
“The last thing Oregonians want to see is a privatization of the Elliot, … particularly areas that are treasured for hunting, fishing, back country excursions and so forth,” said Josh Laughlin, interim executive director of Cascadia Wildlands.
 
Oregon law prohibits the sale of state forest land that was transferred from the U.S. Forest Service since 1913, which covers the Elliott State Forest. But the State Land Board says it has authority under the state constitution to sell the land, trumping statute.
 
The state lost $3 million on the forest in fiscal year 2013 and nearly $392,000 in 2014, because management costs exceeded revenue. That prompted Oregon to auction off three parcels of land in the forest in 2014, before the State Land Board decided to halt any additional auctions.
 
Environmental groups are lobbying lawmakers to oppose the bill, and Laughlin said there is also a chance the bill could be amended to allow for sale of the Elliott State Forest only if the sale maintains public access.
 
Julie Curtis, a spokeswoman for the Department of State Lands, said the goal of the bill is to clarify the land board’s constitutional and fiduciary responsibility to generate revenue from state lands to fund public schools.
 
“What this bill would do is really eliminate lawsuits and expense related to lawsuits if the land board were to get sued for exchanging or selling or trading lands within the Elliott, whether it was to a timber company or to an environmental group,” Curtis said.
 
The State Land Board is expected to discuss the Elliott State Forest at its June 9 meeting in Salem, where Department of State Lands employees will also present information about proposals from groups interested in managing or purchasing the forest. The agency issued a request for information earlier this year, so the board could learn more about potential options for the future of the forest. Curtis said the agency received five proposals, and there is not currently any deadline for the board to decide what to do with the Elliott State Forest.
 
(Photo of community members in the Elliott State Forest by J. Laughlin)
 
May27

Wolf Tracks

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

Lawsuit Challenges Plan to Log Old-growth in Alaska

Mail Attachment-6 copy

Cascadia Wildlands yesterday filed suit against the Forest Service challenging approval of the Mitkof Island timber sale, a 4,117-acre old-growth logging project on the Tongass National Forest, near Petersburg in Southeast Alaska.

This lawsuit comes close on the heals of our challenge to the Big Thorne timber sale, another big old-growth sale that is currently on appeal before the 9th Circuit. These cases, along with a proposed revision to the overarching Forest Plan, represent a critical turning point on the Forest.

Long story short, the era of profitable old-growth logging is over, but the Forest Service and a handful of influential logging industry die-hards have been working overtime trying to prop it back up. Timber sales like this one on Mitkof Island are a last gasp of a dying industry.

The industry is dying—there is little doubt about that—but the question is whether it will leave enough healthy forest behind to sustain the wildlife and subsistence opportunities that rural Alaskans have traditionally enjoyed. The ecosystem is at a tipping point. 

Mitkof Island is a microcosm for the legacy of Tongass logging and habitat loss. Extensive areas have been clearcut on the National Forest, and (even worse) clearcutting on adjacent privately owned land.

One result is that the local deer population has crashed and is not recovering. Without enough old-growth providing shelter, the herd starves in winter. Petersburg residents no longer can go hunting out their back door. 

And, the result of that is that the State of Alaska is pursing ‘predator control,’ aiming to cull the wolf population by 80%. Without adequate habitat, the whole predator-prey system (of which humans are a part) comes crashing down.

In spite of huge controversy, on Mitkof the Forest Service determined that their logging project would have “no significant impact” on the environment, so conducted only a cursory environmental review. This is rare, and extraordinary. As the environmental consequences intesify, why would the agency be paying less attention to them?

Contrary to that claim, our lawsuit catalogues a number of significant impacts:

  • Loss of winter habitat for deer, further stressing the local population;

  • Harm to subsistence hunters, particularly low-income residents who cannot afford to travel to distant islands for deer;

  • Threats to the Alexander Archipelago wolf, which is currently being considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act, from loss of deer habitat and the likelihood of increased trapping;

  • Damage to the Queen Charlotte goshawk, a raptor that relies on old-growth forest.

As Rebecca Noblin, the Alaska director for our co-plaintiff Center for Biological Diversity, said, “I suppose that if you don’t look for problems then you’re not going to find them.”

The case was filed on behalf of Cascadia Wildlands, Greater Southeast Alaska Conservation Community, Greenpeace, Center for Biological Diversity, and the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, in federal district court in Anchorage. Cascadia’s staff attorneys are joined by the superhero lawyers at CRAG law center arguing the case. 

You can read a copy of the suit here.

May01

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul: The Abuse of “Ecological Forestry” on our Public Lands in Western Oregon

By Nick Cady, Legal Director
 
The conservation community in the Northwest was incredibly excited by Cascadia’s legal victory over the White Castle timber sale.  Not just because of the couple hundred acres of old growth forest that were saved from clearcutting, but because of the potentially important precedent the case set concerning logging old forest to create so-called early seral habitat.
 
A little background.  Early seral habitat is the agency name for habitat that is mostly brush and shrubs, ideal habitat for deer, elk and some bird species, and ideally is created after fires have burn through forested areas.  True early-seral habitat is somewhat lacking on the landscape because the feds for decades have suppressed fires, and even when there is a fire, the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will “salvage log”  the areas and replant conifer trees, quickly taking away any early-seral habitat value.
 
Given this pattern of post-fire salvage logging, folks at Cascadia were initially surprised and suspicious to hear about Forest Service and BLM plans to create early-seral habitat through commercial logging.  The agency plan was to create this early-seral habitat by logging middle-aged plantations. 
Plantation

Typical Young Conifer Plantation

These conifer plantations are 40 to 80 year old forests created from previous clearcutting, pesticide spraying, and dense replanting.  The logging would essentially create large meadow-like openings between clumps of reserved forests.  These reserves would contain the biggest trees in the stand, and areas with unique composition, for example a pocket of western red cedar or large hardwoods.  30% of the project area would be reserved from harvest in these clumps, and there would also be large, green trees, 12 to 18 per acre, distributed across the openings to provide connectivity for wildlife.  The logging concept was called ecological forestry or variable retention harvest (VRH).
 
Folks at Cascadia were skeptical, but not overly concerned because this prescription seemed genuinely aimed at restoring diversity back into these plantations.  Left alone, these middle aged plantations currently provide little to no habitat value for the Northwest’s struggling older forest species, and posed a severe fire risk given the density of these young conifer trees.
 
buck rising white castle

BLM’s Version of VRH Implemented in the Buck Rising Sale

However, when the timber industry and Bureau of Land Management got a hold of this idea to create early-seral habitat it quickly morphed into an “ecological” excuse to clearcut older forest.  We began seeing dozens of proposed timber sales aimed at converting older mature forest, not young plantations, into early-seral habitat.  The proposed reserves quickly were replaced by already existing buffers in place for imperiled species and around waterways, and the dispersed green tree retention across the logged areas was eliminated.  It was readily apparent that this novel approach had been high-jacked; it had become an ecological justification for clearcutting.  This was a very dangerous idea, because it could arguably be used in existing protected areas and owl habitat.
 
The White Castle timber sale, located in the South Umpqua watershed on the Roseburg BLM district, was the worst of the worst of these early-seral creation projects we had seen.  The sale targeted a one hundred year old-plus forests that had never before been logged. It was also designated critical habitat for the northern spotted owl and hosted a healthy population of the red tree vole, a food source of the northern spotted owl.  Forest activists with Cascadia Forest Defenders had occupied the stand to prevent the clearcutting, and Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild readied a legal challenge.  We were cautiously optimistic that the judge would recognize how abused this concept to create early-seral forest from plantations had become.  
 
Just over a month ago, the ruling came down, and the Court sided with us on all counts, harping on the fact that this “ecological forestry” was designed for young stands and not older forest.  The Northwest has limited older forest left on the landscape, so sacrificing older forest to create early-seral forest does not make sense.  It was the epitome of robbing Peter to pay Paul.
 
This victory threw a major wrench in a number of other “ecological forestry” projects being planned by the Forest Service and BLM, especially the projects slated for older forests. 
Cool Soda Map

Map of the Cool Soda Project and Age Classes

Cool Soda was one of these projects on the Sweet Home Ranger District of the Willamette National Forest.  The project was fairly large, over thousands of acres, and was part of a collaborative process between private timber owners, the Willamette National Forest and conservation groups and other stakeholders trying to get at restoration needs on the landscape across a “checkerboard” ownership.
 
The final proposal mostly involved commercial thinning in young plantations to restore ecological diversity while generating timber volume.  However, a small portion of the project involved heavy thinning and “ecological forestry” in native, never-logged forests over 120 years old.  We objected to the project because of these older forest units, and met with the Forest Service staff to attempt to resolve our differences over the project.  
Due to the weight of the White Castle decision and the understanding of the Forest Service, we were able to eliminate the older forest units from the final decision without resorting to litigation.  We were able to save all parties’ time and resources and end up with a project that would have a myriad ofbenefits, including restoring diversity into dense young plantations, replacing failed culverts that were impacting aquatic health, and generating timber volume for the local mills.
 
We are hopeful that moving forward the Forest Service and BLM will honor the original intent of creating early-seral habitat and abandon futile attempts at masking mature forest timber grabs as “ecological” projects.
 

 

Mar23

Cascadia Halts Huge Public Lands Clearcutting Outside Eugene

Press Release
For Immediate Release

March 23, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For a copy of the complaint click here.

Mar17

Cascadia Wildlands Defeats White Castle Clearcutting in Court

Press Release: March 17, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A copy of the legal decision can be found here.

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

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

Feb26

Kate Brown and Green Agendas

Eugene Weekly by Camilla Mortensen
 
While her previous position as Oregon’s secretary of state typically did not put her in the environmental spotlight, Oregon’s new Governor Kate Brown is no stranger to green agendas or protests. In summer of 2012, members of Cascadia Earth First! and Eugene’s own Cascadia Forest Defenders locked themselves together at Brown’s office at the state Capitol to call attention to logging in the Elliott State Forest.
 
As secretary of state, Brown was a member of the State Land Board, which governs the Elliott, and she will continue on the SLB as governor. Logging on state and federal lands is among the many green issues that Brown will be asked to take a position on in the coming months.
 
In addition to a law degree from Lewis and Clark, Brown has a BA in environmental conservation from the University of Colorado at Boulder.Elliott rainforest (photo by Cascadia Wildlands)
 
The media and GOP lawmakers have linked former governor John Kitzhaber’s downfall to his fiancée Cylvia Hayes’ clean energy work, and some predicted this would slow down climate bills in the Legislature, but so far that has not borne out. The clean fuels bill, a Kitzhaber priority that extends Oregon’s low-carbon fuel standard, has passed in the Oregon Senate.
 
“There might have been a scandal, but that doesn’t follow to Kate Brown,” says Doug Moore of the Oregon League of Conservation Voters (OLCV).
 
“I think we just have to be a little patient right now because folks in the Legislature are hurting; it’s a weird position for them to be regardless of party,” he says, adding that OLCV wants to give her “time to develop her own environmental agenda” and “do what she does best, which is think things through.”
 
Moore points to Brown’s legislative voting record, tracked by OLCV: In the 2007 session as a state senator she scored an 89 percent, and in 2005 and 2003 she scored a 67 percent. Before that, in 2001, she scored a 92, in 1999 a 93 percent and, in 1997, she scored 100 percent.
 
Moore says the fact that her “lifetime” average green voting scores were in the 80s is even more impressive, given that she was in the minority with the Republicans in power during much of her tenure.
 
Once Brown develops her agenda, Moore says OLCV hopes that “the number one issue is climate; it’s the environmental issue of our time.” He continues, “The victories we have had can all be undone if we don’t take action on climate.”
 
According to Moore, “Without states like Oregon to lead on climate, we won’t see action, and that’s not acceptable.”
 
And Oregon has a lot of areas where it can step up its efforts to slow human-caused global warming. Conservationists are fighting fossil fuel projects including coal export terminals, oil trains — such as the one that exploded in West Virginia last week — and liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals and their associated pipelines.
 
“Oregon’s billion-dollar sportfishing economy depends on clean water,” says Michael O’Leary, deputy director of the Northwest Steelheaders Association. “But we’re frighteningly unprepared to face the exponentially increasing risks of an oil train disaster along our waterways.”
 
O’Leary says, “We desperately need Gov. Brown to give the DEQ [Department of Environmental Quality] and ODOT [Oregon Department of Transportation] the tools they need to respond to — and to better prevent —  -these increasingly likely catastrophes.”
 
Josh Laughlin of Eugene-based Cascadia Wildlands, which has been fighting a natural gas pipeline and an LNG terminal in Coos Bay, says of Brown: “We definitely have high expectations in terms of her ability to be an environmental champion.” He calls LNG one of a “myriad of conservation issues squarely in her court.”
 
“Will she pull the plug on the reckless scheme to build a 230-mile natural gas pipeline?” he asks.
 
“The stakes are incredibly high on this one,” Laughlin says, “for wild salmon, clean water, climate stability and rural communities in southwest Oregon, which are being steamrolled by the fossil fuel industry and government regulators in terms of eminent domain and other scare tactics.”
 
Laughlin says Kitzhaber was “a mixed bag for us on our issues.” He says, “Some things he stepped up on, and on some things he was a real disappointment,” such as advocating for “ramping up the cut” on federal forestlands. On the other hand, he says, the former governor “helped broker a settlement setting up a plan for wolf recovery.”
 
He says Brown will have an opportunity to stand up for wolves, as Cascadia Wildlands expects “to see bills stripping protections for wolves and trying to kill wolves, as we do every session.”
 
Cascadia Wildlands is also keeping an eye on where Brown will go in her continued position as a member of the SLB and its governance over state lands. “On the Elliot she’s expressed a real interest in finding a conservation solution,” Laughlin says. “But the jury is still out in terms of what that means and what a solution looks like.”
 
He says, “The solution to us is very clear, and it’s beginning to gain more and more traction in Salem.” That solution, he says, is to “decouple the Elliott from the Common School Fund” so that the old growth in the coastal rain forest is no longer earmarked as a revenue for schools. “It makes no sense in this day and age to tie old-growth clearcutting to school funding,” he says.
 
Laughlin says Cascadia Wildlands would like to see Brown take a leadership role in terms of finding a solution. He asks, “Will she step up in finding a conservation solution Oregonians will be proud of?”
 
Lisa Arkin of Beyond Toxics, which is working to limit aerial sprays of pesticides on forestlands in Oregon, also has hope for Brown’s green credentials, pointing to her work on Oregon’s Sustainability Board and calling her “gung-ho” on seeking solutions.
 
During Kitzhaber’s three terms as governor, conservationists did not see improvements in Oregon’s weak Forest Practices Act, which governs logging and the use of pesticide sprays on private lands. Laughlin and Arkin hope Brown will change that and strengthen Oregon’s laws.
 
We have “high hopes in terms of her ability to be an environmental champion,” Laughlin says, “and hope she recognizes these issues we are working on are in the best interests of the Oregonians she represents.”
 
(photo of the Elliott State Forest by Cascadia Wildlands)
 
 
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