Posts Tagged ‘Cascadia Wildlands’

Oct13

On Westerman, Walden, and Kids: Contemplating Oregon’s Fire Season from Drake Peak Lookout

by Gabe Scott, Cascadia Wildlands In-House Counsel
 
I’m sitting in the Drake Peak fire lookout tower in Oregon's Fremont-Winema National Forest for a long weekend with my young kids, taking in the wind-swept views while they explore the mountain, and watching a forest fire burn. As the sun sets it makes Mount Shasta glow fire-red in the distance, while an apocalyptic plume of smoke from the forest takes on a feathery pink. The sky darkens, and the kids come inside for food and stories. The fire casts an eerie glow in the night, and we wonder about it.
IMG_2682
 
I’ve been wondering a lot about forest fires this past year, since moving back to Oregon from south-central Alaska. Just about everything that happens in forest policy here revolves around fire, one way or another.
 
Oregonians talk a lot about the rain, but really it’s the fires that we’ve found distinctive. As important and ubiquitous as fire is, the issue is an incredibly difficult thing to talk about or understand.
 
So let’s sit around the cooling flames for a story. The kids want to understand what is happening, and I want to be able to explain it to them.
 
In the Pacific Northwest, the story about fire is a profound one: it’s about birth and death, money and power, and a human animal who is deeply confused, scared, and mixed up about his place on the land. There are heroes and villains in this story. And you get to create your own ending.
 
Fire is scary
There is something primal and apocalyptic about the experience of fire.
 
Terror of fire is something we share with other animals. Bears, deer and rabbits flee from fire in a panic. It may be a trick of the eye, but the way big trees catch fire, their branches seem to shrink away from the flames, dancing convulsively as though the tree itself summons one last panicked attempt to run from the flames.
 
Fire is an enemy of “man.” It is an enemy of property, and of permanence. Like a hurricane, or a cold and stormy sea.
 
Heck of a fire season, again
At least, it seems like it has been. Ash has been falling from the sky in Seattle, Portland, and Eugene. Even more so in the southern Oregon Cascades and the Siskiyous. The sun and moon have cast an eerie, muted orange. Air quality warnings have flashed red exclamation points on our phones, and out-of-town relatives have inquired about our safety.
 
But was this a “bad” fire year?
 
Fire has burned across over a half-million acres of forest this summer in Oregon.
 
That’s a lot of acres.
 
But then again, Oregon is a big place, and fire ecologists have learned that just about all of our forests burn at one time or another. In the scheme of things, even a half-million acres of fire—a lot of fire!— isn’t unusual.
 
Whether a half-million acres burning is a lot, or not, sort of depends on what timeframe you are using. In the past fifty years, statistically there has been a huge increase in the acres of forest burning in wildfires. Look at the past hundred years though, and you can see that we need additional context.
 
Charts-dellasala (1)_Page_1 2
(Source: Dominick DellaSala, Geos Institute, testimony US House Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, September 27, 2017).
 
That dip in the middle of the graph has resulted in what they call a “fire debt” on the forest. It is routine in the public land timber sales Cascadia Wildlands reviews to find the agency biologists bemoaning a fire-starved forest stand.
 
The “problem” of forest fires, a scientist would tell you, is a social problem, not an information problem. Two true things are in conflict: (1) ecologically, fire is beneficial and often necessary on many of Cascadia’s forests, and (2) humans, like (as) animals, do not tolerate fire in their midst. 
 
Forest fires (usually) don’t kill the forest
Exploring Drake Peak with the kids, everywhere we went had been touched by fire. And it was beautiful. It is this way throughout Oregon, Washington and California: luxurious green forests grown from carpets of black ash.
 
While we speak and think in terms of fire “consuming” and “destroying” forests, this is not the case.
 
On the Eagle Creek fire in the Columbia River Gorge for example, even in places that had been glowing hellish red in high-intensity conflagrations this summer, many of the trees seem to have survived, and lots of patches of forest were left unburned. Even as the flames burned, ODFW was reassuring the public that wildlife and vegetation will adapt and thrive.
 
Cascadia’s forests are born of fire
Fire has always been in this landscape. Without it, the forests could not be. In different ways at different times, the fires of centuries past created the forest, wetlands and wildlife we love.
 
Ecologically, fire is hugely beneficial. The science is remarkably consistent. Here in Oregon the world’s foremost scientific experts on fire ecology are working and watching, eagerly studying this incredible process. To a person, they speak and think of forest fires as an integral part of the forest. To ecologists who study these things, fires are approached with something more like reverence than fear.  
 
The lessons they’ve learned are familiar. Fires clear out underbrush, thin forests, favor some species over others, and provide homes for cavity-nesters like owls. Every schoolchild now learns the story of the Yellowstone fire, and how it unleashed an ecological cascade of restoration for the forest and wildlife.
 
Scientists now are studying how fire helps wild salmon and trout. Earlier this summer a Pacific Northwest Research Station report came out describing ways that wildlfires help wild salmon and trout thrive.
 
As it turns out, forests “dying” in fires are more like forests “dying” in the fall. It’s part of a cycle, not the end of a line.
 
The war on fire
Cold science is one thing, but hot passion is another. Too often the latter which tends to drive human behavior.
 
One result of those two true things— inevitability and fear of fire—is a hugely aggressive (and expensive, and dangerous) fire-fighting effort. Forest fires, being as ordinary a part of the seasonal cycle as rain, inevitably happen. We try to put just about all of them out.
 
We’ve gotten very, very good at it. Huge jet airplanes drop million-dollar loads of orange fire-retardant. A literal army of firefighters attack blazes with shovels, chainsaws, backfires, firebreaks, bulldozers, and water.
 
One result is that, thanks to firefighters, we have fewer fires. The small ones get put out.
 
As good as our firefighters are at what they do, did you know that they have never— not even once— been able to put out a large, intense wildfire? It’s true.
 
To satisfy the insatiable public need to fight every fire, firefighters are routinely asked to take incredible risks. I doubt I would have the courage to take half as much risk to save my own home from burning, as some of these hotshots take trying to save remote forests from burning.  
 
While the safety culture is strong, especially among firefighting leadership, the war on fire comes with heavy casualties. Foremost are the lost firefighters.  
 
Aggressively fighting fire also has an ecological cost. For example, this summer at Breitenbush Hot Springs in Oregon's Willamette National Forest, fire crews cut a fireline through a beloved old-growth hiking trail.
 
Logging the forest to save it
To a hammer every solution looks like a nail.
 
And to generations of foresters trained in cutting trees, the solution to forest fires has always been to cut the forest down.
 
It is routine in the timber sales we monitor at Cascadia Wildlands to find the agencies logging the forest to save it before it burns. Or, after it burns, they’ll want to “salvage” it.
 
Both notions are applied by with an un-ironic stubbornness that is almost comical.
 
There are grains of truth, and much of our day-to-day work consists of finding them. In the wildland-urban interface—where homes and property are built in forests that need to burn—thinning and strategic clearing can be very effective at saving property. And on some forest stands, careful thinning and prescribed burning is effective at both ecological restoration, and providing jobs and timber for mills. Cascadia Wildlands always tries to support these win-win solutions.
 
But while some work the ideas out carefully, politicians and the timber industry love to come in shouting emergency when fires are burning.
 
So we get things like the barely disguised propaganda video put out by the industry in Douglas County, questionably using taxpayer dollars. 
 
Or we get things like Rep. Greg Walden's (R-OR) “Clearcut the Gorge” bill, which suspends all environmental laws to expedite clearcutting of the Gorge after this summer's Eagle Creek fire.
 
Or, even worse, the Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR) bill, with the Orwellian name “Resilient Federal Forests Act,” a salvage rider on steroids that would exempt massive logging, up to 30,000 acres, from environmental laws and careful planning.
 
We’ll be busy fighting these outrageous proposals in the months and years to come.
 
Drake Peak
Back to my fire lookout on Drake Peak. How to explain the sinister, burning forest to my curious children? What are we seeing? Is this Bambi’s home being destroyed?
 
I really don’t know what is the best way to think about fire, let alone to explain it. Emotionally they are scary. Intellectually they are essential and life-giving. The picture gets more complicated when you factor in global warming, and human developments concentrated in inconvenient places.
 
Whatever the right way, we surely do know that the wrong way to think about fire is to panic.
 
It is panic that gives the log-it-to-save it idea traction. It is panic that causes distant politicians to see burned forests as destroyed lifeless tracts that may as well be clearcut.
 
As for the best way to talk about fire, we’d love to hear your ideas in comments. The best I could come up with for my kids were two imperfect analogies:
 
A forest fire is like a rainstorm. It’s an uncomfortable thing that happens in nature. It is dangerous, and can even kill you if you aren’t prepared. But it also makes the land green, and without it we would die.
 
A forest fire is like autumn, but on a larger time scale. As in autumn the leaves die and animals disappear, but in a cyclical way, not a linear one. It is the kind of death that blurs into birth. For a forest, a fire is a turning of the wheel, not the end of the road.
Sep25

Cascadia Lawsuit Challenges Wolf Killing in Washington!

Lawsuit Challenges Washington Wolf-killing Protocol

Injunction Sought Against Further Killings After State Nearly Wipes Out Three Packs for One Livestock Owner

out_5_wolf_trail_cam_t1140

OLYMPIA, Wash.— Two conservation groups filed a lawsuit today seeking to stop the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and its director, James Unsworth, from killing any more state-endangered wolves.

Today’s suit, filed on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands, asserts that the agency’s killing of wolves from the Smackout and Sherman packs in northeastern Washington relied upon a faulty protocol and failed to undergo required environmental analysis. The suit was filed in Superior Court of Washington for Thurston County.

“We can’t sit by and watch Washington wildlife officials kill more wolves from the state’s small and recovering wolf population,” said Amaroq Weiss, the Center’s West Coast wolf advocate. “Washingtonians overwhelmingly want wolves recovered, not killed. The Department of Fish and Wildlife needs to listen to public opinion and consider the dire environmental costs of killing more wolves.”

In June of this year, Fish and Wildlife officials adopted a revised “wolf-livestock interaction protocol” for determining when to kill wolves in response to livestock conflicts. The protocol provided for the state to kill wolves more quickly than in prior years. As the lawsuit notes, the protocol was adopted without any public input or environmental review, in violation of the state’s Environmental Policy and Administrative Procedure Acts.

“Reasonable minds can differ on when we should and should not be killing wolves, and whether the killing of the wolves in these two packs was justified,” said Nick Cady, legal director for Cascadia Wildlands. “But there is no question that we should be fully analyzing the efficacy of these actions, welcoming public and scientific input, and be able to hold the state accountable. This is a state agency spending taxpayer dollars.”

The department has since relied on the protocol to order killing of wolves from two packs, with two wolves from the Smackout pack and one wolf from the Sherman pack killed to date. At the time of the Sherman pack kill order, only two wolves could be confirmed as comprising the pack, one of which the department has now killed. The department has temporarily paused killing wolves from both packs, but will resume if there are more livestock losses.

Overall, since 2012, the state has killed 18 state-endangered wolves, nearly 16 percent of the state’s current confirmed population of 115 wolves. Fifteen of the wolves killed since 2012 were killed on behalf of the same livestock owner; those kills have now led to the near eradication of three entire wolf packs, including the Profanity Peak pack last year, and the Wedge pack in 2012. The rancher in question has been a vocal opponent of wolf recovery and has historically refused to implement meaningful nonlethal measures designed to protect his livestock from wolves.

Washington’s wolves were driven to extinction in the early 1900s by a government-sponsored eradication program on behalf of the livestock industry. The animals began to return from neighboring Idaho and British Columbia in the early 2000s, and their population has grown to 20 confirmed packs as of the end of 2016.

But wolf recovery in Washington is still a work in progress. Wolves remain absent from large areas of the state and although the population has been growing, it remains small and vulnerable. Given the continued endangered status of wolves, the state and livestock operators should stick to nonlethal methods as the sole means for reducing loss of livestock to wolves.

“We appreciate that many livestock owners already are using nonlethal methods, said Weiss, “since the science shows such methods are more effective anyway.”

Plaintiffs are represented in the case by attorneys from the law firm Lane Powell.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.5 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places. Recognizing the ecological importance of wolves, bears and other carnivores, the Center uses science-based advocacy to defend these magnificent animals from persecution, exploitation and extinction. Find out more about our Carnivore Conservation campaign here.

Cascadia Wildlands educates, agitates, and inspires a movement to protect and restore Cascadia's wild ecosystems. We envision 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.

Aug07

Deep Thoughts with Cascadia’s Summer Interns

Cascadia Raft Trip

Corinne Milinovich and Kristen Sabo, 2017 Summer Legal Interns

The 2017 Cascadia Wildlands summer was filled with countless Oregon adventures, great conversations, and monumental educational growth for us both. We had the privilege of drafting complaints and settlement memos, executing public information requests, drafting litigation memos, refining our legal research skills, drafting a northern spotted owl uplisting petition, and sitting in on settlement meetings and objection resolution meetings with government agencies. 

We were lucky enough to table for Cascadia Wildlands at multiple Oregon events, including the Northwest String Summit bluegrass festival outside of Portland and the Oregon Country Fair. We connected with new and old Cascadia Wildlands supporters, discussed the LNG pipeline, wolf populations in Oregon, and the Elliott State Forest victory.

Overall the summer was a huge success, and there were many highlights for both of us. In particular, the settlement meetings and legal drafting stood out. It was such a privilege to be at the table during the settlement meetings. Those experiences are truly invaluable and instrumental to our growth and understanding of the environmental legal world.

Throughout the summer, Nick gave us the opportunity to experience the Cascadia Wildlands litigation process on multiple levels and see full circle how an environmental lawsuit is successfully executed. As up-and-coming environmental lawyers, this summer internship has shaped our future, reinforcing our chosen career paths.
Our summer legal internship with Cascadia Wildlands allowed us to be present for tangible environmental victories, including but not limited to: saving the Elliott State Forest, preventing old-growth timber from being cut, preserving endangered species habitat and the passing of a suction dredge reform bill that prohibited suction dredging in essential salmonid habitat.

These victories, conversations with Cascadia supporters, and our expanded knowledge of the environmental legal world will guide us into our next year of law school. It was truly an honor to be a part of the Cascadia Wildlands family, this summer was an invaluable experience. A big thank you to Nick, Josh, Gabe, Kaley, Luke, and the Cascadia Wildlands community for an unforgettable summer!

Jul03

Press Release: Lawmakers Advance $100 Million in State Bonding Revenue to Keep the Elliott State Forest Public

For immediate release
July 3, 2017
Contact: Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands, 541-844-8182
 
On July 3 during a work session in Salem, the Capital Construction Subcommittee of the Joint Ways and Means Committee unanimously advanced $100 million in state bonding revenue to protect the 82,500-Elliott State Forest and keep it from being privatized. The vote followed a May 9 State Land Board meeting, where Governor Kate Brown, Treasurer Tobias Read, and Secretary of State Dennis Richardson voted 3-0 to keep the Elliott in public ownership through the use of state bonding capacity and the development of a Habitat Conservation Plan for the Coast Range forest. The full Ways and Means Committee is expected to pass the bill any day.
 
In 2016, the Elliott State Forest became threatened with privatization after a timber firm made a bid to purchase it from the State Land Board. Tens of thousands of Oregonians weighed in and opposed the privatization proposal, recognizing it would mean reduced public access and an increase in older forest clearcutting. It would have also set a dangerous precedent nationwide for other “underperforming” public lands.
 
The Elliott State Forest, located just east of Coos Bay, is a stronghold for imperiled Oregon Coast coho salmon and marbled murrelet, a seabird that flys inland to nest in the Coast Range’s remaining older forests. The Elliott, created in 1930 by Governor Oswald West and Oregon’s first State Forester Francis Elliott, is also a recreation hub for hunters, anglers and backcountry enthusiasts who value their public lands.
 
Statements from Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands’ Executive Director, on today’s vote:
 
"The fireworks and celebration started early this year. The outcome of today’s vote is a testament to the will of Oregonians who spoke loud and clear about the importance of keeping the Elliott State Forest in public ownership."
 
"This solution wouldn’t have happened without the leadership of Governor Kate Brown. Because of her vision, and the strong desire of Oregonians, the Elliott State Forest will stay in public ownership for its incredible values, and future generations of Oregonians will be forever grateful."
 
                                                       ####
May31

Press Release: Oregon House of Representatives Passes Suction-Dredge Mining Reform Bill

For immediate release
May 31, 2017
Contact: Nick Cady, Legal Director, Cascadia Wildlands, 314-482-3746
 
Salem, OR – The Oregon House passed legislation today in a show of bipartisan support to protect sensitive salmon and lamprey habitat from suction dredge mining. The Suction Dredge Reform bill (SB 3-A) takes a measured approach to protecting the most sensitive rivers and streams from the impacts of suction dredge mining, while still allowing suction dredges in areas where they do less harm.
 
Suction dredge mining is a form of recreational gold mining that uses a motorized, floating dredge to suck up the riverbed. Multiple scientific studies show that suction dredge mining can trap and kill young fish and fish eggs, release fine sediments that smother spawning gravel for salmon, and even stir up legacy mercury from historic mining operations.
 
The Suction Dredge Reform bill is the result of a long and collaborative process championed by the late Senator Alan Bates from southern Oregon. It represents a compromise, informed by input from anglers, conservation groups, local businesses, the mining industry, and others.
 
“The passage of Senate Bill 3 represents the triumph of local communities and the success of an incremental collaborative approach begun years ago with the passage of SB 838,” said Nick Cady, legal director of Cascadia Wildlands.  “Its passage proves that if the state takes initiative and leadership on conservation issues, Oregonians will arrive at bipartisan solutions that benefit our local businesses and environment.”
 
Clean rivers that support healthy fish and vibrant recreation are critical to state and local economies. In 2008, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife found that people spent $2.5 billion on fish and wildlife recreation in the state. The commercial fishing industry also relies on healthy rivers and salmon.
 
Under the Suction Dredge Reform bill, suction dredge mining is prohibited in spawning and rearing habitat for sensitive, threatened, or endangered salmonids and lamprey, termed “essential salmonid habitat.” Outside of these areas, suction dredge mining would be allowed under a Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) permit that places certain limits on where and how suction dredges can be operated in streams.
 
This bill establishes a permanent regulatory framework to manage suction dredge mining. In 2013, the Legislature first recognized the need to better protect sensitive species when it passed a bill to study the issue and implement a temporary moratorium in salmon and bull trout habitat.
 
“Right now, temporary protections for the most sensitive streams end in 2021,” said Stacey Detwiler of Rogue Riverkeeper, “Today’s vote is critical for the health of Oregon’s rivers and the communities that rely upon them.”
 
Today’s vote is an important step forward, building on bipartisan support demonstrated in the Senate.
 
                                                               ####
May04

Press Release: Conservation Organizations Enthusiastic about Governor’s Plan for the Elliott

For Immediate Release
May 4, 2017
Contacts:
 
Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 844-8182
Doug Moore, Oregon League of Conservation Voters, (503) 729-5175
 
Salem, OR – The Oregon Conservation Network (OCN) is pleased to see the plan released today from the Governor’s office regarding the Elliott State Forest. As a coalition, we care deeply about Oregon’s wildlands, and believe the state has an obligation to protect and enhance our vast forests, wildlife, and habitats. This is why the issue of the Elliott State Forest is such an important one to our members.
 
As Oregon’s first state forest, the Elliott has become a symbol of both our enduring commitment to public lands, and the need to decouple our treasured wild spaces from the Common School Fund. There has been and will continue to be ongoing conflict between the need to preserve our environmental legacy and the need to fully fund our schools unless we take action now to create an alternative to the current system.
 
“The Elliott is an incredible stronghold for wild salmon, imperiled wildlife, clean water, and carbon storage. It is a place where recreational values can be realized, and it is symbolic of the larger battle at the federal level to privatize public places,” said Doug Moore, executive director of the Oregon League of Conservation Voters.
 
Governor Brown has shown incredible leadership and vision, and we applaud her plan released today as further demonstration of her commitment to keeping public lands in public hands.  We look forward to continuing to work with the Governor and the rest of the Land Board to enact a lasting plan for the Elliott that has conservation safeguards that Oregonians so desire.
 
"At a time when there are intense interests nationally to privatize public lands, we are deeply grateful for the Governor’s vision and leadership to keep the Elliott State Forest public," says Josh Laughlin with Cascadia Wildlands. "This approach will ensure Oregonians can continue to access its great outdoors and that the Elliott's salmon and wildlife habitat are safeguarded into the future."
 
We believe the plan for the state to use bonding revenue to ensure this decoupling fulfills the state’s fiduciary responsibilities while retaining the Elliott as a place of pride for this state and local communities.
 
Funding for children's education does not require cutting down forests. The plan released today by the Governor's office is an innovative approach to maintaining our commitment as a state to both education and the environment. We believe the Elliott can be a source of sustainable income for Oregon’s schools – if it is responsibly managed.
 
We look forward to seeing the Governor’s vision for the Elliott come to fruition. This historic and unique place can be a place where business interests, the public, and the tribes can come together to use the land responsibly; providing a model for other common school fund lands.
 
                                                                # # #
Apr11

Press Release: Oregon Wolf Recovery Stagnant in 2016, Changes to Wolf Plan Concern Wolf Advocates

For immediate release
April 11, 2017
Contact: Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, 314-482-3746
 
Today the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife released its 2016 annual report for wolf recovery as well as its draft update to the Oregon Wolf Plan. Of particular interest, the annual report shows that wolf packs and breeding pairs documented in the state 2016 declined from 2015 numbers. Pack numbers dropped from 12 to 11, and breeding pairs from 11 to 8. (The state of Oregon defines “breeding pair” as a breeding adult male and female wolf that produce at least two pups which survive through the end of the year.) Overall population numbers in 2016 were largely stagnant from 2015, seeing a 2% uptick to a minimum of 112 wolves.
 
A number of proposed changes to the Oregon Wolf Plan are strongly opposed by Cascadia Wildlands, including the use of Wildlife Services’ involvement in wolf management in the state. The federal program housed under the US Department of Agriculture has been subject intense public backlash and litigation for its barbaric practices used against targeted wildlife, including the use of M-44 cyanide devices which eject lethal poison into the mouths of wolves, coyotes and even family pets.
 
Another significant concern in the draft update to the Wolf Plan is the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s provision to kill wolves as response to wolf conflict with ungulates, like deer and elk. Science has shown that the main driver of ungulate health is habitat conditions, not wolves.
 
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is expected to adopt changes to the Wolf Plan at its April 21 meeting in Klamath Falls.
 
Nick Cady, Legal Director at Cascadia Wildlands, issues the following statements on the draft changes to the Oregon Wolf Plan and the results of the 2016 annual report:
 
“While the wolf population in Oregon has begun to rebound in recent years, 2016 numbers show otherwise. This is alarming, and the trend provides all the more reason to strengthen safeguards for wolves during the Wolf Plan update, which will allow them to continue back on the historic path toward recovery.”
 
“We are incredibly discouraged with the provisions in this plan to kill wolves in response to conflict with ungulates, like deer and elk.  A consistent body of science has shown that the main driver of ungulate health is habitat conditions, not carnivore predation.”
 
"We are resoundingly opposed to the State’s utilization of Wildlife Services in the plan, specifically this shadowy agency's role in determining whether or not wolves were responsible for depredations on livestock.  These are critical investigations, and the lives of wolves hinge on their integrity.  In the past, Wildlife Services has grossly overestimated depredations attributed to wolves in Oregon, thereby showing their long-held bias toward livestock interests and against wolves. This agency has no place in carnivore management in Oregon, and we will continue to fight to have them eliminated from this critical function in the revised Plan."
 
“Cascadia Wildlands is encouraged by the state of Oregon’s continued focus on pro-active, non lethal measures to prevent conflicts between wolves and livestock before they happen. Non-lethal tools and access to them are essential to creating co-existence between wolves and humans.”
                                                           ####
 
 
Mar14

Cascadia Goes to Court to Defend Wolf Protections in California

For Immediate Release, March 14, 2017
 
Contacts:      
 
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 434-1463, nick@cascwild.org
Amaroq Weiss, Center for Biological Diversity, (707) 779-9613, aweiss@biologicaldiversity.org
Greg Loarie, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2000, gloarie@earthjustice.org
Tom Wheeler, Environmental Protection Information Center, (707) 822-7711, tom@wildcalifornia.org
Joseph Vaile, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, (541) 488-5789, joseph@kswild.org
 
Conservation Groups Oppose Effort to Remove Wolf Protections in California
Organizations Seek Intervention on Industry Challenge to Endangered Status
 

SAN FRANCISCO— Four conservation groups filed a motion today to intervene in a lawsuit seeking to remove California Endangered Species Act protections from wolves. The lawsuit, against the state Fish and Wildlife Commission, was brought by the Pacific Legal Foundation and wrongly alleges that wolves are ineligible for state protection. 

The intervenors — Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Protection Information Center, and Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center — are represented by Earthjustice.

“Pacific Legal Foundation’s lawsuit is baseless,” said Amaroq Weiss, the Center’s West Coast wolf organizer. “Gray wolves were senselessly wiped out in California and deserve a chance to come back and survive here. We’re intervening to defend the interests of the vast majority of Californians who value wolves and want them to recover.”

Brought on behalf of the California Cattlemen’s Association and California Farm Bureau Federation, the lawsuit alleges that wolves are ineligible for state protection because wolves returning to the state are supposedly the wrong subspecies, which only occurred intermittently in California at the time of the decision and are doing fine in other states.

Each of these arguments has major flaws. UCLA biologist Bob Wayne found that all three currently recognized subspecies of wolves occurred in California. Also — importantly — there is no requirement that recovery efforts focus on the same subspecies, rather than just the species. The fact that wolves were only intermittently present actually highlights the need for their protection, and the California Endangered Species Act is rightly focused on the status of species within California, not other states.  

“The gray wolf is an icon of wildness in the American West, and its return to California after almost 100 years is a success story we should celebrate,” said Earthjustice attorney Greg Loarie. “Stripping wolves of protection under the California Endangered Species Act at this early stage in their recovery risks losing them again, and we’re not going to let that happen.”

The four intervening groups petitioned for endangered species protections for wolves in February 2012. After receiving two California Department of Fish and Wildlife reports, scientific peer review assessment of those reports, thousands of written comments submitted by the public and live testimony at multiple public meetings, the California Fish and Game Commission voted to protect gray wolves in June 2014.

State protection makes it illegal to kill a wolf, including in response to livestock depredations — a major issue for the livestock industry. But despite the industry’s concerns, a growing body of scientific evidence shows nonlethal deterrence measures are more effective and less expensive than killing wolves. In addition, the Department of Fish and Wildlife has been allocated federal funding that can be used for nonlethal conflict-deterrence measures and to compensate ranchers for livestock losses to wolves, which make up a very small fraction of livestock losses.

“The cattle industry has made clear that it views wolves as pests and that they filed suit to allow killing of wolves,” said Tom Wheeler, executive director at the Environmental Protection Information Center. “Wolves are a vital part of American’s wilderness and natural heritage, helping to restore balance to our ecosystems by regulating elk and deer populations. The path to restoring wolves is through protecting fragile recovering populations.”

Wolves once ranged across most of the United States, but were trapped, shot and poisoned to near extirpation largely on behalf of the livestock industry. Before wolves began to return to California in late 2011 — when a single wolf from Oregon known as wolf OR-7 ventured south — it had been almost 90 years since a wild wolf was seen in the state. Before OR-7 the last known wild wolf in California, killed by a trapper in Lassen County, was seen in 1924.

Since 2011 California’s first wolf family in nearly a century, the seven-member Shasta pack, was confirmed in Siskiyou County in 2015, and a pair of wolves was confirmed in Lassen County in 2016. An additional radio-collared wolf from Oregon has crossed in and out of California several times since late 2015.

 
Cascadia Wildlands educates, agitates, and inspires a movement to protect and restore Cascadia's wild ecosystems. We envision 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.
Feb15

Conservation Groups Decry Vote by State Treasurer, Secretary of State to Sell Elliott State Forest

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
Contact:
Bob Sallinger, 503.380.9728 or bsallinger@audubonportland.org 
Josh Laughlin, 541.844.8182 or jlaughlin@cascwild.org 
Doug Moore, 503.729.5175 or dmoore@olcv.org 
 
Conservation groups decry vote by State Treasurer,
Secretary of State to Sell Elliott State Forest 
Governor puts forward solid plan to keep 83,000-acre forest public.
 
Salem, Oregon—February 15, 2017 – A broad coalition of conservation, hunting, and fishing groups across Oregon decried a state land board vote pushing the Elliott State Forest to brink of privatization yesterday. 
 
Democratic State Treasurer Tobias Read and Republican Secretary of State Dennis Richardson both voted to continue with the sale of the forest to a timber firm, Lone Rock Resources. 
 
Governor Kate Brown opposed the sale and promoted a framework to keep the forest in public ownership, saying, “It's in the best interest of Oregonians that the forest stays in public hands for future generations.” 
 
The conservation community has been working on several proposals that fit within Governor Brown’s vision to keep the land publicly accessible, protect older forests and critical salmon and wildlife habitat, safeguard streams and incorporate tribal ownership, while fulfilling the state’s obligation to fund public schools. 
 
As the sale negotiations continue, Governor Brown directed the Department of State Lands to continue to explore options to keep the land public. That direction leaves open the possibility that Oregon Legislature and other parties can craft a viable public option. 
 
Earlier in the meeting, Senate President Peter Courtney expressed his personal support for public ownership, pledging his help in the current session to secure bonding for the proposal. 
 
Said Doug Moore, “We thank the Governor for continuing to work on a proposal that meets the many important public interests in this forest. What’s disappointing is the lack of vision from Treasurer Read and Secretary of State Richardson in failing to help her craft a long term solution that Oregonians will be proud of.” 
 
Treasurer Read motioned to amend the Lone Rock proposal with modest conservation and recreation provisions. These are unlikely to meet the broad conservation and public access goals outlined by the Governor and the conservation community. 
 
"On the anniversary of the State’s birth, we should be honoring Oregon and all the values public lands offer Oregonians," said Josh Laughlin with Cascadia Wildlands. "Instead, Treasurer Read and Secretary Richardson voted to privatize the Elliott State Forest, which means more clear cuts, muddy water and locked gates in our great state." 
 
"Public lands are under unprecedented attack across Oregon and the rest of the country. At a time when we need our public officials to stand up for public lands, Governor Brown is stepping up and Treasurer Read appears to be stepping aside," said Bob Sallinger, Conservation Director with the Audubon Society of Portland. 
 
The Lone Rock proposal to protect streams has standards far below the protections under the current Elliott State Forest plan. Meanwhile, thousands of acres of 100-year-old forest will be open to clearcutting. 
 
“Our coastal salmon runs depend on public lands, and this sale sets a terrible precedent for other public lands in Oregon and across the West,” said Bob Van Dyk, Oregon and California policy director at the Wild Salmon Center.
 
Conservation groups will now turn to the legislature and other stakeholders to advance a public ownership option. The next State Land Board meeting will be April 11th. 
 
Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands 
Doug Moore, Oregon League of Conservation Voters 
Tom Wolf, Oregon Council Trout Unlimited 
Bob Van Dyk, Wild Salmon Center 
Bob Sallinger, Portland Audubon 
Cameron La Follette, Oregon Coast Alliance 
Max Beeken, Coast Range Forest Watch 
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity 
Feb01

Reflections on the Enormous Victory in Northern Cascadia and Coming Full Circle

by Gabe Scott, Cascadia Wildlands House Counsel

Ready for some good news? Last week our partners at Eyak Preservation Council announced that the major part of Alaska’s Bering River Coalfield, and the old-growth forest on top of it, has been permanently protected!
 
The Bering River coalfield sits in the rugged, remote mountains just back of Cascadia's northern extreme.

The Bering River coalfield sits in the rugged, remote mountains just back of Cascadia's northern extreme (photo by Brett Cole).

Several things about this historic victory make it especially sweet. Ecologically it protects one of the most magnificent places on earth, a vast wild wetland on Cascadia's northern edge. Better, it does it in a precedent-setting way that puts the region’s indigenous people in charge. Personally I am proud that we Cascadians played a big part creating the conditions where this victory could happen. And, most of all, let us be inspired by the example of our close partner and good friend Dune Lankard, the Eyak native whose visionary leadership and sheer determination has achieved what few believed was possible.
 
The Victory
 
The Bering River coalfield is located in one of the wildest and most productive on earth—the Copper/Bering River Delta wetland complex, along Alaska’s south-central Gulf coast. This is wild salmon, bear, wolf, eagle and raven country. Seals swim ice-berg choked rivers hunting King salmon. Ice-clad mountains rise almost straight out of the churning Gulf. 
 
The Bering River rages through the coast range, backed by glaciers, choked with salmon, and Wild as all-get-out.

The Bering River rages through the coast range, backed by glaciers, choked with salmon, and Wild as all-get-out (photo by Brett Cole).

To the north is the largest protected wilderness in the whole world: from here into the Yukon territory all the way down to Glacier Bay. To the east is the largest ice-field outside the poles. The ice is moving, glaciers sliding forward and melting back, uncovering infant land. To the west is the Copper River Delta, and beyond that Cordova and Prince William Sound. This is the largest contiguous wetland in Cascadia, home to the world-famous Copper River salmon fishing fleet, and incredible concentrations of swans, geese and shorebirds.
 
There are huge veins of coal, the largest tide-water coal deposit in the world, buried in the mountain ridges back of the wetlands. Coal mining there would have involved mountain-top removal in the headwaters of rich salmon rivers, extensive clearcutting of the old-growth forest, roads across the wild Copper River delta, and a deepwater port near Cordova.
 
The deal announced yesterday is that Chugach Alaska Corporation's coal and timber will be forever conserved, stewarded with a conservation easement enforced by The Native Conservancy. The owner, CAC, will generate revenue by selling carbon credits on California’s market.
 
Historic Victory for Conservation
 
This has been a long time coming. The Bering River coalfield is one of modern conservation’s seminal battles. In 1907 Teddy Roosevelt stuck his neck out to prevent J.P. Morgan from grabbing it in a monopoly. Gifford Pinchot was fired/ resigned in protest trying to protect it. Louis Brandeis, before being appointed to the supreme court, put his talents to work for the cause. Through the era of statehood, and Native land claims, and the park-creating frenzy of ANILCA, and the post-Exxon Valdez restoration deals, conservationists always tried but developers stubbornly insisted that the Bering River coalfield needed to be mined. 
 
The coal is owned by Chugach Alaska Corporation, one of the regional Alaska Native corporations. (Rather than treaties and reservations, in Alaska the U.S. congress formed corporations and made indigenous people into the shareholders. Long story. CAC is one of these.) CAC selected the coalfield and the trees atop it with an eye to developing them.
 
After going bankrupt in the late 1980s, CAC lost part of the coalfield to a Korean conglomerate. Notably, that portion of the coalfield isn't covered by the deal announced last week, so it will need to be protected too. 
 
The 700,000-acre Copper River Delta is the largest contiguous wetland on the Pacific Coast of North America.

The 700,000-acre Copper River Delta is the largest contiguous wetland on the Pacific Coast of North America.

The conservation deal announced yesterday is precent setting for it’s unique mix of conservation and indigenous control. The Native Conservancy is a new idea, the brainchild of Dune Lankard, that was critical to the deal working. Formulated as a sort of friendly amendment to the Nature Conservancy, the idea is to incorporate social justice for indigenous people into long-term land conservation.
 
In the announced deal the Native Conservancy will hold the conservation easement, making it the steward in charge of protecting the land. Enforcement of easements is one of the major hurdles to private equity models of conservation, and this offers an attractive new possibility.
 
This victory also points to the inevitable reality of climate change and the future of carbon. California’s carbon market  makes it possible economically for a company like CAC to realize a return on investment for conservation. Where there is money, deals will be made.
 
Lying politicians aside, global warming is real. The writing is on the wall for the carbon-heavy industries. When corporations look to the future, they see young people marching for climate justice, bringing their case to the courts and demanding sustainability. Especially for Alaska Native corporations like CAC, shareholders are keenly interested in avoiding climate catastrophe. The message is being heard!
 
A personal victory
 
This victory also marks a sweet sort of bookend to my own work running Cascadia’s Alaska field office, from 1998 until this past year. The first reason I went to Cordova, back in 1998, was to help Dune Lankard blockade the road that CAC was then actually building, across the Copper River Delta to access this coalfield and these trees. 
 
Dune Lankard at Shepard Point, back in the day.

Dune Lankard at Shepard Point, back in the day.

When I first arrived there was the coalfield, an oilfield, a deepwater port, a road across the Delta and another one up the river, cruise ships and a Princess lodge, all interlocking. None of these threats alone could gain traction, but any two or more of them would forever destroy the wilderness. Dune and I spent countless hours together on the basketball court scheming the demise of this web of threats. For the next nineteen years, Cascadia and Eyak worked together on the campaigns. Together we stopped the road across the Delta, the deepwater port at Shepard Point, and oil drilling at Katalla. 
 
Without the deepwater port, without the access road, and without any oil discovery to attract new investment, conservation of the coalfield became more appealing. 
 
While we are proud to have helped create the conditions for success, all credit for this victory goes to two heroes of the planet: Dune Lankard and Carol Hoover. Their dogged determination and visionary blend of indigenous and ecological justice has achieved what a century of environmentalists could not. 
 
So, I am inspired, and so should you be! 
 
The new president can take a long walk off a short pier. The train has left the station. The people are winning for climate justice, and we aren’t about to stop now.
 
After an incredible run in Cascadia's northern frontier based in Cordova, Gabe Scott recently moved back to Eugene with his family and is Cascadia Wildlands' House Counsel.
we like it wild. Follow us Facebook Twiter RSS