Victory! Jordan Cove LNG Pipeline Denied

March 18, 2016

By Francesca Varela

How does this sound for a bad-news proposal? Stretch a 232-mile pipeline across forests and backyards, old-growth cedars and mushroom-sided streams, halfway across the state. Gouge the forest. Scar it. Fill said pipeline with natural gas—one of the dirtiest fuels available to us. Build a terminal in Coos Bay. Convert natural gas to liquid—AKA liquefied natural gas (LNG). Ship LNG to Asia. Stand at the edge of the wide Pacific and know that, across from it, the fuels will be burned and the greenhouse gases will rise and glisten and warm, and the entire world will be altered by it, perhaps beyond all retrieval.construction of the gas pipeline

This proposed export facility (at first intended to be an import facility) was named the Jordan Cove Energy Project, and for over a decade its impending construction was fervently opposed by environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club. Activists held protests and raised awareness, collaborating with landowners whose properties would have been intersected by the adjoining Pacific Connector Pipeline. Their hard work paid off when, on Friday, March 11, the project’s application was denied by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

Salem LNG Rally-May 26 2015

According to the FERC report, the denial has been issued “because the record does not support a finding that the public benefits of the Pacific Connector Pipeline outweigh the adverse effects on landowners.” And because the Jordan Cove export facility would be useless without the Pacific Connector Pipeline feeding it natural gas, FERC denied that application as well.

This is a victory for the many volunteers involved, for the communities who would have been impacted by eminent domain, and, of course, for the environment. Had the pipeline been approved, its construction would have led to expansive clear-cuts, denuding streams of important riparian shade that salmon and other fish rely on, and reducing habitat for endangered species like the northern spotted owl. Had the oceanside export facility also been approved, the Coos Bay estuary would have been dredged and degraded, negatively impacting already fragile marine life.

LNG tankerThe FERC denial is a good sign, but it’s not the end; there’s still a chance that the proposal could be reconsidered if the companies behind it—Veresen Inc. and Williams Partners—are able to convince officials of the market value and economic need of their project during the rehearing process. In fact, the entire approvals process is a complicated, many-stepped ordeal involving multiple permits and regulating agencies, both state and federal.

There are still many permits pending with various agencies of the State of Oregon, and it is not clear that those processes will be halted just because of the FERC denial. In order to ensure that the Jordan Cove Energy Project is killed, officially and completely, we need to continue voicing our own disapproval by contacting Governor Kate Brown and asking her to support the FERC decision and shut down the project for good. See volunteer leader Ted Gleichman’s blog post for more info!

 


Volunteer Spotlight: FERC rejects Jordan Cove LNG!!!

March 18, 2016

(Here’s how it happened: Three and a Half Zeros, Plus a Minus)

By Ted Gleichman

Among the most important values of Sierra Club to our planet and society are effective grassroots action, long-term attention to detail, and structured commitment to change.  With the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s astounding decision against the Jordan Cove LNG export terminal and the Pacific Connector Pipeline projects (JC/PCP), we are reaping the fruit of many years of work, within Sierra Club and with many important and expert allies in coalition.

A sample of what we're trying to protect (Photo credit: Ted Gleichman)

A sample of what we’re trying to protect (Photo credit: Ted Gleichman)

On March 6, I told 35 activists assembled in Eugene for our quarterly anti-LNG strategy session that I thought there was a genuine chance that FERC would deny Federal approval and eminent domain for JC/PCP.  (People scoffed.)  On March 11, FERC unanimously rejected the pipeline, and therefore the terminal!

I’m not a prophet, nor was I the first Oregon activist to figure this out.  That honor goes to a landowner couple on the PCP route, Deb Evans and Ron Schaaf of Jackson and Klamath counties, who dug deep into FERC history, policy, and procedures, and simultaneously fought hard to help other landowners resist the arrogant low-dollar easement offers that JC/PCP tossed at them.  Deb and Ron put together – and, with other landowners, paid for – a formal legal filing with FERC that the Commissioners explicitly praised in their denial order.

Ron and Deb also schooled me, in exhaustive detail, over a long weekend in early January at their home in the mountains above Ashland.  We did a thorough and careful analysis (aided, fortunately, by a couple of bottles of good wine).  Here’s why we concluded this ground-breaking FERC rejection was possible:

  • Veresen Inc., the Alberta oil and gas shipper that owns Jordan Cove and co-owns PCP with Williams (the brutal Oklahoma pipeline company) is a financial mess.  They barely make money and their market capitalization has dropped by more than half since the beginning of the oil crash, to less than $2 billion.  In recent months, they’ve been trying cut back on their miniscule financial aid commitments to Coos Bay and the pipeline communities.
  • After 11 years of promoting JC/PCP, Veresen had netted a grand total of “three and a half zeros”: Zero contracts to sell gas in Asia; zero supplier contracts with frackers in the Rockies and Alberta; zero sources of financing for this $7.5 billion project set, which they can’t afford to build on their own – and fewer than 5% of landowners on the pipeline route who had sold them easements.
  • FERC traditionally is all about the so-called “free market”: they almost invariably approve any corporation that has the financial means to plan, buy, build, and sell an energy project.  But Veresen has been failing all four of those market tests, leading to these 3½ Zeros.
  • Eminent domain has become increasingly toxic.  People and politicians of all stripes hate the savage assaults on farms, woodlands, businesses, and family homes by frackers and pipeline companies all over the United States.  Eminent domain is supposed to be a fair and open public process for the common good – not a private-profit work-around for greedy victimization.
  • FERC had never approved eminent domain for such a large number of families (some 630 landowners) with so few negotiated easements.  Our battle against PCP, with both grass-roots and professional environmental leadership from Sierra Club and many other wonderful organizations,  has been one of the most effective and politically-charged in the country.
  • FERC has been under severe political pressure nationally and especially on the East Coast, in the brutally-fracked Marcellus shale regions of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio.  LNG approvals by FERC in Maryland, Louisiana, and Texas have generated massive protests there and across the environmental movement.
  • We believe FERC was looking for an especially-weak project to deny, to be able to say that they are not just a rubber stamp. Hence, for an agency looking to defend itself, and to avoid the very worst of eminent domain, this gave us “plus a minus.”
Raging Grannies at Hike the Pipe

Raging Grannies at a rally against the pipeline and terminal, Coos Bay, September 2015 (Credit: Ted Gleichman)

So this remarkable FERC decision gives Oregon a major victory that thousands of people from many groups have fought for, now reverberating all over the country. In their ruling, unprecedented for any LNG or pipeline proposal, the FERC Commissioners explicitly said that a company with no contracts to sell a product (which, as noted, it doesn’t yet own, through a project that it can’t afford to build) could not demonstrate overall “public benefit” adequate to justify eminent domain harm to so many “landowners and communities.”

FERC also explicitly called out the work of National Sierra Club senior attorney Nathan Matthews, the brilliant LNG specialist within our expert Environmental Law Program.  The Commissioners noted in detail the specific elements of our condemnation of JC/PCP and the FERC staff’s construction of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS).  We have every right to be proud of the Member-owned and staff-built organization that has evolved since John Muir founded it 124 years ago.

Part of the Ruby Pipeline natural gas compressor and transfer station, near Malin in Klamath County

Part of the Ruby Pipeline natural gas compressor and transfer station, near Malin in Klamath County (Credit: Ted Gleichman)

What’s Next?  Because LNG in Oregon is Not Dead Yet

FERC put JC/PCP in a coffin, but they also gave them a path to climb out, saying in essence, come see us again if you get any contracts to sell LNG.  So we are not done.

Plus we also face Oregon LNG, which is proceeding with their plans for massive pipelines through Washington from Canada, across Northern Oregon, and feeding an LNG export terminal in Warrenton, across from Astoria on the Lower Columbia. This $7 billion project is financially strong but politically and technically very weak. FERC staff will issue the Oregon LNG FEIS on June 3.  We need to add Oregon LNG to the JC/PCP coffin, then nail it shut on both of them.

So our next post will include details on our coffin-completion construction plans – stay tuned!  The focus now will be on the State of Oregon and Governor Kate Brown: they now need to do their part, and we will keep you posted.

In the meantime, please do two very important things:

  1. If you have the capacity to work with the Oregon Chapter Beyond Gas & Oil Team, please contact team chair Gregory Monahan at gregory.monahan@oregon.sierraclub.org. We’ve got a lot to do, on LNG and many other fossil fuel attacks!
  2. If you have the capacity to help support the Oregon Chapter even more, please dig deep!  You can make a direct donation, upgrade your Sierra Club membership level, or give a gift membership.  Remember: we Members own the place – so we have an obligation to stewardship.  We have a great staff at the Oregon Chapter, and we need to keep them fed and watered!

From a long-time volunteer Member-leader: thanks for all you do!

Ted Gleichman — 503-781-2498 — Twitter: @tedgleichman
Member, National Strategy Team & National Delivery Team, Stop Dirty Fuels Initiative, Sierra Club
Policy Advisor, Beyond Gas & Oil Team, Oregon Sierra Club


2016 Legislative Wrap-up: Victory on Coal and Clean Energy!

March 17, 2016

Oregon capitol

It was a whirlwind session of the Oregon Legislature for 4 weeks of February (and 3 days of March). Sierra Club staff worked hard to track bills, provide testimony, and meet with legislators in Salem to advocate for renewable energy, wildlife protection, our state forests, and more. And though there were some real disappointments out of the session, passing the biggest climate legislation in Oregon in many years was a very significant victory!

It was a session marked by bitter partisanship on many fronts, underscored by parliamentary brinksmanship and some very long floor sessions. Many important bills got mired in the legislative quicksand and we were lucky to have emerged with something as important (and bipartisan!) as our Clean Energy and Coal Transition bill, given those circumstances. Clearly, it was your e-mails and phone calls that made the difference!

Here are some of the highlights of the 2016 short session:

  • Clean Energy and Coal Transition Plan: If you’ve paid any attention at all to the news recently, you’ve likely heard the inspiring news about the passage and signing of Senate Bill 1547, the Clean Energy and Coal Transition Bill. When Governor Kate Brown put her pen to this landmark legislation on March 11, it set Oregon on a path to eliminate its use of coal power by 2035 and double the amount of clean, renewable energy serving Oregonians to 50 percent by 2040.

The Clean Energy and Coal Transition plan was crafted by bringing diverse parties to the table, including Oregon’s two largest electric utilities, energy industry and business groups, and advocacy and community organizations. Chapter staff worked closely with the national Beyond Coal Campaign on this critical legislation. With it, Oregon has charted a bold course for the nation as we accelerate the transition away from dirty fuels of the past. Sierra Club members and supporters should be very proud of the role we all played in this victory!

  • Healthy Climate Act: Unfortunately, we did not see similar success with our other climate priority for the 2016 session. Senate Bill 1574, the Healthy Climate Act, would have held big polluters accountable for the cost of what they are dumping into our air and water by instituting a “cap and invest” program in Oregon. Similar to the program put in place by AB 32 in California, the bill would have put a cap on carbon emissions and helped to achieve Oregon’s goal to reduce pollution while creating incentives to accelerate the transition to a   clean energy economy. And though we failed to move the legislation this year, our coalition fully intends to be back in 2017, more motivated than ever to continue this critical work!
  • Solar energy: The Clean Energy and Coal Transition bill included some important provisions to help create a “community solar” program for Oregon and ensure that at least 10% of the program’s capacity be provided to low-income customers. We also worked to help pass House Bill 4037, which will dramatically increase the amount of solar energy being produced in Oregon by helping to ensure that 16 to 18 new large-scale solar projects will be built in Oregon over the next two years. In addition to the clear carbon reduction benefits of these large solar projects, they will also create hundreds of jobs and pour millions of property tax dollars into the coffers of rural Oregon communities that need it the most.
  • Defending Wildlife: Unfortunately, we did not do so well on wildlife bills in the 2016 session. On the bright side, for once we did not have to contend with any bills related to the hunting of cougars, and we did see the passage of House Bill 4046, which increased penalties for wildlife poaching.

However, one very disheartening loss was the passage and signing of House Bill 4040. Though this legislation was framed by its proponents as a mere “ratification” of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission’s decision to remove gray wolves from the state’s endangered species list, the effects of the bill were much more sinister. In addition to setting a bad precedent for the legislature to step in and review scientific decisions of administrative agencies, the bill was also revealed to be a blatant attempt to moot out a lawsuit that had been filed by several groups that disputed the scientific basis of the Commission’s delisting decision. Despite the best efforts of the conservation community, the bill passed the legislature and was signed by the Governor on March 15.

  • Suction Dredge Mining: One other disappointment from the session was the failure to pass Senate Bill 1530, which would have taken steps to improve the regulation of suction dredge mining in our state. Though the bill appeared to have had the votes to pass, it unfortunately got caught up in the partisan wrangling and bill trading at the end of the session and it died without a floor vote. Some questionable tactics by the opponents of the bill added to the frustration over failing to pass it and led to some strong statements of disappointment by the bill’s lead sponsor on the Senate floor. Again, it was a discouraging end to some common-sense legislation, but we hope to work with partners to bring back similar legislation in the 2017 session.

So that’s a wrap on the 2016 session! Many thanks to our members for all of their e-mails and phone calls to legislators; we could not have passed the historic Clean Energy and Coal Transition bill without you! Relish that victory, folks, and here’s to even more successes in 2017!


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.

4942

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.


Investing in the Future: The Healthy Climate Bill and the Coal Transition Plan

February 4, 2016

2167696800_4dedae718d_oWhen I was a kid, teachers always gave us the same piece of environmental advice: reduce, reuse, recycle. The emphasis was always on what we could do as individuals. We could pick up litter. We could recycle cans and bottles. We could donate our old clothes. If everyone did these small things, they would add up and make a difference in the world. Reduce, reuse, and recycle, and everything would be okay.

It took me until college to question this. In fact, it was in one of my very first college classes—intro to environmental studies—that my professor brought it up. I can still remember what he said: our lifestyle decisions as consumers are important, but they also distract from larger issues. What we need is not just for individuals to change, but for the entire infrastructure of our society to change. We need movements, protests, political change. And I remember him saying something about how there was “no free lunch”, how even just sitting in that lecture hall we were taking part in the dirty energy economy, what with the lights and the heating system, and if we went to the library, or the city hall, or anywhere in town, really, we would come upon the same problem, because it wasn’t just us—it was the way things were set up.

I always thought that part was particularly unfair. coalThis isn’t our mess. None of us in that lecture, none of us who went on to graduate in 2015, are responsible for the way things have been set up. We’re the inheritors of greed and chaos. I mean, look at what they’ve left us: heartbreaking mass extinctions, an ocean full of plastic garbage, an economy dependent on polluting fossil fuels that threaten the existence of all life.

But I also saw this beautiful possibility—this vision of change, of the sustainable society we could create. This isn’t our mess, but we can be the ones to fix it.

I’m not the only one with such a vision, of course. The quest for positive change is one of the main tenets of the Sierra Club. They’ve long been champions of clean energy, environmental justice, and conservation. In a way, they’re the embodiment of that big change, that infrastructural shift that my professor was talking about. I’m honored to be interning with them, especially at this moment of climactic urgency. With the hottest year on record behind us, and all this evidence of widespread droughts, reduced snow-packs, and crazy weather events—well, climate change is progressing right before our eyes. We have a small window here in which we can prohibit catastrophic warming.

Now is the time to make those big changes, and the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club is taking action. During the 2016 legislative session, the Sierra Club is promoting two bills that work together to revitalize Oregon’s energy system.

windmillsThe Healthy Climate Bill, Senate Bill 1574, proposes a “cap and invest” system. This means that polluting industries would actually pay the true price for the environmental havoc they impose upon us, and for their disastrous contributions to climate change. The money would then be invested in the clean energy sector. We’d have reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and a proliferation of local, well-paying clean energy jobs. Not only that, but investments would be targeted towards those who, today, are most threatened by environmental injustices—low-income and rural communities, as well as communities of color.

The other bill—the Oregon Clean Electricity and Coal Transition Plan (House Bill 4036—also seeks to reduce emissions, but does so in partnership with PGE and Pacific Power, Oregon’s two largest utilities. Under this bill’s provisions, Oregon’s Renewable Portfolio Standard would double to 50% by 2040. Though Oregon’s last coal-fired power plant will close in 2020, PGE and Pacific Power still source much of their electricity from coal-fired plants in other states, such as Montana. This plan would make them completely coal free by 2035 and enable them to transition to renewable energy projects, like community solar programs that prioritize low-income communities. New infrastructure would be created to encourage green transportation, such as charging stations for electric cars, thereby lessening our dependence on gas and oil. I mean, imagine that: driving an electric car powered by 100% solar or wind power. Or going into almost any building in the state and knowing it’s powered mostly by clean energy.

These two bills complement each solar farm. 1st pictures. September 2012 30192Dother in that they have varying timelines and methods to achieve a shared vision. This is way more than reduce-reuse-recycle. This is the big stuff; the big changes that need to happen if we want a better future. These bills make clean energy more affordable than dirty energy. They lift disadvantaged communities into positions of climate leadership. They create new jobs for local community members. And, of course, they reduce carbon emissions. Oregon could serve as a model of justice and sustainability. We could provide the rest of the country—and even the world—with the glimpse of a promising future. These bills work because they address our issues at the source. They not only fix old problems but they lead us on to better things, to a cleaner, healthier, healed future, in which the next generation can look back, smile, and say, look at what they’ve left us.

Take action today by contacting your legislators in support of these bills!

 

 

 

 


Homesteader: The Precipice of a Huge Loss

January 13, 2016

Over 1600 Oregonians voiced their disapproval of clearcutting old growth as part of the Homesteader timber sale in the Clatsop State Forest. It is obvious that the loss of trees that survived the Tillamook Burn and a century of logging would be devastating, but is important to get an up-close view of what we lose along with the huge, old trees.

Complex branch structure on old doug firs provide red tree vole habitat.

Complex branch structure on old doug firs provide red tree vole habitat (photo by Trygve Steen).

Along with potential Northern Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet habitat, the giant Douglas-firs in Homesteader have complex branch structures that provide habitat for red tree voles and are unique to old growth trees. Private and state forest logging has fragmented potential old growth tree vole habitat on Oregon’s north coast. These elusive rodents are a favored food for spotted owls and require mature conifer forests to survive. The State of Oregon lists the red tree vole as a sensitive-vulnerable species in the Coast Range Ecoregion and  the North Oregon Coast “distinct population segment” is a candidate for federal Endangered Species Act protection. (US Fish & Wildlife Service)

Northwestern Salamander found in area 2 of Homesteader

Northwestern Salamander found in area 2 of Homesteader (photo by Trygve Steen)

 

 

This Northwestern Salamander (right) lives in area 2 of Homesteader. Clearcutting renders habitat unsuitable for this species, and a forest buffer of 200–250 m surrounding breeding sites may preserve optimal environmental conditions for local populations. (Petranka, JW 1998 “Salamanders of the United States and Canada”)

 

 

 

 

 

Chaenotheca ferruginea  and Chaenotheca chrysocephela are rare lichen species found in area 2 of Homesteader. If found on Forest Service land, these sensitive lichens would require a buffer to protect them from impact. There are likely other rare lichens in the area.

Chaenotheca ferruginea (Orange crust under a black pin) confidently identified in are 2 of Homeaster

Chaenotheca ferruginea (Orange crust under a black pin) confidently identified in area 2 of Homesteader (photo by Trygve Steen)

Chaenotheca chrysocephela (Yellow crust under pin with light line under spore mass) Identification could be more certain with lab study

Chaenotheca chrysocephela (Yellow crust under pin with light line under spore mass) Identification could be more certain with lab study (photo by Trygve Steen)

These are just a few of the rare, sensitive, and important life forms that currently exist in the Homesteader area. If the Homesteader clearcuts move forward, these will likely all be wiped out and it will take at least a century to recover what is lost. This critical and rare refuge for so many species may, in fact, never recover. There is almost no old growth habitat left on Oregon’s north coast and the only real opportunity for conservation is on public lands. Special places like the old growth forest of Homesteader deserve long term protection, not to be wiped out for short-term profit.
This large, old western redcedar may be logged as part of the Homesteader clearcuts.

This large, old western redcedar may be logged as part of the Homesteader clearcuts.


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