Matthew Bishop, Western Environmental Law Center, 406-422-9866, email@example.com
Bethany Cotton, WildEarth Guardians, 406-414-7227, firstname.lastname@example.org
Orders Reconsideration of Safeguards for Species Imperiled by Climate Change
For Immediate Release
March 23, 2015
Nick Cady, Legal Director, Cascadia Wildlands, 314-482-3746
Doug Heiken, Conservation and Restoration Coordinator, Oregon Wild, 541-344-0675
Conservationists Halt Public Lands Clearcutting Outside of Eugene
BLM Pulls Decision After Lawsuit for Largest Lane Co Clearcut in 20 Years
EUGENE, Ore.— Public opposition and a legal challenge from Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild has prompted the Eugene Bureau of Land Management to place on hold its plans to clearcut 259 acres of public lands just outside of Springfield, Oregon near Shotgun Creek. The “Second Show” timber sale would have been the largest clearcut on federal lands in Lane County in 20 years.
This logging proposal elicited over 700 public comments, largely in opposition to the proposed clearcutting . Local residents raised concerns about clean water, Chinook salmon, and logging some of the last old forests in an already degraded watershed.
“I am extremely relieved that these mature trees may now have a chance to become a real old growth forest. They are located very near the BLM Shotgun Park and Recreation Area and I believe the BLM should focus on preserving our public lands for wildlife, recreation, and future generations,” said Ellen Furstner, a Marcola resident who commented on the sale. “Protecting the old forest that is left should be our priority to fight global warming. It’s just a shame our federal agencies do not see it that way.”
After the BLM’s decision to move forward with logging, Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild filed a “protest” with BLM but BLM failed to pick up their mail at the post office and refused to consider the protest. Seneca Sawmill then purchased the sale, and Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild were forced to file suit in federal court arguing that the BLM neglected to analyze the effects of clearcutting in conjunction with ongoing commercial logging and road construction in the same area. BLM withdrew their decision to log the Second Show timber sale on March 19 before answering the complaint and before the court could rule on the merits of the case.
“Our federal timber lands have been hammered by reckless clearcut logging for the past 90 years. Salmon and spotted owl populations are plummeting, water quality is terribly diminished, and our federal timber lands have more roads than Los Angeles,” said Nick Cady, Legal Director of Cascadia Wildlands. “Yet despite the science and public opposition, the BLM continues to target mature forests. The agency refuses to open its eyes.”
Decades of past clearcutting has resulted in federal lands that are now overstocked with dense young Douglas fir plantations. Conservation groups have been working with the BLM for the past decade to meet timber targets by commercially thinning these younger forests.
“The Second Show proposal is a big step backward,” said Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild. “Restoration thinning has allowed the agency to meet its timber goals without clearcutting and without doing undue harm to wildlife habitat and watersheds. Clearcutting public lands should be put in the dust-bin of history where it belongs.”
The Second Show decision has been pulled, but the agency may again elect to proceed with the controversial logging after revising its analysis documents. The revision process will be open to the public, and the BLM will respond to public concerns and questions about the proposed logging.
For a copy of the complaint click here.
Press Release: March 17, 2015
Contact: Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746
Judge Rejects "Eco-Forestry" Clearcutting on O&C Lands
Controversial "variable retention regeneration harvest" clearcuts in White Castle timber sale declared illegal; conservationists win on all counts.
A US District Court judge has ruled in favor of conservation groups Oregon Wild and Cascadia Wildlands in their legal challenge of a controversial clearcut logging project on public lands in Douglas County. At stake in the case was the Bureau of Land Management’s “White Castle” logging project which proposed clearcutting 160 aces of 100-year old trees using a controversial methodology developed by Drs. Jerry Franklin and Norm Johnson referred to as “variable retention regeneration harvest” sometimes referred to as “eco-forestry.” In her ruling, Judge Ann Aiken found that the BLM’s environmental review fell far short of fully considering the full range of harm that could result from clearcutting.
“This ruling proves that BLM can’t just re-name a clearcut something else and then expect it to suddenly be acceptable,” said Sean Stevens, Executive Director of Oregon Wild. “The White Castle timber sale was a test to see if eco-forest clearcutting could pass legal muster or public scrutiny, and it failed.”
Attorney Jennifer Schwartz argued on behalf of the conservation plaintiffs and repeatedly highlighted the scientific dispute surrounding the project and “variable retention harvest,” especially its implementation in older forests and spotted owl critical habitat. The Court ultimately determined that “The [spotted owl’s] Recovery Plan, the [spotted owl’s] critical habitat proposal, comments from the public and scientists, and Franklin and Johnson's own reports demonstrated the existence of ‘a substantial dispute’ casting ‘serious doubt upon the reasonableness’ of BLM's decision to harvest forest stands over 80 years old.”
By the BLM’s own admission, the White Castle sale was intended as a prototype for greatly expanding clearcutting on other BLM O&C lands, a factor that weighed heavily in the judge’s ruling. The judge found the precedential nature of the project worthy of greater scrutiny: “Project materials describe the pilot projects as test of new harvest methods and ‘new policies’ that could supplant BLM's current ‘risk-adverse strategy’ of avoiding regeneration harvesting and other ‘active management’ methods. Approval of the White Castle Project will not have binding impact on future projects, but it will, by design, shape BLM forestry methods and strategies moving forward.
“The scariest part of this project was its potential to set the tone for logging across 2 million acres of Western Oregon BLM,” said Nick Cady, Legal Director of Cascadia Wildlands. “The project was mired in scientific uncertainty and was the obvious result of political pressure to bail out county politicians by returning clearcutting to our public forests. I hope this ruling convinces the BLM to revisit its intentions for our public lands.”
The proposed timber sale lies within publicly-owned forest in the South Myrtle Creek watershed, near the community of Canyonville. The Roseburg BLM District proposed the controversial “eco-forestry” logging method as justification to clearcut over 187 acres, including 160 acres of trees over a century old.
Bulldozing roads and other destructive activities associated with the project would also have targeted additional trees over 150 years old. Federal biologists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have acknowledged nearly 200 acres of habitat for threatened wildlife would be damaged or destroyed by the logging. In her ruling, the judge found the likely effects of this clearcutting to require the BLM to conduct a much more rigorous environmental analysis than they have done thus far.
Despite the fact that BLM has been largely meeting its timber targets for the last 15 years, primarily through non-controversial thinning of young forests, the agency has recently pursued more controversial projects as a way to increase logging. BLM claimed that clearcutting the White Castle forest would benefit the environment by removing mature trees in order to favor shrubs and brush, even though such habitat is not rare like old forest. As part of the same planning process, Roseburg BLM carried out a similar and related clearcutting project in younger forests, known as Buck Rising. Conservationists did not challenge the Buck Rising project in court but they were not pleased with the results.
“BLM claims that since they intend to retain a few patches of standing trees , it isn't really a clearcut,” said Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild . “Anyone who has seen the aftermath of logging at Buck Rising would have a difficult time explaining the difference between acres of stumps and rutted earth created by eco-forestry and those created by old style clearcutting.”
A copy of the legal decision can be found here.
Photos of the White Castle forest can be found here. (please credit to Francis Eatherington)
Photos from the BLM's Buck Rising clearcuts can be found here. (please credit to Francis Eatherington)
To celebrate the recent passage of the suction dredging bill and in an effort to remove myself from the computer, a friend of mine Kyle who works for a local watershed council and I decided to paddle down the Willamette River from Eugene to Independence Oregon, just south of Salem. Growing up paddling in the Ozarks, I had been missing these types of excursions, and jumped at the chance to camp on gravel bars for a few nights. We took advantage of some days off for the Fourth of July weekend and borrowed a Wenonah Spirit (17 foot all-purpose canoe). We planned for three nights of meals and four days on the river and after realizing we forgot a stove, resolved to cook over fires.
We put in at Armitage State Park in Springfield, actually on the McKenzie River, only a couple of miles from the confluence with the Willamette. I was hoping we would get to shoot the roller under Autzen Bridge on the way through Alton Baker Park, but I realized later that my friend had purposely avoided this route, likely in an effort to preserve his expensive fly-fishing gear that was brought along.
This first stretch of the river contained a fair deal of fast water, and some narrow turns, the first of which almost spilled us as I turned the bow a little too soon and caught an eddy current that put the edge of the boat on the water line, and turned us 280 degrees. The Willamette took some time for me to adjust too, the sheer quantity of water forces you to prepare your turns much earlier, and I eventually learned to prepare my line far before a large strainer was upon us.
We entirely spaced the confluence between the McKenzie and the Willamette, but apparently it is not that significant. It consisted of at least two separate smaller streams feeding into the main channel of the McKenzie, but shortly after realizing we had missed the confluence, we noticed that the river had gotten much larger.
The first night we camped about ten miles south of Corvallis, west of Brownsville. We had found an excellent large gravel bar on a secluded stretch of the river, figured it was around 5 or 6 (we put in at 11am), and gathered plentiful drift wood for a nice fire to clear any bugs and prepare dinner. It was the fourth and we were camped at a bend in the river allowing us to see up at least a couples of miles of straight river that pointed to Corvallis. After a horrible dinner of mac and cheese and hot dogs (‘merica) that settled like an enormous stone in our stomachs and set the stage for emergency pull-overs the next day, we played some cribbage and luckily we able to catch the majority of the firework show in Corvallis that was above the tree line.
We had plenty of wood leftover for coffee and bacon in the morning (make sure to bring some sort of work gloves when cooking over open flames) and got on the water relatively early in an effort to catch some wildlife. The river has slowed a fair deal, which allowed Kyle to fish from the bow, although apparently the fishing is not very good that far north. We stumbled upon a lot of blue herons, bald eagles, kingfishers, the occasional deer, and frequently spotted fish swimming alongside the boat. This early stretch of the river was filled with beautiful large gravel bars, plenty of nice camping spots, and good looking river banks.
We soon passed through Peoria and Corvallis, where the Willamette is joined by the Marys River. We were joined on the river by some partying college students that were enjoying the sun. After Corvallis we also noticed a couple of motor boats on the water; we were passed by a large police boat that despite our efforts decided to corner the flotilla of OSU kids. Aside of the riverside parks after the confluence with the Calapooia (Kyle’s watershed council), the river began to take on a totally different look. Very agricultural, prominent erosion on the banks and every once in a while, a large piece of rusting farm equipment half submerged. The water had slowed dramatically; we figured we were covering around 2 miles an hour with slight paddling. Camping opportunities, aside from crowded boat ramp parks, became scarce in this section as well. As the day wore on, we became slightly worried about finding a decent gravel bar to post-up on. We decided to push through Albany, and attempt to hit a two-mile long island that we were confident would have some camping.
We were not making good time and as the sun started to approach the tree-line, we started paddling hard in an effort to find this ominously self-titled island. We reached the island as the sun was setting. We beached the boat at the tip of the island, and hiked around briefly to decide where to camp. There was a great spot, although boggy, on the east side of the island, which also shielded us from the noise of the road on the far west bank of the river. We quickly gathered some wood, and started a smoky fire to keep away the bugs we knew the frequent pools were sheltering , and given the hard paddling for the past few hours, elected to cook our ribeyes and twice baked potatoes that I had prepared and wrapped in foil days before. Kyle retied early, but I decided to prop myself up in two camping chairs and weather the night next to the fire. The north portion of the island had a large stand of cottonwoods and firs, that as I soon realized, harbored an enormous bat population. Watching the stars, I felt like I was looking through a screen door there were some many bats preying on the bugs those pools were producing. There was also a beaver nearby that I heard throughout the night, who was also evidenced by the nice chewed on hardwood sticks I was using to fuel the fire. In the morning we prepared coffee and bagel and sausage sandwiches. After a morning swim, we were able to load the canoe quickly and hit the water.
Just several miles north of our camp spot we hit the confluence of the Santiam River, which was marked by an enormous and awesome gravel bar. This stretch of the river altered dramatically as well. The agricultural traces began to fade and we began to come across large bluffs and gravel bars. Having made good time the following day, we stopped and enjoyed the sun for a bit and got in some more fishing. We also took a lot of time to fish the frequent sloughs along the river. These sloughs were sluggish, frequently dead-ending, side-channels of the river. Kyle was sight fishing for carp, looking for murky disturbances in the water (sign of feeding), attempting to spot the three feet fish scared out by our shadow, and then dropping the line right in front of the fish in hopes it would take hold. We had several good opportunities, but never landed one. It was incredible to see these huge fish, in these very shallow and isolated back channels, where they spend their entire lives.
Despite resting the majority of the day on improvised dry-bag back rests, we still arrived at our take out in Independence that third night, where there was no camping allowed. We had totaled around 90 miles in three days, likely averaging around 3-4 miles per hour. There is a big fourth celebration in Independence, Oregon (given the name) on that Saturday night and allow tempted to stay and experience the town, we decided to load up the car and head back into Eugene for the evening. All in all it was an incredible trip and novel way to spend a holiday. I was amazed by the resilience of this heavily abused river that has been able to recover quickly and still provide an easy escape from town. What’s the saying: “Nature bats last.”