Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project 2016 Annual Work Report
Walton Lake Timber Sale Victory & Other Accomplishments
With Earth Rise Law Center, we stopped the logging of large old growth fir trees around Walton Lake, the most popular recreation area on the Ochoco National Forest. The magnificent old growth fir forest around Walton Lake will continue to provide important wildlife habitat. Campers, anglers, boa ters, birdwatchers, hikers, cross country skiers and hunters can return to Walton Lake and still experience the ecological interactions and scenic pleasures of a beautiful lake and old growth forest setting.
The Forest Service withdrew its plans to log in the Walton Lake area shortly after a Federal District Court Judge granted a preliminary injunction to temporarily halt the logging slated to begin in October. In granting the injunction, the Court found that we were likely to prevail on at least one of our claims. Although the Forest Service repeatedly told the public and the press that this project would only “thin” the beautiful old growth forest that surrounds Walton Lake, the Forest Service actually planned to remove virtually all Grand fir and Douglas-fir—including enormous old growth trees—from a long stretch of forest visible from Walton Lake. The Forest Service attempted to use a Categorical Exclusion process, which severely limits opportunities for public involvement. Much of the logging authorized by this timber sale also would have violated mandatory restrictions called the Eastside Screens, which prohibit the Forest Service from logging trees over 21 inches diameter at breast height (dbh). The Forest Service attempted to misuse a narrow exception in the Eastside Screens meant to address the removal of “roadside or campground hazard trees”—damaged, diseased, or dead trees next to roads or in campgrounds that pose a legitimate threat to human health and safety. Yet the Forest Service has the ongoing ability to fell legitimate roadside and campground hazard trees; the cancellation of this timber sale does not change that. Earthrise attorney Tom Buchele, and his co-counsel, Oregon City attorney and Earthrise alum Jesse Buss, filed the litigation and the motion for a preliminary injunction in the Federal District Court. Earthrise Fellow, Doug DeRoy, and Earthrise student, Tessa Chillemi, also helped brief the motion. We are very grateful to the tremendous amount of legal work done on behalf of the forest by the lawyers and law students of Earth Rise Law Center over the years, including yet another victory from our work together.
Working with allies through the objection negotiation process, we managed to get more than 3,856 acres of commercial logging canceled from four timber sales and additional large tree logging dropped: 2,764 acres dropped from the Kahler sale (Umatilla National Forest (NF)) and 996 acres dropped from the East Face sale (Wallowa-Whitman NF) with the help of Hells Canyon Preservation Council (HCPC) staff members. We also got an unspecified acreage of commercial logging either dropped or changed to non-commercial size fuel reduction from the Ursus sale on the (Deschutes NF), with support from Oregon Wild, and 96 acres dropped from the Thomas Creek sale (Umatilla NF). More specifically, with the Kahler sale, we and HCPC got 2,000 acres dropped through our opposition to Forest Plan amendments that would have allowed the logging of large trees over 21” dbh and reduction in thermal and hiding cover below Forest Plan standards for elk and deer. We thus preserved already scarce large tree structure for wildlife, fish, carbon sequestration, and recreation, and higher quality elk and deer habitat continually threatened with timber sale-related cover reductions over Blue Mountains and central Oregon Forests.
We also managed to get 764 additional acres dropped from the Kahler sale by insisting on the cancelation of logging in Riparian Habitat Conservation Area “no logging” stream buffers and on dropping the logging of three never logged sale units. The 2,000 acres already dropped incorporated many of our highest priority wildlife habitat areas for protection from logging. During the East Face sale objection resolution process, Paula Hood focused on protecting Threatened-listed Bull trout in the sale area, and succeeded in getting 241 acres of logging in riparian (creek and stream-side) areas dropped and 124 acres changed from commercial to non-commercial size logging. Working in cooperation with Hell’s Canyon Preservation Council and Oregon Wild, we collectively stopped 192 acres of commercial logging, and changed 199 acres from commercial logging to non-commercial size thinning, as well as stopping the re-opening of 23 miles of closed roads and the construction of 4.25 miles of new “temporary” road. The Thomas Creek objection negotiations resulted in the Forest Service agreeing to drop 96 acres of commercial logging, increased protections along creeks, and decreased diameter limits for logging to 17” dbh along creeks. Our and Oregon Wild’s Ursus sale objection negotiations resulted in commercial logging in about 13 sale units being dropped or changed to non-commercial size fuel reduction, plus our getting additional sale units dropped from areas never logged or roaded before. The total sale units dropped or changed included some key wildlife habitat areas for American marten, Pileated woodpecker, and Northern Spotted owl that we identified during field surveying. Karen Coulter also got the Forest Service to clarify in writing that they would not log more rare species of trees such as Western larch, Englemann spruce, and Whitebark pine, and that they would not cut large Douglas fir or Ponderosa pine and limit logging of snags to up to 21” dbh, as well as limit logging of Grand fir to up to 22” dbh. Paula Hood’s objection resolution negotiations on the Starr Aspen sale resulted in saving at least 120 large trees 21”dbh or greater from being logged.
2016 Timber Sale surveying and Volunteer Internship Program:
We field surveyed the Camp Lick and Flat timber sales (Malheur NF), the Kew sale (Deschutes NF), and most of the early draft proposed sale units in the Ragged Ruby sale (Malheur NF). We also spot-checked sale units in the Canyon Post-Fire sale (Malheur NF) and the Upper Deschutes WUI sale (Deschutes NF). As examples of the scale of our summer field surveying, the Camp Lick preliminary sale units cover about 9,300 acres, and the Kew sale includes 6,500 acres of commercial logging sale units. The Flat-Upper Camp sale is similar in scale to Camp Lick. The Canyon and Upper Deschutes WUI sales are both relatively small (Canyon is 1,210 acres), and Ragged Ruby may be close to the size of Camp Lick once a draft map is finalized. 32 volunteers came out to help us field survey thousands of acres of timber sales in 2016, including 19 new volunteers. Great thanks to all of our 2016 volunteers: AJ, Nico, Joey, Alex, Kyle, Cicada, Rocks, Brenna, Merlin, Sawyer, Isobel, Cooper, Caroline, Matt, Salix, Nico (the elder), Audry, Kecia, Jessy, Amanda, Centi, Simon, Jinks, Adan, Abbey, Harpo, Jenae, Karl, Annie, Megan, Luke, and Marta. Many of these volunteers donated food and camping equipment to our effort, and Kecia, Danny, Luke, and Marta have helped with repairs and building projects for our base of operations in eastern Oregon. Volunteers and their family members also donated funds to keep our forest protection work strong in 2016, including major donor contributions.
Comment Writing, Objections, and Appeals: In addition to our field work, our 2016 work load pertaining to our comments, objections, and appeals was overwhelming for our only two full time staff, Karen Coulter and Paula Hood. Paula was also saddled with a great deal of administrative work to organize our new Board of Directors and bylaws; internet research to better inform our comments and objections; and grant proposal writing.
Collectively, Karen and Paula wrote 11 sets of scoping comments on: 9 timber sales; one livestock grazing allotment renewal; one prescribed fire proposal; and the Blue Mountains Forest Resiliency Project, which proposes over half a million acres of logging and burning over three National Forests, with only one opportunity for public comment and objection. Paula wrote comments for 7 Categorical Exclusion projects (for which there would be no further analysis or opportunity for public appeal) including 4 post-fire timber sales, two herbicide use proposals, and one post fire reforestation proposal. We wrote comments on 11 Environmental Assessments and Environmental Impact Statements, including for 8 timber sales across the Deschutes, Ochoco, Malheur, and Umatilla National Forests; two Bureau of Land Management herbicide use plans, and one proposed Off-highway vehicle trail proposed for the Ochoco National Forest.
Paula and Karen wrote 14 objections and appeals, including for: 9 proposed timber sales (3 on the Umatilla NF—Thomas Creek, Kahler, and Ten Cent; two on the Wallowa Whitman NF—East Face and Lower Joseph; two on the Deschutes NF—Ursus and Melvin Butte; one on the Ochoco NF—Gap; and one on the Malheur—Starr Aspen); four herbicide use plans, including for two long-term BLM plans for the Prineville and Vale Districts; and the Ochoco Summit OHV Trail project. Some of our objections have not yet been negotiated with the agencies, including the Vale BLM District Invasive Plant Management Plan, the Ten Cent timber sale, and the Ochoco Summit OHV trail proposal.
Potential cases for litigation: Some of these objections and appeals were not resolved and are still under consideration for litigation, including the Lower Joseph, Melvin Butte, and Gap timber sales, and the Prineville BLM Invasive Plant Management Plan, which proposes a great increase in toxic herbicide use. We are also considering other timber sale litigation and potential litigation on the Newberry Geothermal Leasing Project, which is adjacent to (and would be drilling under) the Newberry Volcanic Monument. All litigation decisions are based on relative legal merits, priority based on values at risk, and the availability of lawyers and funding.
Meetings and Field Tours with the Forest Service and local collaborative groups: Our meetings with the Forest Service included Karen’s participation in Forest Service Open Houses in May on the Camp Lick and Ragged Ruby timber sales; Karen’s attendance at a Riparian Restoration workshop on August 17th; in a Forest Service field tour of the proposed Black Mountain sale on the Ochoco National Forest on August 18th; and at a riparian subcommittee meeting of the Blue Mountain Forest Partners Collaborative group on November 17th. Paula participated in two meetings of the Deschutes Collaborative group; one meeting of the Ochoco Collaborative group; one moist mixed conifer subcommittee meeting; and one riparian subcommittee meeting of the Blue Mountain Forest Partners Collaborative group. In November, Karen and Paula toured sale units and riparian restoration sites overlapping Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas (RHCAs) in two timber sales with Forest Service staff to discuss problems with logging in RHCAs and the pros and cons of various riparian restoration methods at different site-specific situations.
Activist Trainings: 2016 was a big year for being invited to do forest survey trainings for other groups—for Friends of the Clearwater in Idaho, and for a combination of activists from Cascadia Forest Defense in Eugene, Oregon and from a forest defense effort in Wisconsin. Both trainings took place in May in proposed timber sales, and both were well attended. The Friends of the Clearwater newsletter included a glowing account of the training in Idaho from a participant, which is on our website. Karen is also being asked to give a hands-on forest surveying training for Evergreen State College students in Olympia, Washington in March or April, 2017. Karen was invited to give activist trainings at the Backbone Action Camp on Vashon Island, Washington, in June. These included an interactive session on the history of the Earth First! Movement, a workshop on traditional media tactics, and a workshop on Strategic Campaigning. Paula gave a workshop on stream ecology and climate change at Bark’s BaseCamp event in Mt. Hood National Forest. These workshops involved 28, 22, 17, and 22 participants respectively. Paula coordinated BMBP volunteer participation in writing public comments on agency projects, guiding three volunteers through the process.
Speaking presentations: Karen was invited to speak on three panels at the Eugene Environmental LAW Conference in March, on Forest Thinning and Wildfire, Why Collaborative Groups are Bad Public Policy, and Citizen Science (about our timber sale surveying program). She also gave a speaking presentation on the history of deforestation and resistance in the Pacific Northwest at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington in April.
Workshops: Karen also gave two workshops at the regional Earth First! Rendezvous in the Willamette National Forest in Oregon on the history of deforestation and resistance in the Pacific Northwest and on the legal forest defense work of Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project.
Media work: Karen’s media interviews included a March KBOO radio show’s coverage of threats to eastern Oregon forests, including the so-called “Blue Mountains Forest Resiliency Project” (a Forest Service 610,000 acre logging and burning scheme over three National Forests with only one Environmental Impact Statement opportunity for public involvement), thoughts on relating to the Earth and to wild life species, and promotion of Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project’s upcoming fundraising benefit. KBOO (Portland, Oregon) evening news also announced the BMBP benefit. Karen was also interviewed in April on the Florence, OR community radio station on the history of forest deforestation and resistance in the Pacific Northwest, and by Jim Lockhart on a community access cable T.V. show about the work of Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project. In May, Karen was interviewed for a book comparing Australian and U.S. civil disobedience blockade history, and for information for “Earth First!, the Musical.” She was also interviewed by Friends of the Clearwater staff on the Moscow, Idaho community radio station regarding legal forest defense work in eastern Oregon and promoting the upcoming timber sale surveying training on the Clearwater-Nez Perce National Forest in Idaho. We worked on press releases on the Walton Lake lawsuit and our victory with the Forest Service withdrawal of the timber sale decision. Paula has also been updating the BMBP Face Book page with news and events, as well as with information in solidarity with other ecological and social justice groups and movements, such as the Standing Rock occupation in North Dakota for Native sovereignty and protection of clean water. Paula also created a video about the Camp Lick timber sale, impacts to stream systems, and climate change.
Alliance-building and Collaboration with other activist groups: Our alliance-building and solidarity efforts included Paula’s November trip to a Standing Rock Dakota Access Pipeline resistance camp with supplies and supporting activists; and our participation in a clima te and forest defense rally in Portland, Oregon. Collaboration with other groups included the timber sale surveying trainings for staff and volunteers of Friends of the Clearwater in Idaho and for volunteers with Cascadia Forest Defenders and for forest activists from Wisconsin. Paula and Karen held an “Eastside forest defenders night” film, slideshow and discussion for Bark volunteers and staff in Portland, Oregon. Karen also gave a presentation on techniques and tools BMBP uses for timber sale surveying to Great Old Broads for Wilderness volunteers at their regional meeting in Brownsville, Oregon in May and attended a rally for the Wolf in Salem organized by multiple environmental organizations, including Oregon Wild. Paula testified at a public hearing on wolf management in La Grande, Oregon. We have also coordinated with Hells Canyon Preservation Council and Oregon Wild on Lower Joseph timber sale field surveying (by BMBP volunteers in 2015), our comments, and in 2016, our groups’ objections filed against the sale, as well as on our objections to the East Face sale, both on the Wallowa-Whitman NF. Similarly, we communicated with Oregon Wild over our two groups’ objections to the Ursus timber sale (Deschutes NF). Karen wrote a group sign-on letter expressing our legal arguments and ecological concerns over the “Blue Mountains Forest Resiliency Project” massive logging and burning assault on the Umatilla, Ochoco, and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests. The letter was endorsed by over 20 groups and individuals from across the country.
Action Alerts: We sent detailed action alerts and announcements to our email list of supporters and volunteers on the following subjects: a climate and forest defense rally; our comment summaries for the Vale and Prineville BLM District Invasive Plant Management Plans and solicitation of public comments; solicitation of public comments on the Blue Mountains Forest Resiliency Project huge timber sale; announcing the rally in Salem for wolf protection; announcing the wolf hearing in La Grande; and asking for comments on the Ochoco Summit OHV trail proposal. Action alerts were also sent out to our email list asking for comments on the following proposed timber sales: Gap, Ursus and Magone. We also sent out a Spring work report to our supporters and volunteers.
Organizational Development and Fundraising:
Organizational development: Paula has been working hard on coordinating our new Board of Directors, applying for Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project’s separate 501 (c) 3 nonprofit status, and developing our new organizational bylaws. Our annual strategy meeting in March included members of our new board and six volunteers. We reviewed our last year’s accomplishments, litigation plans, and fundraising strategies, and took on individual tasks to meet our goals. Karen attended the Rosehip Collective’s medic training. Paula did extensive internet research on climate change in relation to forest and stream ecology, on historical eastern Oregon forest densities, and on up-to-date wild fire science that largely refutes Forest Service assumptions, in order to better inform our comments, objections, and appeals.
We want to thank the Astrov Fund, the Burning Foundation, the Charlotte Martin Foundation, the Deep Ecology Fund through Vanguard Charitable, Patagonia, all of our major donors, and our in-kind donors, including lawyers, and law students. Our fundraising work included organizing a benefit at Velo Cult in Portland last March which netted over $1,400. We also raised money to support our work from our 2015 annual report, our Spring funding appeal, major donors, and foundations. We welcome our new funders, including Tirdorf Foundation and Clif Bar Foundation. We received various in-kind donations to support our field season, including binoculars from Celestron, hiking bars from Clif Bar, cooking oil and rice from Hummingbird Foods, and an entire case of nut butters from Once Again Nut Butters. We extend our thanks to Japanese Auto in Portland for their great work in maintaining our donated trucks. Also thanks to David for donating work on our office, and to Carolina for her help with editing!
Upcoming plans for December: Our plans for the remainder of 2016 include our second meeting of our new Board of Directors; Ochoco Summit OHV Trail objection negotiations with Ochoco Forest staff; Paula discussing stream ecology and climate change on a public hike hosted by Bark, Karen presenting on deforestation and climate change for a Bark panel; and hosting an information table at the D.I.Y. Crafts Fair at People’s Food Co-op in Portland, Oregon. Other ongoing work in December will include fundraising, comment writing, and communications with lawyers about the merits of different potential legal cases.
Upcoming plans for 2017: *comments on various timber sales in planning by the Forest Service, including Black Mountain (Ochoco NF); Green Ridge and Ringo (Deschutes NF); Summit, Magone, Camp Lick, and Ragged Ruby (Malheur NF); the “Blue Mountains Forest Resiliency Project” Draft Environmental Impact Statement; *objections on timber sales in progress, including the Dove sale (Malheur NF), and others from the list for comments above; *an appeal of the Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision decision; *potential litigation on a subset of timber sale and herbicide use plans; *possible panel presentations at the Environmental Law Conference in Eugene, Oregon in March; *a Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project fundraising benefit in March; *a speaking presentation on the history of deforestation and resistance in the Pacific Northwest at the University of Oregon/Eugene; *a hands-on forest survey training at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington; *media interviews and activist trainings; *volunteer field surveying of at least the following proposed timber sales: the rest of the Ragged Ruby sale (Malheur NF); the Black Mountain sale (Ochoco NF); the Green Ridge sale (Deschutes NF); and the Glass sale and the rest of the Sunrise sale (Umatilla NF).
Sound like a lot of work? We need your help! Donations are needed to fully support our ecological protection efforts:
$10,000 helps pay for our two staff members to keep working
$ 5,000 helps cover our transportation costs, including gas & truck repairs, for our field season & outreach
$ 2,000 may cover the legal expenses for trying to stop harmful logging or toxic herbicide use
$ 1,000 helps cover our phone communications
$500 helps cover photo documentation or copying
$100 may cover postage costs $50 contributes to field survey equipment
$25 subsidizes food for volunteers
In-kind donations needed: working cameras, dbh tape measures, and food and tea for volunteers!
Please help as much as you can. Volunteers are also needed for surveying timber sales and lawyers and law students are needed to help with litigation and appeals. Call (541) 385-9167 to volunteer.
Send $ donations or in-kind donations to:
Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project
27803 Williams Lane
Fossil, OR 97830