Posts Tagged ‘wild salmon’

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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Feb13

Response to Governor Brown’s Plan for the Elliott State Forest

Just days before the quarterly meeting of the State Land Board, Governor Brown released a framework for her plan for the Elliott State Forest. Though not an action item on the agenda for the Tuesday, February 14, 2017 Land Board meeting, the Board is set to hear an update on the potential sale of the forest from the Department of State Lands. The DSL staff report on the issue again asks the Board for direction on whether and how to proceed with privatizing the Elliott State Forest as described in a proposal submitted by Lone Rock Timber in December 2016. 

61316-6937-copy-2The Governor's plan would (1) keep the Elliott State Forest in public ownership, with either the state or tribes owning the land; (2) pursue $100 million in bonding to "immediately decouple a portion of the forest from Common School Fund trust lands," focusing on high value habitat, including riparian areas, steep slopes, and old growth stands; (3) pursue a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) with the Federal Services "that would allow for sustainable timber harvest while protecting endangered species," expecting to harvest an average of about 20 million board feet per year; and (4) "work with the tribes to regain ownership of their ancestral lands while protecting the Common School Fund."

Cascadia Wildlands is encourged by the Governor's leadership toward finding a lasting solution for the Elliott State Forest that maintains the forest in public ownership. There are still a number of details that need to be worked out and elaborated on, and we look forward to continuing to work toward a solution that safeguards all the public values of the forest, including protecting old growth and mature stands, wildlife habitat, clean air and water, and recreation. 

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.
Mar31

Lawsuit Challenges Frankenfish Approval

 
March 31, 2016
Media contacts:
Gabriel Scott, Alaska Legal Director, Cascadia Wildlands, 907-491-0856; gscott@cascwild.org
George Kimbrell, Senior Attorney, Center for Food Safety, 571-527-8618; gkimbrell@centerforfoodsafety.org
Brettny Hardy, Earthjustice, 415-217-2142; bhardy@earthjustice.org
Dune Lankard, Center for Biological Diversity, (907) 952-5265; dlankard@biologicaldiversity.org
 
Lawsuit Challenges FDA’s Approval of Genetically Engineered Salmon
Coalition of Fishing, Consumer, and Environmental Groups Say First-ever Approval of Laboratory-Created Food Animal Violated Laws and Ignored Risks to Wild Salmon and Fishing Communities 
 
SAN FRANCISCO, CA—A broad coalition of environmental, consumer, and commercial and recreational fishing organizations today sued the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approving the first-ever genetically engineered (GE) food animal, an Atlantic salmon engineered to grow quickly. The man-made salmon was created by AquaBounty Technologies, Inc. with DNA from three fish: Atlantic salmon, Pacific king salmon, and Arctic ocean eelpout. This marks the first time any government in the world has approved a GE animal for commercial sale and consumption.
 
The plaintiff coalition, jointly represented by legal counsel from Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice, includes Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Institute for Fisheries Resources, Golden Gate Salmon Association, Kennebec Reborn, Friends of Merrymeeting Bay, Ecology Action Centre, Food & Water Watch, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Cascadia Wildlands, and Center for Food Safety.
 
In approving the GE salmon, FDA determined it would not require labeling of the GE fish to let consumers know what they are buying, which led Congress to call for labeling in the 2016 omnibus spending bill. FDA’s approval also ignored comments from nearly 2 million people opposed to the approval because the agency failed to analyze and prevent the risks to wild salmon and the environment, as well as fishing communities, including the risk that GE salmon could escape and threaten endangered wild salmon stocks.
 
AquaBounty’s GE salmon will undertake a 5,000-mile journey to reach U.S. supermarkets. The company plans to produce the GE salmon eggs on Prince Edward Island, Canada. The GE salmon will then be grown to market-size in a facility in Panama, processed into fillets, and shipped to the U.S. for sale. That complicated scheme is only for the initial approval, however. AquaBounty has publicly announced plans to ultimately grow its GE fish in the U.S. rather than Panama, and sell it around the world. Despite this, FDA’s approval only considered the current plans for the far-flung facilities in Canada and Panama, leaving the risk of escape and contamination of U.S. salmon runs unstudied.
 
The lawsuit challenges FDA’s claim that it has authority to approve and regulate GE animals as “animal drugs” under the 1938 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Those provisions were meant to ensure the safety of veterinary drugs administered to treat disease in livestock and were not intended to address entirely new GE animals that can pass along their altered genes to the next generation. The approval of the GE salmon opens the door to other genetically engineered fish and shellfish, as well as chickens, cows, sheep, goats, rabbits and pigs that are reportedly in development.
 
The lawsuit also highlights FDA’s failure to protect the environment and consult wildlife agencies in its review process, as required by federal law. U.S. Atlantic salmon, and many populations of Pacific salmon, are protected by the Endangered Species Act and in danger of extinction. Salmon is a keystone species and unique runs have been treasured by residents for thousands of years. Diverse salmon runs today sustain thousands of American fishing families, and are highly valued in domestic markets as a healthy, domestic, “green” food.
 
When GE salmon escape or are accidentally released into the environment, the new species could threaten wild populations by mating with endangered salmon species, outcompeting them for scarce resources and habitat, and/or introducing new diseases. Studies have shown that there is a high risk for GE organisms to escape into the natural environment, and that GE salmon can crossbreed with native fish. Transgenic contamination has become common in the GE plant context, where contamination episodes have cost U.S. farmers billions of dollars over the past decade.  In wild organisms like fish, it could be even more damaging.
 
The world’s preeminent experts on GE fish and risk assessment, as well as biologists at U.S. wildlife agencies charged with protecting fish and wildlife heavily criticized the FDA decision for failing to evaluate these impacts. FDA ignored their concerns in the final approval. 
 
Statements from counsel and plaintiff coalition:
“FDA’s decision is as unlawful as it is irresponsible,” said George Kimbrell, senior attorney for Center for Food Safety and co-counsel for the plaintiffs. “This case is about protecting our fisheries and ocean ecosystems from the foreseeable harms of the first-ever GE fish, harms FDA refused to even consider, let alone prevent. But it’s also about the future of our food: FDA should not, and cannot, responsibly regulate this GE animal, nor any future GE animals, by treating them as drugs under a 1938 law.”
 
“FDA has not answered crucial questions about the environmental risks posed by these fish or what can happen when these fish escape,” said Earthjustice attorney Brettny Hardy and co-counsel for plaintiffs. “We need these answers now and the FDA must be held to a higher standard. We are talking about the mass production of a highly migratory GE fish that could threaten some of the last remaining wild salmon on the planet. This isn’t the time to skimp on analysis and simply hope for the best.”
 
“Atlantic salmon populations including our endangered Gulf of Maine fish are hanging on by a thread– they can’t afford additional threats posed by GE salmon,” said Ed Friedman from Friends of Merrymeeting Bay, one of the parties who successfully petitioned to classify most Maine Atlantic salmon as endangered. “The law requires agencies like FDA, who aren’t fisheries biologists, to get review and approval from scientists with that expertise. FDA’s refusal to do this before allowing commercialization of GE salmon is not only irresponsible, it violates the law.”
 
“On Prince Edward Island and across Atlantic Canada, indigenous peoples, anglers and community groups are working hard to protect and restore endangered salmon populations and rivers. Genetic contamination threatens all this work and in return there is little or no economic benefit to the region,” said Mark Butler, policy director at Ecology Action Centre in Nova Scotia.
 
There’s never been a farmed salmon that hasn’t eventually escaped into the natural environment. Why should we believe that long term, these frankenfish won’t be the same?” asked Golden Gate Salmon Association executive director John McManus.
 
“Once they escape, you can’t put these transgenic fish back in the bag. They’re manufactured to outgrow wild salmon, and if they cross-breed, it could have irreversible impacts on the natural world,” said Dune Lankard, a salmon fisherman and the Center for Biological Diversity’s Alaska representative. “This kind of dangerous tinkering could easily morph into a disaster for wild salmon that will be impossible to undo.”
 
“FDA’s action threatens and disrespects the wild salmon ecosystems, cultures and industries that are treasured here in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska,” said Gabriel Scott, Alaska legal director for Cascadia Wildlands. “These folks think a salmon is just a packet of protein, but we in Salmon Nation know better. From Alaska to California, Americans are intimately related with diverse runs of salmon and we’ve learned their unique attributes and incredible value. We’ve worked very hard to be good stewards of our natural heritage, and refuse to allow that to be undone by one company’s irresponsible experiment.”
 
“The FDA has failed to adequately examine the risks associated with transgenic salmon,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “The long term effects of people eating genetically modified foods have never been adequately addressed—and this GE salmon is no exception. This fish is unnecessary, so why take the risk?”
 
“It’s clear that the market has rejected GE salmon despite FDA’s reckless approval,” said Dana Perls, food and technology campaigner for Friends of the Earth. “Major retailers including Costco, Safeway and Kroger won’t sell it and polls show the vast majority of people don’t want to eat it. Yet under this approval it won’t be labeled, violating our fundamental right to know what we are feeding our families.”
 
 
 
Nov20

Cascadia Wildlands Joins Lawsuit to Protect Wild Salmon and Clean Water from Gold Mining

For Immediate Release, November 20, 2015
 
Contacts:
Forrest English, Rogue Riverkeeper, (541) 261-2030
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746
Jonathan Evans, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 844-7118
Glen Spain, PCFFA, (541) 689-2000
 
Conservation, Fishing Groups Move to Join Lawsuit to Protect Oregon From Gold Mining Impacts
Groups Defend Restrictions on Mining Practices Harmful to Salmon, Waterways, Wildlife
 
SpawningMEDFORD, Ore.— To defend an Oregon law designed to protect wildlife from damaging gold mining along waterways, a broad coalition of groups moved to intervene today in a lawsuit by mining interests challenging the restrictions. Passed by the Oregon Legislature in 2013, Senate Bill 838 placed restrictions on gold mining using suction dredges and other motorized equipment along streams to prevent harmful impacts to salmon and develop a permitting process to better protect Oregon’s waterways. Miners are now alleging that the state law conflicts with federal laws passed in the 1800s to encourage westward expansion.
 
“We are defending the state of Oregon and the choice by its residents to protect iconic waterways and scenic rivers from damaging mining practices,” said Nick Cady, legal director of Cascadia Wildlands. “Asserting there is a ‘right to mine’ granted by an antiquated law from the 1800s is simply ridiculous.”
 
Suction dredge mining involves the use of a large, gas-powered vacuum to suck up gravel on the bottom of rivers in search of gold flakes. This practice targets gravel beds critical to salmon spawning and reproduction, and damages water quality and river hydrology. Motorized mining along streams clears riparian vegetation important for keeping streams cool for salmon survival, increases erosion, damages streamside wetlands and alters the floodplain.
 
“Suction dredge mining pollutes our waterways with toxic mercury, clouds streams with sediment, hurts endangered fish and wildlife and destroys cultural resources,” said Jonathan Evans, environmental health legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Oregonians have the right to safeguard the health of their families, waterways and wildlife from this damaging, outdated form of mining.”
 
The bill does not ban the mining practices, but simply puts in place temporary restrictions to protect areas critical to salmon and bull trout reproduction. The restrictions buy the state time to develop a regulatory regime for the relatively new mining practice.
 
“Motorized mining in and along our sensitive salmon streams is harmful to fish and water quality,” said Forrest English with Rogue Riverkeeper. “It’s high time to put the brakes on these methods of mining until long term solutions are developed that protect clean water and habitat for salmon.”
 
Concerns over this mining practice were heightened when miners began targeting iconic and high-use Oregon waterways and their tributaries.  
 
“Several south coast salmon-rich rivers are under threat from heavy suction-dredge mining every summer, especially the world-famous Rogue River, the Chetco River and their tributaries,” said Cameron La Follette with Oregon Coast Alliance. “The salmon economy is critically important to local communities on the south coast such as Brookings and Gold Beach. Oregon must restrict suction dredging to protect salmon habitat, water quality and community livelihood."
 
There are also concerns by numerous commercial and recreational organizations that suction dredge and other motorized mining practices are disruptive and harmful to fishing, an industry that generates approximately $780 million a year in spending in Oregon.  
 
“Letting a handful of people suck up whole river bottoms looking for flecks of gold makes no economic sense, since it destroys salmon habitat and just puts more commercial fishing families out of work,” said Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, a major commercial fishing industry association that is also intervening. “Senate Bill 838’s passage by the legislature simply recognized that it is not a good idea for the state of Oregon to continue to use taxpayer money to heavily subsidize the destruction of our rivers.”
 
The groups are also looking to protect the public’s investment in salmon restoration.  Hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars have been expended to restore streams damaged by past mining and industrial practices. The use of suction dredges and motorized mining equipment has been undoing many of these efforts.
 
“Allowing gas-powered dredges and heavy equipment to damage our delicate salmon streams directly undermines the $254 million investment Oregonians have made in salmon habitat restoration,” said Mark Sherwood with the Native Fish Society. “Oregonians and wild salmon deserve better.”  
 
The intervening organizations include Rogue Riverkeeper, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations and Institute for Fisheries, the Center for Biological Diversity, Oregon Coast Alliance, Native Fish Society and Cascadia Wildlands. They are represented by Pete Frost of the Western Environmental Law Center and Roger Flynn of Western Mining Action Project.
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Jun12

Press Release: Logging Industry Lawsuit Thrown out by Federal Appeals Court

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 12, 2015
 
Contact:
Kristen Boyles, Earthjustice, 206-343-7340 x1033
Joseph Vaile, KS Wild, 541-488-5789
Doug Heiken, Oregon Wild, 541-344-0675
Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands, 541-844-8182
 
Washington, D.C. — A logging industry lawsuit that sought to force the Bureau of Land Management to increase logging on public lands in southwest Oregon was thrown out today by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. The ruling vacates a 2013 decision that would have forced the Bureau of Land Management to sell timber even when those sales would have harmed salmon and had detrimental impacts on water quality and recreation.
 
“The appellate court today threw out an unprecedented, unworkable, and backward decision that could have forced the Bureau of Land Management to violate its duties to manage these lands for water, air, wildlife, and people, not just clearcuts,” said Kristen Boyles, an attorney at Earthjustice. “This ruling should discourage logging companies from demanding to cut 100- year-old forests because no one person and no particular private logging company is entitled to log wherever it wants.”owl_photo
 
“Our public lands provide clean drinking water, protect wild salmon, and preserve water quality in our rivers, lakes, and streams. These lands are home to some of the last remaining ancient forests in America,” said Joseph Vaile of the Oregon-based Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands
Center. “We should focus on a responsible plan for these forests and leave a legacy for future generations.”
 
“Dinosaurs in logging industry have claimed for years that they should have priority over protecting old-growth, clean water, wildlife, and recreation on America’s public lands. For 20 years science, the law, and the public have been telling them no,” said Doug Heiken, Oregon Wild Conservation and Restoration Coordinator.
 
The logging companies had argued that a 1937 law required the Bureau of Land Management to sell large amounts of timber from the Medford and Roseburg districts in southwest Oregon, regardless of harm to water quality, recreational use, and wildlife and fish. In 2013, a district court judge in Washington, D.C. sided with the logging industry, despite contrary legal decisions from other federal courts in the Oregon and the west. Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Oregon Wild and Cascadia Wildlands appealed as interveners in the timber lawsuit. The D.C. Circuit maintained that the logging companies and logging lobbying groups had failed to show that they were actually harmed by any Bureau of Land Management actions and dismissed the case entirely.
 
"This is good news for those who believe in clean water and big trees," says Josh Laughlin with Cascadia Wildlands. "It also underscores the need to create lasting safeguards for these values that make western Oregon so special."
 
“A number of prominent politicians cited this logging industry lawsuit when they proposed legislation to weaken environmental protections and increase clearcutting on our public forests,” said Doug Heiken, Oregon Wild Conservation and Restoration Coordinator. “The perceived timber industry threat is now gone, and it’s time to put those outdated ideas behind us—time to focus on a balanced plan that recognizes all the public benefits that flow from our public forests: clean water, carbon storage, fish and wildlife, recreation, and quality of life.”
 
(Spotted owl photo by USFWS)
 
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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
 
Oct06

“Safeguard the Elliott!” — Come Testify at the October 8 North Bend Hearing

Kelsey:Sheena adjustedFuture management of the 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest located northeast of Coos Bay is at a pivotal crossroads. The State Land Board (made up of Governor John Kitzhaber, Treasurer Ted Wheeler, and Secretary Kate Brown) is the trustee of the Elliott and will be hosting a special "listening session" in North Bend on October 8 to take public testimony on the future management of the forest. There are a number of proposals currently being considered by the state, including a reckless one that would dispose of the entire Elliott to Big Timber. The session will provide a tremendous opportunity to encourage a conservation solution for the Elliott that safeguards the forest for its outstanding values, like clean water, wild salmon, carbon storage and recreational opportunities.
 
Special State Land Board "Listening Session" on the Elliott State Forest
Wednesday, October 8, 3-6 pm
Hales Performing Arts Center (1988 Newmark Ave.), North Bend, OR
 
Carpools from Portland, Eugene and west of Roseburg are being planned. For more information and to RSVP for the Portland carpool, email Micah Meskel. The Eugene carpool will leave at 12:30 pm from behind FedEx Office on 13th and Willamette St.. Email Josh Laughlin for more information and to RSVP. The carpool from west of Roseburg will leave at 1 pm. Email Francis Eatherington for meeting location and to RSVP.
 
Preparing your testimony: Please consider preparing three-minute (maximum) testimony on behalf of yourself or the organization you represent. You should also plan to leave a hard copy of your testimony with Land Board staff after you testify. If you can't make it to the meeting on October 8, consider submitting your comments to the Land Board by email.
 
Possible talking points include:
       Decouple old-growth clearcutting from school funding on the Elliott
       Protect the Elliott's remianing native forests, wild salmon and imperiled wildlife
       Safeguard the Elliott for its hunitng, fishing and recreational opportunities and potential
       Promote timber jobs on the forest by restoratively thinning the dense second-growth tree farms and enhancing fish and wildlife habitat
       Oppose the privatization of the Elliott State Forest
 
It is encouraged that you personalize your testimony and remind the State Land Board why the Elliott is so important to you or your organization. Thanks for speaking up for this outstanding public resource!
 
(School kids stand in the threatened Elliott State Forest. Photo by Josh Laughlin)
Sep02

Of Zombies, Zane Grey and Western Rivers

By Bob Ferris

Forlorn_River_Book_CoverI became convinced yesterday that actors who play zombies in movies learned their walking techniques from fly fishermen wading in swift rivers on slippery and slimy cobble.  I came to that conclusion as I “gingerly” crossed the North Fork of the Middle Fork of the Willamette River—it is all in the balance or lack thereof.  But this summer seems to have been a season of lessons taught or inspired by the rivers my wife and I roamed in July, August and September. 

Our first plans this summer were to go down the Wild and Scenic portion of the Rogue. Since this is the site of Zane Grey’s cabin and we tend to get regionally inspired recorded books for our trips we checked out Grey’s Forlorn River for a listen.  But this year’s fires forced a migration to the Lower Salmon and Snake Rivers of Idaho, Oregon and Washington.  As this was sort of last minute we still took the story of Ben Ide and Ina Blaine along with us for a listen.

Forlorn River is certainly about rustlers and romance but it is also about drought and the over-riding importance of water.  It is a tale of how little weather blimps—like a six-year drought—can make profound differences when it comes to the livelihoods and welfare of people and wildlife.  We got about a third through the CDs on our trip to the launch site at White Bird, Idaho.  Grey’s descriptions of fried landscapes and denuded slopes around a de-watered Tule Lake resonated as we rowed past hillside after hillside rich with cattle hoof prints and cow flops but much bereft of plant life.  

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We spent a layover day after our second day of raft rowing and the five of us in our party hid in the thorny locust trees and watched the REI thermometer top 112 degrees in the shade.  The steep, dark canyon walls seemed quite capable of turning our little refuge into the Neolithic equivalent of an easy-bake oven.  It made me think—as I often do—about the implications of climate change and the importance of doing all that we can to limit the use of fossil fuels.  Parboiling in our shady version of Hades somehow gives special validity to all our efforts to stop pipelines and coal terminals.  

We also ran into a BLM fellow during our series of siestas.  In amongst the chit-chat and his questions about our compliance with poop-rules and other river regulations, I asked him about suction dredgers on the Salmon.  His response was similar to other responses that I have received from other agency folks in that unarmed officers are understandably reticent to perform enforcement actions on heavily armed public lands users.  Strikes me as a sad state of affairs.

 
It is about weather but also water too.  Our boats clanked and clunked through the various rapids as they were festooned with water bottles of all ilks.   And you can tell a lot about people by their water bottles.  Ours bespoke folks who supported energy conservation programs in Oregon and Washington, wildlife preservation and organic farming—mostly metal, well used and dented.  These are the modern day equivalents of the saddle blanket-sided canteens of Ben and Ina’s days.  

IMG_5943
We drank deep and often in the searing heat along our 75-mile trip (see water bottle above from business partner Mountain Rose Herbs).  And it was so easy to imagine the craziness and desperation experienced by those without water in these conditions.  Our Tully’s and booney hats replaced the big, broad sombreros of the Forlorn River crew, but it was clear that without water their personal shade would be but a short stopgap.

IMG_5969
My thoughts returned to climate change again on our last night on the Snake—the day we rowed from Idaho to Oregon and then into Washington.  We stopped short of our goal on a tiny little beach because a head wind was beating the current and our rowing.  My friend Martin and I were building shoulders, but not making progress.  Tired as we were we both hopped up when we looked at the quickly blackening sky and scrambled to erect tents and batten down whatever “hatches” were open.  My wife questioned our haste and my bossiness as I shoved her and our gear into the tent, but when the angry skies unleashed the need for speed became readily apparent.  

Our once quiet, sweltering and a little buggy beach quickly became like the stormy deck of a besieged ship as the wind and rain whipped us.  I became a giant, wet tent stake as I held on to top of our tent to prevent ripped fabric and sprung poles.  Then the calm came and we took a breath only to have the trailing edges of the storm blow us just as hard in the other direction.   

IMG_5965
We emerged wet and much cooler, but suspected that gear from some camps that afternoon flew miles before stopping.  The bugs too were gone and there was a freshness felt.  But I could not help but think about storm intensity and climate change essentially: What have we wrought though our consumptive ways and how justified the sky is in giving us the grief it does.  

Following our return from the Salmon and Snake Rivers, the rest of Forlorn River CDs sat unspun until Carlene and I finally traveled down to the Rogue.  This time we went to go rafting from Hog Creek to Grave’s Creek with a bunch of environmental law students from University of Oregon.  When I say bunch I mean 70 or so.  This is always a rowdy trip and not because of the river which only slaps us with Class I & II rapids in this stretch.  It is a good float and nice to see this potential crop of environmental lawyers out in the habitats they will work so hard to protect in the future.  

It is also a time for discussions and bonding; for the river opens as well as it binds.  Paddling is a team sport as people have to paddle together to make progress and also have to develop both as leaders and followers to make it work in the manner that it should.  No one is going to die but there are consequences when it does not work.  It is also intriguing to see—one by one—why each of the students is there and what makes them special.  It could be the shy talker who belts out a ballad next to the campfire or the timid and hesitant leaper who seems hesitant to jump off the lower level of the rock plunge only to nail a bold backflip with a perfect entry.  I am along as mentor and guide, but in truth I do very little of either.  I learn much from the discussions and their commitment deepens my own resolve.

 
And again the CDs sit, but only for less than a day for we soon scoot off to spend an afternoon on the North Fork of the Middle Fork of the Willamette up past Westfir.  We are midway through Forlorn River at this point and we revel at Marvie Blaine’s enthusiasm over fishing as the rainbows stack up in the last spring holes of Forlorn River.  Knowing what I do about Zane Grey’s life and his dedication to angling, I suspect that there is a lot of him in young Marvie and his willingness to take a “licking” in pursuit of his passion.  I get that because I was bitten by the same bug.

The last spring hole is also a contemporarily appropriate metaphor.  We are in so many areas down to our last spring hole and the fish really have no place else to go.  In my own North Fork wading and wandering looking for that legal-sized keeper native, I stumbled onto about a dozen or so nearly yard-long salmonids beaten and bruised from their long journeys.  My emotions upon seeing these great fish were mixed.  I was at once excited and empathetic as well as depressed and resigned when it dawned on me that these fish—brave and majestic as they were—represented some of the problem and our folly as these were most likely summer run steelhead from hatcheries judging from their lack of adipose fins.  It is kind of like looking up a slope and seeing shapes you hope are elk and finding they are cattle—not completely the same but similar.  Elation and deflation.

The CD spun to romance as we drove home and a coming together for Ben and Ina with hopeful undertones for the triumph of good over evil and right over wrong.  I hope as we re-enter the world of wolves, O&C lands and salmon recovery that this Forlorn River theme can prevail.  We still have about twenty percent of the book to hear so we are obviously obligated to visit another river or two soon.  I wonder which waterway it will be and what lessons it will teach?  

Jul11

Suction Dredge Reform Bill Passes Legislature

Salem Statesman Journal by Zach Urness
July 8, 2013
 
A bill that would scale back the number of suction dredge mining permits issued in Oregon has passed the House and Senate and heads to the desk of Gov. John Kitzhaber, who is expected to sign the bill into law.
 
 
Senate Bill 838 restricts the number of permits to 850 statewide — the number issued in 2009 — and directs the governor’s office to create a regulatory framework for how, where and when suction dredging can occur. If revisions aren’t implemented in two years, a five-year moratorium on most salmon rivers would go into effect in January 2016.
 
 
The bill, which also limits the number of miners to one every 500 feet on a river and prohibits mining in salmon spawning areas year-round, passed the House 33-27 on Sunday and the Senate 17-13 on July 3.
The bill was spurred by a sharp increase in suction dredge mining on Oregon’s rivers, most noticeably in the southwest on the Rogue and South Umpqua. The number of permits issued jumped from 414 in 2005 to 2,409 in 2012, due largely to a moratorium issued by California in 2009 and the skyrocketing price of gold during the recession.
 
 
Proponents of the bill claimed that section dredges, large gasoline-powered vacuums that suck gravel from stream bottoms and run it through a device that collects minerals such as gold flecks, is damaging to salmon habitat and water quality.
 
 
Miners contend that the practice is harmless — that natural high water events alter stream beds far more than mining — and actually improve fish habitat by breaking up stream bottoms for spawning and removing harmful metals such as mercury.
 
 
“They’re basically killing off an industry,” said Robert Stumbo, who owns the Armadillo Mining Shop in Grants Pass. “Our suction dredge sales have dropped to zero with just the threat of this bill. You can’t grow a business with only 850 permits being issued. Miners that live outside the state won’t be able to come in and work their claim.
 
 
“This bill is not about harming fishing; it’s a personal vendetta against miners.”
Environmental groups say the law provides a chance to step back and come up with common-sense regulations while still allowing miners the chance to use suction dredges. The law gives preference to miners who held permits in 2009, which would largely favor Oregonians.
 
 
“There will be over two years of public process to ensure that these new regulations are well thought out, scientifically based and effective,” said Josh Laughlin of Cascadia Wildlands. “This is a fair and balanced process that will benefit clean water and salmon into the future.”
 
 
The bill is something of a compromise, considering the original called for a statewide moratorium.
 
 
"This legislation doesn’t solve the problem,” said Erik Fernandez of Oregon Wild, a Portland-based conservation group. “But it’s an important step forward in dealing with the invasion of Californians looking to mine Oregon rivers.”
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