Legislative Update – Wolves, Cougars and Forests edition – February 2012

February 7, 2012

The Oregon State Capitol in Salem.

The Oregon Legislature is meeting for just one month this year, and is expected to be wrapped up with its work by early March. With significant budget challenges and very little time, it is disappointing to see that a number of legislators have chosen to focus their attention on controversial proposals that weaken protections for Oregon’s environment.

The legislature has taken up bills to reduce protections for endangered wolves and elusive mountain lions, mandate high logging levels on state forests, and calling for increased clearcutting on federal lands.

Here’s a sampling of some of the worst bills the Oregon Legislature is spending its short February session debating. As of March 1, the Sierra Club had succeeded in blocking three of the four following bills, with only the non-binding SJM 201 passing.

HB 4158 – Killing Endangered Wolves to Protect Livestock

HB 4158 was introduced at the request of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association and is specifically intended to overturn an environmental lawsuit over the state’s current approach of killing wolves believed to be involved in attacks on livestock. In the fall of 2011, a judge blocked a state kill order targeting two wolves in NE Oregon’s Imnaha pack, including the pack’s ‘alpha’ male, which would result in functional elimination of the first wolf pack to begin breeding in Oregon in more than six decades. One of the Imnaha pack’s offspring (OR-7, also known as ‘Journey’) has captured international attention in its 1000 mile dispersal into western Oregon and northern California. While Oregon’s Wolf Management Plan allows the state to kill wolves involved in ‘chronic’ livestock depredation, many have argued that the state and ranchers are not taking significant enough non-lethal measures to prevent wolf/livestock conflicts before resorting to lethal control of Oregon’s endangered wolf population. There are currently fewer than 30 wolves in Oregon. 

HB 4098 – Maximizing State Forest Clearcutting

HB 4098 would drastically change management on more than 500,000 acres of the Tillamook, Clatsop and Santiam State Forests to make timber production the dominant use. This would have significant negative impacts to water quality, recreation, and salmon recovery and mark a significant rollback of current state forest management plans which require a more balanced approach between logging and other uses of state lands. The bill specifically mandates that annual logging levels on state forest lands be ’95 percent of the annual amount of harvestable timber expected to be grown on state forest lands.’ It would run directly counter to an initiative announced by Governor Kitzhaber in November 2011 to create long-term protected areas on state lands designed to prevent logging on high conservation value lands in state forests. This bill, in contrast, would essentially maximize logging and roadbuilding on publicly owned state forest lands at the expense of fish, wildlife, recreation, clean water and carbon sequestration beginning in January, 2013.

HB 4119 – Hound Hunting of Cougars

HB 4119 creates a ‘pilot program’ to allow hunters using one or more dogs to pursue cougars in order ‘to reduce cougar conflicts and to assess cougar populations.’ This unsportsmanlike practice has been banned in Oregon since 1994, and nearly every legislative session since proponents of hound hunting have tried to weaken the ban. This bill allows counties to request inclusion in the pilot project, which could effectively bring back hound hunting across much of the state. This bill, and the others before it, are based on the false assumption that Oregon has a cougar over-population problem and that bringing back hound hunting is the only tool to protect the public. However, there are currently more cougars killed each year now by hunters than there were before the hound hunting ban was instituted in 1994, and the state has numerous tools at its disposal to target the occasional problem cougar that wanders to close to human communities, including the use of dogs by state agents. This bill is an effort to make hound hunting a recreational practice aimed at reducing overall cougar numbers, rather than a judiciously used management tool at the disposal of state agents to address specific problem animals.

SJM 201 – Local Control Over BLM Forests to Increase Logging

Senate Joint Memorial 201 calls on the US Congress and President to hand over roughly 2.2 million acres of western Oregon Bureau of Land Management forestland to western Oregon counties so that they can exercise management authority. While little more than a letter to the President and Congress, SJM 201 contains a number of far-fetched claims, including that strategies to protect forests on BLM lands have led to increased greenhouse gas emissions from these forests (the opposite is true) and that that local control of these lands by counties and private interests will lead to balanced management of these lands to benefit the public interest. Local control would in fact likely be an environmental disaster, with a return to large-scale clearcutting that has put many runs of coastal salmon on the list of threatened and endangered species. Western Oregon BLM lands contain roughly 1 million acres of old growth forest unlikely to be protected should these lands fall into control of Oregon counties and timber companies, whose goal would be to manage them for revenue production.


Hike the Tillamook State Forest!

September 12, 2011

Late summer, in the weeks following Labor Day, is often one of the best times to get out hiking and camping in Oregon. Summer weekend crowds have typically died down and the days are still relatively long, allowing us to make the most out of the last summery weekends before we don the rain gear once again.

As part of our efforts to highlight and protect Oregon’s Tillamook State Forest, we’d like to make available online some hikes currently contained in the hard-to-find book ’50 Hikes in the Tillamook State Forest,’ published by the Tillamook State Forest Committee of the Columbia Group Sierra Club in 2001.

This month, we’ll focus on trails around Kings Mountain. At 3,226 ft in elevation, Kings Mountain is among the higher points in the Tillamook State Forest, allowing great views of numerous Cascade peaks on a clear day, surrounding forest deserving of protection, and maybe even some late summer wildflowers in the alpine meadows, or elusive elk. Once the winter snows hit, Kings Mountain will be inaccessible until next year.

Very accessible from the Portland area, the Kings Mountain trailhead is located on the north side of Highway 6 near milepost 25. Check out our slide show from the June 2010 Sierra Club outing to the Kings Mountain Jr. loop trail.

Here’s a link to a pdf of the official Oregon Department of Forestry 2-page trail guide for Kings Mountain area trails. (1 MB)

From the Sierra Club’s ’50 Hikes in the Tillamook State Forest’ (pdfs roughly 1MB each)

Hike #9 – Kings Mountain

Hike #10 – Kings Mountain – Coxcomb Ridge

Hike #11 – Kings Mountain – East Ridge

Hike #12 – Kings Mountain Jr.

Enjoy! And if you are inspired to get involved or help us field check some of the hikes in our hike book, please email ivan.maluski@sierraclub.org or visit our forest protection web page for more information on the Sierra Club’s efforts to protect special places like Kings Mountain in the Tillamook State Forest.

You can also sign our petition to Governor Kitzhaber calling for the creation of conservation areas in the Tillamook and other state forests that would be protected from logging and road building.


Wyden launches surprising attacks on Clean Air and Clean Water Acts

July 27, 2011

Polluted runoff from logging roads is a major threat to clean water according to the Environmental Protection Agency

As reported in the Oregonian newspaper, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden is taking a strong stand against enforcing the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act in order to protect the timber industry from having to address air and water pollution associated with some of their operations.

Wyden has introduced legislation to overturn an Oregon court decision which says that when clean water and salmon streams are being sullied with polluted runoff from logging roads, it requires a permit under the Clean Water Act and action by landowners to address the pollution and fix their roads to better protect water quality. The case stems from heavily used logging roads in Oregon’s Tillamook State Forest which discharge polluted water directly into key salmon streams. Oregon Congressman Kurt Schrader has introduced similar legislation in the House of Representatives.

According to a July 1 letter from the US Environmental Protection Agency to Members of Congress, the decision applies to forest roads primarily used for logging and which discharge stormwater through ditches, culverts or channels directly in streams and rivers. Roads in particular have been found by EPA to contribute up to 90 percent of the total sediment load from forestry activities. The Sierra Club and 24 other organizations issued a statement opposing Wyden’s ‘dirty water’ legislation last week.

Wyden’s other legislation is meant to delay implementation of the Clean Air Act for industrial incinerators and boilers, which spew particulate matter into the air that harms public health. While Wyden is seeking a multi-year delay of implementation of the long-awaited rules in order to protect biomass boilers from regulation, his legislation broadly exempts the burning of many toxic materials from the Clear Air Act for years to come. The Sierra Club first brought suit to enforce the Clean Air Act on polluting boilers a decade ago.

Please email Senator Wyden TODAY to protect the Clean Water Act and send a message that you oppose his unprecedented attacks on two of our nation’s bedrock environmental and public health laws. Also, please contact his offices in Washington, DC at 202-224-5244, or in Portland at 503-326-7525.


State Legislative Update – End of Session Edition

June 16, 2011

The Oregon State Capitol in Salem.

The 2011 Oregon Legislature is entering its final days. Scheduled to wrap up work by June 30, some are predicting the session will end as early as the week of June 20. Many major budget bills are done and on the way to the Governor’s desk. The Sierra Club will be scoring the votes of legislators and the legislature as a whole once the session is over, but based on work completed so far, this is shaping up to be a fairly lackluster session for the environment.

While there have been some positive accomplishments, most notably a significant overhaul of Oregon’s bottle bill, and strong prospects for passage of school weatherization legislation early next week (see below), the Sierra Club and other conservation groups have had to focus on defense, stopping bad bills that would: ramp up unsustainable logging on state forests; make it easier to shoot wolves; overturn voter approved bans on hunting cougars with dogs; stop the DEQ from adopting new water quality protection rules; exempt biomass energy from greenhouse gas reporting programs; and expedite state permitting for proposed LNG pipelines.

Meanwhile, many positive bills have stalled, including a ban on single use plastic bags; an expansion of Oregon’s marine reserve system; a ban on the toxic chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) in children’s food containers; the creation of a system of protected conservation areas on state lands; and an effort create jobs through energy efficiency in residential and commercial buildings.

Despite this, a key priority of the Sierra Club and Governor John Kitzhaber is on the right path in the legislature’s last days. HB 2960, the ‘cool schools’ bill, will set up a fund to allow schools across the state to weatherize and upgrade their heating and cooling systems. This will create jobs, save school districts money on utility bills over the long term so that more money can be invested in education, and make schools more comfortable and better learning environments for kids. This bill passed the House early last week, and is scheduled for a vote in the Senate Monday, June 20. Please email your Senators in support of HB 2960 TODAY!

Thank you for your support this legislative session. Check out our legislative tracker for more specific status updates on a range of environmental bills we’ve worked on this session.


Protect Oregon’s Forests from Logging Road Pollution

June 16, 2011

A stand of trees proposed for clearcutting this year in the Clatsop State Forest near the Oregon Coast.

Logging roads are a major source of pollution in Oregon’s rivers and streams. They push sediment into water, suffocating salmon and sullying drinking water sources when they are constructed, but they also divert sediment into clean water sources, particularly when being actively used by logging trucks. In a recent court ruling stemming from extensive logging road pollution in the Tillamook State Forest, judges agreed with conservation groups that logging road pollution needs to be regulated under the Clean Water Act. Now, the timber industry is mounting an aggressive campaign to convince Congress to overturn this ruling and exempt logging road pollution from the nation’s most effective water protection law.

Please take a moment to contact Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, as well as your member of Congress, and urge them to take a stand in defense of Oregon’s clean water, and resist efforts by the timber industry to secure a broad exemption for logging road pollution from the Clean Water Act.

This issue affects logging roads across private and federal lands, but importantly, it also affects the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests, which are already crisscrossed by logging roads, and where plans call for roughly 100,000 acres of new clearcutting in coming years, and extensive new logging road construction. Recently, these plans were criticized by an independent science review team from Oregon State University because they are not based on the best available science.

In Oregon, based on information the state submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency in 2006, sediment was the second leading cause of pollution in rivers and streams, accounting for almost 12,000 miles of streams threatened or impaired. More than 80,000 acres of lakes, reservoirs and ponds were threatened or impaired by sediments. Sediments were the third leading cause of lake pollution. While not all of this sediment was generated by logging roads, the roads are a major contributor, particularly in the places like the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests.

Its time for the Oregon Department of Forestry and timber industry to face up to the fact that logging road pollution harms our rivers and streams. Please contact Senators Wyden and Merkley today to ensure that the timber industry isn’t successful in getting an exemption from the Clean Water Act.


State Forest Protection Campaign Heats Up

May 20, 2011

A stand of trees proposed for clearcutting this year in the Clatsop State Forest near the Oregon Coast.

The Sierra Club’s campaign to protect Oregon’s State Forests from unsustainable logging is heating up!

At the April 29 Board of Forestry meeting, an independent science review team from Oregon State University’s Institute for Natural Resources presented their analysis of the controversial ‘species of concern’ management strategy and new ‘performance measures’ for the Tillamook and Clatstop State Forests. The species of concern strategy and new performance measures are being used to justify substantial reductions in older forest habitat across the landscape, and less protection for species.  The report was scathing, noting that the Department of Forestry consistently failed to used the ‘best available science.’

Then, on May 11 the Clatsop County Commission voted to send a letter to the Oregon Board of Forestry calling for them to use the ‘best available science’ in decision making and pressing for a more balanced approach to management in the Clatsop State Forest than what is currently in draft 10-year implementation plans the Board is considering. Because Clatsop County receives more money from logging state forests than any other county, their call or sound science and balance is a very big deal and marks a break from neighboring Tillamook County which has led the call for weakening forest protection rules along with the timber industry.

Now, the Oregon Department of Forestry is taking comments until 5pm, Wednesday, May 25 on the Annual Operations Plan and 10-year Implementation Plan for much of the Tillamook and Clatstop State Forests. These plans call for major increases in clearcutting and roadbuilding by significantly reducing protection for older forests, and as noted above, the science behind these plans has been harshly criticized by an independent science review. It’s time to send these plans back to the drawing board.

Comments are due no later than 5 pm, Wednesday, May 25. Please send in your comments TODAY by clicking here.

Read the six-page comments submitted by the Sierra Club and seven other conservation organizations by clicking here.

Lastly, we are pleased to announce a number of Sierra Club State Forest Summer Outings. These outings will give you a chance to get out into the Tillamook and Clatsop Forests, hike some of the beautiful trails, and visit some of the special places on these state lands. Upcoming hikes include:

Saturday, May 21 – Wilson River Trail; moderate, 6.6 miles round trip

Saturday, June 25 – Kings Mountain Trail; strenuous, 5.4 mile round trip, but worth it for the views!

Sunday, July 24 – Saddle Mountain Trail; strenuous, 5.9 mile round trip, a Tillamook forest icon. 

For more information on these hikes, contact ivan.maluski@sierraclub.org or 503-238-0442 x304.


State Legislative Update – May/June 2011

May 20, 2011

With only about one month left in the 2011 Oregon Legislative session, things are really heating up. Here’s the latest on a few of the issues we’re most focused on in Salem:

LNG pipelines – HB 2700 B – on Monday, May 23 at 3pm, the Senate Business, Transportation and Economic Development Committee will be holding a vote on HB 2700B and deciding whether to amend it or not. If the bill passes out of committee, it could be up for a vote on the Senate floor by the end of the week. This bill would expedite the application process for numerous ‘linear utilities,’ most notably controversial LNG pipelines. Please click here to send an email to your State Senator urging them to amend HB 2700B to exclude LNG pipelines, or vote against the bill.

Banning Single Use Plastic Bags – SB 536 - SB 536 is currently awaiting action in the Rules  Committee – it is reported to be only one vote short of passing in the Senate. Click here to send an email to your Senator today and urge them to vote ‘YES’ on SB 536. The ‘ban the bag’ bill is facing stiff opposition from out-of-state chemical companies that make plastic bags. Oregonians currently use over 1.7 billion disposable single-use plastic bags each year. These bags often end up in landfills or our roadsides, rivers and streams. Even so-called ‘recyclable’ plastic bags are often shipped overseas where they may end up clogging landfills, entering the Pacific Ocean, or being incinerated.

Energy Efficiency in Schools – HB 2960 – Sets up a new Clean Energy Deployment program to provide grants and loans for weatherization upgrades in K-12 schools across Oregon. Such a program would increase jobs in the weatherization industry while reducing energy consumption and saving school districts money on energy bills. A top priority of Governor Kitzhaber’s, this bill awaits action in the Ways and Means Committee, and is scheduled for a hearing and possible action on May 24. Please contact your State Legislators today to urge the passage of HB 2960 to help create jobs in energy efficiency in schools.

Banning Bisphenol A (BPA) from children’s drinking containers – SB 695SB 695 passed the Senate in early April (20-9) and received a public hearing in the House Energy, Environment and Water Committee on May 10. It is now stalled and needs your support to secure a vote in the Oregon House. Send an email to your legislators today urging them to vote ‘YES’ on SB 695. BPA is a synthetic estrogen that is used to make plastic bottles and food can linings. BPA in containers can leach into foods and liquids, and growing children are especially vulnerable to its harmful effects. This bipartisan legislation would ban BPA from baby bottles, infant formula containers, and water bottles, while requiring labeling of canned foods that are lined with BPA.  Even small amounts of BPA can be harmful and numerous scientific studies have linked the chemical – banned in Canada, the European Union and nine states – to health issues such as abnormal brain development, early onset of puberty, and low sperm counts in men.

State Forests – HB 2001 and more – HB 2001 would make timber production the primary purpose of publicly owned state lands like the Tillamook, Clatsop, Elliott, and Santiam State Forests. It is currently stalled in the Ways and Means Committee and though it would mark an extreme shift away from from a balanced management on state lands, it has been identified as a top ‘jobs’ bills for a coalition of industry groups. This means it could be alive until the final days of the legislative session, with our state forests once again becoming a political football. To underscore this, a similar bill to ramp up logging in the Tillamook State Forest that was presumed dead months ago, SB 464, was pulled to the Senate Floor for a vote on May 18 for some posturing by Senate Republicans on logging. Thankfully, their effort failed. Nonetheless, HB 2001 is still a major threat, please contact your State Legislator today and urge them to oppose HB 2001.

Wolves and Cougars- In late April, the House passed HB 3562 by a 51-7 vote to clarify that wolves can be shot in self-defense. Largely symbolic, this bill plays on the myth that wolves pose a threat to humans, but as written could be exploited by poachers looking for an excuse to kill one of Oregon’s fewer than 25 gray wolves. The good news is that two other bills to allow for the shooting of wolves within 500 feet of a residence, and another to reduce goals for wolf management both died without a vote in the House. HB 3562, however, is currently stalled in the Senate but could receive a hearing and possible vote before June 1. Also passing the House in late April by a 45-14 vote was HB 2337, which rolls back the voter-approved ban on hunting cougars with dogs. This too is stalled in the Senate but could receive committee hearing and possible vote before June 1. Contact your State Senators today and urge them to oppose HB 3562 and HB 2337 and protect Oregon’s wolves and cougars.

For other legislative updates, please visit our legislative tracker blog.


State Legislative Update: Wolves, Forests, Weatherization and more

April 15, 2011

Ivan Maluski from the Sierra Club addresses a crowd of citizen lobbyists at the annual Oregon Conservation Network environmental lobby day in Salem on April 7, 2011.

The 2011 Oregon Legislative session has reached the halfway mark. As committees race to meet April deadlines for action on hundreds of bills, the level of intensity on environmental legislation has increased dramatically.

Unfortunately, there are far more environmental threats moving forward than good pro-environment legislation. By the end of the week of April 18, the Oregon House will have potentially passed legislation to make it easier to shoot Oregon’s wolves, make timber production the primary purpose of our state lands, and rollback of voter-approved protections for cougars. Other bills getting hearings include an effort to restrict the Department of Environmental Quality from implementing new water quality standards meant to protect public health, and legislation that would declare biomass energy to be ‘carbon neutral’ while exempting biomass energy producers from greenhouse gas reporting rules.

Meanwhile, legislation to ban single-use plastic bags appears to be stalled, as is a bill that would stimulate green job creation by requiring energy performance scores for all buildings. Legislation that would speed state wetland crossing permits for LNG pipelines passed the House earlier this session, and will likely be taken up in the Senate in May.

As the cold and rainy weather continues to linger in Oregon this spring, only a few bright spots are emerging at the Oregon legislature – a key initiative of Governor Kitzhaber’s to create jobs by weatherizing Oregon schools appears to be moving forward, as is a ban on the chemical BPA in certain children’s food containers.

There is no time like the present to make your voice heard for Oregon’s wolves, forests, clean water and the climate! Click on the links above to learn more information about the legislation mentioned and find out how you can take action TODAY!


Sign the Petition for State Forest Protection!

February 9, 2011

Little North Fork Wilson River, Tillamook State Forest

The Sierra Club and Wild Salmon Center are launching a petition to Governor Kitzhaber and the Oregon Board of Forestry to call for greater of protection of Oregon’s state forests. Currently, there are no permanent reserves on state lands like the Tillamook, Clatsop and other state forests for fish, wildlife, recreation or clean water. In fact, current plans call for significant new logging increases in coming years, with less protection for key salmon streams and watersheds.

The Governor should protect special places and key salmon habitat by directing the Oregon Board of Forestry to set aside certain areas of state forest land for long-term protection.

The petition reads:

COMMON STATEMENT FOR FOREST RESERVES ON OREGON’S STATE-OWNED FORESTS,
INCLUDING THE CLATSOP, TILLAMOOK, SANTIAM, AND OTHER STATE FORESTS

To Governor Kitzhaber and the Oregon Board of Forestry

As part of a balanced plan, the undersigned endorse the designation of protected forest reserves in Oregon’s state forests to ensure clean water, enhance wild salmon habitat, protect endangered species, store carbon, and provide for wildland hiking, hunting, fishing, camping, and biking.

Please add your name to the petition today!

After you are done, please also send an email to the Governor calling for greater protection of our state forests.


OREGON BOARD OF FORESTRY APPROVES CONTROVERSIAL CHANGES TO PLAN FOR TILLAMOOK AND CLATSOP STATE FORESTS

April 23, 2010

Today the Oregon Board of Forestry, on a vote of 5 to 2, changed the law governing state forests for the first time since 2001.  They approved changes that lower the amount of older forest the state must provide and they increase the allowable level of clear cutting.  The changes affect over 600,000 acres of state forest, including the Tillamook and Clatsop Forests between the Portland metro area and the coast.

The new plan lowers the target for older forest on the forest and increases the target for clear cutting.  As a result, 50,000 acres of currently protected stands will be opened to clear cutting.  Under the current plan, no more than 15% of the forest can be a recent clear cut.  Under the new plan, up to 25% will be a recent clear cut.

Dissenting from the proposed change, Board Member Peter Hayes called the recommendation: “too much, too fast, and too risky.”

A coalition of conservation organizations opposed the changes.  Public comments were collected in January, and over 90% of almost 1700 comments received were against the State Forester’s plan and in support of greater protection for state forests. Among the chief concerns from conservation groups are the increased levels of clear cutting, the lack of an independent scientific review of the changes, and the lack of any permanent protected areas for salmon, older forests, and clean water.

Conservation groups have long called for permanent conservation areas on the half-million acres of the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forest that will be affected by the plan changes.

Brian Pasko of the Sierra Club said, “We are disappointed by this decision – the Board of Forestry ignored overwhelming public comment against their plan to increase clearcutting and reduce protections for older forests and salmon streams. Of all days, you’d think on Earth Day they might try to align themselves with the majority of Oregonians who want more protection for our forests, but again and again this Board has shown it doesn’t reflect the mainstream.”

Bob Van Dyk of the Wild Salmon Center expressed concern about the scientific underpinnings of the plan changes.  “State law requires the state forest plans to protect and restore fish habitat.  The high levels of clear cutting allowed by this change need an independent scientific review before being implemented,” he said.

The effects on endangered species were also a concern.  “Today’s decision to increase cutting on the Tillamook State Forest will harm water quality and place coho salmon, spotted owls and numerous other fish and wildlife species in jeopardy.  These changes are not in the interest of Oregonians,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director for the Center for Biological Diversity

Some of the key salmon watersheds identified by Oregon Fish and Wildlife are predicted to have very high levels of clear cutting under the approved changes.   An internal review by the Department of Forestry noted that under the new plan some watersheds would be at a “high risk” of changing watershed function due to extensive clear cutting, with potentially negative effects on salmon.


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