Campaigns

Feb15

Conservation Groups Decry Vote by State Treasurer, Secretary of State to Sell Elliott State Forest

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
Contact:
Bob Sallinger, 503.380.9728 or bsallinger@audubonportland.org 
Josh Laughlin, 541.844.8182 or jlaughlin@cascwild.org 
Doug Moore, 503.729.5175 or dmoore@olcv.org 
 
Conservation groups decry vote by State Treasurer,
Secretary of State to Sell Elliott State Forest 
Governor puts forward solid plan to keep 83,000-acre forest public.
 
Salem, Oregon—February 15, 2017 – A broad coalition of conservation, hunting, and fishing groups across Oregon decried a state land board vote pushing the Elliott State Forest to brink of privatization yesterday. 
 
Democratic State Treasurer Tobias Read and Republican Secretary of State Dennis Richardson both voted to continue with the sale of the forest to a timber firm, Lone Rock Resources. 
 
Governor Kate Brown opposed the sale and promoted a framework to keep the forest in public ownership, saying, “It's in the best interest of Oregonians that the forest stays in public hands for future generations.” 
 
The conservation community has been working on several proposals that fit within Governor Brown’s vision to keep the land publicly accessible, protect older forests and critical salmon and wildlife habitat, safeguard streams and incorporate tribal ownership, while fulfilling the state’s obligation to fund public schools. 
 
As the sale negotiations continue, Governor Brown directed the Department of State Lands to continue to explore options to keep the land public. That direction leaves open the possibility that Oregon Legislature and other parties can craft a viable public option. 
 
Earlier in the meeting, Senate President Peter Courtney expressed his personal support for public ownership, pledging his help in the current session to secure bonding for the proposal. 
 
Said Doug Moore, “We thank the Governor for continuing to work on a proposal that meets the many important public interests in this forest. What’s disappointing is the lack of vision from Treasurer Read and Secretary of State Richardson in failing to help her craft a long term solution that Oregonians will be proud of.” 
 
Treasurer Read motioned to amend the Lone Rock proposal with modest conservation and recreation provisions. These are unlikely to meet the broad conservation and public access goals outlined by the Governor and the conservation community. 
 
"On the anniversary of the State’s birth, we should be honoring Oregon and all the values public lands offer Oregonians," said Josh Laughlin with Cascadia Wildlands. "Instead, Treasurer Read and Secretary Richardson voted to privatize the Elliott State Forest, which means more clear cuts, muddy water and locked gates in our great state." 
 
"Public lands are under unprecedented attack across Oregon and the rest of the country. At a time when we need our public officials to stand up for public lands, Governor Brown is stepping up and Treasurer Read appears to be stepping aside," said Bob Sallinger, Conservation Director with the Audubon Society of Portland. 
 
The Lone Rock proposal to protect streams has standards far below the protections under the current Elliott State Forest plan. Meanwhile, thousands of acres of 100-year-old forest will be open to clearcutting. 
 
“Our coastal salmon runs depend on public lands, and this sale sets a terrible precedent for other public lands in Oregon and across the West,” said Bob Van Dyk, Oregon and California policy director at the Wild Salmon Center.
 
Conservation groups will now turn to the legislature and other stakeholders to advance a public ownership option. The next State Land Board meeting will be April 11th. 
 
Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands 
Doug Moore, Oregon League of Conservation Voters 
Tom Wolf, Oregon Council Trout Unlimited 
Bob Van Dyk, Wild Salmon Center 
Bob Sallinger, Portland Audubon 
Cameron La Follette, Oregon Coast Alliance 
Max Beeken, Coast Range Forest Watch 
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity 
Feb13

Response to Governor Brown’s Plan for the Elliott State Forest

Just days before the quarterly meeting of the State Land Board, Governor Brown released a framework for her plan for the Elliott State Forest. Though not an action item on the agenda for the Tuesday, February 14, 2017 Land Board meeting, the Board is set to hear an update on the potential sale of the forest from the Department of State Lands. The DSL staff report on the issue again asks the Board for direction on whether and how to proceed with privatizing the Elliott State Forest as described in a proposal submitted by Lone Rock Timber in December 2016. 

61316-6937-copy-2The Governor's plan would (1) keep the Elliott State Forest in public ownership, with either the state or tribes owning the land; (2) pursue $100 million in bonding to "immediately decouple a portion of the forest from Common School Fund trust lands," focusing on high value habitat, including riparian areas, steep slopes, and old growth stands; (3) pursue a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) with the Federal Services "that would allow for sustainable timber harvest while protecting endangered species," expecting to harvest an average of about 20 million board feet per year; and (4) "work with the tribes to regain ownership of their ancestral lands while protecting the Common School Fund."

Cascadia Wildlands is encourged by the Governor's leadership toward finding a lasting solution for the Elliott State Forest that maintains the forest in public ownership. There are still a number of details that need to be worked out and elaborated on, and we look forward to continuing to work toward a solution that safeguards all the public values of the forest, including protecting old growth and mature stands, wildlife habitat, clean air and water, and recreation. 

Feb01

Reflections on the Enormous Victory in Northern Cascadia and Coming Full Circle

by Gabe Scott, Cascadia Wildlands House Counsel

Ready for some good news? Last week our partners at Eyak Preservation Council announced that the major part of Alaska’s Bering River Coalfield, and the old-growth forest on top of it, has been permanently protected!
 
The Bering River coalfield sits in the rugged, remote mountains just back of Cascadia's northern extreme.

The Bering River coalfield sits in the rugged, remote mountains just back of Cascadia's northern extreme (photo by Brett Cole).

Several things about this historic victory make it especially sweet. Ecologically it protects one of the most magnificent places on earth, a vast wild wetland on Cascadia's northern edge. Better, it does it in a precedent-setting way that puts the region’s indigenous people in charge. Personally I am proud that we Cascadians played a big part creating the conditions where this victory could happen. And, most of all, let us be inspired by the example of our close partner and good friend Dune Lankard, the Eyak native whose visionary leadership and sheer determination has achieved what few believed was possible.
 
The Victory
 
The Bering River coalfield is located in one of the wildest and most productive on earth—the Copper/Bering River Delta wetland complex, along Alaska’s south-central Gulf coast. This is wild salmon, bear, wolf, eagle and raven country. Seals swim ice-berg choked rivers hunting King salmon. Ice-clad mountains rise almost straight out of the churning Gulf. 
 
The Bering River rages through the coast range, backed by glaciers, choked with salmon, and Wild as all-get-out.

The Bering River rages through the coast range, backed by glaciers, choked with salmon, and Wild as all-get-out (photo by Brett Cole).

To the north is the largest protected wilderness in the whole world: from here into the Yukon territory all the way down to Glacier Bay. To the east is the largest ice-field outside the poles. The ice is moving, glaciers sliding forward and melting back, uncovering infant land. To the west is the Copper River Delta, and beyond that Cordova and Prince William Sound. This is the largest contiguous wetland in Cascadia, home to the world-famous Copper River salmon fishing fleet, and incredible concentrations of swans, geese and shorebirds.
 
There are huge veins of coal, the largest tide-water coal deposit in the world, buried in the mountain ridges back of the wetlands. Coal mining there would have involved mountain-top removal in the headwaters of rich salmon rivers, extensive clearcutting of the old-growth forest, roads across the wild Copper River delta, and a deepwater port near Cordova.
 
The deal announced yesterday is that Chugach Alaska Corporation's coal and timber will be forever conserved, stewarded with a conservation easement enforced by The Native Conservancy. The owner, CAC, will generate revenue by selling carbon credits on California’s market.
 
Historic Victory for Conservation
 
This has been a long time coming. The Bering River coalfield is one of modern conservation’s seminal battles. In 1907 Teddy Roosevelt stuck his neck out to prevent J.P. Morgan from grabbing it in a monopoly. Gifford Pinchot was fired/ resigned in protest trying to protect it. Louis Brandeis, before being appointed to the supreme court, put his talents to work for the cause. Through the era of statehood, and Native land claims, and the park-creating frenzy of ANILCA, and the post-Exxon Valdez restoration deals, conservationists always tried but developers stubbornly insisted that the Bering River coalfield needed to be mined. 
 
The coal is owned by Chugach Alaska Corporation, one of the regional Alaska Native corporations. (Rather than treaties and reservations, in Alaska the U.S. congress formed corporations and made indigenous people into the shareholders. Long story. CAC is one of these.) CAC selected the coalfield and the trees atop it with an eye to developing them.
 
After going bankrupt in the late 1980s, CAC lost part of the coalfield to a Korean conglomerate. Notably, that portion of the coalfield isn't covered by the deal announced last week, so it will need to be protected too. 
 
The 700,000-acre Copper River Delta is the largest contiguous wetland on the Pacific Coast of North America.

The 700,000-acre Copper River Delta is the largest contiguous wetland on the Pacific Coast of North America.

The conservation deal announced yesterday is precent setting for it’s unique mix of conservation and indigenous control. The Native Conservancy is a new idea, the brainchild of Dune Lankard, that was critical to the deal working. Formulated as a sort of friendly amendment to the Nature Conservancy, the idea is to incorporate social justice for indigenous people into long-term land conservation.
 
In the announced deal the Native Conservancy will hold the conservation easement, making it the steward in charge of protecting the land. Enforcement of easements is one of the major hurdles to private equity models of conservation, and this offers an attractive new possibility.
 
This victory also points to the inevitable reality of climate change and the future of carbon. California’s carbon market  makes it possible economically for a company like CAC to realize a return on investment for conservation. Where there is money, deals will be made.
 
Lying politicians aside, global warming is real. The writing is on the wall for the carbon-heavy industries. When corporations look to the future, they see young people marching for climate justice, bringing their case to the courts and demanding sustainability. Especially for Alaska Native corporations like CAC, shareholders are keenly interested in avoiding climate catastrophe. The message is being heard!
 
A personal victory
 
This victory also marks a sweet sort of bookend to my own work running Cascadia’s Alaska field office, from 1998 until this past year. The first reason I went to Cordova, back in 1998, was to help Dune Lankard blockade the road that CAC was then actually building, across the Copper River Delta to access this coalfield and these trees. 
 
Dune Lankard at Shepard Point, back in the day.

Dune Lankard at Shepard Point, back in the day.

When I first arrived there was the coalfield, an oilfield, a deepwater port, a road across the Delta and another one up the river, cruise ships and a Princess lodge, all interlocking. None of these threats alone could gain traction, but any two or more of them would forever destroy the wilderness. Dune and I spent countless hours together on the basketball court scheming the demise of this web of threats. For the next nineteen years, Cascadia and Eyak worked together on the campaigns. Together we stopped the road across the Delta, the deepwater port at Shepard Point, and oil drilling at Katalla. 
 
Without the deepwater port, without the access road, and without any oil discovery to attract new investment, conservation of the coalfield became more appealing. 
 
While we are proud to have helped create the conditions for success, all credit for this victory goes to two heroes of the planet: Dune Lankard and Carol Hoover. Their dogged determination and visionary blend of indigenous and ecological justice has achieved what a century of environmentalists could not. 
 
So, I am inspired, and so should you be! 
 
The new president can take a long walk off a short pier. The train has left the station. The people are winning for climate justice, and we aren’t about to stop now.
 
After an incredible run in Cascadia's northern frontier based in Cordova, Gabe Scott recently moved back to Eugene with his family and is Cascadia Wildlands' House Counsel.
Dec20

Court Halts Logging of Elliott State Forest Tract Sold to Timber Company

For Immediate Release, December 20, 2016
 
Contact:         
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746                       
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495
Bob Sallinger, Portland Audubon, (503) 380-9728
 
Court Halts Logging of Elliott State Forest Tract Sold to Timber Company
 Old-Growth Clearcutting Stopped to Protect Threatened Marbled Murrelets
 
EUGENE, Ore.— A U.S. District Court in Eugene has issued a preliminary ruling preventing Scott Timber from clearcutting a parcel of the Elliott State Forest purchased from the state of Oregon. The court found that the proposed logging of the Benson Ridge parcel by the subsidiary of Roseburg Forest Products raised serious questions over the potential harm threatened marbled murrelets, in violation of the federal Endangered Species Act.  
 
In August Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity and Portland Audubon filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to block Scott Timber from logging the 355-acre parcel of land, part of the 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest until 2014 and home to threatened marbled murrelets. The Endangered Species Act strictly prohibits “take” (harm, harassment or killing) of threatened species like the murrelet, which, unlike any other seabird, nests on the wide branches of large, old trees, making a daily trip of up to 35 miles inland to bring fish to its young. The court’s ruling on Monday prevents the logging of the Benson Ridge parcel until a full trial can be had on the merits.
 
“Today’s ruling has enormous implications for the state of Oregon’s efforts to dispose of the Elliott State Forest to private timber interests,” said Nick Cady, legal director at Cascadia Wildlands. “The state represented to these private timber interests that the forest could be logged without legal consequence, and this ruling establishes that private timber companies can no longer violate federal environmental laws with abandon.”
 
The court’s decision is well timed. On Dec. 13 Oregon’s State Land Board postponed a decision on a pending proposal to sell the remaining 82,000-acres of the Elliott State Forest to Lone Rock Timber Company. The court’s injunction halting the logging planned by Scott Timber indicates Lone Rock could be held liable under federal environmental laws for clearcutting the old-growth forests that once belonged to all Oregonians.
 
“The state of Oregon should never have sold this land,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Not only does it have important habitat for the marbled murrelet and other wildlife, but it was there for all Oregonians to enjoy.” 
 
In 2012 the three groups sued the state of Oregon for illegally logging marbled murrelet habitat on the Elliott and other state forests. The state settled the suit in 2014, agreeing to drop 26 timber sales and stop logging in occupied murrelet habitat. But following the loss, the state sold three parcels totaling 1,453 acres, even though they contained mature and old-growth forests that are occupied by the murrelet, including the 355-acre Benson Ridge parcel. 
 
“This demonstrates the incredible cynicism that underpins the State’s efforts to sell the Elliott off to private timber interests,” said Audubon conservation director, Bob Sallinger. “Not only does it put fish and wildlife species at risk and eliminated use for future generations, but it also is predicated on those private timber companies returning to the illegal logging practices that the State was forced to abandon.” 
 
The court’s preliminary ruling is one of several promising developments for the protection of old-growth forests in Oregon critical to the survival of murrelets and other imperiled wildlife. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife recently initiated a process to uplist the murrelet’s state protection status from threatened to endangered. The Oregon Board of Forestry recently decided to take up a petition to identify and develop rules to protect murrelet sites on state and private timber lands.
 
Cascadia Wildlands represents approximately 10,000 members and supporters and has a mission to educate, agitate and inspire a movement to protect and restore Cascadia’s wild ecosystems.
 
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
 
Audubon Society of Portland was founded in 1902 to promote the understanding, enjoyment and protection of native birds, other wildlife and their habitats. Today it represents over 16,000 members in Oregon.
 
Dec01

Oregon Board of Forestry Reverses Course, Will Develop Murrelet Protections

For Immediate Release, December 1, 2016
 
Contacts:
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746, nick@cascwild.org
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495, ngreenwald@biologicaldiversity.org
 
Oregon Board of Forestry Reverses Course, Will Develop Murrelet Protections
Rulemaking Initiated to Protect Imperiled Seabird on State, Private Lands
 
EUGENE, Ore.— The Oregon Board of Forestry has reversed its prior decision to deny a petition from conservation groups that called for the identification and protection of marbled murrelet sites on state and private forest lands. The Board is now coordinating with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and other state land owning agencies to identify and protect important old-growth forest areas for the seabird threatened with extinction.
 
“It is reassuring to see the Board reverse course on this issue, especially given Oregon’s current efforts to sell off the Elliott State Forest,” said Nick Cady, legal director of Cascadia Wildlands. “The Elliott is a unique block of old-growth forest that is critical to the survival and recovery of this species, and should be the first area prioritized by the Board.”
 
Murrelets fly inland from the ocean to nest on wide, mossy limbs found in in the mature and old-growth forests of the Oregon Coast Range.  While most of Oregon’s coast range has been converted into industrial timberland that does not provide nesting habitat for the bird, the 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest, located in the coast range just east of Coos Bay, is a crucial block of older forest habitat and essential to the reproductive success of the species.
 
”The marbled murrelet is the only seabird in the world that nests in old-growth forests and needs our help to survive,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “I’m thrilled Oregon’s Board of Forestry is finally stepping up to provide protections to this imperiled bird and the forests it depends on.”
 
The petition to the Board of Forestry was filed Sept. 9th in conjunction with a petition to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to uplist the species’ protection status from “threatened” to “endangered.” Given recent efforts by federal land managers to gut protections for the species and the substantial amount of habitat on state and private lands, the Department of Fish and Wildlife granted the petition, but the Board of Forestry denied its petition. After the Board’s denial, conservation groups filed a Petition for Review and asked the Board to reconsider its decision in light of requirements under Oregon law related to imperiled species.  The Board convened a special meeting on November 29, 2016 and stated it “withdraws and reverses its August 1, 2016 order denying the Petition for Rulemaking, accepts the Petition for Rulemaking, and immediately commences the rulemaking process.”
 
“Deforestation throughout the Coast Range have reduced habitat for marbled murrelets to just a few islands of old growth in a sea of clearcuts and monoculture tree plantations,” said Steve Pedery, conservation director for Oregon Wild. “Oregon is already decades overdue in developing a meaningful plan for conserving murrelet habitat. They cannot wait another 30 years.”
 
While murrelets have been listed as a ‘threatened’ species for nearly 30 years, Oregon has never developed a plan to recover them or protect the old-growth habitat that they depend on, and instead, the state has relied on the nesting habitat located on nearby federal forestlands.  This is no longer sufficient as murrelet populations in the Pacific Northwest continue to decline, and a recent status review conducted by the US Fish and Wildlife Service determined that conservation of nesting habitat on state and private lands is now critical to the species’ survival.
 
The Petition to the Board of Forestry can be found here.
 
###
Nov14

Coyote Killing Contest Placing Oregon’s Wolves in Crosshairs

Federal Agencies Urged to Halt Coyote-hunting Contest in Oregon’s Lake County
Contest Risks Killing Endangered Wolves, Breaking Wildlife Laws
 
PORTLAND, Ore.— Six wildlife conservation organizations representing nearly 212,000 Oregonians are calling on the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to stop a coyote-hunting contest planned for Nov. 19-20. The groups are concerned that in addition to being cruel and wasteful, the “Lake County Coyote Calling Derby” could result in killing of endangered gray wolves, in violation of the Endangered Species Act.
 
“This contest is unethical, cruel and risks violating federal law,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Wolves are fully federally protected throughout the entirety of Lake County, so federal wildlife and land management officials have a duty to do everything in their power to protect them.”
 
The hunting contest, which awards prizes for the most coyotes killed, is being sponsored by the Lake County chapter of the Oregon Hunters Association and by Robinson Heating and Cooling. The contest will take place on both Forest Service and BLM land, which cover large portions of Lake County. Despite this the contest organizers have not sought a required “special use permit.” Such a permit would trigger a review by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service because of the risk of killing federally protected wolves, which have been confirmed in Lake County by federal and state officials and are easily mistaken for coyotes.
 
“Coyote killing contests are nothing more than the indiscriminate, wanton slaughter of wildlife,” said Brooks Fahy, Executive Director of Eugene-based Predator Defense.  “Contest organizers often purport that killing coyotes will protect livestock and enhance prey populations like deer and elk.  Ironically, science is telling us just the opposite. When coyotes are killed, those that survive reproduce at higher levels.”
 
The conservation groups requested that both the Forest Service and BLM suspend the contest until permits are issued, the Fish and Wildlife Service has the opportunity to ensure no wolves will be harmed, and the public has the opportunity to comment.
 
“It is completely irresponsible for these federal agencies to allow a killing contest for an animal that closely resembles the endangered gray wolf in this region,” said Nick Cady, legal director of Cascadia Wildlands. “Wolves are just beginning to establish a foothold in southwestern Oregon, and it would be tragic for that to be lost due to an overlooked coyote killing derby.”
 
Scott Beckstead, Oregon senior state director of The Humane Society of the United States said, “Killing contests are cruel, wasteful, and deeply at odds with the humane values of the vast majority of Oregonians. The event promotes a “shoot anything that moves” mentality and is bound to result in the killing of non target wildlife. We urge the USFS and BLM to deny permission for this event, and we urge the people of Oregon to demand that our state wildlife managers finally put an end to these festivals of cruelty.”
 
“Not only do these killing contest endanger a protected species,” said Wally Sykes, co-founder of Northeast Oregon Ecosystems, “but they are a symptom of a general disrespect for wildlife and a poor understanding of the complex relationships of prey and predator.”
 
The request was sent by Predator Defense, the Center for Biological Diversity, Cascadia Wildlands, The Humane Society of the United States, Northeast Oregon Ecosystems and Oregon Wild.
 
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with 1.1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places. http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/
Predator Defense is a national nonprofit advocacy organization with over 15,000 supporters.  We have been working since 1990 to protect native predators and end America’s war on wildlife.  Our efforts take us into the field, onto America’s public lands, to Congress, and into courtrooms. http://www.predatordefense.org
 
Cascadia Wildlands defends and restores Cascadia’s wild ecosystems in the forests, in the courts, and in the streets. We envision vast old-growth forests, rivers full of salmon, wolves howling in the backcountry, and vibrant communities sustained by the unique landscapes of the Cascadia bioregion. Join our movement today.
 
The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest and most effective animal protection organization. We and our affiliates provide hands-on care and services to more than 100,000 animals each year, and we professionalize the field through education and training for local organizations. We are the leading animal advocacy organization, seeking a humane world for people and animals alike. We are driving transformational change in the U.S. and around the world by combating large-scale cruelties such as puppy mills, animal fighting, factory farming, seal slaughter, horse cruelty, captive hunts and the wildlife trade. http://www.humanesociety.org
 
Oregon Wild: Protecting Oregon’s wildlands, wildlife, and waters for future generations. http://www.oregonwild.org
 
Northeast Oregon Ecosystems works to protect and expand Oregon’s wildlife and wildlife habitat.

 

Nov10

Science Review Begins for Northwest Forest Plan Revision

For Immediate Release
November 10, 2016
 
Northwest Forest Plan science synthesis review begins
Will help inform forest management efforts in Pacific Northwest
 
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, 314-482-3746, nick@cascwild.org
Susan Jane Brown, Western Environmental Law Center, 503-914-1323, brown@westernlaw.org 
 
Portland, Ore.–Today, the United States Forest Service released for public and heightened peer review its anticipated science synthesis, which will inform the need to revise the renowned Northwest Forest Plan. The Forest Service is currently taking public comment on the synthesis through January 6, 2017, and the agency will host a public forum on December 6, 2016 in Portland, Oregon at the Doubletree Hotel from 8:30am to 1pm.  
 
“We have learned a great deal about the public lands encompassed by the Northwest Forest Plan in the past 20 years of its application,” said Nick Cady with Cascadia Wildlands. “While new information has surfaced – including, importantly, the impacts of climate change – many values endure, such as the importance of clean water, iconic wildlife such as salmon, and thriving forest ecosystems to the residents of the Pacific Northwest. These principles remain as sound today as they were when the plan was written.”
 
The topics addressed in the new science synthesis include old growth forest ecosystems, threatened and endangered terrestrial and aquatic species, climate change, socioeconomic considerations, scientific uncertainty, and restoration strategies, among many others. The Forest Service expects to publish a general technical report that encompasses the science synthesis. In addition to public review and comment on the synthesis, dozens of experts and practitioners will be conducting a peer review process which will also inform the Forest Service’s revision effort.
 
“We anticipate the synthesis will engage public interest throughout the region and we look forward to providing thoughtful feedback to the Forest Service as it considers the need to improve the scientifically-sound, ecologically-credible, and legally-defensible Northwest Forest Plan,” said Susan Jane Brown, staff attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center. “Through this feedback, we hope to help ensure that our treasured Pacific Northwest forests and rivers are managed to best meet the needs of our region.”
 
###
 
Oct03

Tongass Groundtruth Expedition: 2016

Photos by Jacob Ritley, Tongass Groundtruth Expedition, 2016. Thanks to LUSH Foundation for their generous support.

a0014834

Southeast Alaska's Alexander Archipelago is made up of thousands of islands large and small. Small boats and floatplanes are the dominant modes of transportation. 

a0010562

Old-growth clearcutting is ongoing this summer on the Big Thorne timber sale, Prince of Wales Island. 

a0014717Virgin old-growth forests are being mowed down on the Cleveland Peninsula, on privately-owned ANCSA (Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act) corporation land. 

a0014448Our Alaska legal director inspects old-growth spruce in a fresh clearcut, Big Thorne project on Prince of Wales Island. 

Return to the Tongass Expedition Report

Sep30

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

For Immediate Release
September 30, 2016
 
Contact: Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, 314-482-3746, nick@cascwild.org
              Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, 503-484-7495, ngreenwald@biologicaldiveristy.org
              Steve Pedery, Oregon Wild, 503-283-6343 ext. 212
              Bob Sallinger, Portland Audubon, 503-380-9728
 
Lawsuit Filed Against Oregon Board of Forestry for Failing to Protect Habitat for Threatened Marbled Murrelet
 
EUGENE, Ore.- Four conservation organizations filed suit today against the Oregon Board of Forestry over dismissal of a petition requesting the Board identify and protect important old-growth forest areas for the marbled murrelet, a seabird threatened with extinction.  Under Oregon law, the Board was supposed to have provided such protection after the seabird was protected as threatened under the state Endangered Species Act in 1987.  
 
“The state of Oregon is obligated to protect its threatened wildlife, and it is not doing that with this unique seabird,” said Nick Cady, legal director at Cascadia Wildlands. “It is way past time that protection measures for the species are instituted, otherwise the marbled murrelet will go the way of the passenger pigeon.” 
 
On Sept. 9 the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission granted a similar petition. The two agencies are required to work together to facilitate murrelet recovery and develop protection measures for occupied sites.  
 
The marbled murrelet was first listed as a threatened species in Oregon in 1987, and the listing of a species requires the Board of Forestry to conduct an inventory of species’ sites and develop rules to protect the sites from harmful forestry activities.  Clearcut logging of the murrelets’ nesting habitat on state and private forestlands in Oregon is the primary cause of the species decline.
 
“For the last thirty years, Oregon’s plan for marbled murrelets has been to look the other way while their habitat is clear-cut,” said Steve Pedery, conservation director at Oregon Wild. “Oregonians expect better from our governor and state agencies. They need to develop a plan to protect murrelets and their habitat, and they need to stand up to pressure from the clearcut lobby and the county politicians who do their bidding.”
 
While murrelets have been listed as a ‘threatened’ species for nearly 30 years, Oregon has never developed a plan to recover them or protect the old-growth habitat that they depend on. Instead the state has relied on the nesting habitat located on nearby federal forestlands. This is no longer sufficient as murrelet populations in the Pacific Northwest continue to decline, and a recent status review conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that conservation of nesting habitat on state and private lands is now critical to the species’ survival.
 
The Board of Forestry's decision to not even consider a petition to identify and protect old growth habitat for Marbled Murrelets once again demonstrates the board's indifference towards the plight of Marbled Murrelets and other old growth dependents species," said Bob Sallinger, Conservation Director for Audubon Society of Portland. "The Board has been ignoring its obligations under both state and federal law for decades even as the Marbled Murrelets numbers continue to plummet."
 
Murrelets fly inland from the ocean to nest on wide, mossy limbs found in the mature and old-growth forests of the Oregon Coast Range. A recent decision to ramp up clearcut logging of murrelet nesting habitat on Bureau of Land Management lands in western Oregon coupled with the state of Oregon’s proposal to privatize the 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest located, east of Coos Bay, underscore the need to develop habitat protections. A recent murrelet monitoring report produced by the U.S. Forest Service stressed the urgent need to “arrest the loss of suitable habitat on all lands, especially on non-federal lands in the relatively near term.”
 
“The Board of Forestry's management of the old-growth forests needed by the marbled murrelet and cherished by Oregonians across the political spectrum has been abysmal,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Board of Forestry and Gov. Kate Brown have a legal and moral responsibility to protect murrelets and their forest habitat, and need to take action to reverse the decline of the species."
 
Background: The marbled murrelet is a member of the auk family, which includes birds like auklets, guillemots and puffins. These sea-birds get their name from the marbling pattern of black, gray and white that covers their backs during the non-breeding season. When murrelets are breeding they molt to a plain brown plumage. They form lifelong breeding pairs and feed on small, schooling fish, such as herring.
 
Populations of marbled murrelets are closely tied to the amount of old forest habitat available for nesting. The central Oregon Coast is one of the last strongholds for murrelets. While forest practices have changed on federal lands managed by the Siuslaw National Forest, scientists warn that more needs to be done to protect murrelet habitat on state and private lands where logging practices continue to indiscriminately remove nesting habitat.
 
                                                  ####
 
Sep02

Cascadia Wildlands Leads Ground-truth Expedition into Fabled Tongass National Forest

by Alaska Legal Director Gabe Scott [updated 9/8]

 
TONGASS NATIONAL FOREST, ALASKA— Lots to report from our ground-truthing trek last week into Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. We spent a week on Wrangell, Revilla and Prince of Wales Islands with colleagues investigating proposed and active old-growth logging projects.
Whole mountains and valleys are being clearcut on Cleveland Peninsula.

Whole mountains and valleys are being clearcut on Cleveland Peninsula.

 
This was a trip to the edge of the cresting wave of old-growth logging in Cascadia. We visited the largest old-growth sale in a generation, the Big Thorne Stewardship Project, as well as the next big sale coming down the pipe on Wrangell Island. The world should know about the old-growth clearcutting that is still happening in Alaska. You’ll especially want to hear about these wolf pups on Prince of Wales.
 
For the week in the Tongass I was joined by Oliver Stiefel, an attorney at CRAG and co-counsel on most of our pending Tongass litigation; Jacob Ritley, a cinematographer who offered his skills to help document what is going on; and the incomparable Larry Edwards, the southeast Alaska forest campaigner for Greenpeace. We met up for a couple days driving and flying around Wrangell Island, then down to Ketchikan to look at the Saddle Lakes road. From there we ferried over to Prince of Wales Island for several more days in the woods.
Oliver Stiefel of CRAG wishing that the legal system worked faster. On the ground at the Big Thorne sale, Prince of Wales Island, Alaska.

Oliver Stiefel of CRAG wishing that the legal system worked faster. On the ground at the Big Thorne sale, Prince of Wales Island, Alaska.

Tongass at the Crossroads

Things are happening on the Tongass.
 
The big new Forest Plan is out, vaunted as a “transition” out of old-growth logging and into second-growth logging. It’s a nice idea, but the actual plan is to prop up old-growth logging for several more decades. We expect to be filing our administrative objection to the plan in late August.
 
The biggest old-growth sale in a generation, the Big Thorne Stewardship Project, is being rapidly cut while our appeal for an injunction waits for a decision by the 9th Circuit. Over 6,000 acres of old-growth is being logged, nearly 150 million board feet, on north central Prince of Wales Island.
 
The next of the big logging project, the 5,000-acre Wrangell Island Project, is moving down the pipeline. There is still time to prevent that mistake as the agency reviews comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
 
Construction is beginning on the Saddle Lakes road out of Ketchikan, which would further threaten the imperiled wolf population on the Alexander Archipelago.
 
And that's just on Forest Service land. On State and private land, it’s even worse.
 
The purpose of a groundtruth expedition is to provide a reality check for the schemes layed out on paper. The truth on the ground on the Tongass is even more striking and urgent than we had feared. The Forest Service is mowing down forests in a last gasp, while the industry scrapes the bottom of the barrel it has emptied. Old-growth logging is directly threatening the imperiled Alexander Archipelago wolf, including one pack in particular.

Wrangell Island – Scraping the barrel

Wrangell, Alaska is a great little town in a beautiful setting. It sits at the north end of a big island, separated by inlets and narrows from even more remote islands and mountain wilderness of the Stikine. It’s a great place to visit, accomodating but not overrun by tourists. Wrangell has busy small-boat harbors and lots of salmon fishing, a nice main street and neighborhoods, surrounded by post-card views of ocean inlets, forested islands and high mountains. They have a new ship yard, which is turning out to be a brilliant economic move for the isolated community, keeping boats and people working in town through the winter.  
 
The purpose of our visit was to look at the next big old-growth timber sale, the Wrangell Island Project. It proposes logging on 5,309 acres, almost all untouched old-growth. This is one of the large, long-term sales originally ordered by our old friend Mark Rey to re-establish the logging industry.
On the chopping block, Wrangell Island Project.

On the chopping block, Wrangell Island Project.

 
In Wrangell we met up with a local homesteader, who in summers works a “John Muir tour” for cruise ship passengers. This was a personal highlight because I’d always wondered where exactly it was above town that John Muir lit his famous fire in 1879. (Quick history tangent: In Travels in Alaska Muir describes charging up a mountainside on a black night in a howling rainstorm, then lighting a fire using only a small candle and a pocketknife in the driving rain.  He wanted to observe the trees’ wildness in the torrential storm. Being John Muir, his fire made a flame so huge it illuminated the low clouds over town. The townspeople were apparently much-alarmed by the weird light, suspecting spirits or a new kind of omen.)
 
There used to be a mill in Wrangell. At least then one could see some logic in a 65 million board foot monstrosity, but Wrangell’s foreign-owned mill skipped out on their long-term contracts decades ago, and an American effort to save it went bankrupt in 2004. The town has moved on. Today there are a few small mills, which is all to the good, but those guys only need a few acres a year. Wherever the market for a huge influx of Wrangell Island logs is, it certainly isn’t in Wrangell.
 
As we flew and drove around the island it was clear that the best forests have already been logged away. From a timber point of view, the game is over. Obviously. The Wrangell Island Project targets the best of what remains, which means these stands were rejected by timber companies over and over through the years. But it also means that these forests have become critical for the remaining wildlife. We saw some gorgeous old-growth stands. Not much of the high-volume stuff that is so critical for winter habitat, but some gorgeous high-elevation and north-facing stands. Lots of the stands we saw that have been marked for cutting surely will lose money for whoever logs them. Why log five acres of old, gnarled-up cedar and snag to get one truck-full of logs? Kind of a head-scratcher, honestly. 
 
This sale is so big, and so little of the big tree forest is left on Wrangell, that this project would remove the long-term possibility of local, economic logging. The last gasp of the timber beast could actually kill the beating heart of the small-scale, Alaska-style logging operators. It is the classic Alaska story of the resource being hauled away, leaving nothing for the locals (let alone the wildlife) to get by on when winter comes. It doesn’t make sense.
 
We’ll try to stop that happening on Wrangell. Our coalition submitted detailed comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement days later. We are hopeful that logic, reason and law will prevail.

Ketchikan

Next we flew to Ketchikan, on Revillagigedo Island, to look at the Saddle Lakes Project. Saddle Lakes was an old-growth timber sale and road-building project east of Ketchikan. After we challenged the project legally the Forest Service dropped the logging portion. But the State has insisted on going forward with the road connection between Ketchikan and Shelter Cove.
Saddle Lakes Road, Revilla Island.

 Area of proposed Ketchikan-Shelter Cove Road, Revilla Island.

I'll admit, the Shelter Cove road does have a certain logic to it. The backcountry is scattered with remote networks of logging roads. Some people want to link them up to where people can easily drive them. Ketchikan is a remote island town with a good size population, and people here do all of their playing in the outdoors: hunting, fishing, trapping, and berry-picking. One of the most popular directions residents go is out the White River Road. Not long ago that area was clearcut, on an epic scale, by the Alaska Mental Health Trust. But just beyond that are a whole heap of fantastic inlets and valleys and forests and rivers to explore.
 
With Shelter Cove road the Forest Service and State of Alaska are trying to connect Ketchikan with the network of logging roads to the east. Those roads ultimately head north, and ultimately the State hopes to link all those road systems up. The new road linkages would also facilitate additional clearcutting and other development on USFS, State and private lands.
 
The trouble is that, first, nobody is maintaining those roads. They slough off into streams and the culverts commonly block passage for salmon. And second, linking remote roads with big towns is a sure-fire way to cause the wolves to be hunted and trapped out of the area. Alexander Archipelago wolves have been hit so badly by the one-two punch of cleartut logging and aggressive wolf hunting that they are on the cusp of extinction. Keeping remote areas remote is the only way they might survive.
 
And that is why we’re challenging the road in Alaska District court.
 

Prince of Wales Island

You guys, seriously, this place!
 
For lovers of wildest Cascadia, Prince of Wales Island is just about the coolest spot on earth. They should set the Jedi training temple here in the next Star Wars. People would be sure it was CGI. The trees are big, the rivers are clear, the forest is boundless.
 
We were here to examine the Big Thorne sale. At over a hundred million board feet from over six thousand acres of old-growth it is the largest old-growth timber sale in a generation. We’ve challenged this sale in court, but lost our bid for an injunction in the Alaska District Court. Cascadia and several others have appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last year. The case has been fully briefed and argued, and currently sits on the judges’ desks waiting for a decision.  
On the chopping block. Looking northeast at Snakes Lakes, North Thorne River, Prince of Wales Island, Alaska.

On the chopping block. Looking northeast at Snakes Lakes, North Thorne River, Prince of Wales Island, Alaska.

 
It is impossible to convey the truth on the ground in this place with words. To know the place we’re talking about I need you to suspend your disbelief and re-activate the childlike side of your imagination. Picture an ancient wooded glade out of a fairy tale— all stately green trees drooping moss, gentle blue rivers teeming with fish, perfect meadows where Bambi is learning to walk. It’s a place where cute little wolf puppies—the hope of a dying breed— were born this very spring live under the roots of an old-growth tree at a quiet blue lake ringed in green.
 
Got it? Now, I'm telling you, this place is real. 
 
The forest naturally is world-class. Forest to take your breath away.  Tall, straight, towering Sitka spruce; huge western hemlock all wild and twisted. There were even shore pines and alders of alarming size; trees that told you this is a good place to be a tree. And the cedars, oh the cedars. Red and yellow cedar lace the forest, dripping with moss and lichen and bark. And the dead trees were even more beautiful, towering totems weathered by centuries, swirling with color.
 
Wildlife thrives here too. Prince of Wales is notoriously thick with black bears, though we saw little sign. The island is snaked through with rivers and lakes rich with trout and salmon, a fisherman’s post-card around every bend. Sitka black-tailed deer are naturally abundant, feeding humans and wolf and gladdening the forest scene. The several towns and villages on the island are spectacularly set, and have deep history. It's a place where stores advertise "Sundries." The abundance that Prince of Wales is blessed with has also been a curse. It is here that logging has been, and continues to be, the most intense.  
 
When the Tongass old-growth industry dies here, it is not going to be for lack of trying.  Old-growth forests are falling fast and furious this summer on Prince of Wales and nearby Cleveland Peninsuala. We saw massive new clearcuts on National Forest, State, Mental Health Trust, and ANCSA Corporation land. Whole valleys, mountainsides, and peninsulas are being leveled.
Alaska Mental Health Trust logging on Prince of Wales Island.

Some of the recent private-land logging on Prince of Wales Island.

 
If the forests are being mowed down, how can it be that the industry claims to be starving for trees? The need for logs to mill is the whole basis of the Forest Service timber sales, the new Forest Plan, and Senator Murkowski’s various crazy ideas about giving away federal land for deregulated logging. It’s all to feed this mill you see below you—Viking Lumber—the last industrial-sized old-growth mill in all of Southeast Alaska. 
 
How that is, it became obvious when we looked at it, is that the trees being cut here are mostly all exported away as un-milled, "raw" logs. The piles of logs lined up at the dock for export dwarfed the mostly-full Viking yard. 
The Viking Lumber Company mill at Klawock, Prince of Wales Island. Viking is the last remaining large mill in Southeast Alaska.

The Viking Lumber Company mill at Klawock, Prince of Wales Island. Viking is the last remaining large mill in Southeast Alaska.

 
Visiting the active logging units of the Big Thorne sale the scale of ecological devastation was evident. Logging crews have been targeting the old-growth clearcut units, cutting them as fast as they can.
 
Which brings me to the wolf pups. In their zeal to get the forest cut down before any legal injunction, logging crews have ended up harassing a particular pack of the imperiled Alexander Archipelago wolves. We’d heard rumors of this prior to our visit, so spent days trying to track them down.
 
This small pack gave birth to pups this spring near a lake. Their parents, like most all Alexander Archipelago wolves— Islands wolves—had excavated a spacious den under the roots of an old-growth tree. They wanted peace, quiet, safety, and enough food. It is especially important that these pups make it, because the Islands wolf population on Prince of Wales has plummeted to under 100.
 
For several years the wildlife biologists with Alaska Department of Fish and Game and at the U.S. Forest Service have been aware of this particular den. One of the logging units in the Big Thorne sale was identified by ADF&G early on as overlapping with the mandatory 1,200’ buffer around that den. To guard the wolf den locations, ADF&G was sent the maps by the Forest Service, re-drew the unit boundaries to provide the 1,200’ buffer, and sent them back, all in secret.
Tracks of the Alexander Archipelago Wolf, Prince of Wales Island, Alaska.

Tracks of the Alexander Archipelago Wolf, Prince of Wales Island, Alaska.

 
Foresters preferred a different unit layout. By the time the guys with chainsaws showed up, the secret about the wolf family, who was known to be about to give birth to pups in that den, and mandatory logging buffer, were apparently forgotten.
 
Just prior to the pups being born, loggers cut down the forest on the other side of the lake. The wolves also might also have noticed the hundreds of acres being mowed down just over surrounding ridges, and the heavy-lift helicopters thundering overhead.
 
The last reliable information on this wolf family, which we obtained by FOIA just after returning, was that the pups were born, but had been forced to abandon the den.
The agency apparently was able to measure from stump to den, proving that the logging had invaded the mandatory (and paltry) 1,200’ buffer zone around active dens.[*UPDATE: more recent intelligence indicates the logging actually remained 18ft inside its buffer. GWS 9/8]  Think of that. Logging an old-growth hillside, with helicopters no less, only 1,200’ from a den where you know there are baby wolves of an imperiled species.
 
We never were able to locate the den, but I think we did find tracks from that pack next to an adjacent lake. They might be looking for a new den, or out hunting. Their territory is getting awfully limited. It is becoming harder and harder for a wolf to find a place that is not either a road or a clearcut. With aggressive hunters blaming them for trouble hunting deer, and new clearcuts and roads encroaching on every side, these wolf pups have a tough road ahead of them finding a new home
 
We'll be rooting for them, and doing everything we can in the human world to make their road easier. Stay tuned for Jacob's stunning images and video from our trip, and updates on the wolf packs search for a new home. 
 
 
 
Tongass Expedition: Images
 
Tongass Expedition: Video coming soon
 
(PS: Stay tuned for video, and more still footage, from the expedition that we plan to release soon.)
 
 
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