Posts Tagged ‘Cascadia Wildlands’

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)
 
 
Feb11

Exciting Leadership Transition at Cascadia Wildlands

Dear Cascadia Wildlands Supporters,

Bushwacking through head-high ferns to find the elusive Devil’s Staircase waterfall. Watching salmon thrash upstream to their natal grounds. Hearing the pre-dawn keer of the marbled murrelet high in the canopy. Knowing wolves are reclaiming their rightful place back in Cascadia. Educating and empowering communities to confront power imbalances. These are the things that keep me feeling alive and ever committed to the work of Cascadia Wildlands.

It is an exciting time for me. I’ve recently been asked by Cascadia Wildlands’ Board of Directors to serve as our interim executive director as Bob Ferris phases into retirement.

I’m determined to lead our powerful team into the future and further realize our vision of vast old-growth forests, rivers full of wild salmon, wolves howling in the backcountry, and vibrant communities sustained by the unique landscapes of the Cascadia bioregion.

I’m grateful for what Bob brought to Cascadia Wildlands over the past three years to make us a stronger organization. His expertise in conservation biology, decades of non-profit experience, and his ability to dig up the dirt on and expose the despoilers of wild nature are just a few things that have helped take us to the next level.

Photo taken July 6 2013 of OR17 with a 2013 pup of the Imnaha pack. Subadult wolves assist in the raising of the pups. Photo courtesy of ODFWEvery day, I’m amazed at what we have accomplished for a conservation organization our size. I get even more fired up for what we have our sights on. Because 2015 may be the year gray wolves get established in the Kalmiposis Wilderness, northern California, Oregon’s Willamette National Forest, and Washington’s Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Much of Oregon’s remarkable wolf recovery has been facilitated by our legal challenge that halted wolf killing in Oregon and ensuing landmark settlement agreement that created the strongest wolf plan in the country.

Please dig deep to help Cascadia accomplish this critical work in the 2015 year by making a tax-deductible donation today.

Breathtaking photo of the Tongass National Forest. Photo courtesy David Beebe.With continued determination, we will have a lasting conservation solution for Oregon’s 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest now that we have ground old-growth clearcutting to a halt. This year we hope to put a nail in the coffin of the proposed 150-foot-wide, 230-mile-long liquefied natural gas (LNG) pipeline and export facility slated for Coos Bay that would wreak havoc for salmon, wildlife and our climate. And we will continue to fight tooth-and-nail against the 6,000-acre Big Thorne old-growth timber sale in Alaska’s fabled Tongass National Forest (image at left) in Cascadia’s northern reaches.

Having been with Cascadia Wildlands essentially since its formation over 15 years ago, I’m excited, rejuvenated and ready to lead the organization into the future. Thanks for believing in us, taking action when called on, and supporting our conservation work over the years and into the future. Don’t hesitate to contact me with any thoughts or questions.

Will you join me in supporting Cascadia right now?

For a wild and free Cascadia,

Josh Laughlin Signature

Josh Laughlin
Interim Executive Director/Campaign Director
jlaughlin(at)cascwild(dot)org

P.S. You can also mail a check or money order made out to Cascadia Wildlands and send it to POB 10455, Eugene, OR 97440.

 

Photo Credits: Top left, Josh Laughlin, Interim Executive Director of Cascadia Wildlands, at Devil's Staircase in 2012. (Photo courtesy Cascadia Wildlands.) Middle right, Subadult and pup from the Imnaha Pack, taken July 2013. (Photo by ODFW.) Bottom left, Breathtaking photo of the Tongass National Forest. (Photo courtesy of David Beebe.)

 

Feb02

Deja Vu, the Corrupt Bastards Club, and the Fabled Tongass National Forest

by Gabe Scott, Alaska Field Rep.
 
Do you ever get the feeling you’re running in circles?
 
That sense of déjà vu has been strong with me lately as we do legal battle over the Big Thorne and other massive old-growth timber sales in Southeast Alaska’s rainforest.
 
For all the progress we’ve made on the ground reforming forest policy over the last couple decades, it is frustrating that the same good old boy’s network can still get traction re-hashing debates that should have been put to bed long ago.
 
The sense of déjà vu first hit me a few months ago, when I learned that Jim Clark was drumming up support from impoverished local Mail Attachment-9governments to pay his law firm to intervene in the Big Thorne litigation.
 
It’s no surprise industry would intervene—of course they would – but Clark’s name took me aback. The last time I’d seen that name was several years ago, when he was pleading guilty to serious federal corruption charges stemming from the “Corrupt Bastards Club” bribery debacle. Clark at the time was Chief of Staff to Governor Frank Murkowski, and had got caught up in a massive bribery scandal surrounding a controversial bit of oil tax legislation. Clark swiftly pled guilty, publicly apologized, and, I had supposed, wouldn’t be allowed to practice law anymore.
 
As it turns out Clark’s charges were later dropped. The Justice Department, in their zeal to take down sitting U.S. Senator Stevens, goofed the evidence so badly that most of the charges against most of the defendants in the scandal ended up being dismissed. We watched secret video surveillance of bribes being handed out, and DOJ still managed to botch the case. Clark was among those retroactively let off the hook. In street lingo, he got off on a technicality.
 
OK then, whatever. These things can be complicated, and there is a lot we don't know and never will. I’ve never been one to let a past guilty plea to a serious federal crime come in the way of giving a guy the benefit of the doubt.
 
The feeling of being back on la-la land intensified though when Clark’s old boss, Frank Murkowski, wrote an op-ed taking us to task for the Big Thorne lawsuit. We environmentalists don’t really care about the Alexander Archipelago wolf, which doesn’t really even exist anyway. Frank figures deer don’t really need forests, and wolves don’t really need deer. We’re making all that up for our “selfish” reasons.
 
Oh, Frank. Disgraced politicians say the cutest things.
 
What I noticed about the op-ed wasn’t the misinformation so much, as the fact that his arguments matched, almost word for word, arguments included in the intervention briefing filed by Mr. Clark’s group.
 
Is the band is getting back together?
 
Now, all of this so far is relatively harmless. Frustrating, but harmless. Lawyers with suspicious pasts are a dime a dozen, and nobody in Alaska or anywhere else really takes the elder Murkowski seriously anymore.
 
What is not harmless is that Frank’s daughter, Lisa, seems to be picking up the old torch and running with it. Lisa got appointed to the U.S. Senate by her dad back when he was elected governor. (Seriously, who does that!?). With a lot of help from post-Citizens United PACs, she was re-elected and now sits atop the Senate Natural Resources committee. For an Alaska politicians she’s pretty moderate, but her public pronouncements on forest policy are starting to sound a lot like they were ghost-written by industry lobbyists like Clark.
 
Look, I get it. Ignorant bluster and demonizing environmentalists is a reliable political formula on the Frontier. But when this rhetoric finds its way into actual policy, we all should pay attention.
 
From her current position of power in the new Republican Congress, Ms. Murkowski seems keen to apply that frontier formula to forest policy on a national scale. Take the difficult conundrum of funding local schools and government in the rural Pacific Northwest. Ms. Murkowski recently stated that problem would simply disappear if the Forest Service would actively manage forests.
 
That kind of statement is par for the course in rural Alaska, but in the rest of the country it is laughably off-point. There are disagreements aplenty over these issues, but nobody seriously believes that just ramping up more timber sales could solve the problems. Oregonians left, right and center all pretty much accept certain physical realities. Endless expansion of resource exploitation just isn’t in the cards. The forest, even the youngest schoolchildren can tell you, does not in fact stretch on into eternity.
 
I’ll leave you with one final, terrifying point. In the aftermath of the Corrupt Bastards Club scandal, the political force that moved in to clean up the mess was a fresh new face named Sarah Palin. She was, conservatives and liberals at the time agreed, a “breath of fresh air” that restored integrity and sanity to government. Her most vigorous opposition came not from the left, but from the good old boy’s network epitomized by Clark, Murkowski and Murkowski. Palin absolutely demolished, absolutely humiliated that old order. It was delightful to watch.
 
Now Palin is the disgraced former politician, and Clark, Murkowski & Murkowski are back in business.
 
Am I the only one feeling dizzy?
 
(Tongass National Forest photo by David Beebe)
 
Jan28

Cascadia Wildlands Statement on Wolf Recovery Announcement by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

Press statement
January 28, 2015
Contact: Nick Cady, Legal Director, Cascadia Wildlands, 314.482.3746
                 Josh Laughlin, Campaign Director, Cascadia Wildlands, 541.844.8182
 
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife just announced it is moving to phase II of its wolf recovery plan in eastern Oregon after state wildlife biologists confirmed that there were seven breeding pairs in the state in 2014. The wolf plan states that when there are four breeding pairs for three consecutive years in each respective part of the state, wolf management moves to phase II in that zone. This means livestock producers will now have more management flexibility in dealing with wolf/livestock conflicts in eastern Oregon. Wolves in the state’s western recovery zone will still be managed under phase I.
 
In 2012 Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild negotiated a landmark settlement agreement with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife andWalla Walla_odfw the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association after securing a legal injunction against wolf killing in Oregon. The settlement requires that during phase I livestock producers use proactive, non lethal methods to deter conflict between wolves and livestock, like cleaning up bone and carcass piles and utilizing human presence, before any lethal control on wolves can be used. It also sets a threshold of four livestock depredations by the same wolf or wolves in six months in order to trigger lethal control. The settlement also greatly increases agency transparency in its wolf management program. No wolves have been lethally controlled in Oregon since the settlement agreement was signed.
 
"Cascadia Wildlands is encouraged by the ongoing success of wolf recovery in Oregon, but it is not the time to let up," said Nick Cady, Legal Director with Cascadia Wildlands.  "It is our hope that the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife continues to implement the state’s landmark wolf management plan and rules that have served as a recovery model for other states while preventing burdensome conflict."
 
“While it is exciting that wolf populations in Oregon continue to expand, it is critical that the state remain vigilant in ensuring statewide recovery objectives are met,” said Josh Laughlin, Campaign Director with Cascadia Wildlands. “Much of western Oregon’s wildlands remain devoid of wolves and will be relying on robust populations in eastern Oregon to disperse into new territories.”
 
“Oregon's wolf management rules incentivize non-lethal measures aimed at preventing wolf/livestock conflict and provide necessary tools and financial assistance to livestock producers,” explained Cady.  “The plan has kept conflict down and headed off the constant political battles that have hampered recovery efforts in neighboring states like Washington."
                                                            
                                                    ####
 
Jan27

“The Future of Wilderness in Oregon,” a Community Forum on Feb. 4 in Eugene

"The Future of Wilderness in Oregon," a Community Forum
 February 4, 2015, 6:30-8 pm • 110 Willamette Hall, University of Oregon
 
Oregon has long been regarded as a state full of natural treasures with ample forests, rivers and mountains. We rely on Wilderness to provide clean drinking water, wildlife habitat, recreation and solitude. Wilderness is what defines us as a state, and provides us with a high quality of living. And while our public lands belong to everyone, it takes an act of Congress to protect them from logging, mining and human development. Fortunately, the power to designate areas as Wilderness is in our hands. With an uncertain political landscape, the need to protect our remainingWilderness Forum Web Image wildlands has never been greater.  Join us for an evening to learn and discuss the future of Wilderness in Oregon. The event is free and open to the public.
 
Hosted by the University of Oregon Outdoor Program, Environmental Studies Program, Oregon Wild, Sierra Club, Cascadia Wildlands, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, and Lane County Commissioner Pete Sorenson. For more information, contact Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands, 541.434.1463.
 
Dec11

State Starts Process of Hunting up Buyer for Elliott State Forest

 

Associated Press, by Jeff Barnard

 

December 9, 2014
 
The state of Oregon is looking for an unusual buyer for Elliott State Forest — someone willing to pay a good price, respect the needs of threatened fish and wildlife, and leave areas open to hikers and hunters.Elliott rainforest (photo by Cascadia Wildlands)
 
At a meeting Tuesday, the State Land Board directed its staff to develop a proposal to elicit offers from public or public-­private entities to buy the 90,000-acre forest in the Coast Range.
 
Parties could include the federal government, a tribe, state agency or local government.
 
Board spokeswoman Julie Curtis said a purchase proposal could be ready in time for the board’s June meeting.
 
The board — comprised of the governor, secretary of state and state treasurer — is looking for a way to maximize forest revenue to benefit schools. But court rulings upholding protections for threatened birds and salmon have stymied timber sales.
 
Revenue from Elliott State Forest once contributed up to $8 million a year for schools but has turned into a $3 million expense.
 
Bob Ragon of Douglas Timber Operators said he was disappointed the board did not endorse a proposal from his organization that would keep the forest as a Common School Fund asset while seeking someone to manage it to produce timber for sale and meet environmental laws.
 
“It could take them a long time to get that sorted out,” he said about the board decision to sell the forest. “I don’t know how much time they really have.”
 
Josh Laughlin of the conservation group Cascadia Wildlands said the board’s choice fit within his group’s vision for the forest, decoupling it from the Common School Fund while maintaining conservation value.
 
He said a potential buyer could be a public land trust — a nonprofit organization that raises money to buy property then turns it over to a public entity.
 
“I think they have come to the realization that clear-cutting older forest to fund schoolchildren doesn’t work any longer,” Laughlin said. “They need to get creative to meet their fiduciary mandate and work within the public interest.”
 
Dec08

Press Release: State of Oregon Shelves Elliott State Forest Privatization Idea

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 8, 2014
 
Contact:
Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands, 541-844-8182
Ed Putnam, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Oregon Chapter, 541-678-3548
Christy Splitt, Oregon League of Conservation Voters, 971-404-7279
Bob Sallinger, Audubon Society of Portland, 503-380-9728
Cameron La Follette, Oregon Coast Alliance, 503-391-0210
Tom Wolf, Oregon Council Trout Unlimited, 503-883-1102
 
State of Oregon Shelves Elliott State Forest Privatization Idea
97% of Public Comment Encourages a Conservation Solution for the Iconic Forest
    
The State of Oregon has decided against privatizing the Elliott State Forest after receiving overwhelming public comment encouraging a conservation solution for the 93,000-acre state forest located northeast of Coos Bay. 1,147 out of 1,185 comments received during the public process, or 97%, encouraged the Department of State Lands and the Oregon State Land Board to protect the iconic forests for its outstanding water quality, salmon and wildlife habitat, hunting and fishing opportunities and its remarkable ability to store carbon to mitigate climate change.
 
Instead of privatizing the forest, the Land Board, made up of Governor John Kitzhaber, Secretary Kate Brown, and Treasurer Ted Wheeler, Elliott rainforest (photo by Cascadia Wildlands)will continue to explore various management alternatives for the Elliott that meet public expectations as well as its Common School Fund and Endangered Species Act mandates. The State Land Board will meet Tuesday, December 9 from 9 am-12 pm at 775 Summer St. NE in Salem to further discuss future management scenarios and has extended the meeting to handle what is expected to be significant public comment.
 
“The state of Oregon should be given kudos for not privatizing the Elliott as elk hunters would have ultimately encountered “no trespassing” signs instead of open access into this outstanding backcountry,” said Ed Putnam with Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. “It is important that as the public process moves forward a balanced plan gets enacted that enhances the forest habitat, and keeps it in public hands.”
 
Earlier this year, the State Land Board voted to dispose of nearly 1,500 acres of the Elliott State Forest and quickly auctioned the acreage off to the timber industry. One timber company has already put up “no trespassing” signs and has vowed to clearcut the forest. The lands were disposed of after conservationists successfully challenged a number of illegal old-growth clearcutting projects on the forest that would have significantly impacted the marbled murrelet, an imperiled sea bird that nests in coastal old-growth forests.
 
“The table is set to find a lasting solution for the Elliott State Forests that protects its outstanding water quality, salmon and wildlife habitat and recreation opportunities,” said Josh Laughlin, Campaign Director with Eugene-based Cascadia Wildlands. “We will continue to work diligently with stakeholders until a plan is in place that safeguards this outstanding rainforest while at the same time meets its Common School Fund obligation.”
 
The Elliott State Forest provides critical habitat for a host of fish and wildlife species teetering on the brink of extinction, including Oregon Coast coho salmon. Recent data provided by state biologists demonstrate that streams originating on the Elliott State Forest play a significant role in coho salmon recovery on the Oregon Coast.
 
“The cool, clear streams that course through the Elliott provide essential habitat for coho salmon productivity and must be protected to ensure this iconic fish’s recovery,” said Tom Wolf, Executive Director of the Oregon Council of Trout Unlimited. “A new plan for the Elliott rainforest must entail adequate steam side buffers to protect this outstanding clean water value.”
    
In addition to the public comments submitted into the record, the State Land Board in October held a “listening session” in Coos Bay to hear from community members about the Elliott State Forest. More than 3:1 spoke in favor of a conservation solution for the forest.
    
“Oregonians should not have to choose between protecting salmon, clean water, and old-growth on the one hand, and logging to fund education on the other,” said Rhett Lawrence, Conservation Director with the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Continuing to tie education funding to timber receipts is a failed policy of the past and we need new solutions.”
    
90% of the Elliott State Forest is Common School Fund land, which has a duty to generate revenue to the $1.2 billion fund. Those encouraging the decoupling of old-growth clearcutting from school funding include hunters, anglers, scientists, teachers, recreation enthusiasts and others who have long advocated that leaders in Salem enact a more modernized approach to school funding.
 
(Photo of Elliott rainforest by Cascadia Wildlands.)
 
                                                                         ####
 
Nov06

Revenge Forestry: A Flare-up in the Elliott State Forest (an Excerpt)

October 14, 2014
by Jonathan Frochtzwajg, Oregon Business Magazine
 
When the Eugene-based timber company Seneca Jones made a $1.8 million bid on land in southern Oregon's Elliott State Forest earlier this year, it wasn't a business decision; it was personal. The 788-acre parcel (along with twoSeneca Clearcut at Dawn other parcels in the Elliott) had been put up for auction at the end of 2013.
 
Just before bidding was scheduled to end, the environmental group Cascadia Forest Defenders sent a letter to Seneca Jones and other Oregon timber companies.
 
Click here to view full article
 
Sep02

Advocates Vow to Protect Devil’s Staircase Wilderness

by Zach Urness
Salem Statesman Journal
August 31, 2014
 
The first time Andy Stahl heard about the Devil's Staircase, it was little more than a wilderness myth.
 
Rumors of a spectacular waterfall hidden deep within one of the Coast Range's most remote and inaccessible canyons spread through Oregon State University's Environmental Center in the late 1970s like sightings of Bigfoot, sparking debate among students about whether this central coast Shangri-La actually existed.
 
Every bushwhacking adventure into the thick, cliff-walled jungle surrounding Wassen Creek — the supposed location of the fabled cascade — ended in failure, often after a miserable rain-soaked night in the wild.
 
"Year after year, students at Oregon State attempted to find it, and every time they failed," Stahl said. "It wasn't something that could be found on a map. It didn't have an official name, there certainly wasn't a trail, and the land is just damn hard to get through. A lot of people thought it didn't exist."
 
In 1981, the forestry graduate decided the mystery had to be solved. With a young environmental activist named Sherry Wellborn — who would later become his wife — Stahl traversed over 30 miles of Wassen Creek in tennis shoes.
 
The trip would not only prove Devil's Staircase did exist — and that it was as beautiful as hoped — it would set in motion a three-decade effort to preserve one of the largest remaining old-growth ecosystems in Oregon's Central Coast Range.
 
The effort to safeguard the 200-foot Douglas firs and cedars, spotted owl and coho salmon habitat, and dense interior valleys surrounding Devil's Staircase and Wassen Creek — a landscape nestled between the Smith and Umpqua rivers east of Reedsport — has been a quixotic journey that began in the early 1980s.
 
It has twice survived the threat of logging while coming within a razor's edge of being protected by Congress in 1984. It has come within striking distance of being protected as the 30,540 acre Devil's Staircase Wilderness multiple times since 2009 yet has always come just short.
 
With the 50th anniversary of Wilderness Act on Sept. 3 — a landmark piece of legislation aimed at preserving the nation's most important landscapes in their natural state — the Devil's Staircase offers a glimpse into the past and present struggle to preserve one of Oregon's wildest places.
 
Wassen Creek flows through dense old-growth forest in a remote canyon in Oregon's Central Coast Range east of Reedsport.
 
The main thing Stahl remembers about that three-day trip down the length of Wassen Creek was how isolated he felt in a 1,800-foot canyon that hadn't changed much since Columbus set sail.
 
This struck him as remarkable, especially since the Coast Range has been the realm of logging for more than a century. Forest Service, BLM and private logging roads bisect the vast majority of forest. Much of the landscape is a checkerboard of tree farms, clear-cuts, second growth, or some combination.
 
Yet within Wassen Creek, home to almost 26,000 acres of intact old-growth, Stahl found a deeper solitude than anywhere he'd previously traveled.
 
Massive Douglas fir and cedars rose 200 feet into the canopy overhead. In three days he saw more wildlife — black bear, river otter, elk and signs of cougar — than during a year's worth of hiking and backpacking.
 
On the third day, they found the Devil's Staircase, where Wassen Creek drops 50 feet down a series of sandstone tiers.
 
"It struck me that we were as isolated geographically as I had ever been in my life — the cliffs were so sheer that if one of us broke an ankle, I didn't have any idea how we'd get out," Stahl said. "I saw no evidence of humans — not a fire ring, blaze on a tree or boot mark. It was remarkable — not a canella of human presence."
 
THE FIRST THREAT OF LOGGING
Not long after Stahl's epic trip, in 1982, Siuslaw National Forest proposed a timber sale that would have led to a 400-acre cut in the Wassen Creek area.
 
The proposal sparked the first effort to preserve the area.
 
Environmental activists convinced then-Sen. Mark Hatfield to write a letter holding off the sale. In 1983, the National Wildlife Federation filed suit claiming the area's steep slopes and shallow, unstable soils on the Mapleton Ranger District were highly susceptible to landslides following timber harvests, which damage waterways.
 
The court ordered the Forest Service to conduct an environmental review and produce an Environmental Impact Statement before offering to sell, "any timber on the Mapleton Ranger District other than limited commercial thinning … firewood … greenery sales and salvage of dead and downed timber sales."
 
The result was dramatic. Timber harvests fell from 75 million board feet in 1983 to 15 million broad feet in 1984 on the Mapleton Ranger District. Many residents blamed the lawsuit for closing the mills and the city's loss of jobs.
 
The Wassen Creek area was originally included for protection under the 1984 Oregon Wilderness Act. A cap placed on acreage in the bill forced then-Rep. Jim Weaver to choose between a wilderness area in Southern Oregon and Wassen Creek.
 
Wassen Creek was the odd wilderness out.
 
RE-ENERGIZED
Without wilderness protection, but under no real threat from logging, the Devil's Staircase and Wassen Creek area went quiet as the Forest Wars raged in other parts of the state.
 
The area was declared critical habitat for the spotted owl by the Endangered Species Act in the early 1990s and the Northwest Forest Plan provided additional protection in 1994, but it never received the wilderness stroke of Congress.
 
The quiet period ended in 2006 when a 5,000-acre section of the proposed wilderness was included in a draft of the Western Oregon Plan Revision by the Bureau of Land Management to become Timber Management Area.
 
The inclusion re-energized the wilderness campaign around Devil's Staircase and Wassen Creek that hit full bore in 2007.
 
Editorials, rallies, media attention and even visits by two of Oregon's congressional delegation — Rep. Peter DeFazio and Sen. Jeff Merkley, who bushwhacked to the waterfall — brought renewed emphasis to preserving the area as wilderness.
 
Rep. DeFazio has introduced a bill giving the area wilderness protection three times in the House since 2009. Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden and Sen. Merkley have introduced similar bills in the Senate three times as well. It passed the full Senate in June with unanimous consent but is a long shot to pass the House.
 
AWKWARD POSITION
Wassen Creek remains as difficult to reach today as it did when Stahl made his trip more than 30 years ago.
 
While some rugged roads provide access along its borders, and barely visible game trails can be followed in places, this roadless, pathless forest remains as difficult to penetrate as ever.
 
Only around 100 people per year, all with strong navigational skills, endure the hellacious bushwhack into Wassen Creek and Devil's Staircase. Multiple people have been lost or spent an unexpected night among the densely forested ravines attempting to locate the staircase.
 
But while the forest has changed little, the political climate has taken an unexpected twist during the past few months.
 
The Devil's Staircase Wilderness bill is now part of a larger package of bills in the House (authored by Rep. DeFazio) and Senate (authored by Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden). The package would protect some areas, like the Devil's Staircase, while increasing logging on Oregon's federal O&C lands.
 
This has put supporters in a tough spot. In some cases, long-term proponents of the wilderness are now fighting the very bill that would finally make the Devil's Staircase Wilderness a reality.
 
"It's an incredibly awkward spot to be put in after the bill was advancing on its own merits," said Josh Laughlin, who has visited the Devil's Staircase area more than 20 times and is campaign director for Cascadia Wildlands, an Eugene-based environmental group.
 
"It's one of the wildest places in Oregon — really a magnificent slice of what the Coast Range once looked like. The Devil's Staircase deserves to stand on its own."
 
Zach Urness has been an outdoors writer, photographer and videographer in Oregon for seven years. He is the author of "Hiking Southern Oregon" and can be reached at zurness@Statesman Journal.com or (503) 399-6801. Find him on Facebook at Zach's Oregon Outdoors.
 
ABOUT THIS SERIES
Today's installment is the first of a two-part series about the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, exploring both the fight to create new wilderness in the example of the proposed Devils Staircase Wilderness and its history in Oregon.
 
The series continues Monday with dramatic examples of what can happen when nature and human nature collide over the restrictions inherent in the act.
 
50th ANNIVERSARY OF THE WILDERNESS ACT
On Sept. 3, 1964, Lyndon Johnson signed into law one of the most significant bills in environmental conservation into law. The Wilderness Act provides the highest level of protection for landscapes deemed worth both nationally and locally.
 
Five percent of the United States (and 2.7 percent of the Lower 48) and four percent of Oregon are protected under the Wilderness Act. In this two-part series, the Statesman Journal explores both the fight to create new wilderness — in the example of the proposed Devil's Staircase Wilderness — and its history in Oregon.
 
"A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain."
 
– Text of Wilderness Act
 
 
 
Jul21

Observations from the BLM’s Buck Rising Timber Sale Field Tour

By Rory Isbell, Cascadia Wildlands Legal Intern
 
Fellow intern Rance and I recently joined Cascadia Wildlands’ Conservation Director Francis Eatherington on a public tour of the Buck Rising timber sale on BLM land east of Myrtle Creek, Oregon.  The tour was organized by the BLM Roseburg District office in order to demonstrate the results of the timber sale and gain feedback from the public.  Officially, the project is called the Buck Rising Variable Retention Regeneration Harvest (VRH), and is one of four demonstration projects currently underway on BLM lands in Western Oregon.  The demonstration projects are mandated by the Secretary of the Interior in order to increase logging on O&C lands.  The Buck Rising project was initially proposed and sold as a thinning project that would cut and harvest 60 year old trees originally planted as a plantation to accelerate the development of
Buck Rising unit 3

Buck Rising unit 3, a clearcut by most definitions.

late-successional habitat necessary to the survival of the Northern Spotted Owl – habitat now drastically underrepresented on public lands in Western Oregon.  In order to appease political pressures for increased logging on O&C lands, however, the Buck Rising thinning project was re-sold as a secretarial demonstration project.  The project’s silvicultural prescription, VRH, was developed by Drs. Johnson and Franklin, professors of forestry at Oregon State University.
 
The BLM-hosted field tour provided a first look at the aftermath of a “variable retention regeneration harvest."  Because Senator Ron Wyden’s O&C Bill utilizes the VRH method, and because all BLM districts in Western Oregon are considering the VRH method in the development of new Resource Management Plans that set the standards and guidelines for timber harvest in Oregon, the Buck Rising project is especially significant.  The tour began by passing through a locked gate on adjacent private industrial forestry land and ascending to an overlook where all three units of the Buck Rising project are visible.
 
Questions immediately arose form the public regarding the Buck Rising project’s compliance with the Northwest Forest Plan and the current BLM Roseburg District Resource Management Plan.  Those concerns came to a head upon crossing the boundary into unit three of the Buck Rising VRH.
 
While some clumps of trees were retained, most retention occurred in buffers along riparian areas.  In non-riparian areas, only 10% of trees were retained.  The BLM stresses the ecological benefits of early-successional habitat development, including flowers, nectars, fruits, and forage herbs for wildlife, and refuses to call the harvest a clearcut.  Many concerned members of the public, however, noted the lack of snags and remnant dead wood necessary to healthy and natural early-successional habitat development.  Cascadia Wildlands’ own Francis Eatherington continually noted how one of three BLM project objectives includes creating forage foliage for elk and deer, yet within a mile away on private
Buck rising slide

One of the tour stops was at a landslide in one of the Buck Rising logging units.

industrial timber land, timber companies recently petitioned ODFW for a public deer hunt in order to curb the abnormally high deer populations feeding on the omnipresent early-successional conditions on their post-clearcut plantations.
 
After lunch and a short drive to Buck Rising Unit 2, we saw the remnant debris of the slope failure event that occurred in February following timber harvest and heavy rains (http://www.cascwild.org/wyden-style-clearcut-causes-mudslide-on-oc-lands/).
 
By the end of a tour full of adversarial discussion, consensus was decisively lacking.  Understanding, however, was plentiful.  The concerned public understands the tough position that the Roseburg District BLM finds itself.  While the Northwest Forest Plan calls for the restoration of the range of the Northern Spotted Owl by limiting timber harvest on federal lands, the O&C Act along with political pressures from Senator Wyden and the Department of the Interior call for increased timber harvest as a short term economic benefit.  The BLM also understands that the concerned public wants tall, biodiverse forests on our public lands, and streams clear of sediment and full of salmon, and that we are dedicated to holding our public lands agencies accountable to those goals.
 
 
we like it wild. Follow us Facebook Twiter RSS