Posts Tagged ‘logging’


Cascadia Challenges BLM Clearcutting Just Northeast of Eugene

Press Release
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



By Gabe Scott
Cascadia Wildlands filed a lawsuit today to stop the U.S. Forest Service’s Big Thorne timber project on Prince of Wales Island in southeast Alaska. Big Thorne is by far the largest logging project on the Tongass National Forest since the region’s two pulp mills closed about 20 years ago.
Mail Attachment-9
The lawsuit argues the federal government failed to heed research by Dr. David K. Person, a former Alaska Fish and Game wildlife biologist and foremost expert on Alexander Archipelago wolves. A formal declaration by Person, written after he retired and filed with Cascadia’s appeal of the project, says that Big Thorne would be the final straw to “break the back” of the ecosystem dynamic between the wolves, deer and hunters on the island.
We’ve joined forces with Greater Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, Greenpeace, Center for Biological Diversity, and The Boat Company to file the suit, and are jointly represented by CRAG law center.
The legal outrage at the heart of this lawsuit is political suppression of science by the Forest Service and Parnell administration. Dr. Person first circulated his concerns within the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, where he worked at the time. The comments were buried by the agency and by higher-level state bureaucrats to implement Governor Parnell’s “one voice” policy, which suppresses troublesome science in order to maximize logging.
Dr. Person’s strongly held concerns were discovered through public records requests. Then, after confronting the Forest Service with the material in comments on the Big Thorne draft environmental impact statement, the agency simply ignored it.
 In this case, that gambit by the two governments backfired. The declaration, prepared after Person quit ADF&G, was filed by the plaintiffs in an administrative appeal of the August 2013 Big Thorne decision. The project was put on hold for nearly a year while Dr. Person’s declaration was reviewed.
A special six-person Wolf Task Force with personnel from the Forest Service, ADF&G and the federal Fish and Wildlife Service, reviewed the declaration. Opinion was evenly split. This is not surprising, given political pressure and the state’s one-voice policy. Breaking ranks was a Forest Service biologist who has done wolf research on the island.
All of which fits the “one-voice” pattern that has been embraced so corrosively by our last three Governors. It starts when a field-level scientist with the State ADF&G discovers a fact or makes a finding that implies concern for some development project. They write it up. Politically appointed bureaucrats review the biologists’ statements, cherry-picking the facts that support development and eliminating statements that raise concerns. The lower-level biologist is not allowed to talk with people outside the agency.
The Alexander Archipelago Wolf
The wolf population on Prince of Wales looks to have dropped very sharply in recent years. The US Fish & Wildlife Service is currently contemplating their 12-month finding on a petition to list the wolves under the ESA.
Nobody has a firm count on the number of wolves, but the basic dynamic is understood. Wolves on POW face two problems: (1) a legacy of old clearcuts, that are now thickets devoid of habitat value; and (2) unsustainably high hunting and trapping levels, spawned by the vast network of logging roads.
The habitat problem is well-recognized by scientists; we are suing the Forest Service to force their land managers to actually apply that knowledge.
Without enough old-growth winter habitat in the forest for shelter, deer populations plummet during deep-snow winters. Without enough deer to go around, wolves and hunters compete with one another for not-enough-deer. That never ends well for the wolf. Hunters lose out too, because without the big-tree habitat the deer still starve in winter.
Dave Beebe winter deer
POW is the most heavily logged part of southeast Alaska, and what remains is increasingly important to wildlife. The project would cut more than 6,000 acres of old-growth.
Theoretically, the Forest Plan “conservation strategy” protects the deer/ wolf/ hunter relationship by requiring areas of the forest to keep enough forest habitat to support 18 deer/ sq mi.. The Big Thorne area is already well below this figure, and the proposed logging would push it even lower.
Scientists, including Dr. Person, have been hollering about the 18 deer/ sq mi. threshold for years, to no avail. Without enough underlying habitat, the whole system of interaction between deer, wolves and hunters breaks down, they say. Without habitat, fiddling around with hunting regulations doesn’t matter.
That’s not what the Forest Service wants to hear, however, so they’ve ignored it. This reality interferes with their plan to stay out of roadless areas by concentrating logging in sacrifice zones like Prince of Wales. The Forest Service don't want to admit to locals that cutting all those trees means they won’t have enough deer to hunt.
The State, who is in charge of managing wildlife, just wants to blame wolves.
Which brings us to the emotional heart of the issue.
Some Humans Don’t Love Wolves
The second threat to wolves is unsustainable hunting and trapping. A determined trapper or two can take every wolf in an area, and that’s what’s been happening on Prince of Wales.
In fall of 2012, Dr. Person determined through DNA sampling that there were about 29 wolves in the project area, in two packs.
In spring of 2013, he could only account for six or seven remaining. That winter, at least 15 wolves were killed legally, more when you count poaching.
Last winter was even worse, reducing the lone remaining pack of 13 to only 4.
The Forest Service claims that problem should be left to State game management to more strictly regulate hunters and trappers.
But is that right? I disagree that the folks who hunt and trap wolves on POW are blood-thirsty, stupid, and they almost always care deeply about a healthy environment.
The problem isn’t mean people, it’s bad management. Two factors are at play. First of all, the vast network of logging roads exposes pretty much every wolf to hunting. Work by Dr. Person showed that when more than 40% of a wolf home range is logged and roaded, it can become a population sink. The Forest Service proposal would bring it up to 80%.
The second factor is that wolf trappers are do-it-yourself predator controllers. When deer populations are low— and they are surely dropping as a result of all the logging— trappers kill a lot of wolves to help the deer.
The Forest Service strategy is to trust the State of Alaska board of game to keep wolf trapping sustainable. In reality, that’s obvious nonsense. The State would cheerfully kill the last wolf it if meant an easier venison steak. State sponsored predator control includes plans to kill 80% of the wolves around Petersburg, and all the wolves off another island.
Even if you could trust the State, and you can’t, hunting regulation can’t be the solution because the State has no population estimate for wolves. State management is predicated on knowing how many of a critter there are, calculating how many you can kill and still leave enough to breed, and fixing a harvest limit. But if you don’t know how many wolves there are, how can we say what harvest limit is sustainable?
There is also the problem of poaching. Dr. Person’s work has shown illegal harvest can be roughly equivalent to legal trapping.  With deer shortages driving them, how could the State really regulate experienced and motivated trappers on remote Prince of Wales?
“All Rise…”
What Governor Parnell tried for so long to keep hidden, now will see the light of day in front of a Federal judge.
Deer hunters, wolf lovers, and scientists all have a direct stake in the outcome of this fight.
We’ll keep you posted.



Wyden Bill Boosts Cuts, Conservation

by Saul Hubbard
The Register-Guard
November 26, 2013
U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden is seeking to roughly double timber harvests on Western Oregon’s federal forest­ land under a much-­anticipated bill unveiled Tuesday.
Like a plan backed by Ore­gon U.S. Reps. Peter DeFazio, Greg Walden and Kurt Schrader that passed the House this fall, Wyden’s bill would split in half the former Oregon & California Railroad Co. lands, with half facing increased logging and the other half dedicated to conservation. Logging of “old growth” forest stands older than 120 years old would be prohibited on all 2.1 million acres.
Unlike the House bill, however, Wyden’s plan doesn’t create a state-run trust to take over management of the land where logging would increase. The senator from Oregon, along with environmental groups, had expressed concern that such a trust would circumvent key federal protections for the environment and endangered species on more than 1 million acres of Oregon forestland.
Wyden’s plan would ramp up timber production on the O&C lands to an average of between 300 million and 350 million board feet a year, well Buck Rising Variable Retention Harvest 2above the 150 million board feet produced on average over the past decade, but less than the estimated 400 million to 500 million board feet a year that the House bill would allow.
Flanked by Gov. John Kitz­haber, prominent Ore­gon timber industry executives and some environmentalists at a Tuesday morning press conference, Wyden, the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said his bill “can pass the Senate and get signed into law” — unlike the House plan for the O&C lands, which President Obama has said he would veto.
Wyden, who has been crafting his proposal with aides and prominent forestry scientists for much of the year, said it would put people back to work and provide a steady stream of revenue for cash-strapped Oregon timber counties, while avoiding large forest clear-cuts and generally protecting forest ecosystems.
“We have found a way to create good-paying jobs in rural Oregon and protect our natural treasures,” Wyden said. “And we did it by rejecting radical policies on both ends of the spectrum.
“This legislation ends the ‘stop-everything’ bureaucratic approach that beats even the most responsible timber projects into submission, and at the same time it acknowledges that the days of producing a nearly billion-foot (annual) cut are not coming back.”
Reactions to the plan were swift — and divided — Tuesday.
While a handful of environmental groups offered mild to strong support, most major environmental organizations slammed the proposal as “a bad deal” that would undermine efforts to restore Ore­gon’s “old growth” forests under the Northwest Forest Plan, a timber compromise reached in the early 1990s.
Environmentalists took issue with several facets of the bill, including the proposed cut method and Wyden’s efforts to reduce the amount of environmental analyses required for timber sales.
Wyden is proposing a practice known as “ecological forestry,” championed by forestry professors Norm Johnson of Oregon State University and Jerry Franklin from the University of Washington. The practice mandates that loggers leave untouched around a third of the trees in any individual stand and allow scrubs and brush to grow unperturbed on the forest floor after the cut.
“It’s fundamentally different ecologically” from clear-cuts on private forestland, Franklin said. “This will sustain most of the forest processes and animals even when you’re harvesting. (Clear-cutting) terminates the forest system completely.”
Josh Laughlin of Eugene-­based Cascadia Wildlands, who has visited test sites of the forestry practice in Southern Oregon, disagreed.
“It’s basically a clear-cut with retention patches (of trees) here and there,” he said.
Laughlin acknowledged that the practice “is apples and oranges compared to what happens on private forestlands” and that it could create “potentially useful” forest habitat.
“But,” he added, “should we see it across half the O&C lands? No.”
Wyden’s bill also proposes conducting only two environmental impact studies — one for “moist” northern forests, one for “dry” southern forests — shortly after the legislation is enacted, which would then remain valid for all timber sales for a decade. It would require all legal challenges to a 10-year logging plan to be filed within 30 days of the plan being finalized. That’s a significant shift from current policy where all individual timber sales can require an environmental analysis and there are few limits on legal challenges.
But Wyden argued that environmentalists use the current system to drag out timber sales, creating instability for logging companies and their workforces.
Under the bill, “we give everybody one bite at the apple for 10 years, in a very tight time window,” he said.
Chandra LeGue, a field coordinator for Ore­gon Wild, described the proposed review process as “extremely disappointing.” She said the “vast majority” of timber sales currently go through unchallenged, but environmentalists “need to hold (forest managers) accountable” on controversial individual sales.
“Without that ability to get site-specific environmental reviews, it takes the level of scrutiny (of timber harvesting) up to the 30,000-foot view rather than the 300-foot view,” she said.
Mixed reviews also came Tuesday from leaders of timber-dependent counties and logging industry interests.
Wyden’s plan is estimated to create approximately 1,650 jobs, and Oregon O&C counties would get at least 75 percent of all timber revenue.
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.
This year, Oregon’s O&C counties, including Lane County, will receive $35 million in timber payments. While no annual revenue estimate for those counties from Wyden’s bill is available yet, Wyden’s staff projects that to generate the equivalent $35 million, annual timber production would have to hit 700 million to 800 million board feet.
That’s a political impossibility, Wyden said, and that’s why he is working on a broader companion measure — set to be introduced next year — that would stabilize “safety net” federal funding to all local governments that produce natural resources.
Given Obama’s threat to veto the House-approved O&C bill, Lane County Commissioner Sid Leiken said he supports Wyden’s proposal, referring to it as “the plan timber counties have been waiting for.”
“This bill is the best opportunity we have for a long-term solution that will produce jobs in the woods, build on Lane County’s important recreation economy, and support the critical services like public safety that the O&C counties desperately need,” he said.
Conversely, Doug Robertson, a Douglas County commissioner who heads the Association of O&C Counties, said counties are not certain that the bill would provide a dependable supply of timber revenue.
Nick Smith, a spokesman for pro-timber Healthy Forests Healthy Communities, said the proposal would not “provide the level of certainty and job creation as compared to the bipartisan” House bill.
“Citizens in Western Oregon’s rural, forested communities deserve a solution that actually fixes the problems plaguing Western Oregon’s O&C forestlands,” he said. “We believe the most important measurement of any solution is the number of jobs it will support and create for rural Oregonians.”
Wyden said he will make passing his O&C bill his top priority in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in 2014.
“I’m going to do everything I can to move this quickly next year,” he said.

Press Release: Sen. Wyden Drops Logging Turducken* Before Holiday

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 Buck Rising Variable Retention Harvest 2by 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 ( 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.



Blog: Rhetoric on Tongass Doesn’t Match Actions

by Gabe Scott
A nail is being driven in the coffin on Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. Is it a coffin for the old-growth logging industry; or for Tongass wolves, deer and salmon? It is up to you to decide.
Recent announcements by the Obama administration offer glimmers of hope. Secretary Vilsack’s July 3, 2013 announcement stated they’ve decided to speed the Waterfall, Coastal Alaska south of Cordovatransition away from old-growth logging. This is welcome news.
But the rhetoric doesn’t match actions on the ground. The Forest Service recently decided to log the Big Thorne timber sale. Logging over 6,000 acres of ancient forest on Prince of Wales Island, Big Thorne would be the biggest, most destructive Forest Service sale in a generation.
Ironically, Big Thorne is dubbed a “stewardship” project. That’s nonsense.
Environmentally, Big Thorne would demolish critical old-growth habitat. Prince of Wales Island has already been logged within an inch of its life. Logging the big tree stands that remain spells disaster. David Person, the world’s foremost expert of Alexander Archipelago wolves, writes that Big Thorne would likely cause “the collapse of a sustainable and resilient predator- prey ecological community.”
Second-growth logging isn’t any solution either. Unlike the Pacific Northwest, Alaska’s forests aren’t suited to farming. The second-growth that exists is too small to log. Mills can’t use them. And unlike the Pacific Northwest, where fire-suppression provides an environmental rationale for second-growth thinning, Tongass forests will be most productive by leaving them alone.
The problem as well as the solution is seen in the vast network of degrading logging roads on Prince of Wales. A generation of building new roads, while neglecting the old ones, has created a maintenance backlog of tens of millions of dollars. Old roads dump sediment into streams. Old culverts block fish passage.
Logging is only a minor part of the economy; salmon are a huge part. So it makes sense to take some of the $200,000-per-job subsidy of the Big Thorne sale, and spend it instead restoring streams and fixing roads.
Cascadia, with our close allies at Greenpeace, Greater Southeast Alaska Conservation Community, and the Center for Biological Diversity, have appealed the Big Thorne sale. But lawsuits are a weak tool compared with grassroots pressure.
That’s where you come in. I encourage all Cascadians to sign the following petition (and share it with your friends)!

Delusions of grandeur on the Tongass

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. 


Press Release: Sensitive Wildlife Habitat and Drinking Water Supply Protected Above McKenzie

For immediate release
March 27, 2013

Doug Heiken, Oregon Wild, 541.344.0675,
Susan Jane Brown, Western Environmental Law Center, 503-914-1323,
Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands, 541.434.1463,

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.




Crony Capitalism on the Tongass

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.



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


Press Release: Oregon Suspends Clearcutting in the Elliott State Forest

Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 844-8182    
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495    
Bob Sallinger, Portland Audubon Society, (503) 380-9728    
Tanya Sanerib, Crag Law Center, (503) 525-2722    
SALEM, Ore.- After a lawsuit by conservation groups, the State of Oregon has suspended logging of 914 acres of old-growth forest on the Elliott State Forest that is habitat for the threatened marbled murrelet. Previously, ten timber sales were suspended in response to the lawsuit filed in July by Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Audubon Society of Portland. The suit asserts that the state is harming the rare seabird by logging its nesting habitat in violation of the Endangered Species Act.

“The state of Oregon has been playing fast and loose with the law for years in the way it claims to 'protect' the imperiled marbled murrelet,” said Francis Eatherington, conservation director of Cascadia Wildlands. “The decision to further defer hundreds of acres of clearcuts is one that we welcome and provides interim relief for the murrelet.”

Plaintiffs discovered the logging deferral announcement in an Oregon Department of Forestry memo, dated Sept. 19, 2012, that was just recently posted to the Department's website. The memo suggests that the State will defer 15 additional timber sales until the lawsuit currently pending in U.S. District Court is resolved, and that the State will work to identify other logging projects that are free of the contested issues in the case. Plaintiffs have long advocated the state focus its timber operations on young plantation forests in need of restoration rather than older forests that are critical to the survival of a host of endangered species, including marbled murrelets.

“Logging on state forests cannot be done at the expense of the survival of the marbled murrelet or any other animals that depend on old forests for their survival,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The last remaining old forests in Oregon are precious and need to be protected not just for the marbled murrelet, but for future generations.”

The most recent status review of the murrelet by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found the birds have been declining by about four percent per year and that this decline relates to continued loss of habitat, primarily on state and private lands.
The State of Oregon recently abandoned its decade-long attempt to develop habitat conservation plans (HCPs) for the Elliott, as well as the Clatsop and Tillamook State Forests, that would have given it a federal permit for limited impacts to marbled murrelets in exchange for habitat protection measures designed to enhance the bird's conservation. Rather than improving habitat protections, the state walked away from the HCP process altogether and instead ramped up logging on all three forests. The lawsuit seeks to force the State to halt logging practices that are harmful to murrelets until it develops a plan that will protect murrelets and the mature forests on which the birds and other species depend.

“It is time for the State to return to the table and negotiate a balanced plan for each of the state forests that will provide adequate protection for the murrelet, allow for responsible and sustainable logging, and ensure that the State meets the requirements of the Endangered Species Act,” said Bob Sallinger, conservation director for the Audubon Society of Portland.
The conservation organizations are represented by outside counsel Daniel Kruse of Eugene, Tanya Sanerib and Chris Winter of the Crag Law Center, Nick Cady of Cascadia Wildlands, Scott Jerger of Field Jerger LLP, and Susan Jane Brown of the Western Environmental Law Center.


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