Posts Tagged ‘Cascadia Wildlands’

Sep09

Press Release: Marbled Murrelet Moves One Step Closer to State Endangered Status, Stronger Protections

For Immediate Release
September 9, 2016
 
Contacts:
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746, nick@cascwild.org
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495, ngreenwald@biologicaldiversity.org
Bob Sallinger, Audubon Society of Portland, (503) 380-9728, bsallinger@audubonportland.org
 
EUGENE, Ore.— In response to a petition from Cascadia Wildlands and other conservation groups, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted 5-2 to initiate a review of the imperiled marbled murrelet to determine if it warrants uplisting from “threatened” to “endangered” under Oregon’s endangered species law. The commission has until June 21, 2017 to make the decision. If the murrelet is determined to be endangered, the state will need to develop protection measures that limit logging in remaining coastal old-growth forests where the seabirds nest.
 
“The science clearly shows the marbled murrelet needs help if it is going to persist as a species into the future,” said Nick Cady, legal director with Cascadia Wildlands. “The vote is a huge first step in recovering this unique seabird from the brink of extinction.”
 
The murrelet was awarded state protection as “threatened” in 1987, followed by federal protection in 1992. But the seabird has continued to decline, primarily because of continued loss of habitat, particularly on nonfederal lands, where a recent report found that murrelet habitat has declined by 27 percent since 1993.
 
“If the marbled murrelet is to have any chance of survival, we must protect Oregon’s remaining old-growth forests,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The state has not done enough to protect the murrelet's forested home on state and private lands, which cover substantial portions of the Coast Range.”
 
Despite the murrelet's continued decline, the state of Oregon is in the process of selling the 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest located east of Coos Bay. The Elliott contains large blocks of intact older forest habitat critical to the species’ survival.
 
“Even as the marbled murrelet moves closer to extinction, some of our elected officials are whistling past the graveyard,” said Bob Sallinger, conservation director at the Audubon Society of Portland. “At the same time that we are calling for the marbled murrelet to be uplisted, we are also calling on Gov. Kate Brown and state Treasurer Ted Wheeler to halt the sale of public lands on the Elliott State Forest which provide some of the best marbled murrelet habitat in Oregon.”
 
In addition to state lands, protecting remaining old forest on private industrial forestlands is critical to the species’ persistence. Overall, 41 percent of the murrelet's remaining habitat is on nonfederal lands.
While the marbled murrelet spends most of the year foraging in coastal waters, it is the only seabird that nests in trees, flying inland up to 35 miles to nest and rear its young during spring and summer each year.
 
The petition to uplist the murrelet to endangered was submitted in June by Cascadia Wildlands, Coast Range Forest Watch, the Center for Biological Diversity, Audubon Society of Portland, Oregon Wild and the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club.
 
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Sep07

Press Release: Court Orders Fish and Wildlife Service to Reexamine Lynx Critical Habitat

For Immediate Release
September 7, 2016
 
Contacts:
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, 314-482-3746, nick@cascwild.org
Matthew Bishop, Western Environmental Law Center, 406-324-8011, bishop@westernlaw.org
Bethany Cotton, WildEarth Guardians, 406-414-7227, bcotton@wildearthguardians.org  
Arran Robertson, Oregon Wild, 503-283-6343 ext. 223, ar@oregonwild.org
 
 
Missoula, MT — Today the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana ordered the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) to reconsider its decision to exclude the Canada lynx’s entire southern Rocky Mountain range, essential for the wildcat’s recovery, from designation as critical habitat.
 
Critical habitat is area designated by the federal government as essential to the survival and recovery of a species protected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Once designated, federal agencies must make special efforts to protect critical habitat from damage or destruction. In 2014, the Service designated approximately 38,000 acres of critical habitat for threatened lynx, but chose to exclude the lynx’s entire southern Rocky Mountain range, from south-central Wyoming, throughout Colorado, and into north-central New Mexico. These areas are vital to the iconic cat’s survival and recovery in the western U.S., where lynx currently live in small and sometimes isolated populations. Now, according to the court’s September 7, 2016, order, the Service must go back and reexamine these areas.
 
“Given that evidence cited by the Service in the September 2014 final rule shows that a reproducing lynx population exists in Colorado, the Service’s failure, on account of marginal hare densities, to designate critical habitat to protect that population and aid in its maintenance is arbitrary, capricious, and ‘offends the ESA.’ ” Court order at 20
 
“This decision gives the lynx a fighting chance to not only survive – but recover – in the southern Rockies,” said Matthew Bishop, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center who represented the groups. “We’re hopeful this decision will mark a turning point for lynx conservation in the heart of southern Rockies lynx habitat.”
 
Lynx habitat is under threat across the contiguous U.S. from climate change, road building, motorized recreation, and logging. Perplexingly, the Service’s latest designation decreased existing protections by 2,593 square miles compared to a 2013 plan. In doing so, the Service excluded much of the cat’s historic and currently occupied, last best habitat in the southern Rockies and other areas from protection. The court found the Service failed to follow the science showing that lynx are successfully reproducing in Colorado, and therefore excluding Colorado from the cat’s critical habitat designation “runs counter to the evidence before the agency and frustrates the purpose of the ESA.”
 
 “With increasing threats from climate change and development, it's long past time lynx receive every possible protection, including safeguards for the rare cat’s southern Rockies habitat,” said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians. “The Fish and Wildlife Service needs to stop playing politics and start meeting its obligations to recover our most imperiled species, including lynx.”
 
The court ruled the Service did not improperly fail to designate historical Canada lynx habitat in Oregon and Washington’s Kettle Range, disappointing wildlife advocates.
 
“Canada lynx once roamed snowy peaks in Oregon from the Eagle Caps to Crater Lake,” said Oregon Wild Conservation Director Steve Pedery. “It's unfortunate that this decision does not do more to help restore this iconic animal to its rightful place in the Oregon backcountry.”
 
"It is discouraging that Oregon was not included, but this victory keeps us hopeful for the species," said Nick Cady of Cascadia Wildlands.
 
"Washington's Kettle Range provides important lynx habitat and a vital connection between populations in the Northern Rockies and those in the North Cascades," said Dave Werntz, science and conservation director for Conservation Northwest. "We're disappointed that this area has not been recognized as critical habitat, and we urge managing agencies to take further steps to protect lynx habitat in northeast Washington."
 
The Service first listed lynx as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2000. However, at that time the Service failed to protect any lynx habitat, impeding the species’ survival and recovery. Lynx habitat received no protection until 2006, and that initial critical habitat designation fell short of meeting the rare cat’s needs and the ESA’s standards. After two additional lawsuits brought by conservationists challenging the Service’s critical habitat designations culminated in 2008 and 2010, a district court in Montana left the agency’s lynx habitat protection in place while remanding it to the Service for improvement. This resulted in the most recent and still inadequate habitat designation.
 
In 2014, the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana also ruled that the Service violated the ESA by failing to prepare a recovery plan for lynx after a more than 12-year delay. The court ordered the Service to complete a recovery plan for lynx by January 15, 2018.
 
“Lynx are a vital part of the landscape in Colorado and they need to be protected to ensure that they continue to recover, and eventually prosper," said Sloan Shoemaker, executive director of Wilderness Workshop. "This decision is an important step in that direction. ”
 
The Western Environmental Law Center represented WildEarth Guardians, Wilderness Workshop, Cascadia Wildlands, Conservation Northwest, and Oregon Wild on the case.
 
Background
Canada lynx, medium-sized members of the feline family, are habitat and prey specialists. Heavily reliant on snowshoe hare, lynx tend to be limited in both population and distribution to areas where hare are sufficiently abundant. Like their preferred prey, lynx are specially adapted to living in mature boreal forests with dense cover and deep snowpack. The species and its habitat are threatened by climate change, logging, development, motorized access, and trapping, which disturb and fragment the landscape, increasing risks to lynx and their prey.
 
Studies show species with designated critical habitat under the ESA are more than twice as likely to have increasing populations than those species without. Similarly, species with adequate habitat protection are less likely to suffer declining populations and more likely to be stable. The ESA allows designation of both occupied and unoccupied habitat key to the recovery of listed species, and provides an extra layer of protection especially for animals like lynx that have an obligate relationship with a particular landscape type.
 
Aug25

Press Release: Lawsuit Filed to Protect Threatened Marbled Murrelet from Logging on Former Elliott State Forest

For Immediate Release, August 25, 2016
 
Contact:         Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746
                       Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495
                       Bob Sallinger, Portland Audubon, (503) 380-9728
 
Lawsuit Filed to Protect Threatened Marbled Murrelet from Logging on Former Elliott State Forest
Logging Highlights Controversy Over Ongoing Privatization of Public Forest
 
EUGENE, Ore.— Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity and Portland Audubon filed a lawsuit in federal court today seeking to block Scott Timber Company from logging a portion of a 355-acre parcel of land that until 2014 was part of the 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest and provides habitat for the threatened marbled murrelet. The Endangered Species Act strictly prohibits “take” (harm, harassment or killing) of threatened species like the murrelet, which, unlike any other seabird, nests on the wide branches of large, old trees, making a daily trip of up to 35 miles inland to bring fish to its young.
 
The groups are seeking emergency relief to stop logging that under state law could begin as soon as Sunday.
 
“It was illegal for the state of Oregon to log the marbled murrelet’s habitat and it is illegal for Scott Timber Company to do the same,” said Nick Cady, legal director at Cascadia Wildlands. “We intend to hold the landowner accountable to the law to ensure this imperiled species receives the protections it needs.”
 
In 2012 the three groups sued the state of Oregon for illegally logging marbled murrelet habitat on the Elliott and other state forests. The state settled the suit in 2014, agreeing to drop 26 timber sales and stop logging in occupied murrelet habitat. But following the loss, the state sold three parcels totaling 1,453 acres, even though they contained mature and old-growth forests that are occupied by the murrelet, including the 355-acre Benson Ridge parcel.
 
“By trying to log, then sell occupied marbled murrelet habitat, the state of Oregon has completely disregarded its duty to protect these unique birds and the remaining old-forest they need to survive,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center. “This shortsighted action on the part of the state not only endangers the survival of the birds, but shortchanges Oregonians who’re counting on the state to protect our natural heritage.”  
 
At the time of the sale, the groups notified Scott Timber and other buyers that in purchasing the land, they were taking over the responsibility of ensuring the survival of the murrelet, and that logging of its habitat would violate the Endangered Species Act. Scott Timber responded that it had no immediate plans to log the Benson Ridge parcel it had purchased, but has now proposed a timber sale in habitat where murrelets have been documented in recent years.
 
“The marbled murrelet has lost most of the old-growth habitat it needs to survive in the Oregon Coast Range and is facing degraded ocean conditions due to climate change and other factors,” said Bob Sallinger, conservation director at the Audubon Society of Portland. “Flagrant violations of the Endangered Species Act in addition to these factors are a recipe for disaster for these birds.”
 
The controversy over the Benson Ridge parcel exemplifies why the public is so outraged about the privatization of public lands. Currently Oregon’s State Land Board, made up of the governor, treasurer and secretary of state, is in the process of disposing of the rest of the Elliott State Forest.
 
“This unfortunate situation should send a clear message to Governor Kate Brown, Treasurer Ted Wheeler and Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins that further privatization of the Elliott will directly threaten imperiled salmon and wildlife, old-growth forests, recreation opportunities and other values that Oregonians hold dear,” said Cady. “Our leaders in Salem must stand up for Oregonians, and halt the ongoing privatization of the Elliott State Forest.”
 
In June the groups sent a petition to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife requesting uplisting of the murrelet from “threatened” to “endangered” under the state Endangered Species Act, and to the Board of Forestry requesting that it identify and protect important forest sites critical to the murrelet’s survival — a requirement of the state's endangered species law that has never been met.
                                                                    
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Cascadia Wildlands represents approximately 10,000 members and supporters and has a mission to educate, agitate and inspire a movement to protect and restore Cascadia’s wild ecosystems.
 
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
 
Audubon Society of Portland was founded in 1902 to promote the understanding, enjoyment and protection of native birds, other wildlife and their habitats. Today it represents over 16,000 members in Oregon.
Jun07

Op-Ed: State Should Scrap Elliott Forest Privatization

by Rod Sando for The Register-Guard
June 5, 2016
 
Defying the will of most Oregonians, our elected leaders in Salem are deep into a process to privatize the 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest northeast of Coos Bay.
More than likely, this treasured rain forest will be snatched up by equity investors looking to maximize revenue, which will mean more clear-cuts, muddied rivers and “private property” signs, and less access to some of the finest public lands in Western Oregon. The disposal process should be jettisoned immediately and replaced by one that embraces values Oregonians hold closely.
 
The State Land Board, made up of Gov. Kate Brown, Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins and Treasurer Ted Wheeler, needs a fresh approach that recognizes the many important public values Elliott supports while generating income for the school trust fund.
 
The State Land Board should also be reminded of the passion many Oregonians hold for public lands, as evidenced by the reaction to the armed takeover earlier this year of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
 
While school trust lands help support kindergarten through 12th grade education in Oregon, these lands also support many values enjoyed by the public.
 
The Elliott State Forest is a place where fish and wildlife reside, where families go elk hunting every fall, and where anglers wet their lines in search of salmon and steelhead. The old forests of the Elliott store incredible amounts of carbon, thereby mitigating climate change at no cost, and provide clean water to communities downstream.
 
Even though Elliott is made up of school trust lands, logging is not an exclusive mandate for the forest.
 
Oregon’s attorney general issued an opinion in 1992 that said the management of these lands must abide by the provisions of the state and federal endangered species laws while also generating revenue. In its quest to ramp up the cut in Elliott in 2012, the state of Oregon ignored the Endangered Species Act, which resulted in reduced timber payments to the school fund.
 
In response, the state proposed to dump the forest, and now we are embroiled in this privatization scheme.
 
The future management of Elliott needs to be sensitive to the wide range of benefits that this public forest provides while continuing to produce revenue for schools. This is entirely possible, and simply requires that forest plans and management methods are revised to do just that. It is appropriate to manage for revenues, but operations need to avoid long-term damage to the productivity of the forest and its myriad other benefits, and needless management costs need to be reduced.
 
It makes sense to negotiate a Habitat Conservation Plan that would keep the forest in public ownership, provide protection to imperiled salmon and wildlife, allow restoration-based thinning in Elliott’s plantation forests that could generate local jobs and timber products, and contribute revenue to the school fund. Ultimately, it would provide certainty and balance into the future.
 
In 1968, the people of Oregon amended the state Constitution to require that school trust lands, like those found in Elliott, be managed by using sound management methods that do not impair the many beneficial uses of the forest lands while also generating revenue. This clear legal direction is possible to achieve by using sustainable management practices while keeping the forest in public ownership.
 
It is time for Gov. Brown, Secretary of State Atkins and Treasurer Wheeler to ditch this privatization plan and show leadership around this issue, especially since the forest will only become more valuable to our society and the school trust as time goes on.
 
Removing Elliott from public ownership will remain controversial and will preclude future generations from enjoying substantial benefits from this unique and valuable resource.
 
Our leaders need to get it right before it is too late.
 
Rod Sando of Woodburn is a past director of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, where he oversaw management of trust lands.
Apr15

Lawsuit Challenges Alaska Road Project from Ketchikan to Shelter Cove

For Immediate Release, April 14, 2016
 
Contact:    
Larry Edwards, Greenpeace, (907) 747-7557, larry.edwards@greenpeace.org
Gabe Scott, Cascadia Wildlands, (907) 491-0856, gscott@cascwild.org
Dune Lankard, Center for Biological Diversity, (907) 952-5265, dlankard@biologicaldiversity.org
 
Lawsuit Challenges Road Project From Ketchikan to Shelter Cove
 
KETCHIKAN, Alaska  Five environmental groups sued the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers today in the federal district court at Anchorage to force supplemental analysis on the environmental consequences of the Ketchikan-to-Shelter-Cove road project on Revillagigedo Island in southeastern Alaska. The project is out for bids, which are due today.
 
The lawsuit challenges the Forest Service's recent approval of a right-of-way easement for a one-mile segment of the road that would cross national forest land, and the Army Corps of Engineers' issuance of a wetland fill permit, which allows seven miles of road (including the national forest segment) to be built. The rest of the construction would be on state land.
 
The road construction would connect Ketchikan to about 53 miles of existing logging roads in the Saddle Lakes area. That region already has a very high road density of nearly two miles of road per square mile; local wildlife populations are already stressed from about 14,000 acres of clearcut logging over the past two decades.
 
"At issue is the connection of Ketchikan to the presently isolated area beyond George Inlet, which has an existing high density of logging roads," said Larry Edwards of Greenpeace. "Making road connections from communities to areas that have a high road density is known to pose a threat to the sustainability of populations of Alexander Archipelago wolves, marten and other sensitive wildlife species due to increased hunting and trapping pressure, including poaching."
 
The 7.3-mile, one-lane gravel road link would be built by the State of Alaska, which put it out for bids March 14. The expected cost is $19 million, and $21 million is budgeted. The construction would extend eastward from the existing White River Road, which now ends at Leask Creek. It would proceed to Salt Lagoon, at the head of George Inlet, and then northward. The north end would connect to an existing logging road that goes eastward to Shelter Cove, on Carroll Inlet.
 
"The federal agencies did not follow federal law to consider hunting and trapping pressure, wildlife disturbance and user conflicts that the road connection will cause," said Gabe Scott of Cascadia Wildlands. "It is important that the agencies go back to the drawing board to ensure that wildlife, hunters and recreational users are fully considered."
 
The suit has no effect on road access from Ketchikan to upper George Inlet or on the potential for a boat launch ramp and dock somewhere along the inlet's shore between the White River and Leask Creek.
 
"Plowing forward with this road connection before determining the consequences of doing so has the process entirely backward," said Dune Lankard, the Center for Biological Diversity's representative in Alaska. "This project is part of the logging industry's grand scheme to access old-growth forests that we're determined to protect."
 
The plaintiffs are the Greater Southeast Alaska Conservation Community, Cascadia Wildlands, Greenpeace, Center for Biological Diversity and The Boat Company. 
 
Plaintiffs are represented by Crag Law Center, of Portland, Ore.
Apr11

Letter Sent to Prospectors Interested in Acquiring Elliott State Forest

by Robin Meacher, Cascadia Wildlands' Wildlands Campaign Director
 
The Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL) continues to forge ahead with the sale of the 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest located east of Coos Bay. While conservation groups, school children, recreationists and hunters and anglers continue to enjoy the Elliott for the host of opportunities it offers, Cascadia Wildlands continues to see Big Timber and equity investors show increased interest in becoming the new owner of this incredible coastal forest. 
 
IMG_2039The potential transfer of ownership raises red flags for both conservation and public access. The Elliott provides some of the highest quality habitat remaining in the Oregon Coast Range for the imperiled marbled murrelet and endangered salmon. The murrelet is a coastal sea bird that nests exclusively in old-growth forest and its presence on the forest has greatly reduced the amount of logging that can take place in the Elliott. 
 
The previous sale of three parcels of the Elliott resulted in immediate closure with "No Trespassing" signs posted to keep the public out. The sale of the entire Elliott to timber interests will likely result in similar access being restricted thereby blocking the public from visiting a substantial portion of this coastal gem. 
 
Cascadia Wildlands' Endangered Species Act lawsuit on the Elliott in 2012 and our current lawsuit challenging the the disposal of the 788-acre East Hakki parcel have legal implications that are being downplayed by the DSL throughout the current ownership transfer process. We recently submitted a letter to interested parties in the Elliott sale process to explain the complex legal issues and to augment the lack of information on the legal history provided by DSL. With ESA protections for the murrelet on the forest and our alleged illegality of selling the majority of the Elliott, the sale process designed by DSL likely creates uncertainty for investors. Cascadia Wildlands and partners continue to engage the State in this process and advocate for protection of the outstanding public and conservation values on the forest. We've crafted a petition to Governor Kate Brown asking her to ensure the forest stays in public ownership. As a member of the State Land Board, the body that gave the green light to the sale process, the Governor can stand up for Oregon's public lands and keep the Elliott in public hands. Stay tuned as well for two public hikes hosted by Cascadia Wildlands this spring. 
 
(Elliott State Forest photo by Cascadia Wildlands)
 
 
Apr04

Fed’s Failure to Protect Wolverines Ruled Illegal

For Immediate Release                                        
April 4, 2015
 
Contacts:    
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, 314-482-3746, nick@cascwild.org
Matthew Bishop, Western Environmental Law Center, 406-422-9866, bishop@westernlaw.org  
Bethany Cotton, WildEarth Guardians, 406-414-7227, bcotton@wildearthguardians.org  
 
Wolverine (Guio gulo) adult on a frozen river during winter in the Rocky Mountains of Montana. Captive Animal

Wolverine (Guio gulo) adult on a frozen river during winter in the Rocky Mountains of Montana.

 
Judge Rules Feds Improperly Refused to Protect Wolverines
Orders Reconsideration of Safeguards for Species Imperiled by Climate Change
 
MISSOULA, Mont. – Today, the federal district court for Montana rejected a decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) to deny protections for wolverines in the contiguous U.S. The court ruled the Service improperly ignored science and violated the Endangered Species Act. A broad coalition of conservation organizations challenged the Service’s refusal to protect imperiled wolverines by listing them under the ESA.
 
“Today’s win is a victory not just for wolverine but for all species whose fate relies on the scientific integrity of the Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians. “We call on the agency to stop playing politics and start living up to its mandate to protect our country’s most imperiled species.”
 
Often called “southern polar bears,” wolverines are custom built for cold, snowy climates and depend on areas with spring snow for denning and year-round habitat. Science shows climate change may eliminate nearly two-thirds of the snowy habitat needed by wolverines in the contiguous U.S. within 75 years. This means significantly less habitat and/or worsened habitat fragmentation for the approximately 250-300 wolverines that remain in the lower 48 states.
 
The Service originally identified climate change, in conjunction with small population size, as the primary threat to wolverine existence in the contiguous U.S. Published, peer-reviewed research, the larger scientific community – including the Society for Conservation Biology – an independent scientific panel, the majority of experts who reviewed the decision, and the Service’s own biologists all verified this finding. The Service proposed listing the wolverine as a “threatened” species under the ESA in 2013. At the eleventh hour, however, the Service reversed course and chose not to protect wolverine, citing too many “uncertainties” in the scientific literature.
 
Today, the court rejected this excuse, holding the agency accountable for its decision to discount the best available science about climate impacts on wolverine. “[T]he Service’s decision against listing the wolverine as threatened under the ESA is arbitrary and capricious. No greater level of certainty is needed to see the writing on the wall for this snow-dependent species standing squarely in the path of global climate change. It has taken us twenty years to get to this point. It is the [Court’s] view that if there is one thing required of the Service under the ESA, it is to take action at the earliest possible, defensible point in time to protect against the loss of biodiversity within our reach as a nation. For the wolverine. That time is now." Opinion at page 83.
 
The court correctly noted that the ESA directs the Service to make listing decisions based on the best available science, not the best possible science. This means the agency cannot make the perfect the enemy of the good. Instead, it must use and rely on the best science available when making listing decisions, which it failed to do in this case.
 
“The court sent a clear message to the Service: don't let politics trump science,” said Matthew Bishop, a Western Environmental Law Center attorney who represented the conservation groups. “The Service cannot ignore the published literature and advice of its own biologists when making important listing decisions.”
 
Today’s ruling requires the agency to make a new final listing determination for wolverines. The ruling also restores the Service’s proposed rule to list wolverine and the wolverine’s status as a candidate species under the ESA.
 
“Cascadia Wildlands is very encouraged by the court's rejection of political game playing by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Nick Cady with Cascadia Wildlands. "As with all species, wolverines deserve conservation and protections based upon sound science. This legal victory sets the stage for further reform of a deteriorating U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the installment of protections for this struggling species across the West.”
 
“We hope the Fish and Wildlife Service wastes no more time in granting wolverines Endangered Species Act protection,” said Keith Hammer, chair of Swan View Coalition. “This rare species deserves all the help it can get as we hit record-setting temperatures here in Montana.”
 
“We need to do everything we can to protect wolverines and wolverine habitat in the face of climate change and a snowballing extinction crisis," said Greg Costello, executive director of Wildlands Network. “Our actions should be rooted in precaution and the best available science—not political nitpicking.”
 
“With only 300 wolverine spread across the Western U.S., it is refreshing to see the court appreciates the precarious state of wolverine populations and confirm the findings of the Fish and Wildlife Service's own biologists that the species merits ESA protection,” said ecologist George Wuerthner.
 
“Wolverines deserve protection, not political shenanigans,” said Arlene Montgomery of Friends of the Wild Swan. “The Fish and Wildlife Service must now do its job to protect and recover this imperiled animal.”
 
“It is reassuring to know that our court system is doing its job, even while other branches of government flounder,” said Larry Campbell of Friends of the Bitterroot. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is apparently willing to illegally sacrifice an awesome species and good science while ineptly playing politics. Go wolverines!”
 
A copy of the decision is available here.
 
A copy of the original complaint is available here.
 
Matthew Bishop and John Mellgren of the Western Environmental Law Center and Sarah McMillan of WildEarth Guardians represented WildEarth Guardians, Cascadia Wildlands, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Cottonwood Environmental Law Center, Footloose Montana, Friends of the Bitterroot, Friends of the Wild Swan, George Wuerthner, Helena Hunters and Anglers Association, Kootenai Environmental Alliance, Native Ecosystem Council, Oregon Wild, and the Swan View Coalition on the case.
 
Additional quotes from the decision:
 
“Why did the Service make the decision [to not list the wolverine]?…Based on the record, the Court suspects that a possible answer to this question can be found in the immense political pressure that was brought to bear on this issue, particularly by a handful of western states.” Opinion at page 56.
 
“This strikes the Court as the essence of arbitrary and capricious decision making.” Opinion at page 61 (discussing climate change claim).
 
“[A]s Plaintiffs’ counsel rightly pointed out … the Service’s stance here borders on the absurd – if evidence shows that wolverines need snow for denning purposes, and the best available science projects a loss of snow as a result of climate where and when wolverines den, then what sense does it make to deny that climate change is a threat to the wolverine simply because research has yet to prove exactly why wolverines need snow for denning?” Opinion at page 67 (discussing climate change claim).
 
“If ever there was a species for which conservation depends on foregoing absolute certainty, it is the wolverine.” Opinion at page 68 (discussing why we don’t need absolute certainty for why wolverine need deep persistent snow).
 
Background:
 
Wolverine number just 250-300 individuals in the contiguous U.S. and are dependent on high elevation habitat with deep winter snows. Imperiled by climate change, habitat loss and trapping, wolverine were first petitioned for ESA protections in 2000. The Service found the petition did not contain adequate information to justify a listing. A federal court overturned that decision in 2006. The Service then issued a negative 12-month finding in 2008, which was challenged in court resulting in a settlement that led to a new finding that wolverine should be protected under the ESA, but that other priorities precluded the listing at that time. A landmark settlement with WildEarth Guardians, which resolves the backlog of imperiled species awaiting protections, then guaranteed a new finding for wolverine. In February 2013, the Service proposed listing the wolverine as “threatened” under the ESA. In August 2014, however, the Service reversed course and issued a decision not to list the species, contradicting its own expert scientists’ recommendations. Today’s ruling is in response to the organizations’ legal challenge to that decision.
 
Image courtesy of © David J. Cox/NaturalExposures.com (high-res version here)
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Mar31

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

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

Lawsuit Challenges Frankenfish Approval

 
March 31, 2016
Media contacts:
Gabriel Scott, Alaska Legal Director, Cascadia Wildlands, 907-491-0856; gscott@cascwild.org
George Kimbrell, Senior Attorney, Center for Food Safety, 571-527-8618; gkimbrell@centerforfoodsafety.org
Brettny Hardy, Earthjustice, 415-217-2142; bhardy@earthjustice.org
Dune Lankard, Center for Biological Diversity, (907) 952-5265; dlankard@biologicaldiversity.org
 
Lawsuit Challenges FDA’s Approval of Genetically Engineered Salmon
Coalition of Fishing, Consumer, and Environmental Groups Say First-ever Approval of Laboratory-Created Food Animal Violated Laws and Ignored Risks to Wild Salmon and Fishing Communities 
 
SAN FRANCISCO, CA—A broad coalition of environmental, consumer, and commercial and recreational fishing organizations today sued the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approving the first-ever genetically engineered (GE) food animal, an Atlantic salmon engineered to grow quickly. The man-made salmon was created by AquaBounty Technologies, Inc. with DNA from three fish: Atlantic salmon, Pacific king salmon, and Arctic ocean eelpout. This marks the first time any government in the world has approved a GE animal for commercial sale and consumption.
 
The plaintiff coalition, jointly represented by legal counsel from Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice, includes Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Institute for Fisheries Resources, Golden Gate Salmon Association, Kennebec Reborn, Friends of Merrymeeting Bay, Ecology Action Centre, Food & Water Watch, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Cascadia Wildlands, and Center for Food Safety.
 
In approving the GE salmon, FDA determined it would not require labeling of the GE fish to let consumers know what they are buying, which led Congress to call for labeling in the 2016 omnibus spending bill. FDA’s approval also ignored comments from nearly 2 million people opposed to the approval because the agency failed to analyze and prevent the risks to wild salmon and the environment, as well as fishing communities, including the risk that GE salmon could escape and threaten endangered wild salmon stocks.
 
AquaBounty’s GE salmon will undertake a 5,000-mile journey to reach U.S. supermarkets. The company plans to produce the GE salmon eggs on Prince Edward Island, Canada. The GE salmon will then be grown to market-size in a facility in Panama, processed into fillets, and shipped to the U.S. for sale. That complicated scheme is only for the initial approval, however. AquaBounty has publicly announced plans to ultimately grow its GE fish in the U.S. rather than Panama, and sell it around the world. Despite this, FDA’s approval only considered the current plans for the far-flung facilities in Canada and Panama, leaving the risk of escape and contamination of U.S. salmon runs unstudied.
 
The lawsuit challenges FDA’s claim that it has authority to approve and regulate GE animals as “animal drugs” under the 1938 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Those provisions were meant to ensure the safety of veterinary drugs administered to treat disease in livestock and were not intended to address entirely new GE animals that can pass along their altered genes to the next generation. The approval of the GE salmon opens the door to other genetically engineered fish and shellfish, as well as chickens, cows, sheep, goats, rabbits and pigs that are reportedly in development.
 
The lawsuit also highlights FDA’s failure to protect the environment and consult wildlife agencies in its review process, as required by federal law. U.S. Atlantic salmon, and many populations of Pacific salmon, are protected by the Endangered Species Act and in danger of extinction. Salmon is a keystone species and unique runs have been treasured by residents for thousands of years. Diverse salmon runs today sustain thousands of American fishing families, and are highly valued in domestic markets as a healthy, domestic, “green” food.
 
When GE salmon escape or are accidentally released into the environment, the new species could threaten wild populations by mating with endangered salmon species, outcompeting them for scarce resources and habitat, and/or introducing new diseases. Studies have shown that there is a high risk for GE organisms to escape into the natural environment, and that GE salmon can crossbreed with native fish. Transgenic contamination has become common in the GE plant context, where contamination episodes have cost U.S. farmers billions of dollars over the past decade.  In wild organisms like fish, it could be even more damaging.
 
The world’s preeminent experts on GE fish and risk assessment, as well as biologists at U.S. wildlife agencies charged with protecting fish and wildlife heavily criticized the FDA decision for failing to evaluate these impacts. FDA ignored their concerns in the final approval. 
 
Statements from counsel and plaintiff coalition:
“FDA’s decision is as unlawful as it is irresponsible,” said George Kimbrell, senior attorney for Center for Food Safety and co-counsel for the plaintiffs. “This case is about protecting our fisheries and ocean ecosystems from the foreseeable harms of the first-ever GE fish, harms FDA refused to even consider, let alone prevent. But it’s also about the future of our food: FDA should not, and cannot, responsibly regulate this GE animal, nor any future GE animals, by treating them as drugs under a 1938 law.”
 
“FDA has not answered crucial questions about the environmental risks posed by these fish or what can happen when these fish escape,” said Earthjustice attorney Brettny Hardy and co-counsel for plaintiffs. “We need these answers now and the FDA must be held to a higher standard. We are talking about the mass production of a highly migratory GE fish that could threaten some of the last remaining wild salmon on the planet. This isn’t the time to skimp on analysis and simply hope for the best.”
 
“Atlantic salmon populations including our endangered Gulf of Maine fish are hanging on by a thread– they can’t afford additional threats posed by GE salmon,” said Ed Friedman from Friends of Merrymeeting Bay, one of the parties who successfully petitioned to classify most Maine Atlantic salmon as endangered. “The law requires agencies like FDA, who aren’t fisheries biologists, to get review and approval from scientists with that expertise. FDA’s refusal to do this before allowing commercialization of GE salmon is not only irresponsible, it violates the law.”
 
“On Prince Edward Island and across Atlantic Canada, indigenous peoples, anglers and community groups are working hard to protect and restore endangered salmon populations and rivers. Genetic contamination threatens all this work and in return there is little or no economic benefit to the region,” said Mark Butler, policy director at Ecology Action Centre in Nova Scotia.
 
There’s never been a farmed salmon that hasn’t eventually escaped into the natural environment. Why should we believe that long term, these frankenfish won’t be the same?” asked Golden Gate Salmon Association executive director John McManus.
 
“Once they escape, you can’t put these transgenic fish back in the bag. They’re manufactured to outgrow wild salmon, and if they cross-breed, it could have irreversible impacts on the natural world,” said Dune Lankard, a salmon fisherman and the Center for Biological Diversity’s Alaska representative. “This kind of dangerous tinkering could easily morph into a disaster for wild salmon that will be impossible to undo.”
 
“FDA’s action threatens and disrespects the wild salmon ecosystems, cultures and industries that are treasured here in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska,” said Gabriel Scott, Alaska legal director for Cascadia Wildlands. “These folks think a salmon is just a packet of protein, but we in Salmon Nation know better. From Alaska to California, Americans are intimately related with diverse runs of salmon and we’ve learned their unique attributes and incredible value. We’ve worked very hard to be good stewards of our natural heritage, and refuse to allow that to be undone by one company’s irresponsible experiment.”
 
“The FDA has failed to adequately examine the risks associated with transgenic salmon,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “The long term effects of people eating genetically modified foods have never been adequately addressed—and this GE salmon is no exception. This fish is unnecessary, so why take the risk?”
 
“It’s clear that the market has rejected GE salmon despite FDA’s reckless approval,” said Dana Perls, food and technology campaigner for Friends of the Earth. “Major retailers including Costco, Safeway and Kroger won’t sell it and polls show the vast majority of people don’t want to eat it. Yet under this approval it won’t be labeled, violating our fundamental right to know what we are feeding our families.”
 
 
 
Mar29

U.S. Supreme Court Denies Effort to Overturn Tongass National Forest Protections

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 29, 2016

CONTACTS

Gabe Scott | Cascadia Wildlands | gscott@cascwild.org | (907) 491-0856
Tom Waldo | Earthjustice | twaldo@earthjustice.org | (907) 500‐7123
Niel Lawrence | Natural Resources Defense Council | nlawrence@nrdc.org | (360) 534‐9900
Buck Lindekugel | Southeast Alaska Conservation Council | buck@seacc.org | (907) 586‐6942
Catalina Tresky | Defenders of Wildlife | ctresky@defenders.org | (202) 772‐0253
Virginia Cramer | Sierra Club | virginia.cramer@sierraclub.org | (804) 519‐8449

U.S. Supreme Court Denies Effort to Overturn Tongass National Forest Protections

Court leaves rules in place that protect Tongass rainforest
wildlands from damaging logging, road construction

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to hear a last‐ditch effort by the State of Alaska to exempt America’s largest national forest from a national rule protecting undeveloped, road‐free national forest areas from logging and road
construction. The State sought to overturn a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that
kept the Roadless Area Conservation Rule in effect in the vast Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska. The Ninth Circuit agreed with a federal District Court in Alaska that the Bush administration improperly exempted the Tongass from that landmark
conservation measure.

“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. “We are pleased with the court’s decision and the recognition that it is a privilege, not a burden, to conserve these national treasures for future generations.”

A coalition including the Organized Village of Kake (a federally recognized Alaska Native tribe), tourism businesses, and conservationists joined the federal government in urging the Supreme Court to leave the lower court rulings intact.

“Today’s court order is great news for Southeast Alaska and for all those who visit this
spectacular place,” said Earthjustice attorney Tom Waldo. “The remaining wild and
undeveloped parts of the Tongass are important wildlife habitat and vital to local
residents for hunting, fishing, recreation, and tourism, the driving forces of the local
economy. The Supreme Court’s decision means that America’s biggest national forest—the Tongass—will continue to benefit from a common‐sense rule that applies
nationwide.”

“It feels terrific to put this case to bed once and for all,” added Niel Lawrence, senior
attorney and Alaska Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Punching
clearcuts and logging roads into America’s last great rainforest wildland produced
nothing but controversy, conflict, and uncertainty. The region can now move ahead on a
path that benefits from and sustains the fabulous natural values that attract people to
the Tongass. And all Americans can celebrate, knowing that we’ll pass on the crown
jewel of national forests to future generations as wild and wonderful as it is today.”

“Southeast Alaska has moved on,” said Buck Lindekugel, Grassroots Attorney for the
Southeast Alaska Conservation Council. “Clearcutting old‐growth forests in the remote
wildlands of our region, with expensive new logging roads no one can afford to
maintain, is a thing of the past. We are pleased to see the Supreme Court put this issue to rest and call on the State of Alaska to do the same.”

“The Supreme Court’s decision today is a victory for wildlife in the Tongass National
Forest, the state of Alaska, the region and the nation,” said Peter Nelson, senior policy
advisor for federal lands for Defenders of Wildlife. “The Roadless Rule protects the
wildlands that form the heart of America’s largest national forest within the most
expansive temperate rainforest in the world. Future generations will now have the
opportunity to experience the majesty of this ecosystem and the salmon, bears, wolves, birds and the myriad wildlife that depend on it.”

“The Roadless Rule protects our intact ancient forests that salmon, bears, and wolves
depend upon. Alaska’s temperate rainforest is a treasure and today’s decision will help
keep the Tongass protected from more logging and destruction,” said Marc Fink, Senior
Attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity.

“We're pleased to see the Roadless Rule upheld again. Over the past decade we’ve seen that the rule works. It has protected millions of acres of forests across the country,
ensuring that both wildlife and American families have space to live and explore. In the
face of a rapidly changing climate, protecting forests like the Tongass is even more
important," said Alli Harvey, with the Sierra Club's Our Wild America campaign in Alaska. "It's common sense to protect this wild national icon for future generations to enjoy."

Background

The so‐called “Roadless Rule” was designed to protect “large, relatively undisturbed
landscapes” in national forests from logging roads and clear‐cuts, while allowing other
economic development — including hydropower projects, transmission lines, tourism,
federally‐financed public roads, and even mining — to continue.

Today’s ruling is good news for the many residents of the region and local businesses
who use and depend on the Tongass’ outstanding natural values, as well as visitors who
come to see America’s last great rainforest, teeming with fish and wildlife that thrive in
its undeveloped roadless areas. Little practical change is expected, however, since even
when the Bush‐era exemption was in effect, cost and controversy kept almost all logging out of roadless areas. And last year, a federal advisory committee including
representatives of the timber industry and the State formally and unanimously
recommended against further logging of those wildlands.

The 17 million‐acre Tongass spans 500 miles of coastal Southeast Alaska, encompassing alpine meadows, deep fjords, calving glaciers, dense old‐growth rainforest, and over 1,000 islands and islets. After much debate and hundreds of thousands of comments, in 2001, the Agriculture Department decided that the Roadless Rule should apply to the Tongass but included special measures to blunt the impact of the rule on Alaska’s timber industry. Not applying the rule, the department found, “would risk the loss of important roadless values” in the Tongass. When the Bush administration reversed course and tried to exempt the Tongass from the Roadless Rule, it relied on factual findings at odds with those that justified its original decision and ignored the economic mitigation package for the Tongass. It asserted, without support, that the rule was not needed to protect Tongass wildlands and would cause widespread economic hardship.

The Ninth Circuit’s ruling — and today’s decision by the Supreme Court not to review
that ruling — reinforced the settled rule that federal agencies cannot arbitrarily change
policies and ignore previous factual findings simply because a new president has taken
office.

Attorneys from Earthjustice and the Natural Resources Defense Council represent the
following groups in the case: Organized Village of Kake, The Boat Company, Alaska
Wilderness Recreation and Tourism Association, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council,Natural Resources Defense Council, Tongass Conservation Society, Greenpeace, Wrangell Resource Council, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, and Cascadia Wildlands.

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