Strategic Litigation

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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Jan10

Lawsuit Launched to Protect Washington Rivers, Salmon from Destructive Suction Dredge Mining

Harmful Gold-mining Method Already Restricted in California, Oregon

For Immediate Release, January 10, 2017
 
Contact:
Gabriel Scott, Cascadia Wildlands (541) 434-1463 gscott@cascwild.org 
Jonathan Evans, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 844-7118, jevans@biologicaldiversity.org 
 
OLYMPIA, Wash.— Conservation groups filed a notice of intent today to sue the state of Washington for allowing highly destructive suction dredge mining in rivers and streams critical to endangered salmon and steelhead. The Washington Department of Wildlife approves the harmful recreational gold-mining technique in rivers throughout the state that are home to numerous imperiled fish species. Conservation and fisheries groups have also introduced bills in the state legislature to better monitor and regulate suction dredge mining.
 
“Suction dredge mining pollutes our waterways with toxic mercury, clouds streams with sediment, kills endangered fish and destroys irreplaceable cultural resources that are important to all Washingtonians,” said Jonathan Evans, environmental health legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This is a dirty, outdated form of mining that our families, waterways and wildlife shouldn’t be subjected to.”
 
Suction dredge mining uses large, gas-powered vacuums to suck up gravel on the bottom of rivers and streams in search of gold flakes. Miners target gravel beds critical to salmon spawning and reproduction and pollute waterways with sediment and toxic mercury and heavy metals in their search for gold. Suction dredge mining also threatens important cultural resources important to American Indians. 
 
“Suction dredge miners are killing endangered salmon and polluting our waterways and it needs to stop,” said Gabriel Scott, in-house counsel for Cascadia Wildlands. “We intend to enforce the law ourselves if the state won’t.” 
 
The harm done by suction dredging is well documented by scientists and government agencies. In recent years Oregon and California have halted suction dredge mining for gold in areas that are important for rivers and fisheries because of its damage to water quality and wildlife. In Idaho the EPA has stepped in to regulate the practice. Today’s notice, filed by the Center and Cascadia Wildlands, notifies Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife and Department of Ecology of ongoing violations of the Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act.
 
While the state doesn’t track individual mining locations, the majority of Washington’s rivers and streams are open to mining. Because the state of Washington has never squared state laws regulating suction dredge mining with the Endangered Species Act or Clean Water Act, two bills were introduced in the state legislature this week to better monitor and regulate the activity. House Bill 1077, introduced by Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-Seattle), would create important safeguards in environmentally sensitive areas to protect salmon and water quality. House Bill 1106, introduced by Rep. Gael Tarleton (D-Seattle), would require miners to comply with the Clean Water Act to reduce pollution when mining.
 
Numerous other commercial and recreational organizations have raised concerns that suction dredge and other motorized mining practices are disruptive and harmful to fishing. Statewide, commercial fisheries generate more than $1.6 billion annually and sport fishing generates more than $1.1 billion annually. Suction dredge mining also undermines the tens of millions of dollars invested in salmon recovery efforts in Washington.
 
For detailed mapping of rivers and streams with suction dredge mining or endangered fish habitat click here.
Dec20

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

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

Oregon Board of Forestry Reverses Course, Will Develop Murrelet Protections

For Immediate Release, December 1, 2016
 
Contacts:
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746, nick@cascwild.org
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495, ngreenwald@biologicaldiversity.org
 
Oregon Board of Forestry Reverses Course, Will Develop Murrelet Protections
Rulemaking Initiated to Protect Imperiled Seabird on State, Private Lands
 
EUGENE, Ore.— The Oregon Board of Forestry has reversed its prior decision to deny a petition from conservation groups that called for the identification and protection of marbled murrelet sites on state and private forest lands. The Board is now coordinating with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and other state land owning agencies to identify and protect important old-growth forest areas for the seabird threatened with extinction.
 
“It is reassuring to see the Board reverse course on this issue, especially given Oregon’s current efforts to sell off the Elliott State Forest,” said Nick Cady, legal director of Cascadia Wildlands. “The Elliott is a unique block of old-growth forest that is critical to the survival and recovery of this species, and should be the first area prioritized by the Board.”
 
Murrelets fly inland from the ocean to nest on wide, mossy limbs found in in the mature and old-growth forests of the Oregon Coast Range.  While most of Oregon’s coast range has been converted into industrial timberland that does not provide nesting habitat for the bird, the 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest, located in the coast range just east of Coos Bay, is a crucial block of older forest habitat and essential to the reproductive success of the species.
 
”The marbled murrelet is the only seabird in the world that nests in old-growth forests and needs our help to survive,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “I’m thrilled Oregon’s Board of Forestry is finally stepping up to provide protections to this imperiled bird and the forests it depends on.”
 
The petition to the Board of Forestry was filed Sept. 9th in conjunction with a petition to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to uplist the species’ protection status from “threatened” to “endangered.” Given recent efforts by federal land managers to gut protections for the species and the substantial amount of habitat on state and private lands, the Department of Fish and Wildlife granted the petition, but the Board of Forestry denied its petition. After the Board’s denial, conservation groups filed a Petition for Review and asked the Board to reconsider its decision in light of requirements under Oregon law related to imperiled species.  The Board convened a special meeting on November 29, 2016 and stated it “withdraws and reverses its August 1, 2016 order denying the Petition for Rulemaking, accepts the Petition for Rulemaking, and immediately commences the rulemaking process.”
 
“Deforestation throughout the Coast Range have reduced habitat for marbled murrelets to just a few islands of old growth in a sea of clearcuts and monoculture tree plantations,” said Steve Pedery, conservation director for Oregon Wild. “Oregon is already decades overdue in developing a meaningful plan for conserving murrelet habitat. They cannot wait another 30 years.”
 
While murrelets have been listed as a ‘threatened’ species for nearly 30 years, Oregon has never developed a plan to recover them or protect the old-growth habitat that they depend on, and instead, the state has relied on the nesting habitat located on nearby federal forestlands.  This is no longer sufficient as murrelet populations in the Pacific Northwest continue to decline, and a recent status review conducted by the US Fish and Wildlife Service determined that conservation of nesting habitat on state and private lands is now critical to the species’ survival.
 
The Petition to the Board of Forestry can be found here.
 
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Sep30

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

For Immediate Release
September 30, 2016
 
Contact: Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, 314-482-3746, nick@cascwild.org
              Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, 503-484-7495, ngreenwald@biologicaldiveristy.org
              Steve Pedery, Oregon Wild, 503-283-6343 ext. 212
              Bob Sallinger, Portland Audubon, 503-380-9728
 
Lawsuit Filed Against Oregon Board of Forestry for Failing to Protect Habitat for Threatened Marbled Murrelet
 
EUGENE, Ore.- Four conservation organizations filed suit today against the Oregon Board of Forestry over dismissal of a petition requesting the Board identify and protect important old-growth forest areas for the marbled murrelet, a seabird threatened with extinction.  Under Oregon law, the Board was supposed to have provided such protection after the seabird was protected as threatened under the state Endangered Species Act in 1987.  
 
“The state of Oregon is obligated to protect its threatened wildlife, and it is not doing that with this unique seabird,” said Nick Cady, legal director at Cascadia Wildlands. “It is way past time that protection measures for the species are instituted, otherwise the marbled murrelet will go the way of the passenger pigeon.” 
 
On Sept. 9 the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission granted a similar petition. The two agencies are required to work together to facilitate murrelet recovery and develop protection measures for occupied sites.  
 
The marbled murrelet was first listed as a threatened species in Oregon in 1987, and the listing of a species requires the Board of Forestry to conduct an inventory of species’ sites and develop rules to protect the sites from harmful forestry activities.  Clearcut logging of the murrelets’ nesting habitat on state and private forestlands in Oregon is the primary cause of the species decline.
 
“For the last thirty years, Oregon’s plan for marbled murrelets has been to look the other way while their habitat is clear-cut,” said Steve Pedery, conservation director at Oregon Wild. “Oregonians expect better from our governor and state agencies. They need to develop a plan to protect murrelets and their habitat, and they need to stand up to pressure from the clearcut lobby and the county politicians who do their bidding.”
 
While murrelets have been listed as a ‘threatened’ species for nearly 30 years, Oregon has never developed a plan to recover them or protect the old-growth habitat that they depend on. Instead the state has relied on the nesting habitat located on nearby federal forestlands. This is no longer sufficient as murrelet populations in the Pacific Northwest continue to decline, and a recent status review conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that conservation of nesting habitat on state and private lands is now critical to the species’ survival.
 
The Board of Forestry's decision to not even consider a petition to identify and protect old growth habitat for Marbled Murrelets once again demonstrates the board's indifference towards the plight of Marbled Murrelets and other old growth dependents species," said Bob Sallinger, Conservation Director for Audubon Society of Portland. "The Board has been ignoring its obligations under both state and federal law for decades even as the Marbled Murrelets numbers continue to plummet."
 
Murrelets fly inland from the ocean to nest on wide, mossy limbs found in the mature and old-growth forests of the Oregon Coast Range. A recent decision to ramp up clearcut logging of murrelet nesting habitat on Bureau of Land Management lands in western Oregon coupled with the state of Oregon’s proposal to privatize the 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest located, east of Coos Bay, underscore the need to develop habitat protections. A recent murrelet monitoring report produced by the U.S. Forest Service stressed the urgent need to “arrest the loss of suitable habitat on all lands, especially on non-federal lands in the relatively near term.”
 
“The Board of Forestry's management of the old-growth forests needed by the marbled murrelet and cherished by Oregonians across the political spectrum has been abysmal,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Board of Forestry and Gov. Kate Brown have a legal and moral responsibility to protect murrelets and their forest habitat, and need to take action to reverse the decline of the species."
 
Background: The marbled murrelet is a member of the auk family, which includes birds like auklets, guillemots and puffins. These sea-birds get their name from the marbling pattern of black, gray and white that covers their backs during the non-breeding season. When murrelets are breeding they molt to a plain brown plumage. They form lifelong breeding pairs and feed on small, schooling fish, such as herring.
 
Populations of marbled murrelets are closely tied to the amount of old forest habitat available for nesting. The central Oregon Coast is one of the last strongholds for murrelets. While forest practices have changed on federal lands managed by the Siuslaw National Forest, scientists warn that more needs to be done to protect murrelet habitat on state and private lands where logging practices continue to indiscriminately remove nesting habitat.
 
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Sep09

Press Release: Marbled Murrelet Moves One Step Closer to State Endangered Status, Stronger Protections

For Immediate Release
September 9, 2016
 
Contacts:
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746, nick@cascwild.org
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495, ngreenwald@biologicaldiversity.org
Bob Sallinger, Audubon Society of Portland, (503) 380-9728, bsallinger@audubonportland.org
 
EUGENE, Ore.— In response to a petition from Cascadia Wildlands and other conservation groups, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted 5-2 to initiate a review of the imperiled marbled murrelet to determine if it warrants uplisting from “threatened” to “endangered” under Oregon’s endangered species law. The commission has until June 21, 2017 to make the decision. If the murrelet is determined to be endangered, the state will need to develop protection measures that limit logging in remaining coastal old-growth forests where the seabirds nest.
 
“The science clearly shows the marbled murrelet needs help if it is going to persist as a species into the future,” said Nick Cady, legal director with Cascadia Wildlands. “The vote is a huge first step in recovering this unique seabird from the brink of extinction.”
 
The murrelet was awarded state protection as “threatened” in 1987, followed by federal protection in 1992. But the seabird has continued to decline, primarily because of continued loss of habitat, particularly on nonfederal lands, where a recent report found that murrelet habitat has declined by 27 percent since 1993.
 
“If the marbled murrelet is to have any chance of survival, we must protect Oregon’s remaining old-growth forests,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The state has not done enough to protect the murrelet's forested home on state and private lands, which cover substantial portions of the Coast Range.”
 
Despite the murrelet's continued decline, the state of Oregon is in the process of selling the 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest located east of Coos Bay. The Elliott contains large blocks of intact older forest habitat critical to the species’ survival.
 
“Even as the marbled murrelet moves closer to extinction, some of our elected officials are whistling past the graveyard,” said Bob Sallinger, conservation director at the Audubon Society of Portland. “At the same time that we are calling for the marbled murrelet to be uplisted, we are also calling on Gov. Kate Brown and state Treasurer Ted Wheeler to halt the sale of public lands on the Elliott State Forest which provide some of the best marbled murrelet habitat in Oregon.”
 
In addition to state lands, protecting remaining old forest on private industrial forestlands is critical to the species’ persistence. Overall, 41 percent of the murrelet's remaining habitat is on nonfederal lands.
While the marbled murrelet spends most of the year foraging in coastal waters, it is the only seabird that nests in trees, flying inland up to 35 miles to nest and rear its young during spring and summer each year.
 
The petition to uplist the murrelet to endangered was submitted in June by Cascadia Wildlands, Coast Range Forest Watch, the Center for Biological Diversity, Audubon Society of Portland, Oregon Wild and the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club.
 
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Aug25

Press Release: Lawsuit Filed to Protect Threatened Marbled Murrelet from Logging on Former Elliott State Forest

For Immediate Release, August 25, 2016
 
Contact:         Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746
                       Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495
                       Bob Sallinger, Portland Audubon, (503) 380-9728
 
Lawsuit Filed to Protect Threatened Marbled Murrelet from Logging on Former Elliott State Forest
Logging Highlights Controversy Over Ongoing Privatization of Public Forest
 
EUGENE, Ore.— Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity and Portland Audubon filed a lawsuit in federal court today seeking to block Scott Timber Company from logging a portion of a 355-acre parcel of land that until 2014 was part of the 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest and provides habitat for the threatened marbled murrelet. The Endangered Species Act strictly prohibits “take” (harm, harassment or killing) of threatened species like the murrelet, which, unlike any other seabird, nests on the wide branches of large, old trees, making a daily trip of up to 35 miles inland to bring fish to its young.
 
The groups are seeking emergency relief to stop logging that under state law could begin as soon as Sunday.
 
“It was illegal for the state of Oregon to log the marbled murrelet’s habitat and it is illegal for Scott Timber Company to do the same,” said Nick Cady, legal director at Cascadia Wildlands. “We intend to hold the landowner accountable to the law to ensure this imperiled species receives the protections it needs.”
 
In 2012 the three groups sued the state of Oregon for illegally logging marbled murrelet habitat on the Elliott and other state forests. The state settled the suit in 2014, agreeing to drop 26 timber sales and stop logging in occupied murrelet habitat. But following the loss, the state sold three parcels totaling 1,453 acres, even though they contained mature and old-growth forests that are occupied by the murrelet, including the 355-acre Benson Ridge parcel.
 
“By trying to log, then sell occupied marbled murrelet habitat, the state of Oregon has completely disregarded its duty to protect these unique birds and the remaining old-forest they need to survive,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center. “This shortsighted action on the part of the state not only endangers the survival of the birds, but shortchanges Oregonians who’re counting on the state to protect our natural heritage.”  
 
At the time of the sale, the groups notified Scott Timber and other buyers that in purchasing the land, they were taking over the responsibility of ensuring the survival of the murrelet, and that logging of its habitat would violate the Endangered Species Act. Scott Timber responded that it had no immediate plans to log the Benson Ridge parcel it had purchased, but has now proposed a timber sale in habitat where murrelets have been documented in recent years.
 
“The marbled murrelet has lost most of the old-growth habitat it needs to survive in the Oregon Coast Range and is facing degraded ocean conditions due to climate change and other factors,” said Bob Sallinger, conservation director at the Audubon Society of Portland. “Flagrant violations of the Endangered Species Act in addition to these factors are a recipe for disaster for these birds.”
 
The controversy over the Benson Ridge parcel exemplifies why the public is so outraged about the privatization of public lands. Currently Oregon’s State Land Board, made up of the governor, treasurer and secretary of state, is in the process of disposing of the rest of the Elliott State Forest.
 
“This unfortunate situation should send a clear message to Governor Kate Brown, Treasurer Ted Wheeler and Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins that further privatization of the Elliott will directly threaten imperiled salmon and wildlife, old-growth forests, recreation opportunities and other values that Oregonians hold dear,” said Cady. “Our leaders in Salem must stand up for Oregonians, and halt the ongoing privatization of the Elliott State Forest.”
 
In June the groups sent a petition to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife requesting uplisting of the murrelet from “threatened” to “endangered” under the state Endangered Species Act, and to the Board of Forestry requesting that it identify and protect important forest sites critical to the murrelet’s survival — a requirement of the state's endangered species law that has never been met.
                                                                    
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Cascadia Wildlands represents approximately 10,000 members and supporters and has a mission to educate, agitate and inspire a movement to protect and restore Cascadia’s wild ecosystems.
 
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
 
Audubon Society of Portland was founded in 1902 to promote the understanding, enjoyment and protection of native birds, other wildlife and their habitats. Today it represents over 16,000 members in Oregon.
Aug09

New Western Oregon Forest Management Plan Challenged

For immediate release
August 9, 2016

Contacts: 
Susan Jane Brown, Western Environmental Law Center, 503-680-5513, brown@westernlaw.org 
Todd True, Earthjustice, 206-343-7340, ext. 1030, ttrue@earthjustice.org 
John Kober, Pacific Rivers, 503-915-6677, john@pacificrivers.org 
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, 314-482-3746, nick@cascwild.org
Joseph Vaile, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, 541-488-5789, joseph@kswild.org
Doug Heiken, Oregon Wild, 541-344-0675, dh@oregonwild.org
Megan Birzell, The Wilderness Society, 206-348-3597, megan_birzell@tws.org

Stakeholder Groups Challenge Oregon Forest Management Plan
New Plan Sacrifices Clean Water, Fishing Economy, Carbon Storage, Recreational Opportunities

Eugene, Ore.— Late yesterday, a coalition of conservation and fishing groups challenged in the U.S. District Court in Oregon a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) forest management plan, finalized Friday, that would replace the scientifically sound, ecologically credible, and legally responsible 1994 Northwest Forest Plan on millions of acres in western Oregon. The new BLM plan, collectively known as the Resource Management Plans (RMPs) for Western Oregon, eliminates protections for streamside forests, increases clearcutting, and effectively removes 2.6 million acres of federally managed public forests from the requirements of the Northwest Forest Plan.

“BLM’s new plan would impact the quality of life of rural residents, drinking water quality, wildlife habitat, and carbon storage,” said Susan Jane Brown, staff attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center. “We need to get this right. We must protect special places that Oregonians love while we work to restore forests and watersheds. A holistic view should drive our public land decisions – not simply finding ways to maximize logging.”

Where the Northwest Forest Plan provided relative stability in Oregon's often-contentious forest management, its elimination on these lands has sowed substantial discord. Last week, timber industry groups also challenged the new BLM plan in Washington, D.C. court, thousands of miles from those who will be most affected by the new plan.

The conservation and fishing stakeholders in yesterday's challenge seek to maintain the protections of the Northwest Forest Plan and its science-based requirements, asserting that BLM's new RMPs violate the Oregon and California Lands Act (O&C Act), National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and Administrative Procedure Act (APA), and therefore fail to support multiple uses of Oregon forests managed by the BLM.

"BLM's new plan does a disservice to the years of great progress we've made in balancing timber, recreation, and conservation forest uses," said Nick Cady of Cascadia wildlands. "We can't allow the places we love and rely on to be put at risk by a bad plan. We can do so much better than this, and we must."

The RMPs would increase logging levels by 37 percent, which could boost carbon emissions and make forests less resilient to climate change and other disturbances. In addition, the RMPs fail to recognize how healthy forests bring economic benefits to the state, such as Oregon's $12.8 billion annual outdoor recreation industry, which supports 141,000 jobs and $955 million in state and local tax revenue.

Fishing organizations are highly concerned that the reduction in streamside forest protection could push imperiled species like salmon and steelhead further toward extinction. In southern Oregon, the BLM plan would remove the Applegate Adaptive Management Area that has enabled community members to play an active role in local land management decisions.

The BLM plan cuts corners scientifically and legally. It would cause significant harms to the plaintiff group, including:

  • Eliminating the strong water quality and habitat provisions of the Northwest Forest Plan, reducing streamside no-logging buffers by half or more (a loss of 300,000 acres of streamside reserves). These reductions threaten wild native fish, water quality, terrestrial wildlife, and aquatic recreational opportunities.
  • Introducing loopholes that would increase logging in older forest, termed late-successional reserves, and eliminate survey requirements for sensitive wildlife that depend on old forest habitat to thrive. In addition, the aforementioned 300,000 acres of riparian reserves, which had been intended to grow into old forest and bolster habitat for old forest species, is now fair game for logging.
  • Disempowering public input and involvement by removing BLM and the plan from collaborative Adaptive Management Area efforts.
  • Enacting the least ambitious carbon sequestration alternative analyzed. Over the next century, the status quo would sequester twice as much carbon.
  • Focusing on more intensive, clearcut-style logging on nearly half a million acres of forests, abandoning the direction towards restoration of forests and watersheds under the Northwest Forest Plan.
  • Designating additional recreation areas, in many of which logging and off-road motorized use take precedence and could diminish the types of quiet recreation the vast majority of Oregonians enjoy.

“We have been working with BLM for the last 15 years to develop restoration strategies for degraded forest lands. This has resulted in a successful program of thinning dense young forests to improve habitat, create jobs, and produce wood,” said Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild, “Now BLM is moving in the wrong direction by reducing protection for streamside forests and adopting new loopholes that put old-growth forests at risk.”

BLM first attempted to revise its resource management plans in 2008. That plan, the result of a sweetheart settlement between the Bush Administration and the timber industry, was withdrawn by the Obama Administration in 2009, resurrected by a federal judge in 2011 in response to a timber industry lawsuit, and finally rejected by a second federal judge in 2012.

A copy of the complaint is available here.

A copy of the Record of Decision for the BLM plan is available here.

A copy of the groups' protest is available here.

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Jul06

Oregon Wolf Delisting Challenge Reinstated by Court of Appeals

For Immediate Release
July 6, 2016
 
Contact:
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746, nick@cascwild.org    
Amaroq Weiss, Center for Biological Diversity, (707) 779-9613, aweiss@biologicaldiversity.org
Steve Pedery, Oregon Wild, (503) 283-6343 ext. 212, sp@oregonwild.org
      
Oregon Appeals Court Reinstates Legal Challenge to Premature Wolf Delisting
 
Photo taken July 6, 2013 of OR17 with a 2013 pup of the Imnaha pack.  Subadult wolves assist in the raising of the pups. Photo courtesy of ODFW. Download high resolution image.

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PORTLAND, Ore.— The Oregon Court of Appeals has ruled that Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity and Oregon Wild can proceed with their legal challenge to the state’s decision to prematurely strip endangered species protections from Oregon’s small population of gray wolves. Fewer than 120 of the animals are known to exist in the state.
 
“In no way should management of Oregon’s small population of recovering wolves be dictated by the livestock industry and its anti-wolf allies in Salem,” says Nick Cady, legal director with Cascadia Wildlands. “This ruling is a hopeful first step to ensure politics do not trump science when it comes to managing our treasured wildlife.”  
 
The ruling by the court late Tuesday reinstates a legal challenge filed in December by the conservation groups to last fall’s controversial 4-2 decision by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to strip state Endangered Species Act protections from gray wolves. Following that decision lobbyists with the livestock industry worked with several legislators during the 2016 legislature to pass House Bill 4040, a bill blocking judicial review of wolf delisting. Subsequent public records releases documented that despite public denials, the staff of Oregon Gov. Kate Brown was heavily involved in the legislation.
 
In April the conservation groups’ legal challenge was dismissed after the Oregon Department of Justice argued that the lawsuit was potentially moot due to H.B. 4040.  However, wolf advocates sought reconsideration by the court of this decision on the basis that H.B. 4040 was unconstitutional because it violated the separation of powers doctrine, among other issues.
 
In yesterday’s ruling Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals Erika Hadlock wrote that the issues presented by conservation advocates’ legal challenge “are complex matters of public importance” that deserve further consideration by the appellate court.
 
“Oregon’s wolves will now get their day in court to reveal the flawed process that stripped their protection,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Gov. Brown’s wildlife commission ignored the best science to illegally delist wolves, then her staff was actively involved in the passage of legislation to eliminate the public’s right to challenge that decision.”
 
The wildlife commission’s decision to delist wolves was based on an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife analysis of the state’s wolf population that numerous leading scientists characterized as severely flawed and illogical.
 
“Access to the courts to ensure that our government obeys its own laws is a cherished right of Oregonians,” said Steve Pedery, conservation director of Oregon Wild. “Using H.B. 4040, Gov. Brown, legislators and livestock industry lobbyists tried to revoke that right when it came to wolves, and now it appears to have backfired on them.”
 
The wolf advocates’ opening brief is due to the appellate court on Aug. 23.
 
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.
 
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
 
Oregon Wild was founded in 1974 and works to protect & restore Oregon’s wildlands, wildlife, and waters as an enduring legacy for future generations.
 
May16

Cascadia Wildlands and Conservation Allies Challenge BLM Forest Plans in Oregon

For Immediate Release
 May 16, 2016
 
Contacts:
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, 314-482-3746, nick@cascwild.org
Todd True, Earthjustice, 206-343-7340, ext. 1030, ttrue@earthjustice.org
Susan Jane Brown, Western Environmental Law Center, 503-680-5513, brown@westernlaw.org
Joseph Vaile, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, 541-488-5789, joseph@kswild.org  
Glen Spain, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, 541-689-2000, fish1ifr@aol.com
Steve Holmer, American Bird Conservancy, 202-888-7490, sholmer@abcbirds.org
John Kober, Pacific Rivers, 503-915-6677, john@pacificrivers.org
 
Groups Protest Oregon Timber Plan Riddled With Loopholes
Latest BLM Plan Increases Clearcutting and Dismantles Streamside Forest Protections for Clean Water, Salmon, and Communities
 
Washington D.C.—Today, Earthjustice and the Western Environmental Law Center, on behalf of 22 conservation and fishing groups, filed a formal protest with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) objecting to its proposed management plans for western Oregon. The BLM plan eliminates protections for streamside forests, increases clearcutting, and removes 2.6 million acres of these federally managed public forests from the 1994 Clinton Northwest Forest Plan.
 
The plan proposes to increase logging levels by 37 percent, which will boost carbon emissions and make the forest less resilient to climate change and other disturbances. But the fishing organizations are most concerned about the reduction in streamside forest protection.
 
“The last, best salmon habitat in Oregon is within these BLM-managed forests,” said Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA), a major fishing industry trade association that also joined the petition.  “Productive salmon streams are far more valuable for the salmon-related jobs they create than for the market value of the lumber you could generate from logging them. Stronger stream protection makes excellent economic sense, logging them does not!”  
 
“Clearcutting kills fish,” said Joseph Vaile of the  southern Oregon-based KS Wild. “We don’t need more clearcuts. We need common-sense management that protects our water sources, stores carbon in ancient forests, and keeps the public at the table.”
In southern Oregon, the BLM plan would remove the Applegate Adaptive Management Area that has enabled community input in land management.
 
BLM first attempted to revise its resource management plans in 2008. That plan, called the Western Oregon Plan Revision (WOPR and pronounced “whopper”), was the result of a sweetheart settlement between the Bush administration and the timber industry was withdrawn by the Obama administration in 2009, resurrected by a federal judge in 2011 in response to a timber industry lawsuit, and finally rejected by a second federal judge in 2012.
 
“The latest proposal is like a zombie in a bad horror movie,” said Todd True, an attorney with Earthjustice. “The Bush administration’s fatally flawed WOPR is back from the dead to open up protected forests to clear-cut logging.”
 
“This plan would  impact the quality of life of rural residents, drinking water quality, wildlife habitat, and carbon storage, needed to combat climate change,” said Susan Jane Brown, staff attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center. “We need to get this right. We must protect special places that Oregonians love while we work to restore forests and watersheds. A holistic view should drive our public land decisions — not simply finding ways to maximize logging.”
 
The BLM’s new management plan revision cuts corners scientifically and legally. It has significant problems, including:
•    The proposed plan eliminates the strong water quality and habitat provisions of the Northwest Forest Plan, reducing streamside no-logging buffers by half or more (a loss of 300,000 acres of streamside reserves). These reductions threaten wild native fish, water quality, terrestrial species, and aquatic recreational opportunities.
 
•    The proposed plan leaves many mature and old-growth forests and habitat unprotected. It includes loopholes for logging large and old trees, and would reduce buffers or eliminate survey requirements for sensitive wildlife that depend on old forest habitat.
 
•    BLM's chosen plan represents the least ambitious carbon sequestration alternative analyzed. Over the next century, the Northwest Forest Plan would sequester twice as much carbon.
 
•    The BLM’s plan focuses on more intensive, clearcut-style logging on nearly half a million acres of forests, abandoning the direction towards restoration of forests and watersheds under the Northwest Forest Plan.
 
•    While additional recreation areas are designated under the plan, in many of these areas logging and off-road motorized use take precedence and could diminish the types of recreation the vast majority of Oregonians enjoy.
 
“Years ago, many of the BLM lands were sacrifice zones, where logging, mining, and grazing were king. Then came the Northwest Forest Plan which established a sustainable balance between conservation and management,” said Nick Cady of Cascadia Wildlands. “Today, more people live and work in western Oregon because they were drawn to its recreational opportunities and amenity economy, not the extractive industries of the past. It’s time for the BLM to wake up and manage these lands as the vast majority of Oregonians and Americans demand.”
 
“The best available science shows that unsustainable logging of our public forests has harmed clean water and healthy streams, pushed wildlife toward extinction, contributed to global warming, and destroyed much of Oregon’s old-growth forests,” said Oregon Wild’s Doug Heiken. “BLM’s proposed plan is a throwback to this terrible legacy. Today, our public forests should be preserved to address new realities — the need to mitigate global warming, recover endangered species, protect clean water, and restore ecosystem function and resilience.”
 
“Over 1.8 million Oregonians rely on BLM lands for their drinking water,” said John Kober of Pacific Rivers. “Many of Oregon’s most iconic rivers, such as the Rogue, Umpqua and McKenzie are sustained by the highly effective aquatic protections that have been in place for over 20 years. Scrapping proven stream protections in order to increase timber harvest is simply too risky given the benefits that our rivers provide.”
 
A copy of the protest is available here.
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