Willamette Week by Aaron Mesh
Posts Tagged ‘logging’
Cascadia Wildlands yesterday filed suit against the Forest Service challenging approval of the Mitkof Island timber sale, a 4,117-acre old-growth logging project on the Tongass National Forest, near Petersburg in Southeast Alaska.
This lawsuit comes close on the heals of our challenge to the Big Thorne timber sale, another big old-growth sale that is currently on appeal before the 9th Circuit. These cases, along with a proposed revision to the overarching Forest Plan, represent a critical turning point on the Forest.
Long story short, the era of profitable old-growth logging is over, but the Forest Service and a handful of influential logging industry die-hards have been working overtime trying to prop it back up. Timber sales like this one on Mitkof Island are a last gasp of a dying industry.
The industry is dying—there is little doubt about that—but the question is whether it will leave enough healthy forest behind to sustain the wildlife and subsistence opportunities that rural Alaskans have traditionally enjoyed. The ecosystem is at a tipping point.
Mitkof Island is a microcosm for the legacy of Tongass logging and habitat loss. Extensive areas have been clearcut on the National Forest, and (even worse) clearcutting on adjacent privately owned land.
One result is that the local deer population has crashed and is not recovering. Without enough old-growth providing shelter, the herd starves in winter. Petersburg residents no longer can go hunting out their back door.
And, the result of that is that the State of Alaska is pursing ‘predator control,’ aiming to cull the wolf population by 80%. Without adequate habitat, the whole predator-prey system (of which humans are a part) comes crashing down.
In spite of huge controversy, on Mitkof the Forest Service determined that their logging project would have “no significant impact” on the environment, so conducted only a cursory environmental review. This is rare, and extraordinary. As the environmental consequences intesify, why would the agency be paying less attention to them?
Contrary to that claim, our lawsuit catalogues a number of significant impacts:
Loss of winter habitat for deer, further stressing the local population;
Harm to subsistence hunters, particularly low-income residents who cannot afford to travel to distant islands for deer;
Threats to the Alexander Archipelago wolf, which is currently being considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act, from loss of deer habitat and the likelihood of increased trapping;
Damage to the Queen Charlotte goshawk, a raptor that relies on old-growth forest.
As Rebecca Noblin, the Alaska director for our co-plaintiff Center for Biological Diversity, said, “I suppose that if you don’t look for problems then you’re not going to find them.”
The case was filed on behalf of Cascadia Wildlands, Greater Southeast Alaska Conservation Community, Greenpeace, Center for Biological Diversity, and the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, in federal district court in Anchorage. Cascadia’s staff attorneys are joined by the superhero lawyers at CRAG law center arguing the case.
You can read a copy of the suit here.
For Immediate Release
January 15, 2015
Nick Cady, Legal Director, Cascadia Wildlands, 541-434-1463
Doug Heiken, Conservation and Restoration Coordinator, Oregon Wild, 541-344-0675
Conservationists Challenge Largest Eugene BLM Clearcut in 20 Years
EUGENE, Ore.— Conservation organizations filed a lawsuit today challenging the largest clearcut approved on federal land in Lane County in twenty years. The Second Show timber sale proposes 259 acres of public lands clearcutting and is located on public Bureau of Land Management lands just outside of Springfield, Oregon near Shotgun Creek. Clearcutting will have significant impacts to the watershed, which is already degraded, and will impact a popular recreation area.
“It is a shame to see the BLM moving forward with this sale after the incredible amount of public opposition it received,” said Nick Cady, legal director with Cascadia Wildlands. “This sale could have real and devastating consequences on watershed health, salmon, and clean water for the surrounding communities.”
Despite the large scope of the project, the BLM neglected to analyze the effects of the project in conjunction with its ongoing commercial logging and road construction in the same area. A basic tenant of environmental law is that federal agencies cannot evaluate projects in a vacuum, they must take into account the additive impact to the surrounding community based upon current ongoing or proposed projects. In this case, the BLM has already moved forward on 1500 acres of commercial logging and over 25 miles of logging and access roads. The Second Show sale proposes clearcutting one of the few healthy, maturing stands remaining in the area.
“These forests are older than your grandpa and are developing fine habitat if we leave them alone. Every indication is that we need to protect forests like this for fish, wildlife, water quality, and to protect our climate,” said Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild. “We have worked with BLM for the last decade helping them meet timber targets by thinning dense young forests. Now they are reverting to the destructive clearcutting practices of the past. It feels like a slap in the face.”
Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild officially raised these concerning issues to the Bureau of Land Management numerous times, but the Bureau neglected to respond due to purported mistakes by the Springfield postal service.
For a copy of the complaint click here: Second Show Complaint
November 26, 2013
“It’s basically a clear-cut with retention patches (of trees) here and there,” he said.
But the proposed level of harvest is far too low to produce enough revenue to replace the federal timber payments that the O&C counties now receive. The payments were designed to compensate rural counties for revenue they lost after environmental concerns caused a sharp decline in logging on federal lands.
November 26, 2013
For Immediate Release
Contact: Josh Laughlin, Campaign Director, 541.844.8182
Francis Eatherington, Conservation Director, 541.643.1309
Eugene, OR — Eugene-based Cascadia Wildlands today expressed disappointment with the O&C forest legislation released by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) that affects management of over two-million acres of public forestland in western Oregon. The conservation organization believes that it is a bad deal for the environmental values that make Oregon special and is committed to working with the Senator to see it drastically improved.
“At a time when the demand for clean water and fish and wildlife recovery is high, Congress should be doing all it can to ensure these Oregon values are embraced, not eroded,” says Josh Laughlin, Campaign Director with Cascadia Wildlands. “This bill guts the landmark Northwest Forest Plan’s environmental protection measures, limits citizen participation and judicial review in forest planning, and doesn't solve the funding crisis faced by some western Oregon counties.”
Cascadia Wildlands has worked closely with Senator Wyden's office in the recent past on some of the Wilderness proposals in the bill, including Devil's Staircase and Wild Rogue, but believes those efforts should not be coupled with the logging bill for western Oregon. In the current legislation, the conservation gains are far outweighed by the costs to clean drinking water, fish and wildlife, and recreation opportunities. The bill unravels the framework of the 24-million acre Northwest Forest Plan by shrinking streamside buffers in half that were designed to benefit salmon and clean water and eliminating the old-growth forest reserve system established to protect older forest-dependent species.
“Some of the things in this proposal are what we saw George W. Bush and Big Timber attempt during that dark period, notably trying to weaken the conservation standards for fish and wildlife in the Northwest in order to ramp up the cut,” says Francis Eatherington, Conservation Director of Cascadia Wildlands. “Instead of squeezing our cherished public forests for every last penny, Congress, state and county politicians should take a fresh look at the timber harvest and severance tax in the state, the absurdly low property taxes in some of the most affected counties, and capitalize on the jobs and raw logs being shipped to Asia.”
Cascadia Wildlands has long supported federal forest management in western Oregon that prioritizes restoratively thinning dense tree farms, which generates timber volume for local mills, employs a steady work force in the woods, and raises revenue for counties. Senator Wyden’s bill moves away from this restorative approach toward a controversial clearcutting practice called “variable retention harvest” in forested stands up to 120 years old where 70% of the trees are logged.
* Turducken (dictionary.com): a deboned turkey that is stuffed with a deboned duck that is stuffed with a deboned chicken.
Take action by sending Senator Wyden a personalized comment.
By Gabe Scott, Alaska Field Director
CORDOVA, AK—Big plans are in the works on Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, the nation’s largest.
It seems everyone has some grand scheme in mind for the largest remaining old-growth forest in the country.
The Forest Service is planning huge new timber sales, which they say will bridge the gap to a transition to second-growth. (As I type this post my inbox dings, announcing the arrival of a Decision to log over 6,000 acres of old-growth on Prince of Wales Island. Uh oh. Better make this quick).
The State of Alaska wants the feds to hand over 2 million acres of the Tongass so the State can manage them as a tree farm. Oh, Alaska. Our Governors say the cutest things.
Sealaska, the big regional Alaska Native corporation, is pushing land claims of its own, wanting some tens of thousands of acres to manage how it wants. This one has some merit – Alaska Natives are owed additional land. But surely there’s a better way.
The timber industry, through a lobbying group called the Southeast Conference, is pushing for a revised Forest Plan that would yield more and more profitable timber sales.
Conservation organizations like Trout Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, and Audubon are pushing their own grand visions, which would permanently protect the most ecologically valuable acres from logging.
On top of the various visions are layered a bewildering array of collaborative working groups, teams, roundtables, task forces, committees and subcommittees.
The recent Tongass forest plan 5-year review presented an opportunity for Cascadia to put forward our own grand vision for the Tongass. Good! We were feeling left out. Here is what we had to say.
But here’s the thing. Every one of these grand visions and grand collaborative efforts has merit; and every one of them is doomed to fail. There are no silver bullets. No amount of new timber volume will bring back the good ‘ole days of logging. No amount of new designated Wilderness will ensure ecosystem health.
I for one wish we would all just stop looking for a final solution, and come to grips with the fact that living in harmony with nature is a life’s work. More than a life’s work, actually. Nobody has all the answers and nobody ever will. The best we can do is learn from our past, be honest about the present, and be cautious about what we leave for the future.
On the Tongass, we need to stop drawing maps, get our heads out of the clouds and our boots on the ground. Here on earth there’s good work to be done. There are hundreds of culverts blocking fish passage, for example, that everyone agrees need to be fixed, but that no-one is willing to take on because it’s hard, messy, expensive work. It will only be done by putting one foot in front of the other.
Don’t get me wrong, I love me some visionaries. But at the “end of the day” (is there even such a thing?), future generations won’t judge us by what we thought or what we said. They’ll judge us by what we DID.
In that vein, I’d better stop talking to you all and crack open the Big Thorne Timber Sale ROD. A hundred and forty-eight million board feet they say? Holy cow. We’ve got some work ahead of us.
For immediate release
March 27, 2013
Doug Heiken, Oregon Wild, 541.344.0675, firstname.lastname@example.org
Susan Jane Brown, Western Environmental Law Center, 503-914-1323, email@example.com
Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands, 541.434.1463, firstname.lastname@example.org
EUGENE – United States District Court Judge Anne Aiken has found that the United States Forest Service broke the law in seeking to carry out the controversial Goose logging sale near McKenzie Bridge, Oregon, without a detailed analysis of potential environmental damage. This logging sale has drawn intense opposition from local residents and landowners concerned about harm to wildlife and nearby streams. Represented by the Western Environmental Law Center, the conservation organizations Oregon Wild and Cascadia Wildlands filed a legal challenge against the planned logging in 2012.
“The Judge's decision that the Goose logging sale is illegal is vindication for the concerns of local residents and conservationists,” said attorney Susan Jane Brown of Western Environmental Law Center. “The McKenzie River and surrounding forests is too important to our community, and to the people of Oregon, to allow this kind of unwise logging project to go forward.”
The judge found that the Forest Service failed to properly analyze the impacts of the 2,100-acre logging project-an area the size of 2000 football fields. Potential environmental harm includes damage to the 9,700-acre Lookout Mountain Potential Wilderness Area above McKenzie Bridge, and logging within protected stream buffers and sensitive species habitat.
The legal ruling comes on the heels of passionate opposition by members of the local community. Many residents of the McKenzie Bridge area believe they weren't properly notified about the project with some only hearing about it once timber sale flagging was put up adjacent to their properties. Residents have collected nearly 5,000 signatures opposing the logging project.
“We are not opposed to all logging,” said Doug Heiken, Conservation and Restoration Coordinator with Oregon Wild. “But the Forest Service has a responsibility to the American people to ensure that projects like this don't damage fish and wildlife habitat or pollute streams that provide drinking water to our communities. With the Goose logging project, the Forest Service was clearly on the wrong track.”
The judge also found that the agency failed to fully consider the harm logging in the area could have on threatened wildlife like the northern spotted owl.
“While there are some restorative components to this project such as thinning in dense young stands, the Forest Service chose to pair them with aggressive logging in mature forest near streams, threatened species habitat, and within a potential wilderness area,” says Josh Laughlin with Cascadia Wildlands. “It is imperative the Forest Service focus on restoring what has been damaged by past mismanagement and abuse, and move away from controversial projects that make conditions worse in the forest.”
Conservation groups believe the Forest Service should instead be spending limited taxpayer dollars on projects that restore degraded landscapes, like restoration thinning in young tree plantations formed by past clearcutting, decommissioning harmful roads, and enhancing fish and wildlife habitat. While the Forest Service did analyze an alternative in the Goose project that focused on restoration thinning in young plantations that the organizations supported, the agency instead chose to adopt the much more controversial alternative.
The organizations are represented by attorneys Susan Jane Brown and John Mellgren at Western Environmental Law Center.
by Gabe Scott
Where is the Tea Party when we need them?
I’ve been spending a lot of time lately with two thick Environmental Impact Statements — for the Tonka Timber Sale, and the Big Thorne Timber Sale — out of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. These fellas are a blast from the past, a nostalgic but savage reminder of why our work continues to be so necessary on Cascadia’s northern forest.
The Tonka and Big Thorne timber sales target thousands of acres of old-growth for clearcutting. Trying to stay clear of controversial roadless areas, they’re logging mostly “leave” areas between past clearcuts, on places like Prince of Wales Island and Lindenberg Peninsula. The result would be huge, continuous clearcuts. Sacrifice areas, really.
One big problem is these huge swaths of land will be worthless to deer during hard winters. In good weather, even a clearcut can be good habitat for a deer. But when deep snow comes deer seek refuge in the shelter of big trees, and rely on the lichens beneath them to avoid starvation.
A related problem comes when clearcuts grow back into densely stocked second-growth. This shades out undergrowth, killing the herbs and shrubs that deer eat. A second-growth forest in the “stem exclusion phase” is worthless to deer from about 30 years after logging out. The condition lasts about a century, nobody is really sure.
Loss of deer winter habitat has spiraling negative effects to wolves and humans who eat them. If this sacrifice areas strategy goes forward, the ecosystem won’t just be damaged — it will be destroyed, thrown fundamentally out of whack. Places like Prince of Wales Island and Lindenberg Peninsula will no longer be able to support deer, human hunters and wolves. One of the three will have to give.
It’s pretty clear how this story plays out. The last few winters have been hard, and the places that have been heavily logged have seen huge declines of deer. On Lindenberg Peninsula, where the Tonka sale is proposed, the Alaska Board of Game voted this month to limit the deer season and bag limit. Worse, they are considering “predator control” plans to kill off 80% the wolves in the area, in a desperate effort to leave enough deer to hunt.
These are the consequences of logging, so why are we still doing this? The thing is, the Forest Service sees it as their job to prop up and grow a timber industry in Southeast Alaska. These massive logging projects are based on the idea that if enough forest is sold cheaply enough, new mills will rise from the ashes.
The facts aren’t there to support the scheme. The truth is, not being able to find enough trees was never the reason behind the old-growth industry’s decline. The reasons are obvious: the price you can sell trees for went way down, and the cost of logging went way up. There’s only one mid-size mill left in business (just barely).
The fact is this: it is not profitable to log and mill Tongass old-growth on any large scale.
There are all sorts of gimmicks used to disguise the fundamentally unsound economics. The Forest Service builds, maintains and repairs a vast network of logging roads with taxpayer money. They try to hide the millions of dollars it costs to design, lay out, and do environmental analysis for timber sales.
The strategy doesn’t even obey its own logic. The Forest Service routinely issues exemptions allowing loggers to bypass the local mill and export logs overseas. If the point is to save the local mills, then why are these sales geared to export markets?
What is going on here is exactly the kind of “crony capitalism” that Sarah Palin rails against. We have a few dozen people in the logging industry, a Forest Supervisor, and local politicians co-enabling each other by peddling a tired old narrative. There’s a veneer of rugged individualism, but really these are government-made jobs. Taxpayers are paying over a quarter-million dollars for each logging job being created.
The “jobs versus environment” debate has become so entrenched that most politicians don’t know how to think any other way. Eventually the facts will catch up, and Tea Party folks will realize Tongass logging for the wasteful government program that it is.
Until then, we’ll have to keep fighting these big timber sales like it’s 1999.