Posts Tagged ‘clearcut’

Mar23

Cascadia Halts Huge Public Lands Clearcutting Outside Eugene

Press Release
For Immediate Release

March 23, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For a copy of the complaint click here.

Mar17

Cascadia Wildlands Defeats White Castle Clearcutting in Court

Press Release: March 17, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A copy of the legal decision can be found here.

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

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

Jan15

Cascadia Challenges BLM Clearcutting Just Northeast of Eugene

Press Release
For Immediate Release
January 15, 2015

Contact:
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

Jun09

Of Roosevelt Elk, Bacteria, Hooves and Herbicides

By Bob Ferris Elk US FWS
 
Over the last several years through numerous blog posts and comments Cascadia Wildlands has been forwarding two important notions. The first is that state wildlife commissions (and therefore agencies) in the West are too beholding to resource-oriented industries such as ranching, timber, mining and energy interests at the expense of hunters, anglers and our ever-dwindling wildlife legacy (1,2).
 
And, at the same time, western wildlife commissions are too accepting of the ideas forwarded by some extreme hunting groups that increasingly reflect the views of these same resource-dependent industries such as increasing clearcuts, aggressive predator control, protection of public lands grazing and more road creation for access rather than hitting the conservation sweet spots of habitat restoration, wilderness preservation, road retirement and water quality improvement (1,2). In essence, both the commissions and these more trophy hunting-oriented groups have been quietly coopted by the very elements that do damage to the natural resources needed by all wildlife and fish.
 
The most recent and troubling example involves the issue of hoof rot in Washington State’s Roosevelt elk herds. No one knows for sure at this point what is causing the hoof rot in southwestern Washington, but there are a lot of candidates both of a direct and indirect nature. One hypothesis that was put forth recently is that there is some link between combinations of factors that could include herbicide use by the forest products industry and a bacterial infection known as leptospirosis. Leptospirosis often causes severe muscle pain in mammals which might explain the limping observed in these elk as well as the lack of hoof wear on the sore legs. Leptospirosis has been present in Washington for decades.
 
Caution the below video contains images that may be disturbing to some:
 

As a wildlife biologist who frequently looks at complex interactions, I can appreciate a scenario that includes multiple causes such as massive habitat changes and herbicide use that put elk in a vulnerable condition so they present the variety of symptoms we are observing with this hoof rot phenomenon. But the idea of this being driven by leptospirosis or via an herbicide link—either through decreased habitat quality or consumption effects—has been met with apparent resistance in spite of efforts by a retired public health researcher and an expert on leptospirosis detection, Dr. Boone Mora, and hunter Jon Gosch who has written two well-researched blog posts on the topic (1,2).  In addition, farrier Krystal Davies has also made a rather cogent argument for this being laminitis associated with or driven by herbicides.
 
WDFW Herbicide
The above is a screenshot from the WDFW website.  Please note the mentions of NCASI and the University of Alberta as sources. Click here to view U of A study's funding sources. 
 
It is amazing given the volume of public commentary on habitat, herbicides and alternative diseases that the WDFW Hoof Disease power point presentation from October 2013 focused on identifying symptoms and wildly invasive cures rather than dealing with what the root causes might be such as habitat degradation and herbicide use which seem buried deep in the presentation—almost as afterthoughts. You almost get the impression when you view this slide show that the elk are at fault and should bear the brunt of the solution. Why are the root causes being ignored in favor of a narrow band of issues that are more likely symptoms? That is a great question or set of questions.
 
"The National Council for Air and Stream Improvement is an independent, non-profit research institute that focuses on environmental topics of interest to the forest products industry. Membership is open to forest products companies in the U.S., Canada, and beyond." Mission statement of NCASI from website.
 
Part of the answer to the above comes in the form of an obscure but powerful group called the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement or NCASI. Formerly known as the  National Council of the Paper Industry for Air and Stream Improvement, this is the research arm of the timber industry and often their scientific mouthpiece. NCASI seems to enjoy preferred access to Washington's wildlife agency and used as a resource (see FAQ quote above) which is troubling given that the timber industry has a long history of viewing deer and elk as unwelcome pests (1,2,3) and because of NCASI's industry biased spinning of scientific findings, regulations and other phenomena ( 1,2,3,4).
 
"During that outing, Dr. Vickie Tatum, a herbicide specialist for the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, told the hoof disease group that herbicides target specific actions in plants that don’t occur in animals. Dr. John Cook, an elk researcher who also works for the NCASI, pointed out that herbicides are used in Oregon and the Blue Mountains of eastern Oregon and there’s no hoof disease there." In The Daily News May 22, 2014
 
Of particular relevance here, NCASI has also been very active in telling the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) that herbicides are not the problem.  This is probably based in part on a report by NCASI written by Dr. Tatum, NCASI researcher Larry L. Irwin Ph.D. and others with assistance from Dr. Cook.  Unfortunately, WDFW seems to be listening to the pro-herbicide rhetoric and they are not the only ones.  
 
“Larry brings decades of on-the-ground work to the table,” said David Allen, RMEF President and CEO. “His studies on elk, other wildlife, and habitat further strengthen RMEF’s resolve to acquire more science-based research and knowledge.” David Allen quoted in NCASI press release April 15, 2013. 
 
Some who have been paying attention might ask: But where is the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation in all of this? Shouldn’t they and their members be outraged that the timber industry is compromising elk habitat with herbicides and forest management practices? Aren’t they the ones who should stand up for the elk, elk habitat and support Dr. Mora and Mr. Gosch in their efforts to get answers? Logical questions and some of the answer might come when you look at RMEF board of directors page and right in the middle, wearing a dark brown cowboy hat, a bolo tie and a smile sits the above mentioned Larry Irwin.  And the connection between RMEF, NCASI and Dr. Irwin is a strong one as RMEF has provided significant, long-term funding for a number of projects overseen by NCASI, Dr. Irwin and others in the timber industry (1,2,3)
 
"Improving large mammal browse was a primary focus of the first decade of research on forest herbicides (pers. comm., M. Newton, Emeritus Professor, Department of Forest Science, Oregon State University) and remains an important consideration today." in NCASI pp. 31.
 
As a former ungulate biologist I was particularly concerned with the statements made in NCASI's herbicide paper in the wildlife section on pages 29-31. Reading these pages in the absence of background one would think that the timber industry’s goal was increasing and improving forage for deer and elk and that these ungulates were only minimally impacted because the woody vegetation killed was replaced by grasses.
 
“Conversely, herbicidal control of hardwood brush for the establishment of conifer plantations may remove valuable wildlife browse species and habitat.” In Review of the Ecological Effects of Herbicide Usage in Forestry by J.P. Kimmins 1975
 
“Model results suggested that the potential for long-term changes in vegetation composition and resultant ungulate forage availability were most pronounced during winter.” in NCASI pp. 29-31.   
 
The well recognized fly–even by NCASI–in this ointment is winter. Grasses are great in the spring and summer but as they mature and summer transitions into fall these plants take their protein and ship it below ground to be stored for next year. In short, if you have killed off the woody vegetation and are left with nutritionally useless grasses what do the elk eat in winter when stress and caloric needs are high–particularly in females carrying young?
 
I was also concerned with the coverage in this section about the toxic impact of the herbicides on wildlife. Certainly this is the timber industry’s party line, but the public has compelling reasons to be dubious about the rigor of these findings as they apply to wildlife and human health too. These “benign” herbicides are turning out to be more problematic than originally thought.  Adding to this general atmosphere of distrust are stories like the one unfolding at Triangle Lake in Oregon where citizens rightfully want to know what the timber and herbicide industries have put in their waters and ultimately their bodies.   
 
"The group also heard a presentation about herbicides by Anne Fairbrother, a veterinarian and principal scientist with the Exponent research company in Seattle.
 
Herbicides have “no known mode of action in mammals,” Fairbrother said. "They’re practically nontoxic to mammals according to most of the studies that have been done. We haven’t had any observations of direct effect that we’ve been aware of on wildlife and most of these herbicides have been around for several decades.” in The Daily News June 5, 2014
 
"CropLife America represents more than 60 developers, manufacturers, formulators and distributors of virtually all the crop protection products used by American farmers and growers. We are the voice of the industry that ensures the safe and responsible use of pesticides in order to provide a safe, affordable and abundant food supply." CropLife Mission Statement from their website.
 
My nervousness over this herbicide issue is little diminished by the nuanced quote above by Dr. Anne Fairbrother whose company Exponent is a dues paying member of CropLife America along with Syngenta the manafacturer of atrazine (see also attacks on scientists).  It is noteable that Dr. Fairbrother when she was with the US EPA during the Bush II era also supported the EPA's decision to continue to allow the use of atrazine over the objections of many and an existing and growing body of scientific evidence that if anything should have dictated a more cautious approach (1,2,3,4,5,6).  Atrazine is banned in the EU.
 
“The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” Hamlet by William Shakespeare 1602
 
All in all the herbicide users, makers and the minions for both “doth protest too much, methinks” to do anything other than raise serious questions about too tight and too trusting relationships with WDFW and other serious conflicts of interest.  And what about spending just a little bit of time with Dr. Cook’s interesting “proof” about herbicies not contributing to or being at the root of this situation because we are not seeing the same phenomenon is other places where herbicides are used like the Blue Mountains?  We have indeed seen drops in elk populations in the Blues (1,2).  And setting aside the fact that we are dealing with a different subspecies of elk, in different habitats, and under different precipitation regimes, this area also has a full compliment of predators including wolves which are coursing predators that would make quick work of limping elk affected by leptospirosis, laminitis or other diseases.  
 
Getting back to Dr. Irwin, he is coincidentally also a science advisor to our friends at the Oregon Outdoor Council (1,2,3) who have, without caveat or condition, endorsed federal legislative proposals that could greatly increase clearcutting on federal forest lands in western Oregon as well as potentially reopening the door for herbicide use on some of these lands. As we have heard numerous rumors of limping elk in Oregon and leptospirosis has been documented in the state, this really needs to be examined and questioned as it has significant implications for issues like the privatization of the Elliott State Forest and the O&C proposals—both of which could lead to more clearcuts and herbicide use.
 
Embedded in all of this is also the oft repeated cautionary tale of massive habitat changes—human-wrought and natural—leading to short term gains in ungulate populations followed by population crashes and other catastrophic problems. Ecologists and visionary wildlife managers have been trying to raise the alarm about the consequences of these phenomena and related habitat issues for nearly 100 years (see Flathead Game Reduction). Yet we tend to get shouted down, ignored or fired (1,2) both during the elation over increased populations and the ensuing panic that accompanies the crashes.
NCASI Report Tree Illustration
In the latter case of crashes some hunters and wildlife commissioners do not want to hear about solutions—like habitat restoration—that might take decades or even centuries to fully unfold. They want right-now solutions like predator control, vaccines for diseases, and other biological Band-Aids. Population explosions also reset expectations and no one wants to be reminded that succession happens and clearcuts provide good elk food resources for a decade or two before shading out needed understory for nearly two centuries.  And as the illustration above from NCASI's herbicide report shows, the "clearcut bonus" is reduced nearly to zero when those lands are densely replanted with Douglas-firs and managed with herbcides.  
 
In all of this it is important to know the players and their biases. Moreover, it is important to make sure that the solution process is appropriately designed and equipped to provide solutions that solve the root causes of this problem and protect this important public resource for future generations. Towards those ends I would make the following suggestions to the WDFW:
 
1) Get more systems thinkers such as ecologists and also folks with experience outside of laboratories involved in the process.  These need to be people willing to ask tough questions about why this might be happening in the first place and not tied to any agency or industry that might be contributing to the problem.
 
2) Take some time to educate folks on elk habitat needs and the short and long-term consequences of habitat changes, herbicide use, and plant succession on elk populations.
 
3) Be more inclusive of other voices in the process and listen more closely to the concerns of hunters, anglers, and others who own and enjoy these public resources and less to those like the timber industry, herbicie interests or their scientists whose actions tend to decrease biodiversity and ecosystem integrity.
 
4-6) Conduct research, research and more research. This may seem facetious, but there is so much that we do not know, yet we are acting in a manner that suggests that we do. The impacts of herbicides and the interactions between various products as well as their "inactive" parts needs to be fully investigated before the issue is dismissed and the public told that these chemicals are safe for wildlife and humans. The full range of bacterial and immunotoxic causes and symptoms need to be examined and considered before they are ruled out. And the human health implications of handling and consumption of infected elk need to be fully addressed as well. There are others, but this would be a great start.
 
As I mentioned above, I do not know what is causing this phenomenon. But I do know that if the process and players lack openness and are preloaded to a certain realm of answers, the solution will reflect this. If you agree with these concerns click below to request that WDFW modify their current approach and remember that they are in the elk business not in the timber and herbicide game.
Roosevelt and Muir
 
My last comment has to do with the value of citizen activism and picking effective campaign partners by shared goals and benefits rather than appearance or perceived politics. I have written volumes about the campaigns of some with ties to the resource industries to drive wedges between natural allies in the conservation and environmental communities. Instead of rehashing what I have already said let me end with this. Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir—arguably the father of modern conservation and the king of the tree huggers—were friends and effective colleagues. They did not always agree on issues—in fact they had some pretty monumental battles.  But when they worked together they accomplished amazing things that are still talked about and revered more than a century later. Perhaps this is an issue where we can all work together again and not only do something exceptional on this front but set the stage for another and much needed push to ensure the future of wildlife and wild places and, at the same time, make our future more secure. 
 
 
Nov18

Lawsuit Blocks Elliott Logging

The World by Jessie Higgins
November 17, 2012

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 jhiggins@theworldlink.com.

Jul02

State Suspends State Forest Timber Sales Subject to Federal Lawsuit   

July 2, 2012
KLCC by Rachael McDonald
 
The Oregon Department of Forestry has suspended operations on 10 timber sales. A lawsuit brought by conservation groups says the logging imperils a federally listed seabird.
 
Four conservation groups are suing Oregon to halt timber sales on the Elliot, Clatsop and Tillamook State Forests.
 
Josh Laughlin with Cascadia Wildlands says ODF's current methods are depleting habitat for the Marbled Murrelet, which nests in coastal forests.


 
Laughlin: "Their rampant clearcutting and chemical spraying program is continuing to push this species closer to the brink of extinction."
 

 
Laughlin says these methods are unlawful under the Endangered Species Act. He hopes Federal Judge Ann Aiken will agree. Laughlin says logging can be done in a more careful way so the murrelet's nesting sites are preserved.
 
Kevin Weeks is with ODF. He says the agency is preparing their defense of the lawsuit.
 

 
Weeks: "The Department of Forestry has adopted a rigorous set of wildlife management policies and procedures which include both extensive and intensive surveying for marbled murrelets and where we find those habitat areas extensive site protection measures."
 

 
Laughlin counters that the state leaves only postage-stamp size forest patches around the bird's habitat. The conservation groups have filed a preliminary injunction motion to keep the state from going forward with its logging plans. The hearing will take place in Portland Federal Court in the coming weeks.


 
To listen to the story, click here.
 
Jun12

Murrelet: More Information

The marbled murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus) is a small sea bird that spends most of its time at sea feeding on fish but nests inland in older forests. Murrelets do not build stick nests but rely on large tree branches with thick moss in which to lay their egg. Nesting habitat consists of large core areas of older forests that provide interior habitat (i.e., habitat with low amounts of edge habitat), reduced habitat fragmentation, and close proximity to the ocean.
 
Murrelets do not nest every year. When marbled murrelet nesting occurs it takes place between mid-April and September. The birds have high site fidelity, returning to the same tree or stand to nest. The female lays one egg and the male and female incubate the egg in shifts while the other bird flies to the ocean to feed. They switch shifts at dawn or dusk. Predominately due to the risk of predation, marbled murrelets tend to be very secretive when entering and leaving their nest sites making it difficult to detect the birds while nesting.
 
The primary reason marbled murrelets are protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is because of the extensive logging of mature and old-growth forest over the past 150 years. Extensive logging has resulted in the fragmentation of murrelet nesting habitat, which affects population viability and size, and can lead to displacement, fewer nesting attempts, failure to breed, reduced fecundity, reduced nest abundance, lower nest success, increased predation and parasitism rates, crowding in remaining patches, and reductions in adult survival. Additionally, habitat loss can lead to the increased risk of predation from corvids, like jays and ravens, which is a significant threat to murrelet populations. Significant murrelet nesting failure is due to predation from corvids who can fly into the edges of older forests. Murrelets need large interior forests to avoid nest predation.
 
Current government research on marbled murrelets in the Pacific Northwest shows that populations are declining at approximately 4% per year.
 
The Elliott, Clatsop, and Tillamook State Forests
The Elliott State Forest is approximately 93,000 acres and is located in the Coos District, directly south of the Umpqua River near the Pacific Ocean in Coos and Douglas Counties. Much of the Elliott is “Common School Fund Land,” and is under the management authority of the Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL) and the State Land Board (SLB). Timber receipts from the Elliott pay the State’s overhead expenses to manage the forest. The remainder is put into the Common School Fund, where two draws are made each year and distributed to K-12 schools across the state.
 
The DSL and SLB have an agreement with the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) and the Oregon Board of Forestry (BOF) that allows ODF and the BOF to plan and authorize logging activities and annual operating plans in the Elliott State Forest. Approximately 50% of the Elliott State Forest has never been logged. The portions of the Elliott that have not already been logged are typically 120 to 140 years old though there are some remnant patches of forest that are much older. Up until this year, the ODF planned, and the BOF, DSL, and SLB approved, about 500 acres of clearcutting each year. This year, the ODF increased its average to 780 acres, and could clearcut up to 1,000 acres in the Elliott State Forest each year. This clearcutting occurs most often in older forest stands that have never before been logged, including in occupied and suitable marbled murrelet habitat.
 
The Elliott State Forest is so important to marbled murrelets, the US Fish and Wildlife Service recommended it for “critical habitat” after the murrelet was protected under the ESA in 1992.
 
The Clatsop and Tillamook State Forests are comprised of the Astoria, Tillamook, and Forest Grove Districts of Oregon’s northern coast. The ODF and BOF have primary authority over management of most of these forests, although approximately two percent of the Clatsop is Common School Fund lands that are managed by DSL and SLB. These forests are managed under Oregon’s Northwest Forests Management Plan.
 
The Clatsop State Forest consists of 154,000 acres within the Astoria District, and was significantly logged while in private ownership in the early 1900s. The Tillamook State Forest is approximately 364,000 acres, and was largely burned by wildfires and subsequently logged in the early-and mid-1900s. The Tillamook and Forest Grove Districts manage the Tillamook State Forest. Both the Tillamook and Clatsop are managed under the Northwest Forest Management Plan, adopted in 2001, and revised in 2010.
 
The Clatsop and Tillamook forests provide essential habitat for a host of other federally listed species, including the Oregon Coast coho salmon, northern spotted owl and the recently “warranted but precluded” Endangered Species Act listing of the north coast population of the red tree vole, a small arboreal mammal that is a significant prey source for the northern spotted owl.
 
Oregon’s recent decisions to increase logging on the Elliott, Clatsop and Tillamook
At the end of 2011, ODF, BOF, DSL, and SLB approved a new forest management plan for the Elliott that significantly increases the amount of logging that will be allowed on the forest. Under the new forest management plan, logging on the Elliott will increase from approximately 25 million board feet to 40 million board feet cut per year, a nearly 40% increase. In order for the new volume targets to be met, timber sales will have to be planned in older forests in the northwestern portion of the Elliott that was previously reserved under the Elliott’s 1994 forest plan.
 
For the past 10 years, the state of Oregon pursued a multi-species Habitat Conservation Plan for the Elliott, which would have insulated the agency from endangered species “take” under the Endangered Species Act. Because the state’s proposed HCP did not protect endangered species adequately, it could not get approval from the federal agencies in charge of recovering endangered species. The state therefore abandoned that effort and is now operating under a “take avoidance” approach to managing endangered species.
 
For management on the Clatsop and Tillamook state forests, the Board of Forestry adopted revisions to the Northwest Forests Management Plan in 2010, which lowered the goals for older forests from 40-60 percent of the landscape, down to 30-50 percent. It directed ODF to increase revenues generated by logging from the northwest state forests by five to fifteen percent within the next decade. The revised plan also removes references to a much-discussed Habitat Conservation Plan for the forests. Like the Elliott, ODF worked on a draft Habitat Conservation Plan for the northwest forests but never finalized the plan. It is anticipated that a twenty percent increase in logging on both the Clatsop and Tillamook forests will occur.
 
Details on the State’s management of the forests that is leading to take
The notice letter explains that the State is causing “take” of marbled murrelets by authorizing logging of occupied nesting sites and by fragmenting marbled murrelet habitat. Specifically, they believe the State is: (1) authorizing logging within occupied areas specifically reserved for marbled murrelets called marbled murrelet management areas (MMMAs); (2) creating MMMAs that fail to include all the contiguous occupied habitat; (3) failing to designate MMMAs where occupied nesting behavior has been documented; (4) fragmenting marbled murrelet habitat by creating MMMAs that are too small or irregularly shaped to provide the habitat necessary for protected murrelet nests; and (5) fragmenting occupied and suitable habitat on state forest lands to such a degree as to cause death, displacement, fewer nesting attempts, failure to breed, reduced fecundity, reduced nest abundance, lower nest success, increased predation and parasitism rates, crowding in remaining patches, and reductions in adult survival. This take is also occurring as a direct result of the State’s recent decisions to increase logging on the Elliott, Tillamook, and Clatsop state forests and its decisions to approve a new management plan for the Elliott, to amend the management plan for the northwest forests, to update or revise the implementation plans for the relevant districts, and to write new annual operating plans.
May31

Logging in Oregon State Harm Protected Marbled Murrelets, Lawsuit Says

May 31, 2012
The Oregonian by Scott Learn
 
Three conservation groups sued Gov. John Kitzhaber and Oregon agencies today in federal court, charging that logging in three Coast Range state forests is killing or displacing protected marbled murrelets. 
 
The lawsuit requests an injunction to halt logging — including a host of currently planned sales — that could threaten the rare seabirds in the Tillamook, Clatsop and Elliott state forests until the state gets an incidental take permit under the Endangered Species Act.
 
Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Audubon Society of Portland filed the suit. 
 
West Coast populations of marbled murrelets have declined because of logging, the groups say. A 2009 status review estimated that the population dropped to 18,000 birds in 2008, a 26 percent decline from 2002. 
 
Marbled murrelets, listed as threatened under the ESA in 1992, are robin-sized seabirds that forage in the ocean but nest in mature or old growth forests. 
State officials say they take prudent measures to avoid harming murrelets. According to department documents, officials conduct about 1,500 surveys for murrelets annually and manage forests through a "take avoidance" policy. 
 
In an April 2011 report to the Oregon Board of Forestry, the department said it has designated more than 20,000 acres as murrelet management areas in northwest Oregon. 
 
But the conservation groups say logging in managed areas has killed or displaced  murrelets and fragmented their habitat. The logging includes some clearcuts as well as thinning projects that increase blow-down of trees in the birds' habitat, the groups say. 
 
Logging near the edges of murrelet habitat increases raids on their nests from jays, ravens and crows, the lawsuit says. 
 
In 2009, Oregon abandoned a habitat conservation plan that would have better protected the birds. The state has also approved increased logging in state forests to boost timber jobs and money for school, county and state services. 
 
Washington and California, the lawsuit says, both have more protective forest practice rules in place.
 
http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2012/05/logging_in_oregon_state_forest.html
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