News

May10

Saving Oregon’s Famed Rivers and Wild Salmon from Gold Mining

by Nick Cady, Legal Director
 
It has been a long road to suction-dredge mining reform in Oregon, but this campaign is close to finalizing permanent protections for Oregon's iconic rivers and wild salmon.  Suction dredging is an incredibly harmful, gold-mining practice that involves sucking up fragile river bottoms through a large, gas-powered vacuum. This mining practice is damaging in numerous ways, but most importantly, it impairs water quality and the recovery of wild salmon.
 
SpawningThis mining technique first crossed Cascadia's radar in 2009, when the American Fisheries Society first began pressuring the California Legislature to ban the practice that was harming salmon runs. Ultimately in 2012, California banned suction dredging legislatively. In the meantime, they began migrating north into Oregon, and dedgers began targeting some of Oregon's most treasured waterways including the Rogue, South Umpqua and Illinois Rivers. From 2009 to 2012, the number of dredging permits issued doubled from approximately 900 to nearly 2,000 in Oregon. Because there was little oversight of the practice in Oregon, miners were running amok in some of the best salmon-spawning habitat in the state.  
 
Cascadia Wildlands combined efforts with numerous other conservation organizations, recreation groups, and commercial fishing interests and began a campaign to reform this harmful practice.  In 2013, our coalition was able to get two bills introduced to address the issue.  The first bill, Senate Bill 401, updated Oregon's list of State Scenic Waterways to enable the state to protect these areas from mining.  The second bill, Senate Bill 838 championed by the late senator Alan Bates, placed a moratorium on suction-dredging in salmon habitat until 2018, until which time state agencies would implement a permitted, regulatory system. 
 
After a hard-fought battle in the Legislature, the Governor ultimate signed Senate Bill 838, which placed a temporary moratorium on suction-dredge mining in key salmon habitat in Oregon.  The bill also convened a working group with stakeholders, including the miners and conservationists, to develop the permit and regulatory system that would be implemented by the state after the expiration of the moratorium.  Simultaneously, miners elected to sue the state in an attempt to invalidate the recently passed legislation and argued that Oregon did not have the authority to regulate mining due to conflicts with an archaic, federal mining law passed in 1872. Cascadia and our allies intervened in the legislation, and on March 25, 2016, the Court dismissed the miners' challenge, which is currently being appealed to the Ninth Circuit.
 
In the midst of the litigation, Cascadia moved forward and worked with our partners and state officials in developing permanent reforms to prevent this harmful gold mining from adversely impacting imperiled aquatic species. Our solution has culminated in Senate Bill 3-8, which recently passed Oregon's Senate and will be scheduled for a House vote soon.  Your voice is needed for a final push to achieve victory for Oregonians, clean water and wild salmon.  Take action here, and urge your Representative to vote yes on Senate Bill 3-8.
May09

Battle for the Elliott State Forest Won! Land Board Votes to Keep Forest Public!

For immediate release

May 9, 2017

Contact: Josh Laughlin, Executive Director, 541.844.8182

 

State Land Board Votes Unanimously to Ditch Elliott State Forest Privatization Proposal, Advance Public Ownership Solution

In a 3-0 vote today, the Oregon State Land Board, made up of Governor Kate Brown, Treasurer Tobias Read and Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, terminated the protocol that led to the timber industry proposal to privatize the 82,500-acre Elliott State Forest in the Oregon Coast Range. 

The Land Board also voted to advance a proposal to keep Oregon’s first state forest in public ownership, which would require legislating $100 million in bonding revenue to decouple environmentally sensitive areas of the Elliott from the Common School Fund. The public ownership plan would also require the completion of a multi-species Habitat Conservation Plan for the remainder of the forest, which would outline forest management activity and endangered species protections. 

Today’s decision came after intense public opposition to the Elliott State Forest privatization proposal over the past few years, which would have led to restricted public access, old-growth forest clearcutting, and reduced stream-side protections for wild salmon.

Here are statements from Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands Executive Director, who attended and testified at today’s hearing:

“There has been a tidal wave of Oregonian support to keep the Elliott public that couldn’t be held back. The Land Board’s decisive action today was visionary, and we look forward to working in the months ahead to create a lasting forest plan that benefits clean water, imperiled salmon and wildlife habitat, and future generations of Oregonians.”

"At a time when there is tremendous nationwide pressure to privatize public lands, today’s Land Board vote to keep the Elliott State Forest public shows incredible leadership and foresight. This decision will be remembered decades down the road as one that deeply benefitted clean water, wild salmon, old-growth forests and school kids."

"Today’s vote is a reminder that we no longer need to choose between supporting school children or our environment. We can have both, and we are going to build off the momentum to ensure lasting environmental protections are built into the Elliott State Forest plan.” 

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May04

Press Release: Conservation Organizations Enthusiastic about Governor’s Plan for the Elliott

For Immediate Release
May 4, 2017
Contacts:
 
Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 844-8182
Doug Moore, Oregon League of Conservation Voters, (503) 729-5175
 
Salem, OR – The Oregon Conservation Network (OCN) is pleased to see the plan released today from the Governor’s office regarding the Elliott State Forest. As a coalition, we care deeply about Oregon’s wildlands, and believe the state has an obligation to protect and enhance our vast forests, wildlife, and habitats. This is why the issue of the Elliott State Forest is such an important one to our members.
 
As Oregon’s first state forest, the Elliott has become a symbol of both our enduring commitment to public lands, and the need to decouple our treasured wild spaces from the Common School Fund. There has been and will continue to be ongoing conflict between the need to preserve our environmental legacy and the need to fully fund our schools unless we take action now to create an alternative to the current system.
 
“The Elliott is an incredible stronghold for wild salmon, imperiled wildlife, clean water, and carbon storage. It is a place where recreational values can be realized, and it is symbolic of the larger battle at the federal level to privatize public places,” said Doug Moore, executive director of the Oregon League of Conservation Voters.
 
Governor Brown has shown incredible leadership and vision, and we applaud her plan released today as further demonstration of her commitment to keeping public lands in public hands.  We look forward to continuing to work with the Governor and the rest of the Land Board to enact a lasting plan for the Elliott that has conservation safeguards that Oregonians so desire.
 
"At a time when there are intense interests nationally to privatize public lands, we are deeply grateful for the Governor’s vision and leadership to keep the Elliott State Forest public," says Josh Laughlin with Cascadia Wildlands. "This approach will ensure Oregonians can continue to access its great outdoors and that the Elliott's salmon and wildlife habitat are safeguarded into the future."
 
We believe the plan for the state to use bonding revenue to ensure this decoupling fulfills the state’s fiduciary responsibilities while retaining the Elliott as a place of pride for this state and local communities.
 
Funding for children's education does not require cutting down forests. The plan released today by the Governor's office is an innovative approach to maintaining our commitment as a state to both education and the environment. We believe the Elliott can be a source of sustainable income for Oregon’s schools – if it is responsibly managed.
 
We look forward to seeing the Governor’s vision for the Elliott come to fruition. This historic and unique place can be a place where business interests, the public, and the tribes can come together to use the land responsibly; providing a model for other common school fund lands.
 
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Apr11

Press Release: Oregon Wolf Recovery Stagnant in 2016, Changes to Wolf Plan Concern Wolf Advocates

For immediate release
April 11, 2017
Contact: Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, 314-482-3746
 
Today the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife released its 2016 annual report for wolf recovery as well as its draft update to the Oregon Wolf Plan. Of particular interest, the annual report shows that wolf packs and breeding pairs documented in the state 2016 declined from 2015 numbers. Pack numbers dropped from 12 to 11, and breeding pairs from 11 to 8. (The state of Oregon defines “breeding pair” as a breeding adult male and female wolf that produce at least two pups which survive through the end of the year.) Overall population numbers in 2016 were largely stagnant from 2015, seeing a 2% uptick to a minimum of 112 wolves.
 
A number of proposed changes to the Oregon Wolf Plan are strongly opposed by Cascadia Wildlands, including the use of Wildlife Services’ involvement in wolf management in the state. The federal program housed under the US Department of Agriculture has been subject intense public backlash and litigation for its barbaric practices used against targeted wildlife, including the use of M-44 cyanide devices which eject lethal poison into the mouths of wolves, coyotes and even family pets.
 
Another significant concern in the draft update to the Wolf Plan is the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s provision to kill wolves as response to wolf conflict with ungulates, like deer and elk. Science has shown that the main driver of ungulate health is habitat conditions, not wolves.
 
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is expected to adopt changes to the Wolf Plan at its April 21 meeting in Klamath Falls.
 
Nick Cady, Legal Director at Cascadia Wildlands, issues the following statements on the draft changes to the Oregon Wolf Plan and the results of the 2016 annual report:
 
“While the wolf population in Oregon has begun to rebound in recent years, 2016 numbers show otherwise. This is alarming, and the trend provides all the more reason to strengthen safeguards for wolves during the Wolf Plan update, which will allow them to continue back on the historic path toward recovery.”
 
“We are incredibly discouraged with the provisions in this plan to kill wolves in response to conflict with ungulates, like deer and elk.  A consistent body of science has shown that the main driver of ungulate health is habitat conditions, not carnivore predation.”
 
"We are resoundingly opposed to the State’s utilization of Wildlife Services in the plan, specifically this shadowy agency's role in determining whether or not wolves were responsible for depredations on livestock.  These are critical investigations, and the lives of wolves hinge on their integrity.  In the past, Wildlife Services has grossly overestimated depredations attributed to wolves in Oregon, thereby showing their long-held bias toward livestock interests and against wolves. This agency has no place in carnivore management in Oregon, and we will continue to fight to have them eliminated from this critical function in the revised Plan."
 
“Cascadia Wildlands is encouraged by the state of Oregon’s continued focus on pro-active, non lethal measures to prevent conflicts between wolves and livestock before they happen. Non-lethal tools and access to them are essential to creating co-existence between wolves and humans.”
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Apr11

Oregon Senate Passes Suction Dredge Reform Bill

For immediate release
April 10, 2017
 
Contact:
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, 541-434-1463
 
Salem, OR – The Oregon Senate passed legislation today to protect sensitive salmon and lamprey habitat from suction dredge mining. The Suction Dredge Reform bill (SB 3-A Engrossed) balances the cultural heritage of mining in Oregon with impacts to native fish and clean water. The bill stops mining in sensitive habitat, but allows it to continue elsewhere under a permit system.
 
“Clean water and healthy salmon define our state and the rivers we love,” said Charles Gehr of Fly Water Travel. “The recreation industry is a vibrant and sustainable economic model for Oregon and this bill helps protect the streams that are the most vulnerable to suction dredge mining impacts.”
 
Clean water, healthy fish, and recreation are enormously valuable to state and local economies. According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, people spent $2.5 billion on fish and wildlife recreation in Oregon in 2008.
 
The Suction Dredge Reform bill is the result of a long and collaborative process championed by the late Senator Alan Bates. Building on input from anglers, landowners, the mining industry, the fishing industry, conservation organizations, and other stakeholders, the bill takes a measured approach to protecting the most sensitive rivers and streams from the impacts of suction dredge mining, while still allowing suction dredges in areas where they do less harm.
 
“We are incredibly encouraged by the passage of Senate Bill 3 and the success of an incremental collaborative approach begun years ago with the passage of SB 838,” said Nick Cady, legal director of Cascadia Wildlands.  “This bill’s passage proves that given time and hard work, Oregonians are able to come together to develop solutions to our complicated conservation issues.”
 
“For the last four years, local communities across Oregon have called for reform on harmful suction dredge mining practices,” said Jake Crawford of the Native Fish Society, “and this legislation represents a workable, long-term solution to protect the state’s sensitive fish populations.”
 
Suction dredge mining is a type of recreational gold mining that uses a motorized, floating dredge to suck up the riverbed. Numerous scientific studies show that this form of mining can trap and kill young fish and fish eggs, release fine sediments that smother spawning gravel for salmon, and can even stir up legacy mercury from historic mining operations.
 
“The scientific literature demonstrates a broad array of negative effects of suction dredge gold mining.  It clearly works against efforts to recover salmon runs,” said Matt Sloat, Director of Science for Wild Salmon Center.
 
The commercial fishing industry also relies on healthy salmon runs. “Suction dredging, in the wrong places, can have devastating impacts on Oregon’s valuable salmon runs and destroy commercial salmon fishing jobs,” said Glen Spain, NW Regional Director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA), representing major fishing industry trade associations. “Many key Oregon salmon streams are slowly being restored, but hundreds of suction dredges descending on these streams every year could easily undo tens of millions of dollars worth of taxpayer-funded salmon restoration work. This bill achieves a better balance, simply by pulling suction dredges out of vulnerable salmon nurseries, and moving them to where they would do far less economic and biological harm.”
 
The Suction Dredge Reform bill prohibits mining in spawning and rearing habitat for sensitive, threatened, or endangered salmonids and lamprey, termed “essential salmonid habitat.” Outside of these areas, suction dredge mining would be allowed under a Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) permit that places certain limits on where and how suction dredges can be operated in streams.
 
“This bill provides a sustainable approach that is grounded in science to limit negative impacts on wild fish populations in Oregon and their habitat,” said Tom Wolf of the Oregon Council of Trout Unlimited.
 
In 2013, the Legislature recognized the need for better protections for sensitive species when it passed a bill to study the issue and implement a temporary moratorium in salmon and bull trout habitat. “These temporary protections for the most sensitive streams end in 2021,” said Stacey Detwiler of Rogue Riverkeeper, “so this a critical vote for the health of Oregon’s rivers and the communities that rely upon them.”
 
The Senate vote today is the first step to a permanent regulatory framework to protect the most sensitive habitats from suction dredges. “We commend the Senate for working with all the stakeholders to craft such a reasonable approach to allowing mining while protecting our sensitive species,” said Paige Spence of the Oregon League of Conservation Voters. “I think Senator Bates would be pleased.”
 
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Apr03

Press Release: Judge Says Timber Sale Near Crater Lake Could Harm Wildlife

For Immediate Release
March 21, 2017
Contacts:
 
Robin Meacher, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 434-1463, robin@cascwild.org
Doug Heiken, Oregon Wild, (541) 344-0675, dh@oregonwild.org
John Mellgren, Western Environmental Law Center, (541) 485-2471, mellgren@westernlaw.org
 
Eugene, Ore. – A U.S. District Court in Eugene has issued an order requiring the Umpqua National Forest to more comprehensively study environmental impacts of the proposed Loafer Timber Project timber sale. The Forest Service must complete the study and weigh its findings before proceeding with the timber sale, in an area about 60 miles east of Roseburg, Oregon.
 
Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild, represented by the Western Environmental Law Center, challenged the project in court last June. The groups sought to prevent harm to important roadless areas that are part of the Crater Lake Wilderness citizen’s proposal and vital northern spotted owl habitat.
 
Judge Russo determined the proposed logging project would have significant effects on the environment and the Forest Service should have prepared an environmental impact statement before allowing the project to move forward. In addition, the judge also found that the Forest Service failed to conduct meaningful analysis on the characteristics of the Loafer project’s roadless areas, including on more than 1,000 acres that would no longer be eligible for consideration as wilderness by Congress. These roadless areas are a part of the Crater Lake Wilderness Proposal.
 
 “The Umpqua’s forests are highly valued by the local community for quiet recreation and wildlife habitat. Judge Russo’s recommended ruling is a validation of the concerns continually raised by the community as to the impacts of logging in spotted owl habitat and undeveloped areas,” said Robin Meacher, Wildlands Campaign director for Cascadia Wildlands and an attorney on the case. “This is an acknowledgement that impacts to threatened species and our limited amount of undeveloped areas require in-depth analysis before they can move forward.”
 
Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild have been engaged in the Loafer Timber Project for years. The first version of the project was stalled in 2014 when the Umpqua National Forest withdrew its decision after being sued by Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild.
 
"Not only would this timber sale impact popular recreation opportunities on the North Umpqua Trail and Umpqua Hot Springs, but it bulldozes its way into remote backcountry areas that deserve to be Wilderness," said Doug Heiken, conservation and restoration coordinator at Oregon Wild. "This decision validates the tens of thousands of Oregonians who have called on Senator Wyden and Congress for greater protections for the wildlands around Crater Lake."
 
 The final version of the project included 1,400 acres of logging in the area encompassing the Umpqua Hot Springs, the Dread and Terror Ridge, and Thorne Prairie Region. The project was slated to downgrade and reduce northern spotted owl habitat in the 22,600-acre project region and allowed for the killing of four spotted owls. These impacts were part of the judge’s findings that the Forest Service erred in not conducting the thorough environmental analysis needed to truly understand the project's potential impacts. As a result of the decision, the Forest Service is prohibited from implementing the Loafer project until and unless it complies with its obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act.
 
 “Judge Russo’s decision emphasizes that the Loafer project will have significant impacts on important roadless areas and designated critical habitat for the northern spotted owl,” said John Mellgren, staff attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center. “As such, it is vitally important that the project be evaluated in a more thorough and robust environmental impact statement before additional taxpayer dollars are spent degrading these important features of Oregon’s natural environment.”
 
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Mar14

Cascadia Goes to Court to Defend Wolf Protections in California

For Immediate Release, March 14, 2017
 
Contacts:      
 
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 434-1463, nick@cascwild.org
Amaroq Weiss, Center for Biological Diversity, (707) 779-9613, aweiss@biologicaldiversity.org
Greg Loarie, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2000, gloarie@earthjustice.org
Tom Wheeler, Environmental Protection Information Center, (707) 822-7711, tom@wildcalifornia.org
Joseph Vaile, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, (541) 488-5789, joseph@kswild.org
 
Conservation Groups Oppose Effort to Remove Wolf Protections in California
Organizations Seek Intervention on Industry Challenge to Endangered Status
 

SAN FRANCISCO— Four conservation groups filed a motion today to intervene in a lawsuit seeking to remove California Endangered Species Act protections from wolves. The lawsuit, against the state Fish and Wildlife Commission, was brought by the Pacific Legal Foundation and wrongly alleges that wolves are ineligible for state protection. 

The intervenors — Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Protection Information Center, and Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center — are represented by Earthjustice.

“Pacific Legal Foundation’s lawsuit is baseless,” said Amaroq Weiss, the Center’s West Coast wolf organizer. “Gray wolves were senselessly wiped out in California and deserve a chance to come back and survive here. We’re intervening to defend the interests of the vast majority of Californians who value wolves and want them to recover.”

Brought on behalf of the California Cattlemen’s Association and California Farm Bureau Federation, the lawsuit alleges that wolves are ineligible for state protection because wolves returning to the state are supposedly the wrong subspecies, which only occurred intermittently in California at the time of the decision and are doing fine in other states.

Each of these arguments has major flaws. UCLA biologist Bob Wayne found that all three currently recognized subspecies of wolves occurred in California. Also — importantly — there is no requirement that recovery efforts focus on the same subspecies, rather than just the species. The fact that wolves were only intermittently present actually highlights the need for their protection, and the California Endangered Species Act is rightly focused on the status of species within California, not other states.  

“The gray wolf is an icon of wildness in the American West, and its return to California after almost 100 years is a success story we should celebrate,” said Earthjustice attorney Greg Loarie. “Stripping wolves of protection under the California Endangered Species Act at this early stage in their recovery risks losing them again, and we’re not going to let that happen.”

The four intervening groups petitioned for endangered species protections for wolves in February 2012. After receiving two California Department of Fish and Wildlife reports, scientific peer review assessment of those reports, thousands of written comments submitted by the public and live testimony at multiple public meetings, the California Fish and Game Commission voted to protect gray wolves in June 2014.

State protection makes it illegal to kill a wolf, including in response to livestock depredations — a major issue for the livestock industry. But despite the industry’s concerns, a growing body of scientific evidence shows nonlethal deterrence measures are more effective and less expensive than killing wolves. In addition, the Department of Fish and Wildlife has been allocated federal funding that can be used for nonlethal conflict-deterrence measures and to compensate ranchers for livestock losses to wolves, which make up a very small fraction of livestock losses.

“The cattle industry has made clear that it views wolves as pests and that they filed suit to allow killing of wolves,” said Tom Wheeler, executive director at the Environmental Protection Information Center. “Wolves are a vital part of American’s wilderness and natural heritage, helping to restore balance to our ecosystems by regulating elk and deer populations. The path to restoring wolves is through protecting fragile recovering populations.”

Wolves once ranged across most of the United States, but were trapped, shot and poisoned to near extirpation largely on behalf of the livestock industry. Before wolves began to return to California in late 2011 — when a single wolf from Oregon known as wolf OR-7 ventured south — it had been almost 90 years since a wild wolf was seen in the state. Before OR-7 the last known wild wolf in California, killed by a trapper in Lassen County, was seen in 1924.

Since 2011 California’s first wolf family in nearly a century, the seven-member Shasta pack, was confirmed in Siskiyou County in 2015, and a pair of wolves was confirmed in Lassen County in 2016. An additional radio-collared wolf from Oregon has crossed in and out of California several times since late 2015.

 
Cascadia Wildlands educates, agitates, and inspires a movement to protect and restore Cascadia's wild ecosystems. We envision vast old-growth forests, rivers full of wild salmon, wolves howling in the backcountry, and vibrant communities sustained by the unique landscapes of the Cascadia bioregion.
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.
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