Featured Case: Marbled Murrelet

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.
Feb26

Kate Brown and Green Agendas

Eugene Weekly by Camilla Mortensen
 
While her previous position as Oregon’s secretary of state typically did not put her in the environmental spotlight, Oregon’s new Governor Kate Brown is no stranger to green agendas or protests. In summer of 2012, members of Cascadia Earth First! and Eugene’s own Cascadia Forest Defenders locked themselves together at Brown’s office at the state Capitol to call attention to logging in the Elliott State Forest.
 
As secretary of state, Brown was a member of the State Land Board, which governs the Elliott, and she will continue on the SLB as governor. Logging on state and federal lands is among the many green issues that Brown will be asked to take a position on in the coming months.
 
In addition to a law degree from Lewis and Clark, Brown has a BA in environmental conservation from the University of Colorado at Boulder.Elliott rainforest (photo by Cascadia Wildlands)
 
The media and GOP lawmakers have linked former governor John Kitzhaber’s downfall to his fiancée Cylvia Hayes’ clean energy work, and some predicted this would slow down climate bills in the Legislature, but so far that has not borne out. The clean fuels bill, a Kitzhaber priority that extends Oregon’s low-carbon fuel standard, has passed in the Oregon Senate.
 
“There might have been a scandal, but that doesn’t follow to Kate Brown,” says Doug Moore of the Oregon League of Conservation Voters (OLCV).
 
“I think we just have to be a little patient right now because folks in the Legislature are hurting; it’s a weird position for them to be regardless of party,” he says, adding that OLCV wants to give her “time to develop her own environmental agenda” and “do what she does best, which is think things through.”
 
Moore points to Brown’s legislative voting record, tracked by OLCV: In the 2007 session as a state senator she scored an 89 percent, and in 2005 and 2003 she scored a 67 percent. Before that, in 2001, she scored a 92, in 1999 a 93 percent and, in 1997, she scored 100 percent.
 
Moore says the fact that her “lifetime” average green voting scores were in the 80s is even more impressive, given that she was in the minority with the Republicans in power during much of her tenure.
 
Once Brown develops her agenda, Moore says OLCV hopes that “the number one issue is climate; it’s the environmental issue of our time.” He continues, “The victories we have had can all be undone if we don’t take action on climate.”
 
According to Moore, “Without states like Oregon to lead on climate, we won’t see action, and that’s not acceptable.”
 
And Oregon has a lot of areas where it can step up its efforts to slow human-caused global warming. Conservationists are fighting fossil fuel projects including coal export terminals, oil trains — such as the one that exploded in West Virginia last week — and liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals and their associated pipelines.
 
“Oregon’s billion-dollar sportfishing economy depends on clean water,” says Michael O’Leary, deputy director of the Northwest Steelheaders Association. “But we’re frighteningly unprepared to face the exponentially increasing risks of an oil train disaster along our waterways.”
 
O’Leary says, “We desperately need Gov. Brown to give the DEQ [Department of Environmental Quality] and ODOT [Oregon Department of Transportation] the tools they need to respond to — and to better prevent —  -these increasingly likely catastrophes.”
 
Josh Laughlin of Eugene-based Cascadia Wildlands, which has been fighting a natural gas pipeline and an LNG terminal in Coos Bay, says of Brown: “We definitely have high expectations in terms of her ability to be an environmental champion.” He calls LNG one of a “myriad of conservation issues squarely in her court.”
 
“Will she pull the plug on the reckless scheme to build a 230-mile natural gas pipeline?” he asks.
 
“The stakes are incredibly high on this one,” Laughlin says, “for wild salmon, clean water, climate stability and rural communities in southwest Oregon, which are being steamrolled by the fossil fuel industry and government regulators in terms of eminent domain and other scare tactics.”
 
Laughlin says Kitzhaber was “a mixed bag for us on our issues.” He says, “Some things he stepped up on, and on some things he was a real disappointment,” such as advocating for “ramping up the cut” on federal forestlands. On the other hand, he says, the former governor “helped broker a settlement setting up a plan for wolf recovery.”
 
He says Brown will have an opportunity to stand up for wolves, as Cascadia Wildlands expects “to see bills stripping protections for wolves and trying to kill wolves, as we do every session.”
 
Cascadia Wildlands is also keeping an eye on where Brown will go in her continued position as a member of the SLB and its governance over state lands. “On the Elliot she’s expressed a real interest in finding a conservation solution,” Laughlin says. “But the jury is still out in terms of what that means and what a solution looks like.”
 
He says, “The solution to us is very clear, and it’s beginning to gain more and more traction in Salem.” That solution, he says, is to “decouple the Elliott from the Common School Fund” so that the old growth in the coastal rain forest is no longer earmarked as a revenue for schools. “It makes no sense in this day and age to tie old-growth clearcutting to school funding,” he says.
 
Laughlin says Cascadia Wildlands would like to see Brown take a leadership role in terms of finding a solution. He asks, “Will she step up in finding a conservation solution Oregonians will be proud of?”
 
Lisa Arkin of Beyond Toxics, which is working to limit aerial sprays of pesticides on forestlands in Oregon, also has hope for Brown’s green credentials, pointing to her work on Oregon’s Sustainability Board and calling her “gung-ho” on seeking solutions.
 
During Kitzhaber’s three terms as governor, conservationists did not see improvements in Oregon’s weak Forest Practices Act, which governs logging and the use of pesticide sprays on private lands. Laughlin and Arkin hope Brown will change that and strengthen Oregon’s laws.
 
We have “high hopes in terms of her ability to be an environmental champion,” Laughlin says, “and hope she recognizes these issues we are working on are in the best interests of the Oregonians she represents.”
 
(photo of the Elliott State Forest by Cascadia Wildlands)
 
 
Nov06

Revenge Forestry: A Flare-up in the Elliott State Forest (an Excerpt)

October 14, 2014
by Jonathan Frochtzwajg, Oregon Business Magazine
 
When the Eugene-based timber company Seneca Jones made a $1.8 million bid on land in southern Oregon's Elliott State Forest earlier this year, it wasn't a business decision; it was personal. The 788-acre parcel (along with twoSeneca Clearcut at Dawn other parcels in the Elliott) had been put up for auction at the end of 2013.
 
Just before bidding was scheduled to end, the environmental group Cascadia Forest Defenders sent a letter to Seneca Jones and other Oregon timber companies.
 
Click here to view full article
 
Jun03

Lawsuit Launched to Protect Threatened Marbled Murrelets From Clearcutting on Liquidated Oregon State Forests

For Immediate Release, June 3, 2014
 
Contacts:    
 
Francis Eatherington, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 643-1309
Noah Greenwald, Center Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495
Bob Sallinger, Audubon Society of Portland, (503) 380-9728
 
Lawsuit Launched to Protect Threatened Marbled Murrelets From Clearcutting on Liquidated Oregon State Forests: Logging of Parcels Liquidated from Elliott State Forest Will Harm Marbled Murrelets, Other Wildlife, Water and People
 
mamu_fws
EUGENE, Ore.— Conservation groups filed a notice of intent to sue Seneca Jones and Scott Timber today to prevent the imminent clearcutting of three large parcels of Elliott State Forest lands that were recently sold to these companies. The notice presents evidence that the clearcut logging conducted by both companies will harm federally protected marbled murrelets, seabirds that come inland to nest and breed in mature and old-growth forests. The Endangered Species Act prohibits actions that injure or kill threatened species, including destruction of occupied habitat.
 
 In 2012 Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity and Audubon Society of Portland initiated a similar lawsuit against the Oregon Department of Forestry for clearcutting occupied murrelet habitat on the Elliott State Forest. The court stopped the logging of occupied mature forest, ultimately forcing the state to cancel 28 timber sales. 
 
"These parcels, which once belonged to all Oregonians, should never have been sold in the first place," said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity in Portland. "Now that they’ve been sold, we’re not going to allow them to be clearcut and contribute to the extinction of the unique marbled murrelet."
 
The Adams Ridge #1, Benson Ridge and East Hakki Ridge parcels are valued at $22.1 million. The state sold them to Seneca Jones and Scott Timber for $4.2 million. Clearcutting the parcels will hurt marbled murrelets by eliminating the trees they need for nesting and by fragmenting the forest, which leads to trees blowing down and increased predation of the birds and their nests.  
 
“This is just irresponsible behavior on behalf of the state and these companies,” said Francis Eatherington, conservation director with Cascadia Wildlands. “The state is proceeding with a plan to divest itself of these lands at an outrageous discount with the understanding that these corporations will clearcut these lands in plain violation and disregard for federal law.” 
 
Current research on marbled murrelet populations in the Pacific Northwest shows populations are declining every year and continued logging on the three state forests is a likely factor. If the state continues with its divestment of Elliott State Forest lands, this large sanctuary of mature forest will be lost, subjected to harsh clearcutting and pesticide spraying practices of the Oregon Forest Practices Act. Oregon is home to a vital part of the West Coast murrelet population, but if the state does not figure out an effective solution for the Elliott soon, the population declines could worsen.    
 
“It is time for the State to look for real solutions for the Elliott now that it has been forced to abandon decades of unsustainable, illegal logging practices,” said Audubon Conservation Director, Bob Sallinger. “Liquidating public lands at bargain basement prices is a non-solution and we are confident that clear-cut logging of the Elliott’s old growth forests remains illegal regardless of whether it is conducted by the State or private timber companies.
 
Recent, certified surveys conducted on all three of these parcels determined they were occupied by marbled murrelets. Although very elusive, the marbled murrelet, when observed below the forest canopy, is demonstrating that it is nesting in that forest stand. 
 
The conservation organizations — Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity and Audubon Society of Portland — are represented by outside counsel Daniel Kruse of Eugene, Tanya Sanerib of the Center for Biological Diversity, Nick Cady of Cascadia Wildlands, Chris Winter of the CRAG Law Center and Scott Jerger of Portland.
 
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May20

Murrelets Found at East Hakki Land Sale on Elliott State Forest

by the Coos Bay World
May 19
 
COOS BAY — The new owners of a controversial tract of South Coast forest land auctioned off this spring may face new obstacles to harvesting its timber.
 
Coast Range Forest Watch, an environmentalist group that conducts marbled murrelet surveys in the Elliott State Forest, says it’s recently detected murrelet nesting behavior in the East Hakki Ridge parcel.
 
The parcel was recently auctioned off to Eugene-based Seneca Jones Timber.
 
The Department of State Lands cited the declining value of the state’s Common School Fund, fed by timber proceeds from the Elliott,Marbled Murrelet -large as its motivation for the sales.
 
Forest Watch volunteer Amanda St. Martin said that in order to determine marbled murrelet nesting behavior, surveyors need to witness murrelets flying at or below canopy height in that area.
 
She said that May 13 and 14, volunteers saw just that.
 
“Two surveyors on two separate days saw them flying below canopy height,” St. Martin said. “That’s a pretty good indication that they need that area to nest or to get to their nest.”
 
Logging in identified marbled murrelet habitat in the Elliott was barred in 2012 under a federal district court injunction.
 
But East Hakki Ridge wasn’t covered by that injunction because it had never been surveyed for murrelet nesting activity.
St. Martin said the group is trying to change that.
 
“We have already submitted the data to Oregon Department of Forestry, Fish and Wildlife and the Department of State Lands,” she said.
 
The East Hakki Ridge is already the subject of a lawsuit filed by Cascadia Wildlands, the Portland Audubon Society and the Center for Biological Diversity.
 
The groups are seeking to have the parcel’s sale to Seneca Jones blocked on the grounds that state law prohibits the sale of state forest lands originally belonging to the federal government.

 

Apr21

Press Release: Suit Filed Challenging Sale of Elliott State Forest Land

For Immediate Release, April 21, 2014
 
Contact:  Francis Eatherington, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 643-1309
               Bob Sallinger, Audubon Society of Portland, (503) 380-9728
               Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495

 

EUGENE, Ore.— Conservation organizations filed a lawsuit and temporary restraining order today challenging the state of Oregon’s disposal of part of the 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest northeast of Coos Bay. The legal complaint submitted by Cascadia Wildlands, Audubon Society of Portland, and the Center for Biological Diversity identified the 788-acre East Hakki Ridge parcel as prohibited by law from being sold.

“Privatizing public land in this case is illegal and a bad deal for Oregonians who cherish these lands for hunting, sightseeing, the clean water they provide, and for the unique fish and wildlife habitat they offer,” said Francis Eatherington, conservation director with Cascadia Wildlands. “Instead of being greeted with welcome signs, Oregonians will now be confronted with locked gates and clearcuts.”

In 1957 the Oregon legislature enacted a law specifically to prevent this kind of disposal of the Elliott State Forest. ORS 530.450 withdraws from sale any lands on the Elliott State Forest that were national forest lands on February 25, 1913. The East Hakki Ridge parcel, located just south of the Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area east of Reedsport, falls within this category. According to the purchase and sale agreement dated April 15, 2014, the Seneca Jones Timber Company bought the parcel for $1,895,000 even though the state of Oregon valued the timber at $5,590,000.  Elliott Rally
 
“The state has illegally clearcut the Elliott for decades, and now that it has been forced to stop, it is engaging in an illegal selloff,” said Audubon Conservation Director Bob Sallinger. “It is time for the state to look for real solutions that protect the Elliott and address the needs of the Common School Fund.”
 
The privatization scheme is in direct response to a recent successful legal challenge brought by the conservation organizations, which greatly curtailed clearcutting in old-growth forests on the Elliott State Forest, where the threatened marbled murrelet nests. The imperiled seabird is unique in that it flies upwards of 40 miles inland to lay a single egg on a wide mossy limb in the region’s remaining older rainforests. Clearcutting of its habitat is the species’ primary limiting factor.
 
“The Elliott State Forest is critically important to the survival of the marbled murrelet, coho salmon, and hundreds of other species. It holds great promise for storing carbon to help insulate both people and wildlife from the devastation of climate change,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center. “It’s not in the best interest of Oregonians or the planet to sell the Elliott to the highest bidder to be converted to an industrial tree farm. There’s a path forward for the state to protect important habitat and generate revenue for schools in Oregon.”
 
The East Hakki Ridge parcel is one of five forested tracts the Department of State Lands has authorized for privatization. Combined, the parcels consist of approximately 2,700 acres of public land on the west side of the Elliott State Forest. One of the parcels being considered for disposal this fall contains the highest production of Endangered Species Act-listed coho salmon in the Oregon Coast Range, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and also is home to threatened marbled murrelets, according to survey data. And the state of Oregon has just revealed that it will soon be analyzing the possibility of selling off the entire Elliott State Forest.
 
Conservation organizations continue to urge the State Land Board, made up of Gov. John Kitzhaber, Secretary of State Kate Brown and Treasurer Ted Wheeler, as well as other state leaders in Salem, to pursue a solution for the Elliott that protects the unique forest and keeps it in public ownership while also satisfying the school fund mandate required by these lands.
 
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Mar13

Press Release: Conservation Groups Serve Timber Firms Notice of Intent to Sue over Elliott State Forest Privatization

For immediate release
March 13, 2014
 
Contacts:    Daniel Kruse, Attorney at Law, 541.337.5829
                   Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands, 541.844.8182
                   Bob Sallinger, Audubon Society of Portland, 503.380.9728
                   Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, 503.484.7495
 
Eugene, OR — Three conservation organizations filed a notice of intent today to sue any potential timber purchasers of nearly 3,000 acres of the Elliott State Forest recently authorized for sale by the State of Oregon. Audubon Society of Portland, Cascadia Wildlands and the Center for Biological Diversity argue that if timber companies knowingly buy and log the tracts that contain marbled murrelet habitat, they will be in violation of the federal Endangered Species Act.
 
“The state knows that it is illegal to log these lands, which is why they are proposing to sell them in the first place.  Any purchaser should be keenly aware of the liability associated with logging marbled murrelet habitat in these parcels, particularly since we have already obtained an injunction against the current owner,” said Daniel Kruse, attorney for the groups serving the notice. “We plan to prosecute anyone who would purchase and log this important habitat for marbled murrelets, just as we successfully prosecuted the state.”
 
The Endangered Species Act has a strict prohibition against “taking” listed species like the marbled murrelet, which was listed as Marbled Murrelet -largethreatened with extinction in 1992. Take is broadly defined to include harassing, harming or wounding a species on the endangered species list. Past court cases have shown that logging murrelet habitat causes take of the species.
 
The land disposal, which has a March 28 deadline for sealed bids, comes in response to recent marbled murrelet “take” litigation by the three conservation groups that resulted in a preliminary injunction against logging in occupied marbled murrelet habitat on the Elliott State Forest, followed by the cancelation of 26 timber sales in murrelet habitat on the forest and significant changes to the state’s murrelet protection policy. Marbled murrelets are unique among seabirds in that they nest on the wide branches of large, old trees, making a daily trip of up to 35 miles inland to bring fish to their young. Logging of their forested habitat is the primary threat to their survival.  
 
“Privatizing public forests that give Oregonians clean air and pure water is bad public policy,” said Francis Eatherington, conservation director with Cascadia Wildlands. “Moreover, these state forests anchor wild salmon runs and house endangered wildlife like the marbled murrelet which is in jeopardy of extinction.”
 
Conservation organizations have expressed significant concern with the amount of the minimum bids set for the parcels when compared to their actual value. According to the State of Oregon, the timber value of the parcels currently for sale is $12.5 million. The minimum bid is $3 million.
 
“It would be a tragic story if Big Timber ended up with stately tracts of pubic old-growth forests at rock bottom prices,” said Bob Sallinger, conservation director at the Audubon Society of Portland. “This would be a huge loss for the Oregon taxpayer who may well end up with nothing but clearcuts and muddy rivers.”
 
“By selling off a portion of Oregon’s oldest state forest to the highest bidder the state is not only putting threatened murrelets at risk but failing to protect the public’s highest interests,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We are determined to make sure the law is followed and these rare seabirds and their irreplaceable habitat are protected from the irreversible impacts of destructive logging.”
 
The 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest, overseen by the State Land Board, is located northeast of Coos Bay and has a mandate to produce revenue for county and state services. Rather than clearcut older trees on the forest to help fund schools and roads, the conservation organizations have long encouraged the State Land Board, made up of Secretary of State Kate Brown, Treasurer Ted Wheeler and Gov. John Kitzhaber, to pursue beneficial opportunities on the forest. The conservation groups recommend the sale of key habitat on the Elliott to land trusts or other conservation interests; a timber program that focuses on restoration thinning of dense plantation forests; or a combination of both.
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Feb06

State Stops Timber Sales to Help Bird

The Associated Press by Jeff Barnard
February 6, 2013
 
The state Department of Forestry has agreed to cancel more than two dozen timber sales on state forests because they threaten the survival of the marbled murrelet, a seabird that nests in large, old trees.
 
The proposed settlement filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Eugene comes in a lawsuit brought by three conservation groups, Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Audubon Society of Portland.
 
It alleged that the department violated the Endangered Species Act prohibiting the harming, or take, of a protected species by failing to protect stands of trees on the Elliott and other state forests where threatened marbled murrelets build their nests.
 
The murrelet is a robin-size bird that lives on the ocean and flies as far as 50 miles inland to nest in old growth forests. The bird was declared a threatened species about two decades ago, making it a factor in the continuing court and political battles over logging in the Northwest.
 
The settlement comes as the state has been trying to increase logging on state forests to provide more funding for schools and counties and more logs for local mills.
 
The Elliott State Forest, where the bulk of the canceled sales are located, typically provides millions of dollars to the Common School Fund. But in 2013 it cost the fund $2.8 million because of reduced logging, according to the Department of State Lands. The rest of the canceled sales are on the Tillamook and Clatsop state forests.
 
State Department of Forestry spokesman Dan Postrel said the department began canceling timber sales in 2012 as it revised its protection policy for the murrelet, and that the settlement wraps up a total of 28 timber sales.
 
Postrel said the department is reviewing science related to the murrelet to “help inform the best long-term plans and strategies.”
 
The state managed the Elliott for years by protecting habitat for threatened and endangered species such as the murrelet but scrapped that approach after federal biologists refused to approve revisions that allowed more logging. Instead, the state adopted a policy used by private timberland owners that refrains from logging where protected species are actually living.
 
The lawsuit argued that rather than preserving a large area of trees around a murrelet nest, the department was leaving small patches and clear-cutting close around them, leaving the nests vulnerable to attacks by jays and ravens that eat the young.
 
The birds are difficult to spot when they fly swiftly into a stand of trees at dawn. The nests are difficult to spot, as well. The eggs are laid in a mossy depression on a large branch high in a tree. Laughlin said the department also has agreed, in a separate action, to stop its practice of sending its own observers to verify murrelet sightings by a contractor, which conservation groups feel violates the accepted scientific protocol.
 
“This was an incredibly arbitrary and reckless process that we believe, in the past, led to loss of occupied murrelet habitat,” Laughlin said.
 
Oregon Forest Industries Council President Kristina McNitt said in an email that the organization was worried that the state may not be able to meet its obligations to the Common School Fund and counties after withdrawing the sales.
 
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