Sen. Ron Wyden: 541-431-0229
Sen. Jeff Merkely: 541-465-6750
For Immediate Release
March 23, 2015
Nick Cady, Legal Director, Cascadia Wildlands, 314-482-3746
Doug Heiken, Conservation and Restoration Coordinator, Oregon Wild, 541-344-0675
Conservationists Halt Public Lands Clearcutting Outside of Eugene
BLM Pulls Decision After Lawsuit for Largest Lane Co Clearcut in 20 Years
EUGENE, Ore.— Public opposition and a legal challenge from Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild has prompted the Eugene Bureau of Land Management to place on hold its plans to clearcut 259 acres of public lands just outside of Springfield, Oregon near Shotgun Creek. The “Second Show” timber sale would have been the largest clearcut on federal lands in Lane County in 20 years.
This logging proposal elicited over 700 public comments, largely in opposition to the proposed clearcutting . Local residents raised concerns about clean water, Chinook salmon, and logging some of the last old forests in an already degraded watershed.
“I am extremely relieved that these mature trees may now have a chance to become a real old growth forest. They are located very near the BLM Shotgun Park and Recreation Area and I believe the BLM should focus on preserving our public lands for wildlife, recreation, and future generations,” said Ellen Furstner, a Marcola resident who commented on the sale. “Protecting the old forest that is left should be our priority to fight global warming. It’s just a shame our federal agencies do not see it that way.”
After the BLM’s decision to move forward with logging, Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild filed a “protest” with BLM but BLM failed to pick up their mail at the post office and refused to consider the protest. Seneca Sawmill then purchased the sale, and Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild were forced to file suit in federal court arguing that the BLM neglected to analyze the effects of clearcutting in conjunction with ongoing commercial logging and road construction in the same area. BLM withdrew their decision to log the Second Show timber sale on March 19 before answering the complaint and before the court could rule on the merits of the case.
“Our federal timber lands have been hammered by reckless clearcut logging for the past 90 years. Salmon and spotted owl populations are plummeting, water quality is terribly diminished, and our federal timber lands have more roads than Los Angeles,” said Nick Cady, Legal Director of Cascadia Wildlands. “Yet despite the science and public opposition, the BLM continues to target mature forests. The agency refuses to open its eyes.”
Decades of past clearcutting has resulted in federal lands that are now overstocked with dense young Douglas fir plantations. Conservation groups have been working with the BLM for the past decade to meet timber targets by commercially thinning these younger forests.
“The Second Show proposal is a big step backward,” said Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild. “Restoration thinning has allowed the agency to meet its timber goals without clearcutting and without doing undue harm to wildlife habitat and watersheds. Clearcutting public lands should be put in the dust-bin of history where it belongs.”
The Second Show decision has been pulled, but the agency may again elect to proceed with the controversial logging after revising its analysis documents. The revision process will be open to the public, and the BLM will respond to public concerns and questions about the proposed logging.
For a copy of the complaint click here.
Press Release: March 17, 2015
Contact: Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746
Judge Rejects "Eco-Forestry" Clearcutting on O&C Lands
Controversial "variable retention regeneration harvest" clearcuts in White Castle timber sale declared illegal; conservationists win on all counts.
A US District Court judge has ruled in favor of conservation groups Oregon Wild and Cascadia Wildlands in their legal challenge of a controversial clearcut logging project on public lands in Douglas County. At stake in the case was the Bureau of Land Management’s “White Castle” logging project which proposed clearcutting 160 aces of 100-year old trees using a controversial methodology developed by Drs. Jerry Franklin and Norm Johnson referred to as “variable retention regeneration harvest” sometimes referred to as “eco-forestry.” In her ruling, Judge Ann Aiken found that the BLM’s environmental review fell far short of fully considering the full range of harm that could result from clearcutting.
“This ruling proves that BLM can’t just re-name a clearcut something else and then expect it to suddenly be acceptable,” said Sean Stevens, Executive Director of Oregon Wild. “The White Castle timber sale was a test to see if eco-forest clearcutting could pass legal muster or public scrutiny, and it failed.”
Attorney Jennifer Schwartz argued on behalf of the conservation plaintiffs and repeatedly highlighted the scientific dispute surrounding the project and “variable retention harvest,” especially its implementation in older forests and spotted owl critical habitat. The Court ultimately determined that “The [spotted owl’s] Recovery Plan, the [spotted owl’s] critical habitat proposal, comments from the public and scientists, and Franklin and Johnson's own reports demonstrated the existence of ‘a substantial dispute’ casting ‘serious doubt upon the reasonableness’ of BLM's decision to harvest forest stands over 80 years old.”
By the BLM’s own admission, the White Castle sale was intended as a prototype for greatly expanding clearcutting on other BLM O&C lands, a factor that weighed heavily in the judge’s ruling. The judge found the precedential nature of the project worthy of greater scrutiny: “Project materials describe the pilot projects as test of new harvest methods and ‘new policies’ that could supplant BLM's current ‘risk-adverse strategy’ of avoiding regeneration harvesting and other ‘active management’ methods. Approval of the White Castle Project will not have binding impact on future projects, but it will, by design, shape BLM forestry methods and strategies moving forward.
“The scariest part of this project was its potential to set the tone for logging across 2 million acres of Western Oregon BLM,” said Nick Cady, Legal Director of Cascadia Wildlands. “The project was mired in scientific uncertainty and was the obvious result of political pressure to bail out county politicians by returning clearcutting to our public forests. I hope this ruling convinces the BLM to revisit its intentions for our public lands.”
The proposed timber sale lies within publicly-owned forest in the South Myrtle Creek watershed, near the community of Canyonville. The Roseburg BLM District proposed the controversial “eco-forestry” logging method as justification to clearcut over 187 acres, including 160 acres of trees over a century old.
Bulldozing roads and other destructive activities associated with the project would also have targeted additional trees over 150 years old. Federal biologists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have acknowledged nearly 200 acres of habitat for threatened wildlife would be damaged or destroyed by the logging. In her ruling, the judge found the likely effects of this clearcutting to require the BLM to conduct a much more rigorous environmental analysis than they have done thus far.
Despite the fact that BLM has been largely meeting its timber targets for the last 15 years, primarily through non-controversial thinning of young forests, the agency has recently pursued more controversial projects as a way to increase logging. BLM claimed that clearcutting the White Castle forest would benefit the environment by removing mature trees in order to favor shrubs and brush, even though such habitat is not rare like old forest. As part of the same planning process, Roseburg BLM carried out a similar and related clearcutting project in younger forests, known as Buck Rising. Conservationists did not challenge the Buck Rising project in court but they were not pleased with the results.
“BLM claims that since they intend to retain a few patches of standing trees , it isn't really a clearcut,” said Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild . “Anyone who has seen the aftermath of logging at Buck Rising would have a difficult time explaining the difference between acres of stumps and rutted earth created by eco-forestry and those created by old style clearcutting.”
A copy of the legal decision can be found here.
Photos of the White Castle forest can be found here. (please credit to Francis Eatherington)
Photos from the BLM's Buck Rising clearcuts can be found here. (please credit to Francis Eatherington)
For Immediate Release
January 15, 2015
Nick Cady, Legal Director, Cascadia Wildlands, 541-434-1463
Doug Heiken, Conservation and Restoration Coordinator, Oregon Wild, 541-344-0675
Conservationists Challenge Largest Eugene BLM Clearcut in 20 Years
EUGENE, Ore.— Conservation organizations filed a lawsuit today challenging the largest clearcut approved on federal land in Lane County in twenty years. The Second Show timber sale proposes 259 acres of public lands clearcutting and is located on public Bureau of Land Management lands just outside of Springfield, Oregon near Shotgun Creek. Clearcutting will have significant impacts to the watershed, which is already degraded, and will impact a popular recreation area.
“It is a shame to see the BLM moving forward with this sale after the incredible amount of public opposition it received,” said Nick Cady, legal director with Cascadia Wildlands. “This sale could have real and devastating consequences on watershed health, salmon, and clean water for the surrounding communities.”
Despite the large scope of the project, the BLM neglected to analyze the effects of the project in conjunction with its ongoing commercial logging and road construction in the same area. A basic tenant of environmental law is that federal agencies cannot evaluate projects in a vacuum, they must take into account the additive impact to the surrounding community based upon current ongoing or proposed projects. In this case, the BLM has already moved forward on 1500 acres of commercial logging and over 25 miles of logging and access roads. The Second Show sale proposes clearcutting one of the few healthy, maturing stands remaining in the area.
“These forests are older than your grandpa and are developing fine habitat if we leave them alone. Every indication is that we need to protect forests like this for fish, wildlife, water quality, and to protect our climate,” said Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild. “We have worked with BLM for the last decade helping them meet timber targets by thinning dense young forests. Now they are reverting to the destructive clearcutting practices of the past. It feels like a slap in the face.”
Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild officially raised these concerning issues to the Bureau of Land Management numerous times, but the Bureau neglected to respond due to purported mistakes by the Springfield postal service.
For a copy of the complaint click here: Second Show Complaint
ELLIOTT STATE FOREST — The state has withdrawn more than 900 acres of planned Elliott State Forest timber sales, pending the outcome of an environmental lawsuit.
The Oregon Department of Forestry instead plans to open 465 acres of alternative logging sites not named in the lawsuit.
'It's certainly nowhere near what was proposed in the annual operating plan," said Kevin Weeks, a spokesman for the Forestry Department. As Elliott logging funds the Common School Fund, Weeks estimates the shift will cost the CSF $9.85 million in revenue in 2013.
The state had already suspended logging on about 800 acres of timberland slated to be clearcut in 2012, said Josh Laughlin, a spokesman for Cascadia Wildlands.
The environmental groups say deferred logging means another year of protection for the endangered marbled murrelet sea bird.
The lawsuit, filed in May by Cascadia Wildlands and several other environmental groups, alleges the state's logging practices violate the Endangered Species Act by killing the sea birds.
'All the current scientific information suggests the sea birds' population is continuing to plummet in this region," Laughlin said. 'Clear cutting of its nesting habitat is a factor. To us, that suggests that public agencies like the Department of Forestry should take stronger measures to ensure their survival."
The suit will be heard by a federal judge sometime next year, Laughlin said.
If the judge decides in favor of the environmental groups, the state would have to drastically adjust its forest management plan.
Cascadia Wildlands hopes the state will pursue a habitat conservation plan, which manages the forest as a whole, allowing logging in certain regions and preserving other regions as habitat for endangered species.
Such a plan must be approved by federal agencies, as it allows the state to log areas where endangered species live. The state managed the Elliott with a habitat conservation plan for years, but scrapped it in 2011 because the National Marine Fisheries Service would not approve the plan, saying it did not adequately protect Coho salmon.
Under the current forest management plan, all areas of the state forest are open to logging so long as no endangered species live in the immediate vicinity. Areas where murlets nest are protected from logging. The method is called 'take avoidance."
Cascadia Wildlands disapproves of this method because it fails to conserve uninterrupted habitat, instead creating a patchwork of logged and unlogged areas.
Reporter Jessie Higgins can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 240, or firstname.lastname@example.org.