Protecting Forests and Wild Places

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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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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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 
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