A huge step forward on the Elliott State Forest

May 18, 2017

Many breathed a sigh of relief on May 9th as the State Land Board voted to keep the Elliott State Forest open and accessible to all. While there’s still much work to be done to craft an inclusive solution that preserves this ecologically unique and historically special place that connects us to our past and future – the Land Board has taken a major step in the right direction by reversing their decision to sell the forest.

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(Photo by Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands)

Located in the Southern Oregon Coast Range, the Elliott State Forest contains within its bounty over 82,000 acres of vital wildlife habitat and some of Oregon’s last remaining coastal old-growth. Approximately half of the forest is over a century old, and provides a home to threatened and endangered species, vital habitat to elk, black bear, northern spotted owls, and marbled murrelets. Among the ancestral homelands for Tribal Nations who have hunted, fished and lived among the region for many generations before the forest came into state ownership, this place has deep meaning – connecting communities to a rich past and vital future. It also contains some of the strongest wild salmon and steelhead runs left on the Oregon Coast, with biologists estimating that 22% of all wild Oregon coastal coho salmon originate in the Elliott.

The State Land Board – consisting of Governor Kate Brown, Secretary of State Dennis Richardson and state Treasurer Tobias Read – had proposed the sale of the Elliott’s obligation to the state’s Common School Fund for $221 million. But the Land Board rejected that approach on May 9 and voted to keep the Elliott in state ownership. We are appreciate the work that Governor Brown and Treasurer Read did, but more work lies ahead to come up with a solution that engages all stakeholders equally in finding a solution for the Elliott.

The biggest unanswered question is whether the Oregon Legislature can come up with the $100 million in bonding proposed by Governor Brown to buy out the most sensitive areas of the forest from the Common School Fund obligation. In addition to using that money to end the state’s obligation to tear down forests to fund our schools, the Governor’s plan would establish a “Habitat Conservation Plan” for much of the rest of the land. This would allow some logging to occur while also protecting endangered and threatened species such as spotted owls and murrelets. Treasurer Read presented a complementary plan that would allow Oregon State University an option to buy the Elliott for the $121 million remaining if the $100 million in bonding can be found.

In addition to working diligently in the Legislature to try to assure that the securing adequate bonding money, the Oregon Chapter will also be working to pass Senate Bill 847, which would establish a Trust Land Transfer program. Such a program could help provide part of a solution to the Elliott by providing a mechanism by which money could be appropriated over time to purchase encumbered lands.Salmon Elliott

We are hopeful that all of these answers can be found and that we can indeed come up with a solution that results in a forest that is preserved for all of us – the hikers, hunters, anglers, bird watchers, and Oregon’s diverse communities. And importantly, the Sierra Club believes that the State must engage Tribes as sovereign equals in crafting this solution – recognizing and addressing the past seizure of their ancestral lands.

No one believes that any of this will be easy, but we now at least have reason to believe that we are headed in the right direction and for that we should all be thankful.

 


Update: Six weeks into the 2017 Oregon Legislative session

March 22, 2017

By Rhett Lawrence, Conservation Director

As predicted in last month’s legislative preview, it’s been a challenging session in the 2017 Oregon Legislature. After several sessions with some real environmental accomplishments (but also partisan divisiveness), we knew we would have a hard slog in making much progress in 2017. So things have gone pretty much as expected so far, and here are some updates on a few of the issues we’re working on.

For the past several sessions, we have been a part of a coalition working to try to put a price on carbon in Oregon. We have gone through various iterations of “cap and trade” and “cap and delegate” bills and have had some good hearings and debates in the legislature. This year the Oregon Chapter’s top legislative priority has been to pass a “Clean Energy Jobs bill.” Right now, the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee and the House Energy and Environment Committee are jointly looking at what might be the best solution for Oregon to create clean energy jobs and hold polluters accountable. The primary contenders so far are Senate Bill 557 and Senate Bill 748, and the committees are holding weekly workgroup meetings to investigate the policies reflected in those bills. You can help move them forward by contacting your legislator and tell them it’s time to act on greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon.

Another climate policy we’ve been spending some time on is an idea called the “Climate Test.” In essence, it is a scaled-down version of a State Environmental Policy Act that would apply to fossil fuel infrastructure projects in Oregon. Like the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), it would require cross-agency communications to consider the impacts of proposed fossil fuel infrastructure projects. Such proposed projects would also be subject to an environmental impact statement (EIS) with full lifecycle accounting of the project’s greenhouse gas emissions, coupled with an economic analysis that will show whether a project is viable in a world where climate goals are met. We have bills in both chambers – House Bill 3343 and Senate Bill 1007 – and we hope to be having a hearing on them in early April.

Our other top priority, along with the Clean Energy Jobs bill, will be to pass legislation that can help to solve the ongoing conundrum with the Elliott State Forest. As many of you know, the Elliott has been the subject of much debate recently, as the State Land Board tries to dispose of it in order to satisfy its obligations to the Common School Fund. Senate Bill 847 – a Trust Lands Transfer bill similar to what we worked on in the 2015 session – could be a part of that solution. That bill had its first hearing on March 20 and we are hopeful that it will move forward.

We are also working on a package of bills to address the critical issue of oil trains in our state. House Bill 2131 will help to improve safety and cleanup standards for the trains that are coming through Oregon. House Bill 3344 will make it more difficult to site oil train terminals here. Both bills had their initial public hearings in mid-March and we are awaiting further action on them soon.

A bill to limit the impacts of suction dredge mining on our state’s waters is making progress in the legislature. Senate Bill 3 is moving through the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee now and we are confident that it will have real benefits to salmon habitat in Oregon.

Another bill of interest is House Bill 2711, which would impose a 10-year moratorium on oil and gas fracking in Oregon. There is currently no fracking happening in Oregon and we’d like to keep it that way, so we’re pushing to move that bill forward in the House Energy and Environment committee.

Finally, on proactive legislation, we are supporting Senate Bill 1008, which will create more stringent standards for diesel emissions in Oregon. The bill had a public hearing in early March and we are monitoring its progress closely. In addition to getting dirty diesel out of our air, it will also pave the way for Oregon to receive $68 million in Volkswagen settlement money to fund clean air work in our state.

One bright note from the session is that we have had to play less defense and fight off fewer bad bills than we often have to do. There have been attempts to roll back public lands protections and to take aim at wolves and cougars. But for the most part, the same dynamic that is keeping some “controversial” bills that we like from getting much traction is also keeping the bad bills at bay!

So, as expected, the 2017 session has had both hazards and opportunities, and we’re trying to make the best of the latter while avoiding the former to the extent we can. As always, our success depends largely on you, so keep calling, writing, and e-mailing your legislators and making a difference for Oregon!


Tell State Lawmakers: Cancel the Elliot State Forest Sale

December 6, 2016

By Mike Allen

In one week the State Land Board will vote on whether to sell the oldest state forest in Oregon. The Elliott State Forest near Coos bay is home to several threatened or endangered species including Coho salmon, Pacific lamprey, spotted owl, and the vanishing marbeled murrelet. The murrelet nests high in large trees, and its decline is associated with old forest logging.

The State of Oregon has been frittering away the Elliott for years, selling pieces of it off to timber interests who have gone on to cut off public access and log some massive old trees. Just ten years ago it was 10,000 acres larger. Last year the Land Board decided to put the remaining 83,000 acres up for sale. The asking price of $220.8 million drew exactly one bid.

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The Terms of the Elliott Sale Shortchange Oregonian’s Future

Although the deal requires that the purchaser set aside 25% of the land for conservation, it does not specify which part of the land must be set aside. Nearly half of the Elliott is forest nearly 150 years old, with many older trees mixed in. Older trees, which are more economically valuable, could be harvested and younger stands allowed to age.

Only 50% of the land is required to be kept open to the public, and access could involve fees and other restrictions.

The harvest would only be required to produce forty new jobs over the next ten years.

Oregon Could do Better with the Elliott

Meanwhile, if no further harvests were to occur in the Elliott, it would be capable of storing about two thirds of the total carbon output of the state of Oregon, according to a 2010 analysis by ecotrust. This is just one of the many benefits with indirect but real economic impact that isn’t fully appreciated by the state’s analysis.

The Elliott is rugged terrain, with limited access. It has no trails and no official campgrounds. But for the intrepid and adventurous it holds big rewards: massive old growth trees, pristine creeks teaming with fish, deer and elk and the rarest of Western Oregon species. This is our last chance: if the Elliott is sold we will never get it back, and it will never be the same. Call Governor Brown, Secretary Atkins, and Treasurer Wheeler and tell them to save the save the Elliot, a priceless resource for all Oregonians.

Take Action to Save the Elliot State Forest:

Gov. Kate Brown – (503) 378-4582
Ted Wheeler – (503) 378-4329
Jeanne Atkins – (503) 986-1523

The Sierra Club Oregon Chapter will participate in a rally at the Keizer Civic Center at 9 am on December 13th to let lawmakers know how Oregonians feel about losing their wilderness heritage to private interests.  Details HERE!

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Rally for the Elliott State Forest

December 2, 2016

This is it! The Oregon Department of State Lands has received a bid that would see the Elliott State Forest sold to a private timber company and heavily logged. Our elected leaders, including Governor Kate Brown, Treasurer Ted Wheeler, and Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins have the opportunity to stop the privatization process and Save the Elliott.

Join public lands advocates from across Oregon for a rally before the State Land Board Meeting where our leaders could decide protect this public treasure. Plan to stick around and attend the meeting – sign up to testify to make sure your voice is heard!

CARPOOL INFORMATION:

From Eugene you can meet the Many Rivers Group at 7:45 near the bike bridge behind the Valley River Center (293 Valley River Center).

From Portland you can meet at 7:45 at Holladay City Park (NE 11th Ave). RSVP to staylor@audubonportland.org or go here: https://www.groupcarpool.com/t/v5hoju.

If you’d like to carpool from Coos Bay area please add yourself to this rideshare board: https://www.groupcarpool.com/t/6ua89y, or email savetheelliott@gmail.com.

 

More carpool info coming soon.

Wear green. Bring banners and signs. Save the Elliott!

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On Replanting

November 17, 2016

Imagine that you were told by your neighbor that he was going to tear down your house, rip out your plumbing, (and spray you with a blend of chemicals (something we won’t get into here). In response to your protests, he just calmly told you not to worry: “Oregon law requires that I rebuild it.”

There is plenty to criticize about how private and state-owned forests are managed in Oregon. Among the common ways that people defend our weak logging rules is by pointing out that we “replant”—that replanting recently clearcut areas is mandatory by law and so clearcuts aren’t actually damaging our forest landscape.

This is an amazing suggestions. Yes, to some people, businesses, and hedge fund managers, forests are only a crop. Something to be grown, chopped down, and replanted. But that is missing most of what forests actually provide: water & air filtration, fish & wildlife habitat, places to play and find peace, and physical structures that keep our slopes intact and prevent flooding and drought. When we clearcut a forest parcel, we lose or significantly damage all of these functions for many many years.

A clearcut and replanted forest parcel releases CO2 for at least the first 15 years. It does not help to slow climate change. The notion that CO2 is stored in wood products forever is highly dubious. Studies indicate that a large portion (most?) of CO2 is released from the wood during logging, milling, and processing. So, replanting does not help with the climate.

Fish & wildlife rely on forests for innumerable habitat qualities. Many of these qualities are instantly lost during clearcutting and others—water quality and temperature—can be compromised in the short and long-term. This is analogous to a person having their home demolished and their plumbing ripped out. Yes, a refugee may be taken in by his/her family or might find another temporary home, but we can all very easily imagine the problems this creates. Can you imagine dealing with this scenario for 40+ years while your home is rebuilt? Even FEMA does better than that!

When a hillside is clearcut, it can take a handful of years before root structures decompose. However, once that decomposition takes place, it becomes appartent that clearcutting has adverse affects on slope stability. Clearcuts can increase the likelihood of landslides—bad for water quality, bad for roads, and bad for human safety. Again, it may take 40 years to rebuild those stabilizing root systems which keep our hillsides intact.

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Perhaps most importantly, replanting in the style of industrial logging lands is not an effort to restore forests. It is an agricultural practice whereby monoculture plantations of densely packed doug fir dominate the landscape. This may be prudent for short-term financial gain, but it does not provide the types of resilient, diverse, healthy forests that we need.

Replanting may be better than not replanting. But let’s not kid ourselves by pretending that we can destroy our forests at any rate we so choose so long as we follow Oregon’s replanting law. Anyone who tries to defend Oregon’s forest laws by relying on the fact that we replant, is being deceived or deceitful.

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Rally sends clear message to State Land Board: “Keep the Elliott Public”

October 13, 2016
On October 11th, nearly 125 Oregonians from across the state gathered on the lawn of the State Land Board building in Salem to send a loud, colorful, and clear message to the State Land Board: the Elliott State Forest needs to be protected and it needs to be kept public. Governor Kate Brown, Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins, and State Treasurer Ted Wheeler are in the midst of a process that could see the Elliott sold off, most likely to a timber company with its sites set on logging some of the last remnant old growth forest in Oregon’s coast range.
Over 100 Oregonians braved the cold and made their way from all over the state. Photo by Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands)

Over 100 Oregonians braved the cold and made their way from all over the state. Photo by Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands)

It was an excellent turnout with a broad cross section of Oregonians that included native Americans, Coos County residents, hunters, anglers, campers, educators, and kids who are growing up with access to the forest.  One of the most pressing and common concerns is the loss of access to the forest if it is privatized. It is unclear exactly how much and how often the forest would be made open to locals and visitors if it was sold. This is just one of the sale “sideboards” that is inadequate or vague. Protection for aquatic habitat would be reduced by the implementation of weak stream buffers from logging and it appears that much of the old growth would be on the chopping block.
Bob Sallinger of Portland Audubon riles up the crowd (photo by Josh Laughlin)

Bob Sallinger of Portland Audubon riles up the crowd (photo by Josh Laughlin)

38 Oregonians testified before the Land Board, and all of the speakers, except one, provided excellent and powerful testimony on the importance of keeping the Elliott in the public trust. One comment that stuck out was by Fregus McLean.  The economic study commissioned by the state land board to determine the “market value” of the Elliott failed to account for carbon sequestration benefits. Mr. McLean, who is running for Oregon House District 7, provided the economic benefit of saving the Elliott for carbon credits.  His figures indicated that carbon credits could be worth as much as $1.25 billion which is six times greater than the “market value” estimate by LandVest Consulting, the State Land Board’s consultant. It is also worth noting there may be a potential conflict of interest by LandVest that should be investigated.
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Speaking up for all the salmon who couldn’t make the trip to Salem (photo by Josh Laughlin)

The economic value of the Elliott far exceeds the value of timber if you account for carbon sequestration and sale of credits plus recreation, habitat preservation, coho salmon fishery, and many other attributes. This is on top of the hugely important ecological and climate values that the Elliott represents. The Oregon coast range is dominated by private timber holdings—lands that have largely reduced to monoculture tree plantations with bare hillsides and a steady stream of toxic herbicides being sprayed from above. Oregon’s three largest state forests, the Tillamook, Clatsop, and Elliott are some of the last refuges for threatened coho salmon, endangered marbled murrelets, threatened northern spotted owls, and an abundance of other fish, wildlife, and plants. These forests are also a massive carbon sink that has the potential to slow and mitigate climate change.

All this could be lost if Governor Brown and Treasurer Wheeler don’t step up with a real, innovative, and collaborative solution. It would be a low point in Governor Brown’s nascent governorship. For Wheeler, who begins his first term as Mayor of Portland in January, selling the Elliott would run counter to the progressive policies he has promised. Hopefully, our elected leaders heard what they needed to.  Lon Otterby, Vice-Chair of the Sierra Club Many Rivers Group and long-time forest advocate said, “in all my session with the State Land Board this was the most exciting and effective event I have participated on.” Let’s hope Lon is right!
Sierra Club staff with allies from Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild (photo by Josh Laughlin)

Sierra Club staff with allies from Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild (photo by Josh Laughlin)

Written with significant contributions from Howard Saxon and Lon Otterby of the Many Rivers Group. To get involved in the Sierra Club’s effort to protect the Elliott, email Chris Smith (chris.smith@sierraclub.org).

Save Our Elliott State Forest

September 29, 2016
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Threatened wild coho salmon spawning in upper Lietel Creek, a tributary of Tahkenitch Lake (photo by Jim Yuskavitch)


Governor Kate Brown and the State Land Board are considering a proposal to sell off the Elliott to logging corporations
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Located in the Southern Oregon Coast Range, theElliott State Forest is a 93,000-acre state owned forestland containing some of Oregon’s last remaining coastal old-growth. Approximately half of the forest is over a century old. It provides a home to threatened and endangered species, vital habitat to elk, black bear, and deer, and some of the strongest wild salmon and steelhead runs left on the Oregon Coast. Biologists estimate that 22% of all wild Oregon coastal coho salmon originate in the Elliott.

Unfortunately, privatizing the Elliott will almost certainly lead to industrial-style logging of the surviving old-growth, and the destruction of salmon and wildlife habitat. It would also mean the loss of public access to the land – including hunting and fishing – something we treasure as Oregonians.

There are three ways you can get involved in protecting this Oregon gem:

1. Learn More –  Attend a Teach-In on October 4th or 6th in Portland

Sierra Club and Portland Audubon are hosting teach-ins at their respective headquarters. These are great opportunities to learn more about the Elliott and the threats that it faces – details here.

2. Attend a Rally in Salem on October 11th

Rally with fellow conservation advocates from across the state to demand that the Elliott stays in public ownership and its natural resources are protected. Wear green to show support for protecting this critical wildlife habitat for Marbled Murrelets and Northern Spotted Owls. 

When: October 11th, Rally starts at 9 AM

Where: State Land Board Meeting in Salem – Department of State Lands 775 Summer St. Salem OR 97301

RSVP for the Rally and Carpool Here!

Coast Range Forest Watch is hosting a carpool to the rally from Coos Bay – details here.

3. Write to the State Land Board

Click here to take action today and tell Governor Kate Brown, Treasurer Ted Wheeler, and Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins that we will not accept the privatization of our public lands.