Posts Tagged ‘wilderness’

Sep03

KLCC Hikes into Devil’s Staircase

KLCC Radio by Rachael McDonald

On August 22, Cascadia Wildlands led KLCC reporter Rachael McDonald down into the proposed Devil's Staircase Wildernes. We got her down and back in one day3-7-09 Oxalis Ridge CWP hike Wasson BLM 035 copy with only minor bruises and scrapes. She put together a radio segment that that showcases this unique area in the Oregon Coast Range that we are working to protect forever.

Jun20

Press Release: Devil’s Staircase Wilderness Passes Senate Through Unanimous Consent

For immediate release
June 20, 2013
Contact: Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands, 541.434.1463

Washington, DC — The US Senate has approved the creation of the 30,500-acre Devil’s Staircase Wilderness through unanimous consent, marking a major milestone in the long-running effort to protect this spectacular wild area in Oregon’s Coast Range.

The Devil’s Staircase area is named after a series of stair-step waterfalls carved into the sandstone bedrock of Wasson Creek, the main waterway which passes through the proposed wilderness.  The area of spectacular old-growth forest, located approximately 10 miles northeast of Reedsport, is home to a host of endangered species, including Oregon coastal coho salmon, marbled murrelet and northern spotted owl, and provides an unparalleled experience for backcountry

adventurers.

“Yesterday’s vote in the Senate was a significant hurdle, and an important benchmark on the Devil’s Staircase’s road to full Wilderness protection,” said Josh Laughlin with Cascadia Wildlands. “Generations to come will be forever grateful for the permanent protection of this unique area.”

Conservation organizations have long sought Wilderness protection for the old growth temperate rainforest of the Devils’ Staircase, dating back to the 1970s after federal logging proposals were planned in the area. Although originally included in the 1984 Oregon Wilderness package, which protected several nearby locales in the Coast Range like Drift Creek and Cummins Creek, the Devil’s Staircase was later stripped out of the bill during negotiations.



“The Devil’s Staircase is a classic example of a long-ago vetted Wilderness bill with broad public support,” said Tommy Hough, Communications and Outreach Associate at Oregon Wild. “So much of the Coast Range has been denuded by clearcuts and turned into a monospecies farm of crowded tree plantations, it’s a marvel to see how the Coast Range once was at the Devil’s Staircase. It’s like something you’d find in Olympic National Park.”



A renewed wilderness campaign for Devil’s Staircase resumed in 2007 after the Bureau of Land Management, the federal agency that manages the eastern quarter of the proposal area, outlined plans to log the area during a forest plan revision. Over the past six years, hundreds of citizens have been guided into the remote area to see it first hand and have advocated for its permanent protection.

The effort has been championed through the Senate by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) in the House of Representatives, and each elected official or his key staff has been guided into the proposed wilderness area to see it firsthand.

The Senate approval yesterday also designated 14 miles of Wasson and Franklin Creeks in the proposal area as Wild and Scenic and was part of a larger package that advanced 14 public lands bills across the country.

Steve Pedery, Conservation Director of Oregon Wild said, “Yesterday’s Senate approval of not only the Devil’s Staircase, but Wilderness proposals in Michigan and Washington, are already further than any Wilderness bills went in Congress last year, which was the first year no Wilderness bills were passed since 1966. Hopefully the Senate approval of the Devil’s Staircase is a sign of better things to come from this Congress.”

Conservation groups are encouraging re-introduction of companion Devil’s Staircase legislation in the US House of Representatives.

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Feb14

Press Release: Congress Feels the Love for Oregon’s Natural Treasures

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


February 14, 2013

Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands
(541) 844-8182

Erik Fernandez, Oregon Wild
(503) 283-6343, ext. 202

Pete Wallstrom, Momentum River Expeditions
(541) 488-2525

Portland, Oregon   –   A coalition of Oregon conservation organizations is applauding efforts by Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley to re-introduce a package of protections for several natural areas in Oregon. Protection for the Molalla River, Oregon Caves, and other areas have been strongly supported by a broad spectrum of Oregonians for years, from local elected officials to fishing guides to rafting companies.

The Oregon Treasures legislation includes areas that have been fully-vetted, and have been introduced in at least one previous congress. Included in the package are:

Devil’s Staircase:  Some 30,500 acres of rare, remaining Coast Range old-growth forest with colossal stands of Douglas fir, hemlock and cedar near the legendary Devil’s Staircase waterfall would be protected as Wilderness.

Mollala River:  A recreational hotspot south of Portland and the source of drinking water for the communities of Molalla and Canby, this 21-mile stretch of the Mollala River in Clackamas County would be protected with a Wild and Scenic River designation.

Rogue River:  The Wild Rogue proposal includes 93 miles of Wild and Scenic River designations and 60,000 acres of Wilderness protection for the rugged canyons and spectacular whitewater of the lower Rogue River.

Oregon Caves:  The Oregon Caves National Monument in Josephine County would be expanded from the current 480 acres to 4,070 acres to head off threats from grazing, and include more of the area’s big trees and old-growth forest while continuing to allow hunting.

Chetco River:  Legislation will enhance the existing Wild and Scenic River designation for this sparkling Curry County waterway to head off threats from destructive mining.

Cathedral Rock and Horse Heaven:  Along the banks of the John Day River in Jefferson County, these areas have long been identified as having outstanding Wilderness attributes, including significant biological diversity and wildlife habitat.

These Wilderness and Wild and Scenic River proposals have the broad support of thousands of Oregonians and citizens’ groups. The Wild Rogue Alliance represents over 100 southern Oregon businesses, along with fishing and conservation groups, while the Molalla River Alliance consists of local property owners, the city of Molalla, and even the local police department.

Currently only four percent of Oregon is protected as Wilderness, the “gold standard” for public lands protection, compared with 10% in Washington, 15% in California, and eight percent in Idaho. “Oregon has a very green reputation, one we don’t live up to very well when it comes to protecting our natural treasures. This legislation is an important step in the right direction in correcting that imbalance,” said Oregon Wild Wilderness Coordinator Erik Fernandez.

With the health of the lower Rogue Valley’s economy in mind, Pete Wallstrom of Momentum River Expeditions, a commercial rafting company and guide service said, “Expanding safeguards for the Wild Rogue would not only help protect our local environment, but also our local recreation and tourism economy for generations to come. The Rogue River is a nationally-recognized treasure that lures people to the area on name and reputation alone. It is one of the central engines of a tourism and recreation economy in southern Oregon that continues to grow and provide sustainable long-term jobs and opportunities.”

Noting the classic, wild character of the Devil’s Staircase area, Cascadia Wildlands Campaign Director Josh Laughlin said, “The thundering waterfalls of the Devil’s Staircase, towering old-growth forests, rugged terrain, and myriad of unique species are part of what make Oregon so special. Long overdue for Wilderness protection, it is exciting to see Devil's Staircase wilderness legislation once again moving through the process to protect it forever." 

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Feb01

Most at Hearing Oppose Seaplanes on Waldo Lake

The Register-Guard by Kelly Ardis                                                                                                                         
SPRINGFIELD — The spirit of early Oregon preservationist John Breckenridge Waldo was alive and well at a public hearing in Springfield Thursday night that could help decide whether seaplanes will be allowed on Waldo’s namesake lake.
 

Waldo Lake and the Charnelton burn (J. Johnston)

Bruce Johnson of Bend and Brian Johnson of Monmouth — two of Waldo’s great-grandsons — were among those who showed up at the Willamalane Center to express support for a seaplane ban on the lake that bears their great-grandfather’s name.
 
About 80 people showed up at the hearing before the Oregon Aviation Board, and roughly three-fourths of those who spoke agreed with the Johnson brothers: Waldo Lake’s pristine condition can only be sustained if seaplanes are banned.
 
Lake users have fought for years over engines on Waldo, a pristine body of water high in the Cascade Range north of Highway 58.
 
Kayakers, canoers, environmentalists and other advocates of a ban on motorboat internal combustion engines on Waldo largely won that war last spring, when the state Marine Board voted 3-2 to maintain the ban.
 
However, the Marine Board ban doesn’t cover aircraft. Last April, the board specifically exempted seaplanes from the ban, leaving that matter to the state Aviation Board, which sets policy for the Aviation Department.
 
Seaplanes’ “mere presence makes a mockery of the Marine Board’s ban on motors,” Brian Johnson said at Thursday’s hearing.
 
The Aviation Board last summer put in place temporary rules regulating seaplane use on the lake. If approved, the aviation board’s temporary rules would become permanent. The board has not said when it expects to render a decision. Thursday’s hearing was the last opportunity for public comment.
 
Specifically, the board’s proposed rules would allow seaplanes on Waldo but ban use of the lake for pilot training; limit planes to landing or taking off between 8 a.m. or 30 minutes after sunrise, whichever is later, and 8 p.m. or 30 minutes before sunset, whichever is earlier; restrict landings to the eastern half of the lake; ban high-power taxiing in the water, except where required for safety; require pilots to look for and remove invasive species from their aircraft before using the lake; and require pilots to notify the aviation department whenever they use the lake.
 
To claims that seaplanes are no different than other vehicles that drive to the lake, Brian Johnson evoked the image of a car driving 70 mph into the lake, drawing laughter and cheers from ban supporters.
 
Meg Mitchell, supervisor of the Willamette National Forest, spoke in favor of a full ban of seaplanes, listing four 
reasons: visitors expect a quiet environment; the noise that seaplanes create; damage to water quality; and the lake’s history.
 
“Waldo Lake is a unique setting … and it’s been kept that way through the voluntary behavior” of its visitors, Mitchell said. She noted that many pilots respect that legacy and so choose not to land on the lake.
 
Columbia Seaplane Pilots Association president Aron Faegre and vice president Bill Wainwright spoke in support of the proposed rules that would conditionally allow seaplanes to use the lake.
 
One of ban supporters’ arguments against seaplanes is the potential for invasive species to be carried into the lake via the aircraft. Faegre and Wainwright both addressed the training they said seaplane pilots undergo on how to screen for such species and keep from transporting them.
 
“Seaplane pilots are also environmentalists,” Faegre said. “We care about the lake — we feel — as much as anyone 
does. Seaplane pilots are environmentally concerned citizens, too.”
 
Brett Brownscombe, natural resources policy adviser for Gov. John Kitzhaber, expressed the governor’s sympathy for both parties. Last summer, only four seaplanes used Waldo Lake — not six as had been earlier reported. The governor, Brownscombe said, pondered two competing thoughts: If it’s such a low number of seaplanes using the lake, why prohibit them? And if it’s such a low number, why side with the wishes of so few despite the impact on so many?
 
“The latter is more persuasive,” Brownscombe concluded.
 
Residents from communities across the state attended the hearing. Some raised the issue of kayakers’, canoers’ and swimmers’ safety if seaplanes are landing nearby, citing a 1994 accident where a couple was killed by a landing seaplane whose pilot didn’t see them. A few posed the question about whether a seaplane, while in the water, might be considered a boat — and one with a 
motor, thus banned from Waldo Lake.
 
Others raised the impact the seaplanes could have on the lake’s water, so known for its clarity. Seaplane pilots responded with comments about car pollution and oil that inevitably ends up in the lake.
 
The noise disrupts the serenity of the lake, several ban supporters said. Seaplane pilots also train in noise abatement, several pilots noted.
 
Lane County resident Michael Williams said he doesn’t doubt the seaplane pilots’ desire to keep the lake clean but asked the board what’s in the public’s best interest.
 
The environmental effects of the seaplanes might not be seen for five, 10 or 15 years, he 
said, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe.
 
“It’s like lighting a long fuse,” Williams said. “Why light it?”
 

Aug30

Upper Minam Wolf Pack Documented in Eagle Cap Wilderness

The Oregonian by Richard Cockle

JOSEPH — Oregon has a brand new wolf pack, complete with a litter of five pups, discovered last weekend deep in the 560-square-mile Eagle Cap Wilderness of northeastern Oregon.

State biologists spotted two gray-colored adult wolves and their pups on Aug. 25 in the Upper Minam River drainage, said Michelle Dennehy, an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman.

The litter is the fifth documented this year in northeastern Oregon, bringing the number of new wolf pups for the year to 23 in the state, Dennehy said.

That adds to the 29 known wolves in Oregon counted by the end of 2011.

"Now, we will be monitoring them through the end of the year to see how many pups survive," Dennehy said.

The state could be on the cusp of achieving a major goal of its Oregon Wolf Management Plan: four breeding pairs of gray wolves for three consecutive years east of the Cascades. Achieving that objective could start the process to delist the gray wolf from the Oregon Endangered Species Act, Dennehy said.

Irregular reports of wolves roaming along the Minam River have come to ODFW biologists for several years, she said. A vacationing Idaho biologist reported finding wolf scat there while archery hunting six years ago.

State biologists have closely monitored the Minam River since a photo of a black lactating female wolf was taken there June 4. But the newly discovered adult wolves and pups are all gray and appear unrelated to the lactating female, Dennehy said.

Oregon's wolf numbers have steadily grown in recent years, with adult wolves in the Imnaha, Wenaha, Walla Walla, Snake River, Sled Springs and now Minam River packs, plus at least two adult wolves in the Mount Emily Game Management Unit between Pendleton and La Grande.

Additionally, biologists have confirmed two separate wolf packs in the Sled Springs game management unit. They also captured and radio-collared a 49-pound male pup Aug. 2 in the Snake River Pack.

Aug21

Pass a Public Lands Bill: Preserving Wilderness Should be a Bipartisan Priority

by the Register-Guard editorial board

There aren’t many issues on which Democrats and Republicans can agree these days, but one of them should be the importance of preserving the wilderness that provides refuge, preserves intact ecosystems and symbolizes the rugged nature of the American character.

The Wilderness Act was signed by President Johnson in 1964. After eight years of intensive work and with only one dissenting vote in the House, Congress passed legislation that preserved 9 million acres of wild and free country for future generations of Americans to explore and savor.

The legislation also laid out a framework for the future expansion of the nation’s store of protected wilderness. Until recently Republicans and Democrats have worked together to do just that, even when they were far apart on other issues of the day.

Every president since 1964 has signed legislation that increased this nation’s wilderness holdings. (It might surprise contemporary Republicans to learn that Ronald Reagan signed more wilderness-protection laws than any other president.)

After passage of a bipartisan public lands bill in 2009, designated wilderness areas covered 109 million acres in 758 areas in 44 states. But there has been no new wilderness legislation in nearly three years, as congressional gridlock has extended into what was once — and what should be again — the partisanship-free zone of wilderness preservation.

The public lands outlook in the current session is bleak but not hopeless. Tea-party conservatives in the House and Senate reflexively oppose any bills creating new wilderness. Even Republicans who have introduced wilderness bills are unable to get floor votes in the House or overcome filibusters in the Senate.

In 2009, lawmakers found a way to overcome these roadblocks by combining wilderness legislation from many states in a single grab-bag public lands bill. Called the Omnibus Public Land Management Act, the legislation lumped 160 federal-lands bills together — enough to compete for floor time, attract bipartisan support and overcome opposition from lawmakers such as Sen. Tom Coburn, the Oklahoma Republican and serial obstructionist who objects that wilderness bills provide no new funding to pay for their protection.

Republicans already have some skin in the public lands game. The wilderness bills that are stuck in the House and Senate include proposals by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., to protect 21,000 acres in San Diego County, and a bill co-sponsored by Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., to expand a wilderness area in Washington state.

Lawmakers in the House and Senate should take those and other Republican proposals and roll them together with Democratic bills into a single omnibus public lands bill. That legislation should include several wilderness proposals from Oregon, including the Wild Rogue, which would expand the iconic Wild Rogue Wilderness by 58,000 acres and designate 93 miles of tributaries as wild and scenic rivers. The Rogue proposal has been introduced in two previous congresses as a national wild and scenic rivers package and, like the other Oregon wilderness proposals, has significant support from the business community and from local and state officials.

Others include the Devil’s Staircase, 30,000 acres in the remote Wassen Creek roadless area in the central Coast Range between the Smith and Umpqua rivers; Cathedral Rock and Horse Heaven, 8,200 and 8,900 acres respectively and located four miles apart near the John Day River in Central Oregon, and a proposal to protect 21.3 miles of the Molalla River under the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

Next month the nation will celebrate the 48th anniversary of the passage of the Wilderness Act. A fitting way to observe it would be for lawmakers from both parties to join in passing an omnibus public lands bill that reflects the nation’s long-standing tradition of working across party lines to protect the nation’s wild spaces.
 

Jun12

Alone in the Rogue

         

Have you ever felt like you were being watched? All logical sense reassures you that you’re alone but an eerie feeling persistently creeps in that you’re not. I had that eerie feeling a dozen times this week while I backpacked through the Rogue River area. When you spend three days in solitude, it is easy to let your mind wander to unsettling places. Just before dusk on the second day I got that feeling while making dinner so I looked up as I had done many times already. This time, I wasn’t alone. I saw two sets of eyes reflecting my headlamp beam; it wasn’t my mind playing tricks on me again, as it had done all day. I could easily see my new companions were deer. Though they ventured close to camp, they were always aware of my every move. I am sure they knew I was there long before I saw them.

They weren’t the only deer I encountered on my trip; thirteen miles down river from the Grave Creek trail head. I went to this area to explore the proposed wilderness area that Cascadia Wildlands, among others, is working hard to protect. Because of the spring rains, the tributaries were flowing at full force. At every crossing I would try to look as far up the creeks as I could. They carve pathways into the unknown forests too thick to explore.

The dense forest and steep terrain don’t offer a lot of overlooks or vistas into the woods other than looking down the main river corridor, so it is hard to know what actually lies in the proposed area. On the second day, I decided to venture off the main trail, to truly experience the wilderness. It wasn’t easy going uphill through dense forests or trying to navigate up a rushing creek, but I made it away from the main Rogue River valley and stumbled onto an undocumented trail.

As I hiked through the woods, I couldn’t help but wonder why this trail was built, it didn’t seem to be going anywhere. That question was answered after about a mile when I came out, through the dense forests, into a large meadow. It was completely unexpected considering the density of forest that defines the area. Lush green grasses painted the gently rolling hillside. As I made my way to the middle, I finally had a vista of the proposed wilderness. Again, I wasn’t alone; about two-dozen deer were grazing and spooked when I came out into the open.

Even though I went on this trip unaccompanied, my brief but frequent interactions with wildlife provided re-assurance that I was never truly alone. It is miraculous wilderness and I am glad groups are actively trying to protect it as such.

Andrew Van Dellen
 

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