Protecting Forests and Wild Places

Nov01

Press Release: House of Representatives Passes Horrific “Logging without Laws” Bill

For immediate release
November 1, 2017
Contacts:

Gabriel Scott, In-House Counsel, Cascadia Wildlands, 907.491.0856 / gscott@cascwild.org
Josh Laughlin, Executive Director, Cascadia Wildlands, 541.844-8182 / jlaughlin@cascwild.org
 
EUGENE, OR – The House of Representatives passed legislation today that will suspend environmental laws to open up previously protected old-growth and recreation areas to clearcut logging. The Orwellian-named “Resilient Federal Forests Act” (HR 2936) is an overwhelming assault on the nation’s public lands, waters, species and environmental laws.
 
“This is a profit-driven, timber industry initiative thinly disguised as restoration,” says Samantha Krop, Grassroots Organizer with Eugene-based Casadia Wildlands. “It guts our bedrock laws in order to clearcut public forests in a magnitude we have never seen before.”
 
While the bill is framed as a way to address forest fires, it does little to create more fire-resilient forests.  Instead, it is designed to boost logging levels on our National Forests and Bureau of Land Management lands while sacrificing myriad bedrock environmental laws.  
 
“This bill is a fraud, and it is completely opposite to our hard-earned knowledge about fires on our forests,” says Gabriel Scott, In-House Counsel with Cascadia Wildlands. “This cynical betrayal of the public confirms our worst fears about national forest policy in this Congress under this Administration.”
 
Introduced by Representative Bruce Westerman (R-AR), the bill is a gift to the timber industry. In only his second term in Congress, Westerman has received more campaign contributions from Big Timber than any other industry.
 
Specifically, the bill would:
 
•    Make millions of acres of currently protected areas—including endangered species habitat and other critically sensitive areas tied to these lands—vulnerable to harmful road building and logging. These targeted areas are some of the most popular outdoor recreation areas throughout the West.
 
•    Exempt commercial logging from requirements under the Endangered Species Act, in essence issuing a blank check for projects that would jeopardize imperiled species and their critical habitats.
 
•    Skirt public participation and review of logging projects that will affect communities in the Pacific Northwest.  H.R. 2936 cuts out meaningful public involvement and enables significant destruction of public lands and waters by waiving substantive environmental review for a broad range of harmful activities.  To put the sheer magnitude of these legal changes in perspective, currently only smaller logging projects are exempt from substantive environmental review under federal law.  H.R. 2936 increases the size of exempt projects to 30,000 acres.
 
Despite the bill’s proponents’ attempt to use this year’s fire season as an excuse for dramatically increased logging, leading scientists state that post-fire logging generally only further harms the ecosystem, undermines recovery, and increases fire risk. Through their slow decay, standing dead trees that remain after a fire provide the very nutrients needed to recover the landscape over the long haul. Post-fire logging involves cutting the large trees and leaves behind smaller trees and branches, and often involves planting dense rows of resinous saplings that can further increase fire risk.
 
Moreover, the bill diverts Secure Rural Schools Act funding from restoration activities to timber projects, and creates a state-based timber production program to facilitate logging. In essence, the bill takes money that would fund education in western states and funnels it to the timber industry.  
 
If enacted into law, the bill will set a dangerous precedent to erode cornerstone laws that protect the environment further jeopardizing clean water, imperiled species and climate security.
 
* An analysis of the bill’s implications can be found here.
* Letter from 71 groups opposing HR 2936 can be found here.
* Text of HR 2936 can be found here.
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Oct25

Marbled Murrelet Review Suggests Increased Protections!

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Status Review Demonstrates that Marbled Murrelet Urgently Needs Endangered Status

Marbled Murrelet -largeIn response to a petition from multiple conservation organizations, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) has released a status review that demonstrates that the Marbled Murrelet warrants uplisting from threatened to endangered under the Oregon Endangered Species Act and is seeking public comment.

“The Marbled Murrelet has been listed as threatened under the Oregon Endangered Species Act for more than two decades and during that time it has slipped closer and closer to extinction in our state,” said Nick Cady, Legal Director for Cascadia Wildlands. “It is critical that the state increase protections for this species right away if there is to be any hope of saving the Oregon population.”

The Department’s status review documents that the iconic seabird, which nests in old-growth and mature forests and forages at sea, is headed for extinction in Oregon if stronger measures are not taken. Oregon conservation groups are calling on the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to uplist the Murrelet from threatened to endangered at their February 2018 meeting.

“While federal laws have stabilized habitat loss on federal lands, the State of Oregon has continued to allow logging of older forests at an alarming rate and failed to adequately address new threats to the species,” said Bob Sallinger, Conservation Director for the Audubon Society of Portland. “Changing the Murrelet’s status to endangered will help ensure that Oregon takes the steps necessary to do its part to save this species.”

The report concludes the “key threats identified at the time of listing have continued or increased, and many new threats have been identified since the 1990’s….the life history exhibited by this species provides little opportunity for the population to rapidly increase even under the most optimal circumstances.” It also noted that the primary cause of Marbled Murrelet declines, loss and fragmentation of older forest habitat on which it depends for nesting, has “slowed, but not halted…since the 1990s” with  greatest losses since on lands managed by the State of Oregon. The review specifically notes that existing programs and regulation have “failed to prevent continued high rates of habitat loss on nonfederal lands in Oregon,”

If the Marbled Murrelet were uplisted from threatened to endangered in Oregon, the Department of Fish and Wildlife would be required to establish survival guidelines at the time of reclassification and a species management plan within 18-months.

“The Marbled Murrelet is the proverbial canary in the coal mine,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The species survival guidelines and management plan will help ensure the State of Oregon addresses not only loss of older forests but a whole array of other threats faced by Murrelets, such as energy development, oil spills, power lines and declining forage fish populations.”

“It’s time for Oregon to catch up with our neighbors,” said Danielle Moser, Wildlife Coordinator for Oregon Wild. “California and Washington have already uplisted the Murrelet from ‘threatened’ to ‘endangered’ at the state level, recognizing that more protections are needed to ensure the survival of this imperiled species.”

“The data presented by ODFW staff is clear – habitat loss on state lands is putting the marbled murrelet at the risk of extinction,” said Shawn Cantrell, Northwest Director for Defenders of Wildlife. “The only question for the Fish and Wildlife Commission is whether it will follow the science by changing the status of Marbled Murrelet to endangered in Oregon.”

The data in the review overwhelmingly supports uplisting the Marbled Murrelet to endangered status in Oregon,” said Rhett Lawrence of the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club. “We urge the ODFW Commission to recognize the dire situation faced by the murrelet and the state forests on which they depend and move forward with this critically important step to save murrelets in Oregon.”

The conservation groups who initiated the petition to uplist the Marbled Murrelet in Oregon were Cascadia Wildlands, Audubon Society of Portland Center for Biological Diversity, Oregon Wild, Coast Range Forest Watch and Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club.

 

Oct13

On Westerman, Walden, and Kids: Contemplating Oregon’s Fire Season from Drake Peak Lookout

by Gabe Scott, Cascadia Wildlands In-House Counsel
 
I’m sitting in the Drake Peak fire lookout tower in Oregon's Fremont-Winema National Forest for a long weekend with my young kids, taking in the wind-swept views while they explore the mountain, and watching a forest fire burn. As the sun sets it makes Mount Shasta glow fire-red in the distance, while an apocalyptic plume of smoke from the forest takes on a feathery pink. The sky darkens, and the kids come inside for food and stories. The fire casts an eerie glow in the night, and we wonder about it.
IMG_2682
 
I’ve been wondering a lot about forest fires this past year, since moving back to Oregon from south-central Alaska. Just about everything that happens in forest policy here revolves around fire, one way or another.
 
Oregonians talk a lot about the rain, but really it’s the fires that we’ve found distinctive. As important and ubiquitous as fire is, the issue is an incredibly difficult thing to talk about or understand.
 
So let’s sit around the cooling flames for a story. The kids want to understand what is happening, and I want to be able to explain it to them.
 
In the Pacific Northwest, the story about fire is a profound one: it’s about birth and death, money and power, and a human animal who is deeply confused, scared, and mixed up about his place on the land. There are heroes and villains in this story. And you get to create your own ending.
 
Fire is scary
There is something primal and apocalyptic about the experience of fire.
 
Terror of fire is something we share with other animals. Bears, deer and rabbits flee from fire in a panic. It may be a trick of the eye, but the way big trees catch fire, their branches seem to shrink away from the flames, dancing convulsively as though the tree itself summons one last panicked attempt to run from the flames.
 
Fire is an enemy of “man.” It is an enemy of property, and of permanence. Like a hurricane, or a cold and stormy sea.
 
Heck of a fire season, again
At least, it seems like it has been. Ash has been falling from the sky in Seattle, Portland, and Eugene. Even more so in the southern Oregon Cascades and the Siskiyous. The sun and moon have cast an eerie, muted orange. Air quality warnings have flashed red exclamation points on our phones, and out-of-town relatives have inquired about our safety.
 
But was this a “bad” fire year?
 
Fire has burned across over a half-million acres of forest this summer in Oregon.
 
That’s a lot of acres.
 
But then again, Oregon is a big place, and fire ecologists have learned that just about all of our forests burn at one time or another. In the scheme of things, even a half-million acres of fire—a lot of fire!— isn’t unusual.
 
Whether a half-million acres burning is a lot, or not, sort of depends on what timeframe you are using. In the past fifty years, statistically there has been a huge increase in the acres of forest burning in wildfires. Look at the past hundred years though, and you can see that we need additional context.
 
Charts-dellasala (1)_Page_1 2
(Source: Dominick DellaSala, Geos Institute, testimony US House Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, September 27, 2017).
 
That dip in the middle of the graph has resulted in what they call a “fire debt” on the forest. It is routine in the public land timber sales Cascadia Wildlands reviews to find the agency biologists bemoaning a fire-starved forest stand.
 
The “problem” of forest fires, a scientist would tell you, is a social problem, not an information problem. Two true things are in conflict: (1) ecologically, fire is beneficial and often necessary on many of Cascadia’s forests, and (2) humans, like (as) animals, do not tolerate fire in their midst. 
 
Forest fires (usually) don’t kill the forest
Exploring Drake Peak with the kids, everywhere we went had been touched by fire. And it was beautiful. It is this way throughout Oregon, Washington and California: luxurious green forests grown from carpets of black ash.
 
While we speak and think in terms of fire “consuming” and “destroying” forests, this is not the case.
 
On the Eagle Creek fire in the Columbia River Gorge for example, even in places that had been glowing hellish red in high-intensity conflagrations this summer, many of the trees seem to have survived, and lots of patches of forest were left unburned. Even as the flames burned, ODFW was reassuring the public that wildlife and vegetation will adapt and thrive.
 
Cascadia’s forests are born of fire
Fire has always been in this landscape. Without it, the forests could not be. In different ways at different times, the fires of centuries past created the forest, wetlands and wildlife we love.
 
Ecologically, fire is hugely beneficial. The science is remarkably consistent. Here in Oregon the world’s foremost scientific experts on fire ecology are working and watching, eagerly studying this incredible process. To a person, they speak and think of forest fires as an integral part of the forest. To ecologists who study these things, fires are approached with something more like reverence than fear.  
 
The lessons they’ve learned are familiar. Fires clear out underbrush, thin forests, favor some species over others, and provide homes for cavity-nesters like owls. Every schoolchild now learns the story of the Yellowstone fire, and how it unleashed an ecological cascade of restoration for the forest and wildlife.
 
Scientists now are studying how fire helps wild salmon and trout. Earlier this summer a Pacific Northwest Research Station report came out describing ways that wildlfires help wild salmon and trout thrive.
 
As it turns out, forests “dying” in fires are more like forests “dying” in the fall. It’s part of a cycle, not the end of a line.
 
The war on fire
Cold science is one thing, but hot passion is another. Too often the latter which tends to drive human behavior.
 
One result of those two true things— inevitability and fear of fire—is a hugely aggressive (and expensive, and dangerous) fire-fighting effort. Forest fires, being as ordinary a part of the seasonal cycle as rain, inevitably happen. We try to put just about all of them out.
 
We’ve gotten very, very good at it. Huge jet airplanes drop million-dollar loads of orange fire-retardant. A literal army of firefighters attack blazes with shovels, chainsaws, backfires, firebreaks, bulldozers, and water.
 
One result is that, thanks to firefighters, we have fewer fires. The small ones get put out.
 
As good as our firefighters are at what they do, did you know that they have never— not even once— been able to put out a large, intense wildfire? It’s true.
 
To satisfy the insatiable public need to fight every fire, firefighters are routinely asked to take incredible risks. I doubt I would have the courage to take half as much risk to save my own home from burning, as some of these hotshots take trying to save remote forests from burning.  
 
While the safety culture is strong, especially among firefighting leadership, the war on fire comes with heavy casualties. Foremost are the lost firefighters.  
 
Aggressively fighting fire also has an ecological cost. For example, this summer at Breitenbush Hot Springs in Oregon's Willamette National Forest, fire crews cut a fireline through a beloved old-growth hiking trail.
 
Logging the forest to save it
To a hammer every solution looks like a nail.
 
And to generations of foresters trained in cutting trees, the solution to forest fires has always been to cut the forest down.
 
It is routine in the timber sales we monitor at Cascadia Wildlands to find the agencies logging the forest to save it before it burns. Or, after it burns, they’ll want to “salvage” it.
 
Both notions are applied by with an un-ironic stubbornness that is almost comical.
 
There are grains of truth, and much of our day-to-day work consists of finding them. In the wildland-urban interface—where homes and property are built in forests that need to burn—thinning and strategic clearing can be very effective at saving property. And on some forest stands, careful thinning and prescribed burning is effective at both ecological restoration, and providing jobs and timber for mills. Cascadia Wildlands always tries to support these win-win solutions.
 
But while some work the ideas out carefully, politicians and the timber industry love to come in shouting emergency when fires are burning.
 
So we get things like the barely disguised propaganda video put out by the industry in Douglas County, questionably using taxpayer dollars. 
 
Or we get things like Rep. Greg Walden's (R-OR) “Clearcut the Gorge” bill, which suspends all environmental laws to expedite clearcutting of the Gorge after this summer's Eagle Creek fire.
 
Or, even worse, the Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR) bill, with the Orwellian name “Resilient Federal Forests Act,” a salvage rider on steroids that would exempt massive logging, up to 30,000 acres, from environmental laws and careful planning.
 
We’ll be busy fighting these outrageous proposals in the months and years to come.
 
Drake Peak
Back to my fire lookout on Drake Peak. How to explain the sinister, burning forest to my curious children? What are we seeing? Is this Bambi’s home being destroyed?
 
I really don’t know what is the best way to think about fire, let alone to explain it. Emotionally they are scary. Intellectually they are essential and life-giving. The picture gets more complicated when you factor in global warming, and human developments concentrated in inconvenient places.
 
Whatever the right way, we surely do know that the wrong way to think about fire is to panic.
 
It is panic that gives the log-it-to-save it idea traction. It is panic that causes distant politicians to see burned forests as destroyed lifeless tracts that may as well be clearcut.
 
As for the best way to talk about fire, we’d love to hear your ideas in comments. The best I could come up with for my kids were two imperfect analogies:
 
A forest fire is like a rainstorm. It’s an uncomfortable thing that happens in nature. It is dangerous, and can even kill you if you aren’t prepared. But it also makes the land green, and without it we would die.
 
A forest fire is like autumn, but on a larger time scale. As in autumn the leaves die and animals disappear, but in a cyclical way, not a linear one. It is the kind of death that blurs into birth. For a forest, a fire is a turning of the wheel, not the end of the road.
Aug07

Climbing the Quartz Timber Sale

Reed Crossbow

The Quartz Timber sale is an 847-acre logging project set to take place in the Umpqua National Forest. The timber sale proposes to commercially log and burn older forest in the Cottage Grove Ranger District. We believe that insufficient consideration was given to the presence of imperiled spotted owls and red tree voles, both species dependent on older forests to survive. We met up with Reed Wilson from NEST (Northwest Ecosystem Survey Team) and the Benton Forest Coalition, and he walked us through how to survey for red tree voles.  Surveyors use a crossbow or a bow to shoot a line over large lateral branches and then climb up around 200 feet to look for red tree voles nests.

When the Forest Service conducted surveys, it reported only a couple abandoned red tree vole nests and dismissed the project area as unimportant for the species. Reed and his team over the course of a year found more than 70 active nests in the same areas. The Forest Service has now changed its tune, arguing that these forests are excellent vole habitat and because the species is thriving, there is no need to protect the voles in the Quartz Timber Sale area. 

Needless to say that the work that Reed and NEST do is imperative to the protection and understanding of these treasured old growth forest ecosystems. We are incredibly lucky to have them helping us defend Cascadia’s wild ecosystems in the forest, in the courts, and in the streets.  We will keep you posted on the Quartz Timber Sale.

Check out this short video on the red tree vole survey process!

Aug07

Deep Thoughts with Cascadia’s Summer Interns

Cascadia Raft Trip

Corinne Milinovich and Kristen Sabo, 2017 Summer Legal Interns

The 2017 Cascadia Wildlands summer was filled with countless Oregon adventures, great conversations, and monumental educational growth for us both. We had the privilege of drafting complaints and settlement memos, executing public information requests, drafting litigation memos, refining our legal research skills, drafting a northern spotted owl uplisting petition, and sitting in on settlement meetings and objection resolution meetings with government agencies. 

We were lucky enough to table for Cascadia Wildlands at multiple Oregon events, including the Northwest String Summit bluegrass festival outside of Portland and the Oregon Country Fair. We connected with new and old Cascadia Wildlands supporters, discussed the LNG pipeline, wolf populations in Oregon, and the Elliott State Forest victory.

Overall the summer was a huge success, and there were many highlights for both of us. In particular, the settlement meetings and legal drafting stood out. It was such a privilege to be at the table during the settlement meetings. Those experiences are truly invaluable and instrumental to our growth and understanding of the environmental legal world.

Throughout the summer, Nick gave us the opportunity to experience the Cascadia Wildlands litigation process on multiple levels and see full circle how an environmental lawsuit is successfully executed. As up-and-coming environmental lawyers, this summer internship has shaped our future, reinforcing our chosen career paths.
Our summer legal internship with Cascadia Wildlands allowed us to be present for tangible environmental victories, including but not limited to: saving the Elliott State Forest, preventing old-growth timber from being cut, preserving endangered species habitat and the passing of a suction dredge reform bill that prohibited suction dredging in essential salmonid habitat.

These victories, conversations with Cascadia supporters, and our expanded knowledge of the environmental legal world will guide us into our next year of law school. It was truly an honor to be a part of the Cascadia Wildlands family, this summer was an invaluable experience. A big thank you to Nick, Josh, Gabe, Kaley, Luke, and the Cascadia Wildlands community for an unforgettable summer!

Jul17

Field Checking the Quartz Timber Sale

 
The Quartz Timber Sale is an 847-acre logging project set to take place on our public lands in the Umpqua National Forest on the Cottage Grove Ranger District.  The proposed sale will commercially log and then burn forests up to 130 years in age.  Folks here at Cascadia were concerned about the potential short thrift given to the presence of northern spotted owls and red tree voles, both imperiled, old-forest dependent species.  We decided to get into the woods and see for ourselves what this patch of forest had to offer.
 
On our ground-truthing mission, we snaked our way through low elevation young forest.  As the road tangled its way through the trees and climbed in elevation, we came to a more traversable and level section of ground.  There we were able to hike through older parcels of the forest, lumbering around creek ravines and marveling at the larger old-growth trees that bared the scars of long-forgotten fires.  The combination of old-growth trees and younger trees creates a habitat that is ideal to many native Oregon species, including owls and voles. 
 
We concluded that it would be a shame to see these beautiful sections of forests heavily logged and roaded to facilitate commercial timber harvest on our public lands.  We hope you folks feel the same, and we encourage all of you to check out the sale yourselves.  Details on the Quartz Timber Sale are available here on the Forest Service website. Feel free to let the Forest Service know how you feel about this project.
 
Luke Mobley, Cascadia Summer Intern
Jul03

Press Release: Lawmakers Advance $100 Million in State Bonding Revenue to Keep the Elliott State Forest Public

For immediate release
July 3, 2017
Contact: Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands, 541-844-8182
 
On July 3 during a work session in Salem, the Capital Construction Subcommittee of the Joint Ways and Means Committee unanimously advanced $100 million in state bonding revenue to protect the 82,500-Elliott State Forest and keep it from being privatized. The vote followed a May 9 State Land Board meeting, where Governor Kate Brown, Treasurer Tobias Read, and Secretary of State Dennis Richardson voted 3-0 to keep the Elliott in public ownership through the use of state bonding capacity and the development of a Habitat Conservation Plan for the Coast Range forest. The full Ways and Means Committee is expected to pass the bill any day.
 
In 2016, the Elliott State Forest became threatened with privatization after a timber firm made a bid to purchase it from the State Land Board. Tens of thousands of Oregonians weighed in and opposed the privatization proposal, recognizing it would mean reduced public access and an increase in older forest clearcutting. It would have also set a dangerous precedent nationwide for other “underperforming” public lands.
 
The Elliott State Forest, located just east of Coos Bay, is a stronghold for imperiled Oregon Coast coho salmon and marbled murrelet, a seabird that flys inland to nest in the Coast Range’s remaining older forests. The Elliott, created in 1930 by Governor Oswald West and Oregon’s first State Forester Francis Elliott, is also a recreation hub for hunters, anglers and backcountry enthusiasts who value their public lands.
 
Statements from Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands’ Executive Director, on today’s vote:
 
"The fireworks and celebration started early this year. The outcome of today’s vote is a testament to the will of Oregonians who spoke loud and clear about the importance of keeping the Elliott State Forest in public ownership."
 
"This solution wouldn’t have happened without the leadership of Governor Kate Brown. Because of her vision, and the strong desire of Oregonians, the Elliott State Forest will stay in public ownership for its incredible values, and future generations of Oregonians will be forever grateful."
 
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Jun27

Suit Filed to Prevent Old-Growth Logging Near Rogue River

June 27, 2017

For Immediate Release

Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands (314) 482-3746

Medford BLM Old-Growth Timber Sale Faces Legal Challenge

Groups Oppose the Government Returning to Old-Growth Logging

RTV big §34Today a coalition of conservation organizations representing tens of thousands of Oregonians filed a lawsuit against the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) seeking to halt the “Lower Grave” old-growth timber sale located on the Grave Creek tributary to the Rogue River.  This illegal logging project proposes to log fire-resilient old-growth forests currently serving as a critical refuge for the northern spotted owl, Coho salmon and red tree voles.

“The last thing the Grave Creek Watershed needs is more old-growth logging, more clearcutting and more logging roads,” said George Sexton, Conservation Director for KS Wild. “Our public land managers should be bringing communities together to restore forests, but the BLM appears intent on going back to the days of ripping up watersheds and slicking off native forests.”

The timber sale marks a sharp departure from the BLM’s prior restoration efforts in the Rogue River Basin aimed at undoing past damage wrought by rampant clearcutting and extensive road construction over the previous century.  Medford BLM had been successfully implementing “dry forest restoration” timber sales based on the recommendations of foresters Drs. Norm Johnson and Jerry Franklin. These dry-forest restoration principles allowed to the BLM to offer substantial timber volume for sale, while increasing the resistance of these forest stands to large fires, largely without controversy.

“Our organizations repeatedly stressed to the BLM that there was a way for them to design this project to generate timber for sale and protect the large old-growth trees,” said Nick Cady with Cascadia Wildlands.  “The BLM replied that its mission was to maximize the cut.  That is not the agency’s mission. The BLM is placing no value on wildlife, clean water, and forest health that Oregonians hold dear.”

The BLM admits that the timber sale will increase fire hazard in the “regeneration harvest” logging units in which over 95% of the old-growth trees will be removed and replaced with dense tree-farms. The sale will also result in the “take” of a newly established spotted owl pair and its juveniles.

"The Lower Grave timber sale is based on the wrong priorities. This logging will degrade rather than restore our public forests that have already been logged too much," said Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild. "BLM's top priority should be careful restoration of the public values that flow from our public forests, including clean water, recreation, climate stability, fish & wildlife, and quality of life that underpins our diverse economy."

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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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