Posts Tagged ‘lawsuit’

Jun13

Press Release: Fishing, Conservation Groups Sue to Protect Coho Salmon from Oregon State Forest Logging

For immediate release
June 13, 2018
 
Contact:
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495, ngreenwald@biologicaldiversity.org
Glen Spain, PCFFA and IFR, (541) 689-2000, fish1ifr@aol.com
Mark Sherwood, Native Fish Society, (303) 898-8988, mark@nativefishsociety.org
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746, nick@cascwild.org
 
SALEM, Ore.— Five fishing and conservation groups sued the Oregon Department of Forestry today for poor logging and road-use practices in the Tillamook and Clatsop state forests that harm threatened coho salmon through landslides and erosion into streams that violates the Endangered Species Act.
 
Today’s lawsuit was filed in Eugene by the Center for Biological Diversity, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, Institute for Fisheries Resources, Cascadia Wildlands and Native Fish Society.
 
“Logging by the Oregon Department of Forestry is one of the main reasons our coastal coho are in trouble,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The department needs to do more to ensure it doesn’t harm these beautiful and important fish.”
 
Forestry department officials developed a draft Habitat Conservation Plan in the late 1990s that would have granted them a permit to allow some harm to threatened and endangered species — including the coho, marbled murrelet and spotted owl — but only in exchange for long-term habitat protections.
 
The department, however, never finalized the plan. Forestry officials did not want to enact stream protections that National Marine Fisheries Service scientists determined were necessary to ensure the coho's survival. The forestry department is again looking at developing a plan, but has made no firm commitment to do so. 
 
“Poor logging practices by the Oregon Department of Forestry is causing real harm to Oregon Coast coho and commercial fishing families who depend on these magnificent fish for their livelihoods,” said Glen Spain, northwest regional director for both the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations and the Institute of Fisheries Resources. “Stronger protections for streams to protect the coho, clean water and fishing-dependent jobs and communities is decades overdue.”
 
The two state forests contain nearly 500,000 acres on the Oregon North Coast essential to the survival of Oregon Coast coho. The lack of adequate stream protections on these lands was a primary basis for the National Marine Fisheries Service’s decision to protect the fish under the Endangered Species Act. That agency determined in a 2011 status review that “we are unable to conclude that the state forest management plans will provide for OC coho salmon habitat that is capable of supporting populations that are viable during both good and poor marine conditions.”
 
“The Oregon Department of Forestry is taking such a shortsighted approach to the Tillamook and Clatsop state forests,” said Nick Cady, legal director at Cascadia Wildlands. “These older, coastal rainforests are critical to the future of coho salmon, and there are better uses for these forests than the short-term profit to be gained from clearcutting.”
 
The Center for Biological Diversity filed a similar notice in 2014. But the Center delayed litigation because state forestry department officials said they were working with the conservation community and the timber industry to develop a new management plan that would potentially avoid harms to salmon and streams. Four years later no such plan has materialized. 
 
“Oregon Coast coho aren’t just fish. They’re an indicator for the health of our coastal communities, rivers and forests,” said Mark Sherwood, executive director of the Native Fish Society. “In recent years, thanks to so much good on-the-ground work, these remarkable fish have gone from the brink of extinction to a pathway toward recovery. Now it’s time to recover our coho to real abundance so they can once again enrich our communities and our land. It’s time for Oregonians to embrace our role as stewards and reform our logging practices.”
 
The groups are represented by Amy Atwood of the Center and Crag Law Center. 
 
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May19

Court Order: Washington Must Give Public Notice Before Killing Wolves

smackoutFor Immediate Release, May 18, 2018

Contact: Nick Cady, (314) 482-3746, nick@cascwild.org

Court Agreement: Washington Will Give Public Notice Before Killing Wolves 

Eight-hour Warning Could Permit Judge to Halt Slaughter Plans

OLYMPIA, Wash.— Washington wildlife officials will have to give eight business hours of notice before killing wolves in the state, under a new agreement reached today in Thurston County Superior Court.

Judge Chris Lanese ruled from the bench today that a challenge by the Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands of a kill order for the Sherman Pack in Washington was moot because the agency had already destroyed the pack. 

But Judge Lanese emphasized that the issues raised by the lawsuit were of great public importance and deserved to be fully evaluated. To that end, the judge obtained a commitment from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to provide public notice before killing wolves, ensuring the conservation groups have a chance to stop any killing.

The judge suggested that such a request for emergency relief was extremely likely to be granted, to prevent the state from killing wolves before there is a chance to have a court rule on the full merits of the claim.

“We’re deeply saddened by the loss of the Sherman Pack, but this new public notice agreement could save other Washington wolves,” said Amaroq Weiss, west coast wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The pack’s dissolution is exactly what you’d expect if you kill pack members. State officials need to realize that recklessly killing wolves is totally unacceptable given the still fragile recovery of these important animals.”

The groups’ suit challenged the agency’s August 25, 2017 order authorizing killing of members of the Sherman pack. At the time of the kill order, the Sherman pack consisted of only two wolves. The state killed one Sherman wolf on September 1, 2017.

“We don’t like that a state endangered wolf was killed and a pack lost, but we’re glad we’re going to get our concerns with the Department’s wolf management heard,” said Nick Cady, legal director for Cascadia Wildlands. “The science increasingly shows that killing wolves isn’t an effective means to address livestock loss and the public doesn’t want it.”

Overall, since 2012, the state has killed 18 state-endangered wolves, nearly 15 percent of the state’s current confirmed population of 122 wolves. The judge noted that fifteen of the wolves killed since 2012 were killed on behalf of the same livestock owner; those kills have now led to the eradication of three entire wolf packs, including the Sherman Pack last summer, Profanity Peak pack in 2016, 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 22 confirmed packs as of the end of 2017.

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, conservation groups are urging the state and livestock operators to stick to nonlethal methods as the sole means for reducing loss of livestock to wolves.

Photo of Smackout Wolf Courtesy of Western Wildlife Outreach

May16

Quartz Timber Sale Challenged Over Impacts to Red Tree Voles!

For Immediate Release, May 16, 2018

Contact:

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

Doug Heiken, Oregon Wild, (541) 344-0675

Reed Wilson, Benton Forest Coalition, (541) 754-3254                      

Timber Sale Targeting Mature Forests East of Cottage Grove Challenged in Court

Proposed Logging Would Eliminate Seventy-Five Red Tree Vole Nests

RTV 1EUGENE, Ore.— Today, three conservation groups challenged the 847-acre Quartz timber sale on the Cottage Grove Ranger District of the Umpqua National Forest that targets mature forests. The contested area is home to a thriving population of red tree voles, a small tree-dwelling mammal that is a prey source for the imperiled northern spotted owl and is critical to forest ecosystems in western Oregon.

“It is incredibly disappointing to again witness the Forest Service targeting mature forests to solely benefit private timber interests,” said Nick Cady, legal director at Cascadia Wildlands. “The Quartz timber sale is a clear example of the Forest Service’s pursuit of commercial timber at the expense of all the other public values this agency is required to protect.”

The red tree vole is a unique tree-dwelling species that inhabits mature and old-growth forests throughout much of western Oregon. Extensive red tree vole habitat has been destroyed by aggressive logging in Oregon’s Coast and Cascade Ranges. In 2011, the US Fish and Wildlife Service found that the species warranted listing under the federal Endangered Species Act, but declined to extend those protections in part due to regulatory protections on public federal forest lands.  Yet, in 2016, the Bureau of Land Management, which manages interspersed public lands in western Oregon eliminated protections for the species across 2.5-million acres of public forests it oversees.

“The red tree vole is already in a precarious position given the historic logging that occurred in Oregon over the past century,” said Nick Cady.  “And the recent elimination of protections for this species on BLM lands in Oregon places its future in jeopardy. The Forest Service must do all it can to ensure its survival and cancel reckless timber sales like Quartz.”

RTV 3In its initial planning efforts for the Quartz timber sale, the Forest Service surveys documented little red tree vole activity and determined that the forests slated for logging were not good habitat.  Subsequent surveys conducted by volunteers with the Northwest Ecosystem Survey Team and verification surveys by the Forest Service resulted in seventy-five vole nest detections.  Despite this information, the Forest Service decided to proceed with the sale and destroy the vole nest sites.

"Red tree voles are closely linked with northern spotted owls,” said Reed Wilson with Benton Forest Coalition. “They have similar habitat requirements: old trees with cavities, structural defects and massive limbs suitable for nesting – exactly the kind of trees located throughout the Quartz timber sale by the Northwest Ecosystem Survey Team."

RTV 2 “The Forest Service seems determined to proceed with logging these beautiful forests regardless of the diligent efforts of citizens to document the presence of rare wildlife. First, the Forest Service said there were too few red tree voles to warrant protection. Later, the Forest Service said there were too many voles to warrant protection,” said Doug Heiken, conservation and restoration coordinator at Oregon Wild. “The poor red tree vole just can’t catch a break.”

This case is being brought by the Benton Forest Coalition, Cascadia Wildlands, and Oregon Wild.

The filed complaint can be found here.

Red tree vole photos courtesy of Northwest Ecosystem Survey Team.

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.

Sep30

Oregon Board of Forestry Sued for Failure to Protect Marbled Murrelet Habitat

For Immediate Release
September 30, 2016
 
Contact: Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, 314-482-3746, nick@cascwild.org
              Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, 503-484-7495, ngreenwald@biologicaldiveristy.org
              Steve Pedery, Oregon Wild, 503-283-6343 ext. 212
              Bob Sallinger, Portland Audubon, 503-380-9728
 
Lawsuit Filed Against Oregon Board of Forestry for Failing to Protect Habitat for Threatened Marbled Murrelet
 
EUGENE, Ore.- Four conservation organizations filed suit today against the Oregon Board of Forestry over dismissal of a petition requesting the Board identify and protect important old-growth forest areas for the marbled murrelet, a seabird threatened with extinction.  Under Oregon law, the Board was supposed to have provided such protection after the seabird was protected as threatened under the state Endangered Species Act in 1987.  
 
“The state of Oregon is obligated to protect its threatened wildlife, and it is not doing that with this unique seabird,” said Nick Cady, legal director at Cascadia Wildlands. “It is way past time that protection measures for the species are instituted, otherwise the marbled murrelet will go the way of the passenger pigeon.” 
 
On Sept. 9 the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission granted a similar petition. The two agencies are required to work together to facilitate murrelet recovery and develop protection measures for occupied sites.  
 
The marbled murrelet was first listed as a threatened species in Oregon in 1987, and the listing of a species requires the Board of Forestry to conduct an inventory of species’ sites and develop rules to protect the sites from harmful forestry activities.  Clearcut logging of the murrelets’ nesting habitat on state and private forestlands in Oregon is the primary cause of the species decline.
 
“For the last thirty years, Oregon’s plan for marbled murrelets has been to look the other way while their habitat is clear-cut,” said Steve Pedery, conservation director at Oregon Wild. “Oregonians expect better from our governor and state agencies. They need to develop a plan to protect murrelets and their habitat, and they need to stand up to pressure from the clearcut lobby and the county politicians who do their bidding.”
 
While murrelets have been listed as a ‘threatened’ species for nearly 30 years, Oregon has never developed a plan to recover them or protect the old-growth habitat that they depend on. Instead the state has relied on the nesting habitat located on nearby federal forestlands. This is no longer sufficient as murrelet populations in the Pacific Northwest continue to decline, and a recent status review conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that conservation of nesting habitat on state and private lands is now critical to the species’ survival.
 
The Board of Forestry's decision to not even consider a petition to identify and protect old growth habitat for Marbled Murrelets once again demonstrates the board's indifference towards the plight of Marbled Murrelets and other old growth dependents species," said Bob Sallinger, Conservation Director for Audubon Society of Portland. "The Board has been ignoring its obligations under both state and federal law for decades even as the Marbled Murrelets numbers continue to plummet."
 
Murrelets fly inland from the ocean to nest on wide, mossy limbs found in the mature and old-growth forests of the Oregon Coast Range. A recent decision to ramp up clearcut logging of murrelet nesting habitat on Bureau of Land Management lands in western Oregon coupled with the state of Oregon’s proposal to privatize the 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest located, east of Coos Bay, underscore the need to develop habitat protections. A recent murrelet monitoring report produced by the U.S. Forest Service stressed the urgent need to “arrest the loss of suitable habitat on all lands, especially on non-federal lands in the relatively near term.”
 
“The Board of Forestry's management of the old-growth forests needed by the marbled murrelet and cherished by Oregonians across the political spectrum has been abysmal,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Board of Forestry and Gov. Kate Brown have a legal and moral responsibility to protect murrelets and their forest habitat, and need to take action to reverse the decline of the species."
 
Background: The marbled murrelet is a member of the auk family, which includes birds like auklets, guillemots and puffins. These sea-birds get their name from the marbling pattern of black, gray and white that covers their backs during the non-breeding season. When murrelets are breeding they molt to a plain brown plumage. They form lifelong breeding pairs and feed on small, schooling fish, such as herring.
 
Populations of marbled murrelets are closely tied to the amount of old forest habitat available for nesting. The central Oregon Coast is one of the last strongholds for murrelets. While forest practices have changed on federal lands managed by the Siuslaw National Forest, scientists warn that more needs to be done to protect murrelet habitat on state and private lands where logging practices continue to indiscriminately remove nesting habitat.
 
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Aug25

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

For Immediate Release, August 25, 2016
 
Contact:         Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746
                       Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495
                       Bob Sallinger, Portland Audubon, (503) 380-9728
 
Lawsuit Filed to Protect Threatened Marbled Murrelet from Logging on Former Elliott State Forest
Logging Highlights Controversy Over Ongoing Privatization of Public Forest
 
EUGENE, Ore.— Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity and Portland Audubon filed a lawsuit in federal court today seeking to block Scott Timber Company from logging a portion of a 355-acre parcel of land that until 2014 was part of the 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest and provides habitat for the threatened marbled murrelet. The Endangered Species Act strictly prohibits “take” (harm, harassment or killing) of threatened species like the murrelet, which, unlike any other seabird, nests on the wide branches of large, old trees, making a daily trip of up to 35 miles inland to bring fish to its young.
 
The groups are seeking emergency relief to stop logging that under state law could begin as soon as Sunday.
 
“It was illegal for the state of Oregon to log the marbled murrelet’s habitat and it is illegal for Scott Timber Company to do the same,” said Nick Cady, legal director at Cascadia Wildlands. “We intend to hold the landowner accountable to the law to ensure this imperiled species receives the protections it needs.”
 
In 2012 the three groups sued the state of Oregon for illegally logging marbled murrelet habitat on the Elliott and other state forests. The state settled the suit in 2014, agreeing to drop 26 timber sales and stop logging in occupied murrelet habitat. But following the loss, the state sold three parcels totaling 1,453 acres, even though they contained mature and old-growth forests that are occupied by the murrelet, including the 355-acre Benson Ridge parcel.
 
“By trying to log, then sell occupied marbled murrelet habitat, the state of Oregon has completely disregarded its duty to protect these unique birds and the remaining old-forest they need to survive,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center. “This shortsighted action on the part of the state not only endangers the survival of the birds, but shortchanges Oregonians who’re counting on the state to protect our natural heritage.”  
 
At the time of the sale, the groups notified Scott Timber and other buyers that in purchasing the land, they were taking over the responsibility of ensuring the survival of the murrelet, and that logging of its habitat would violate the Endangered Species Act. Scott Timber responded that it had no immediate plans to log the Benson Ridge parcel it had purchased, but has now proposed a timber sale in habitat where murrelets have been documented in recent years.
 
“The marbled murrelet has lost most of the old-growth habitat it needs to survive in the Oregon Coast Range and is facing degraded ocean conditions due to climate change and other factors,” said Bob Sallinger, conservation director at the Audubon Society of Portland. “Flagrant violations of the Endangered Species Act in addition to these factors are a recipe for disaster for these birds.”
 
The controversy over the Benson Ridge parcel exemplifies why the public is so outraged about the privatization of public lands. Currently Oregon’s State Land Board, made up of the governor, treasurer and secretary of state, is in the process of disposing of the rest of the Elliott State Forest.
 
“This unfortunate situation should send a clear message to Governor Kate Brown, Treasurer Ted Wheeler and Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins that further privatization of the Elliott will directly threaten imperiled salmon and wildlife, old-growth forests, recreation opportunities and other values that Oregonians hold dear,” said Cady. “Our leaders in Salem must stand up for Oregonians, and halt the ongoing privatization of the Elliott State Forest.”
 
In June the groups sent a petition to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife requesting uplisting of the murrelet from “threatened” to “endangered” under the state Endangered Species Act, and to the Board of Forestry requesting that it identify and protect important forest sites critical to the murrelet’s survival — a requirement of the state's endangered species law that has never been met.
                                                                    
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Cascadia Wildlands represents approximately 10,000 members and supporters and has a mission to educate, agitate and inspire a movement to protect and restore Cascadia’s wild ecosystems.
 
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
 
Audubon Society of Portland was founded in 1902 to promote the understanding, enjoyment and protection of native birds, other wildlife and their habitats. Today it represents over 16,000 members in Oregon.
Feb03

Cascadia Wildlands Challenges Wildlife Services’ Wolf Killing in Oregon

For Immediate Release, February 3, 2016
 
Contacts:
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 434-1463, nick@cascwild.org
John Mellgren, Western Law Environmental Center, (541) 359-0990, mellgren@westernlaw.org
Amy Atwood, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 504-5660, atwood@biologicaldiversity.org
Bethany Cotton, WildEarth Guardians, (503) 327-4923, bcotton@wildearthguardians.org
Brooks Fahy, Predator Defense, (541) 937-4261, brooks@predatordefense.org
Camilla Fox, Project Coyote, (415) 690-0338, cfox@projectcoyote.org
 
Lawsuit Challenges Wildlife Services' Authority to Kill Wolves in Oregon
 
PORTLAND, Ore. – Conservation groups filed a lawsuit today challenging the authority of the federal wildlife-killing program Wildlife Services to kill any of the approximately 81 remaining gray wolves in Oregon. The legal challenge, filed by the Western Environmental Law Center on behalf of four conservation groups, with Cascadia Wildlands representing itself, comes weeks after a federal court ruled that Wildlife Services’ controversial wolf killing program in Washington is illegal.
 
The groups contend that Wildlife Services failed to explain why killing wolves on behalf of livestock interests should replace common-sense, proactive and nonlethal alternatives such as those reflected in the Oregon Gray Wolf Management Plan. The National Environmental Policy Act requires this analysis and public disclosure. In Oregon and Washington, Wildlife Services completed vague plans to target wolves for livestock depredations but did not explain why nonlethal alternatives would be inadequate.
 
“Federal law requires Wildlife Services to conduct a full and fair evaluation of the ecological impacts of its wolf-killing program in Oregon, and it failed to do so,” said John Mellgren, the Western Environmental Law Center attorney arguing the case. “In addition to protecting gray wolves from being killed, our recent victory in Washington will help to shed light on this secretive federal program, and we hope to continue that process in Oregon.”
 
A federal extermination program under the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Wildlife Services kills roughly 1.5 million to 3 million native animals per year, including wolves, grizzly bears, mountain lions, otters, foxes, coyotes, birds and even domestic pets — with little oversight or accountability. Wildlife Services employs inhumane tools to kill wildlife including aerial gunning, leghold traps, snares and poisons. A 2013 internal audit revealed that Wildlife Services’ accounting practices lacked transparency and violated state and federal laws.
 
“Wildlife Services has for decades taken advantage of a legal loophole to avoid conducting any meaningful analysis of its deplorable killing program, or any assessment of whether its programs are effective at all,” said Nick Cady, legal director at Cascadia Wildlands. “We believe if the agency truly takes a hard look at its activities, the impacts and the costs, these killing programs will be terminated.”
 
NEPA requires Wildlife Services to rigorously examine the environmental effects of killing wolves and to consider alternatives that rely on proven nonlethal methods like range riders, livestock-guarding dogs and shepherds, and disposing of livestock carcasses to avoid attracting wolves and other predators. In both Oregon and Washington, Wildlife Services completed vague analyses that did not consider alternatives and rejected evidence that nonlethal methods are more effective. NEPA also mandates a public comment period for the proposal.
 
“Oregon is no place for Wildlife Services,” said Amy Atwood, endangered species legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Wildlife Services is a rogue agency that uses ineffective, cruel and costly methods to kill wolves instead of common-sense, nonlethal methods that foster coexistence.”
 
“Wildlife Services’ refusal to ensure its activities are based on the best available science leads to unnecessary and harmful killing and strips the public of an opportunity to meaningfully understand and contribute to decisions impacting the health of ecosystems on which we all depend,” said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director at WildEarth Guardians. “It's past time the dark practices of Wildlife Services are subjected to the sunshine of a transparent public process.”
 
Wildlife Services claims that killing wolves reduces wolf-related losses of livestock, yet recent peer-reviewed research finds that killing wolves leads to an increase in wolf-livestock conflicts. Wildlife Services also failed to address the effects of killing wolves in Oregon, including impacts on ecosystems, wolf populations in neighboring states and on non-target animals that may be killed or injured as a result of the wolf killing program.
 
“It is telling that Wildlife Services was formerly called Animal Damage Control,” said Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense. “They changed their name, but nothing more. This misnomer of a program is notorious for abuse of power, lack of transparency, illegal activity and brutal treatment of wildlife. It has been criticized by members of Congress, the public and leading predator biologists. Further scrutiny of Wildlife Services’ activities in Oregon is long overdue, particularly now, as the gray wolf faces imminent delisting from state endangered species protections.”
 
“Wildlife Services’ predator control program is ecologically destructive, ethically indefensible and economically unjustifiable,” said Camilla Fox, founder and executive director of Project Coyote. “The science is clear that killing wolves is not effective at reducing conflicts and likely exacerbates problems by destabilizing wolf social structures. How many lawsuits will it take for Wildlife Services to do what’s right?”
 
Wolves were driven to extinction in Oregon by the late 1940s through a government-sponsored eradication program. The species began to return to Oregon from neighboring states and Canada in the early 2000s. In 2012, wolf recovery got back on track in Oregon. It took a legal challenge, but the state’s wolf killing program (separate from Wildlife Services') was put on hold and the wolf population grew from 29 to 81. In November 2015, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission stripped Oregon’s wolves of much needed state endangered species protections. Oregon's wolves face a long road to recovery and ongoing threats — including that of being shot and killed by Wildlife Services.
 
John Mellgren of the Western Environmental Law Center and Nick Cady with Cascadia Wildlands represent the following organizations in the lawsuit: Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians, Predator Defense and Project Coyote.
 
Download a copy of the complaint here.
 
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Dec21

Huge Legal Victory for Washington’s Wolves

For Immediate Release December 21, 2015
 
Contacts:
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, 314-482-3746, nick@cascwild.org
Timothy Coleman, Kettle Range Conservation Group, 509-675-3556, tcoleman@kettlerange.org
Bethany Cotton, WildEarth Guardians, 406-414-7227, bcotton@wildearthguardians.org
John Mellgren, Western Environmental Law Center, 541-525-5087, mellgren@westernlaw.org
 
Conservationists deal blow to Wildlife Services in landmark WA wolf case
Court rejects indiscriminate wolf killing
 

OLYMPIA, Wash. – In response to a challenge brought by a coalition of conservation organizations, a federal court rejected plans to escalate cruel wolf killing in Washington state by the secretive federal program dubbed "Wildlife Services." Federal District Judge Robert Bryan held that Wildlife Services should have prepared a more in-depth environmental analysis of the impacts of its proposed wolf killing activities, finding the program’s cursory environmental assessment faulty because the proposed actions would have significant cumulative impacts that are highly controversial and highly uncertain.

Wildlife Services is a controversial program within the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service responsible for killing millions of wild animals every year, including wolves, grizzly bears, otters, foxes, coyotes and birds, with almost no oversight or accountability.

Judge Bryan vacated the program’s analysis, stating "Wildlife Services shall not take any further wolf management actions in Washington under the proposed action alternative, but shall observe the status quo in place prior to the environmental assessment and [finding of no significant impact]."

"Wildlife Services has long asserted that it need not comply with our nations’ federal environmental laws, such as the National Environmental Policy Act, but this decision rejects those arguments and requires Wildlife Services to comply with all federal laws, not just those it finds convenient to comply with," said Western Environmental Law Center Attorney John Mellgren.

A 2013 internal audit revealed that Wildlife Services’ accounting practices lacked transparency and violated state and federal laws. The program employs incredibly cruel tools to kill wildlife including aerial gunning, leghold traps, snares and poisons.

"It is long past time that we base wildlife management decisions on the best available science, not on antiquated anti-wolf rhetoric and myth," said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians. "Wildlife Services needs to come out of the shadows, update its analyses and adopt practices in keeping with modern science and values about the ethical treatment of animals."

The environmental assessment prepared by Wildlife Services failed to provide data to support several of its core assertions. For example, Wildlife Services claimed that killing wolves reduced wolf-caused losses of livestock, yet recent peer-reviewed research from Washington State University directly contradicts this conclusion, finding that killing wolves actually leads to an increase in wolf-livestock conflicts. The environmental assessment also fails to address the ecological effects of killing wolves in Washington, including impacts on wolf populations in neighboring states and on non-target animals, including federally protected grizzly bears and Canada lynx.

"This decision is so incredibly encouraging," said Nick Cady, legal director of Cascadia Wildlands. "We have been working for over a decade to hold Wildlife Services accountable for its blind, reckless lethal control programs. This decision paves the way for meaningful analysis of the program’s impacts and hopefully a meaningful look at whether or not this wolf killing is worth it."

Washington has experienced Wildlife Services’ wolf killing program firsthand. In August 2014, Wildlife Services snipers shot and killed the Huckleberry wolf pack’s alpha female during a helicopter gunning operation. The death of the Huckleberry pack’s breeding female threatens the future of the entire pack.

Wildlife Services also "advised" the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in the contentious 2012 killing of Washington’s Wedge wolf pack. In that instance, WDFW killed seven wolves after predation of livestock on public lands, despite the rancher’s failure to take sufficient action to protect his cattle.

"The Court made a wise and prudent decision that safeguards the legal right of citizens to know what their government is doing in their name," said Timothy Coleman, executive director of Kettle Range Conservation Group. "The so-called Wildlife Services cannot just grant itself authority to execute an endangered species absent the public interest or best available science."

Wolves were driven to extinction in Washington in the early 1900s by a government-sponsored eradication program on behalf of the livestock industry. The species began to return to Washington from neighboring Idaho and British Columbia in the early 2000s and the wolf population in the state has grown to 13 confirmed packs. Despite this growth, wolves in the state are far from recovered and face ongoing threats. According to WDFW, Washington currently has at least 68 wolves in 16 packs.

The organizations, Cascadia Wildlands, WildEarth Guardians, Kettle Range Conservation Group, Predator Defense and the Lands Council were represented by the Western Environmental Law Center.

A copy of the decision is available here.
 
A copy of the original complaint is available here.
 
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Dec02

From Exterminated to a Rebounding Population: A Brief History of Wolves in Oregon

By Legal Director Nick Cady
 
Given the state’s recent move to remove the gray wolf from Oregon’s list of threatened and endangered species, it is worth taking a full look at the history of this species in Oregon to fully put in context the recent decision.
 
In 1947, the last wolf was killed in Oregon as part of a government bounty program, which was part of a nationwide predator extermination campaign facilitated by federal and state governments. Upon passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973 under Nixon, the federal government began focusing on recovering many of the species wiped out by extermination campaigns and habitat lost to industrial development.
 
One of the first critters focused on was the gray wolf.  After 66 wolves were reintroduced over two years in central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park, individuals eventually dispersed west into Oregon.  In 1999, an initial lone wolf swam the Snake River and was Oregon’s first wolf in over 50 years, but wildlife managers with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) were politically and physically unprepared to handle wolves returning to the state.  The lone wolf was darted and shipped back to Idaho. Two more wolves that crossing the Snake were killed, one poached and another run over on I-84.
 
This series of events began a state-sanctioned process to develop a wolf conservation and management plan in Oregon designed to address the unique relationship between Oregonians and wolves.  Development of the plan involved many different stakeholders including conservation groups, livestock interests, the hunting community, county commissioners, and ODFW.  A comprehensive plan was finalized in 2005, but the plan left many questions and situations unaddressed, mainly the response to wolf-livestock conflict and its intersection with the state Endangered Species Act, which has a prohibition against killing a listed species.
 
Walla Walla_odfw

Wolf from the Walla Walla Pack (Photo Courtesy of ODFW)

The 2005 plan did establish a framework for the path recovery would take in Oregon.  Recovery was divided into three phases for each half of the state (western and eastern).  In the first phase (Phase I), wolf conservation and management would be focused on wolf recovery.  Killing wolves in response to depredations would be a last resort, after all available non-lethal methods for eliminating the conflict had been exhausted.  In exchange for these relatively stringent standards, the recovery numbers under Phase I were low: once a side of the state reached four breeding pairs for three consecutive years, wolf conservation and management would transfer into Phase II where the standards on when wolves could be killed were relaxed.  A breeding pair was defined as a pair of wolves that had at least two pups that survived the calendar year.
 
By 2011, Oregon had its first established breeding pair of wolves, the Imnaha pack.  This pack’s alpha pair produced OR-7, the famous wolf that journeyed from northeast Oregon to northern California, and the female wolf that helped establish California’s first wolf pack in almost one hundred years.  But during 2010-2011, Oregon began experiencing its first wolf-livestock conflicts in northeastern Oregon, and the livestock community began pressuring ODFW to kill wolves to reduce this conflict.  
 
Shasta Pack

Shasta Pack in California (Photo Courtesy of CDFG)

Although the numbers of wolf-livestock conflicts were limited, especially when compared to other sources of livestock mortality, and have remained incredibly low to date, the issue of wolves was swept up in politics and the rise of the Tea Party across the rural West.  Wolves became a symbol of federal government intervention, and Republican representatives in these areas began to be threatened by Tea Party candidates who were running on staunch anti-wolf platforms.  In response, these candidates also began banging on the anti-wolf drum.  The ultimate result of all this noise making was the legislative, federal delisting of wolves in the Rocky Mountain gray wolf recovery area, which included Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and eastern Oregon and Washington.  This was the first time Congress had delisted an endangered species, and marked the beginning of a still ongoing legislative and legal battle over wolves and other imperiled species.
 
Specifically in Oregon, this meant that federal protections under the Endangered Species Act in the eastern portion of the state had been eliminated, and that the state was permitted to kill wolves.  The livestock community and anti-wolf political figures began pushing hard for killing wolves in Oregon.  Cascadia and others fervently reminded the state and ODFW that we only had a single breeding pair of wolves in Oregon, and approximately only 12 or 13 wolves total.  Despite these protests, ODFW moved to kill the alpha male of the Imnaha pack and one of the pups born that year.ODFW determined that after only a few incidents of wolf-livestock conflict, the Imnaha pack satisfied the wolf plan’s “chronically depredating” standard and needed to be killed.
 
Folks at Cascadia Wildlands were outraged. We reminded the state the commitments it had made in the plan to make killing wolves a measure of last resort at this early juncture of recovery, and we disagreed with ODFW that a few incidents over the course of two years marked a “chronic” issue.  We went to court over the disagreement, preventing the killing of the Imnaha pack, but ultimately settled the suit with both the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association and the ODFW.  This settlement defined some of the vague terms used in Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, laid out clearly defined requirements for implementing non-lethal preventative measures, and delineated exactly what the plan meant by “chronically depredating.”  Additionally, a compensation program was set up for ranchers that lost livestock to wolves, and a tax credit established to further compensate ranchers for efforts expended on preventative measures.  These rules have been highly lauded as the most thorough and successfully wolf conservation and management program in the country.
 
ODFW began executing the clarified rules with earnest, and over the next few years Oregon saw depredations decrease dramatically and wolf numbers steadily increase.  With ODFW and ranchers focusing on preventative measures, ODFW has not had to expend taxpayer dollars to kill a single wolf to date.  We now have approximately 15 wolf packs in Oregon, wolves have been initially dispersing into western Oregon, and there are now potentially two new packs in southern Oregon near the California border.  At the last official count, there were over 70 confirmed wolves in Oregon.  This has been such a promising recovery to date, and has been one of the pride and joys at Cascadia Wildlands — a direct result of our efforts.
 
However, this year a new conflict over wolves has emerged surrounding the removal of the species from Oregon’s list of threatened and endangered species.  When wolves in Oregon first satisfied the four breeding pairs for three consecutive years in 2014, and wolf management in eastern Oregon moved into Phase II, the state began exploring whether or not wolf numbers and recovery warranted removal of the species from the endangered species list.
 
Livestock interests were pushing the state hard, arguing that the state was required to remove protections for the species under the wolf plan.  However, the wolf plan very clearly said that the state was only required to begin exploring the delisting process, to make an early determination over whether delisting was warranted at this time or not.  Cascadia Wildlands and our conservation partners began weighing into the process as well, presenting public comments and soliciting scientific input on whether or not delisting was warranted.  The “endangered” status of the wolf is critical because it provides the entire framework and backbone of the current wolf conservation and management program and the rules developed under the mutual agreement in 2011.  Without this classification, the ODFW could do whatever it wants with regard to wolves, and under similar circumstances in 2011, we witnessed the state try to kill the Imnaha pack when it was the only breeding pack in Oregon.  
 
So Cascadia Wildlands and our allies worked tirelessly to convince the ODFW that delisting was not the right move, particularly with under 80 confirmed wolves in the state. Wolves have just barely begun to get a foothold in western Oregon, and we were concerned that additional mortality associated with management of wolves in Phase II would stagnant recovery and dispersal of the species. At the end of a series of hearings this fall, in which there was an enormous amount of public and scientific testimony, over 90 percent of Oregonians had urged the state to retain endangered species protections for the species. The overwhelming message from the scientific community was that delisting was premature because of the limited numbers and distribution of the species across the state.  
 
Despite the weight of this evidence and the desire of the public, ODFW and its Commission removed the wolf from the list of threatened and endangered species in mid-November.  Cascadia Wildlands is again exploring legal options and ways to retain this critical classification for a species still very early in its recovery.
 
 Cascadia Wildlands cannot thank enough our volunteers, members and supporters who wrote letters, talked to elected officials and traveled great distances to publicly testify in support of wolves. This passion gives us our inspiration, and we will continue to fight for this species as it continues on its perilous path to recovery. Stayed tuned for next steps as this struggle is far from over, and please consider donating to support our ongoing efforts.
 
Aug05

Lawsuit Launched to Protect Northwest Prairie Bird Species

For Immediate Release, August 5, 2015
 
Contact:    
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 434-1463, nick@cascwild.org
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495, ngreenwald@biologicaldiversity.org
 
Lawsuit Launched to Gain Stronger Protections for Northwest Bird
Gaping Loophole in Federal Protection Exempts Farming, Spraying, Airport Activities Harmful to Streaked Horned Larks in Oregon, Washington
 
Photo courtesy of US Fish and WildlifePORTLAND, Ore.— Four conservation groups filed a formal notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today seeking to strengthen protections for the streaked horned lark, which has lost 98 percent its grassland habitat. The lawsuit will challenge an October 2013 decision by the agency to protect the lark as “threatened” rather than the more protective “endangered” status and to exempt all agriculture, chemical spraying, and airport activities from the prohibitions of the Endangered Species Act regardless of whether they harm the lark.  
 
“Protecting the streaked horned lark under the Endangered Species Act means nothing if all of its threats are exempted from protection,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The lark exemption creates a loophole big enough for a combine or a 747. It seriously threatens the survival of these handsome, horned songbirds.”
 
Formerly a common nesting species in prairies west of the Cascade Mountains from southern British Columbia through Washington and Oregon, the lark was so abundant around Puget Sound that it was considered a nuisance by turn-of-the-century golfers. The widespread destruction of its grassland habitats, however, caused cataclysmic population declines. It has been extirpated from the San Juan Islands, northern Puget Sound, Oregon’s Rogue Valley and Canada. In Washington it currently breeds at only 10 sites, including Grays Harbor, Fort Lewis, the Olympia airport and islands in the Lower Columbia River. In Oregon it breeds in the lower Columbia River and Willamette Valley, including at the Portland, Salem, Corvallis, McMinnville and Eugene airports.
     
“The streaked horned lark is already gone from many of the places it used to call home and is continuing to decline,” said Andrew Hawley. “If the lark is going to have any chance at survival, it needs the full protections of the Endangered Species Act.”
 
The streaked horned lark is a small, ground-dwelling songbird with conspicuous feather tufts, or “horns,” on its head. Its back is heavily streaked with black, contrasting sharply with its ruddy nape and yellow underparts. They are part of a growing list of species that are imperiled by loss of prairies in the Willamette Valley and Puget Trough to urban and agricultural sprawl, including the Fender's blue butterfly, Taylor's checkerspot butterfly, Willamette daisy, Kincaid's lupine and others.  
 
“Many people don't even know that prairies were once a common feature in both the Willamette Valley and Puget Sound,” said Nick Cady, Legal Director with Cascadia Wildlands. “If we save the lark, we are protecting an important part of the Northwest's natural heritage.”
 
The groups on the lawsuit are the Cascadia Wildlands, Center for Biological Diversity, Northwest Environmental Defense Center, and Oregon Wild.  
 
Find a copy of the Notice of Intent here.
 
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