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.

 


Homesteader: 1890 – 2016

April 20, 2016

Northwest Oregon’s state-owned forests are comprised of less than .01% old growth, a stunning number that indicates their fraught history of devastating fires and aggressive logging. A notable patch of the Clatsop State Forest contains a timber sale known as “Homesteader.” One part of this sale (Area 2) especially, contained a stand trees upwards of 125 years old that had survived massive fires and over a century of logging. This parcel had numerous old growth characteristics and showed signs of providing rare habitat for threatened species, including marbled murrelets, red tree voles, and northern spotted owls. The area also contained “survey and manage” species that, on National Forest land, would have required that no logging occur in the entire stand of old growth. Unfortunately, such protections do not apply to state forest lands. Its location on the bank of the Nehalem River also makes Area 2 important to aquatic species. And, for about two years, activists, surveyors, and researchers exploring the area enjoyed its accessibility, tranquility, and abundance of biodiversity.

Beginning in April of 2015, thousands of Oregonians submitted public comments to the Oregon Department of Forestry [ODF] asking that this parcel of old growth not be logged. Official public comments were supplemented by letters, media pieces, and general outcry from Oregonians (especially Clatsop County residents). The voices were varied but the message was clear: “old growth is rare, it is critical, it should not be logged.”

ODF responded to this message rapidly. On state forests, timber sales commonly take 1-3 years between the announcement of the sale in an Annual Operations Plan and commencement of logging. In the case of Homesteader, perhaps because of intense public scrutiny and dissent, logging occurred less than 10 months after being announced. The trees were auctioned off in January and as of March, what used to be a lush forest is now something altogether different:

Cut - Tryg

Photo by Trygve Steen

Part of the blame for this expedited degradation of public land can be placed on ODF. However, the Agency is in a bind. They are expected to manage these state forests for a suite of values—social, environmental, and economic—yet they are only funded by logging. Moreover, 2/3 of state forest revenue goes to counties while 1/3 is retained by ODF. In 2015, state forest logging contributed $55 million to counties across Oregon. And yet, some counties are engaging in a disruptive lawsuit claiming that state forests are not producing enough timber! Meanwhile, ODF’s budget, like other natural resource agencies, continues to dwindle.

Oregon has changed and is changing. Logging is no longer a primary economic driver. While logging will remain a part of our history, culture, and (to an extent) our economy, Oregon’s present and future is built around outdoor recreation, fisheries, tourism, quality of life, and natural beauty. Yet private and public forest management has so far failed to keep up with the will of the people. Part of catching up is a balanced management plan for our coastal state forests, a plan that protects critical areas like Homesteader.

Photo by Trygve Steen

Photo by Trygve Steen


On the Linn County Lawsuit

February 17, 2016

You know when you drive to the coast, like out to Cannon Beach or Tillamook, and you pass by those clear-cuts? There’s a thin layer of trees in front of them—a disguise of sorts—but if you look past them, through those dark branches, you can see whole fields of dry, broken, dirt, painfully bright and empty in the scattered sunlight. This is instantly and intrinsically a sad thing to see. I always wonder what it looked like before. What was it like, back when the fir trees rose toward the sky? I wished I could gaze up into the plush arms of those hemlock and spruce as they braided the sunlight between each frond. And where were the deer, and the owls, and all the others who were displaced?

DBH Measuring

Measuring old trees in the Clatsop State Forest – photo by Trygve Steen

Logging—especially in its most intense, disruptive form—contributes to climate change, causes erosion, destroys habitat, dirties water sources, and detracts from the aesthetic and recreational value of our forests. Unfortunately, there are those who nonetheless want more—more timber harvesting, more clear-cutting, more revenue. And I’m not just talking about logging companies; one Oregon county is taking legal action to increase logging on state forests.

On January 13th, Linn County threatened to sue the State of Oregon for 1.4 billion dollars. Linn County believes that the State isn’t doing enough logging in our State Forests. You see, back in the 1930’s, timber companies logged and logged until, in certain places, there wasn’t anything left to log. The companies cut bait and the lands went back to the counties in which they were located. These counties—including Linn County—got tired of paying taxes on these profitless lands, so, through a series of statutes in the 1930’s and 1940’s, they sold them to the State of Oregon.

Since then they’ve been reseeded and restored. As State Forests, they’re managed under a multi-use philosophy of watershed protection, recreation, and sustainable timber production. The State still shares the majority of its logging revenue with those original counties, while using the rest of the money for management expenses.

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Clearcut with aerial pesticide application – photo by Francis Eatherington

But Linn County wants more. They believe that the State should be logging as much as possible to create the highest revenue possible. Under a 1941 Act, the Board of Forestry is required to manage State Forests to “secure the greatest permanent value to the state”. Linn County takes this to mean the greatest monetary value to the state—or, more accurately, to the counties—and they don’t think the State is doing enough.

The State’s sustainable multi-value approach takes habitat, water health, and recreation into consideration as much as logging. What, after all, secures a more permanent value? Logging profits that will quickly be spent, our forests lost to us for a hundred years or more? Or healthy forests that for the foreseeable years will provide a broad set of benefits to humans and animals, along with an ongoing timber harvest? The latter option could contribute recreation and conservation jobs that would last much longer than the smattering of logging jobs that would end when the forests were logged over.

There are no previous court cases or statutes that support Linn County’s lawsuit. Previous court cases have established only that the State must pay some of its forest revenues to the counties. They don’t specify the rate at which the logging has to take place, or even whether the money has to come specifically from logging.  The State could potentially create revenue through recreational purposes, as long as they give the counties their share.

Our State Forests are publicly owned and provide so many benefits besides logging money. Talk to your local representative today and urge them to put a stop to this lawsuit, or tell Governor Brown to stand up for our state forests and the Greatest Permanent Value for all Oregonians! There is so much more to our forests than money and the maximization of profit. Steady sunlight through the trees. Deer tracks in the leaf-lined mud. The first, purple salmonberry in the late spring. The forest is so much more than money—it’s alive.


The Hardesty Wildlands need your help!

February 5, 2016

View from Mt. June

What’s happened to all the wild places?

While once the whole world was wild, now we’re left only with dark pockets. Again and again we return to these hidden, mossy stream-sides, because we intrinsically feel better there. There’s something about the wind circling through high hemlock canopies, and the impacted delicacy of wet soil that makes us unmistakably happy.

Despite the scarcity of wild places, they remain threatened, primarily—and unsurprisingly—by logging interests.

One of these threatened beauties is the Hardesty Wildlands area. Two mountains—Hardesty and June—reside in this temperate rainforest containing over 7,000 acres of roadless, wilderness-quality lands. Only 30 miles southeast of Eugene, the Hardesty Wildlands are unblemished by the close proximity of the city; this is a forest free of roads, and rich with mature and old-growth trees.

A number of animals find refuge here among the ferns and the fallen logs, among the huckleberries and the giant Douglas firs, including spotted owls, elk, and eagles. Humans, as well, seek refuge on the 20 miles of hiking trails. In spring visitors may find wildflowers here, wild ginger and calypso orchids tucked along pathways to great mountain ridges, to wide views of the snow-struck cascades, to the blue haze of the coast range. In fall they may find mushrooms on the back side of a rotting log, or tucked at the base of a vine maple, the air cold and quiet except for the blustering song of a raven.

Old-growth forests like those found in Hardesty also help store carbon and decrease the effects of climate change. Hardesty’s forest-filtered, pristine streams provide clean water, eventually serving as the domestic water source for the nearby town of Cottage Grove. Although the Hardesty Wildlands are a priceless resource for all Oregonians, this is especially true for those in nearby cities like Eugene and Springfield who relish having this wild place in their backyard.

The movement to permanently protect Hardesty has been underway since the 1970’s. Through the combined efforts of the Sierra Club, Oregon Wild, and Cascadia Wildlands, the campaign continues today as groups seek to make the Hardesty Wildlands a federally designated Forest Conservation Area.

HardestyMap
But recently, a major problem has emerged: the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has opened up over 800 acres for commercial timber sales on the east side of Mt. June in what is known as the Lost Creek timber harvest plan. Two parcels of this plan have already been sold to the highest bidder. The Anthony Access parcel would see 108 acres thinned and 52 acres lost to clear-cutting—or what is euphemistically called “regeneration harvesting,” in which only six to eight trees are left standing per acre—in the Lost Creek Drainage, while the John’s Last Stand parcel would entail a loss of 49 acres to clear-cutting using helicopters. This proposed cut, sold at auction for just over $100,000, represents a modest short-term profit for the logging company, but poses a long-term impact to our publicly owned forest.

With less than 10% of the original old-growth forests remaining in Oregon, we must recognize that these last fragments of roadless forest hold incalculable value as a living complex of interrelated species. The Hardesty Wildlands must be saved and restored as a place for scientific study, and as a last holdout for wildlife habitat, water and air quality, recreation, and renewal of the human spirit.

Wildflowers on Mt. June

Oregon Wild, Cascadia Wildlands, and the Sierra Club filed a protest against the logging proposals in December 2015. The BLM is currently reviewing that protest and may make a decision to award, modify, or cancel the sale within the coming days. If they decide to approve the logging, these conservation groups may have to file an administrative appeal.

Take action today to help!

We can all share our voices with the BLM by signing these petitions by the Sierra Club and Cascadia Wildlands. For more information about the Hardesty Wildlands, or to volunteer, you can contact the Sierra Club Many Rivers Group.

The mountaintops and forests of Hardesty, like all public lands, belong to everyone and to no one. This is one of the few wild places left to us – one that, as we venture into it, makes us content with an instinctual, inexplicable nostalgia. This is one of the few places left where, even as we enter the forest for the first time, we feel that we’ve returned to some long-lost place, a place we’ve been before, and, as we stand still and listen to the warbles of songbirds, and as we hear the crunch of needles beneath our boots, we somehow have the sense that, among the old trees, we have rediscovered something, some part of ourselves that’s been missing, and at long last we feel whole; at long last we have come home.


Protect Critical Old Growth in the Clatsop State Forest

May 10, 2015
Measuring old trees in the Homesteader sale - photo by Trygve Steen

Measuring old trees in the Homesteader sale – photo by Trygve Steen

The “Homesteader” timber sale in the Clatsop state forest calls for the clearcutting of some of the best old growth forest habitat remaining on Oregon’s north coast. The sale features trees over 130 years old and over 200 feet high–relative monsters in a region that has been logged and burned over.

Click here to ask the Department of Forestry to cancel or amend this sale and conserve this amazing parcel!

Click here to read the full Homesteader Report


ODF Proposes Massive Clearcuts for Oregon’s State Forests

March 2, 2015

The Oregon Department of Forestry recently presented a timber-centered vision for the new Forest Management Plan on the Tillamook & Clatsop state forests.

Under the proposal, north coast watersheds like the Trask, Nehalem, Salmonberry, Kilchis, and Wilson (below) would be clearcut extensively:

Upper Wilson River - Clearcuts in RED

Upper Wilson River – Clearcuts in RED

Key proposals included:

  • Devoting 70% of the forest to industrial clear cutting and pesticide spraying to dramatically increase harvest.
  • Clear cutting most of the new High Value Conservation Areas that are currently protected for older forest.
  • A formal policy to prioritize cutting of oldest trees in the “production zone” so species cannot recover.
  • Using the extra revenue to increase the ODF budget by 30%.
  • Redefining conservation areas to include clearcuts.

No, we are not making this up!

ODF’s plan is very similar to the 70-30 proposal pushed by Hampton Affiliates, a private firm that wants the logs for their mills.

Maps based on ODF data provide images of the current plan and ODF’s devastating proposal. Red areas are removed from conservation protection and opened to clearcutting:

Fortunately, a conservation-minded member of the Board blocked this initial proposal, but ODF leadership have clearly made a power move to expand their budget as the Governor changes. The Department was directed to seek alternative revenues for their state forest program, but are clearly focused only on increasing harvest levels dramatically.

Tell Governor Brown to Reject ODF’s Clearcut Plan!


Salmon: Closer to home than you might think!

December 9, 2014

For most people, “salmon” is an expensive, unnaturally pink piece of fish at the grocery store. It is a potential meal, detached from its context by thousands of miles. Even those of us who are lucky enough to live in the Pacific Northwest often have only a distant relationship to these iconic fish. However, there are places where we can bridge the gap and connect with an elusive and integral part of our history, culture, cuisine, and economy.

Just over an hour from Portland, and a mere 30 minutes from the fast-growing cities of Beaverton and Hillsboro, one can sit on an isolated stream bank and share hours with spawning coho salmon. For the uninitiated, this is an eye-opening experience that can open new ways of looking at the natural world on which we depend. However, these are also the last hours of the salmons’ lives. They travel over 100 miles up rivers like the Nehalem, the Salmonberry, the Trask, and the Wilson to spawn where they hatched 3-5 years before, dying in the process of continuing their line.

Photo Dec 06, 11 48 02 AM

Oregon coastal coho are listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. 2014 saw a very good return, but ocean conditions and inadequately protected inland habitat remain concerns for these fish.  The Tillamook and Nehalem basins are producers of some of the strongest and most diverse wild runs of salmon in Oregon, but the emphasis given to industrial timber in the region threatens these strongholds.

Our publicly-owned north coast forests, the Tillamook & Clatsop State Forests, likely hold the key to salmon habitat in northwest Oregon. The management of these lands is currently undergoing a revision. Some stakeholders would like to see these lands managed with even more emphasis on timber production, a move that would likely harm wild salmon and take away the possibility of connecting with these fish.

Click here to find out more about the Sierra Club’s efforts to protect these lands.