Challenging Threats to Public Lands & Escalations of Logging in Eastern Oregon
New Threats & New Directions:
Under the Trump administration we are now facing the dismantling of environmental protection agencies and laws such as the EPA and threats to the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act. The administration is attempting to push through legislation such as the Westerman Bill, which would gut current regulations and allow logging of up to 30,000 acres without any substantial environmental review. It would encourage logging in roadless areas, weaken protections for threatened and endangered species, and curtail the public’s ability to challenge agencies in court. We are also seeing federal intention to privatize public lands and numerous executive orders attacking the environment, such as proposals to shrink National Monuments and open them to drilling and other resource extraction. The administration also ended the moratorium on new coal leases on public lands, is seeking to weaken clean water protections, and has muzzled climate scientists and scrubbed federal climate change websites. Such attacks are emblematic of this administration’s many unprecedented efforts to roll back environmental protections and give a green light to destructive logging and resource extraction on public lands, while actively denying the scientific reality of the global climate change crisis.
So what does a small grassroots ecological protection group like Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project do? Everything we can! Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project staff, volunteers, and supporters have painstakingly brought BMBP to a much greater level of financial and organizational stability over the last five years. Now we are able to better meet the challenges of an extreme escalation in the pace and scale of logging and toxic herbicide use in eastern Oregon while also joining others in confronting the myths and onslaughts of an extreme right-wing government displaying signs of fascism.
Here are some of our new strategic plans to meet these challenges:
- We are more committed than ever to holding the line on beneficial environmental protections for streams, wildlife habitats, and at-risk species. For example, we have increased our focus on protecting streams and Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas (RHCAs) and ensuring that
commercial logging in RHCAs does not gain a foothold on public lands in eastern Oregon. We’ve spent hundreds of hours field surveying RHCAs in which the Forest Service has proposed logging. We’ve used the information we’ve collected to challenge agency proposals for commercial logging in RHCAs, defend current environmental regulations, and educate the public. We’re also focused on defending Forest Plan standards such as the prohibition on logging large trees.
- Now more than ever it is important for citizens to take the reins on fighting climate change. Preserving forests is integral to fighting climate change. Forests are key for sequestering carbon in order to slow climate change; mature and old growth
forests sequester more carbon than ‘managed’ forests. Current efforts to increase logging threaten to devastate forest ecosystems and weaken their ability to adapt to or withstand climate change, and increasegreenhouse gas emissions.
- We are working to increase our capacity for pursuing litigation as needed through developing an expanded pool of lawyers and increasing our funding to cover legal expenses. We are strategically planning larger scale litigation to target multiple agency projects with common problems or to force policy changes on broader threats to regional species and public lands conservation.
- We are also working with other environmental advocacy groups as much as possible. For example, we are joining with biocentric environmental groups to form and use a regional to national public lands legal defense network in order to jointly strategize, improve messaging, and share resources. We have also broadened our alliance building work, and formed new relationships with several groups, particularly those working against climate change.
- We are expanding our public outreach to a regional and national level through our Director, Karen Coulter, going on the road again for speaking tours on such topics as Forest Ecosystems and Climate Change, and the Rise of Corporate Power in the U.S. and the Current Political Moment. Volunteers are working to schedule her speaking tour for Spring of 2018. Karen will also give workshops for university and college classes and environmental groups on Strategic Campaigning and legal forest defense.
While we are encouraged by the growing resistance to the Trump agenda across the nation and want to do more, we will not desist in our opposition to the escalating scale and pace of ecologically destructive logging and herbicide use. We remain committed to continuing our important educational and documentation work in the field with volunteers, the backbone of our resistance to unsustainable timber sales. See below for our work accomplished in 2017 and our ongoing preparations for our new strategic initiatives.
2017 Work Accomplishments:
With the help of volunteers, we surveyed thousands of acres of timber sales across four National Forests.
Timber sale and grazing allotment surveyed: Ragged Ruby timber sale (last half) and Blue Dollar cattle allotment on the Malheur National Forest (NF); Black Mountain timber sale on the Ochoco NF; Sunrise timber sale on the Umatilla NF; and Green Ridge timber sale on the Deschutes NF. Of these, the Ragged Ruby sale threatens beautiful creeks and American marten habitat and includes proposed logging of never-logged forest. The Blue Dollar allotment had extremely degraded conditions along creeks and a lack of native plants left in uplands. The Black Mountain sale is large and has diverse wildlife use, including intensive woodpecker foraging and predator sightings. The sale proposes to log remaining stringers and blocks of old growth Ponderosa pine and mixed conifer forest. The Sunrise sale plans clearcutting and includes destructive forest practices such as intermediate cuts leading to clearcutting in high elevation mixed conifer forest next to roadless areas.These roadless areas provide suitable habitat for far roaming lynx, wolverines, and wolves; we advocate for creating connectivity between core habitat, rather than further increasing fragmentation. Finally, the Green Ridge sale would commercially log or over-manage about 23,000 out of 25,000 acres in the project area, including logging of Forest Service-identified suitable Northern Spotted owl dispersal habitat, other potentially suitable Spotted owl mixed conifer habitat, riparian zones along creeks, and some old growth Ponderosa pine and Incense cedar stands, with no apparent size limit for logging. This would include diversifying young pine plantations on old clear cuts in the middle of mixed-conifer forest over about 7,000 acres, which is the only part of the sale on which we agree with Forest Service plans.
Volunteers for the field season: New: Shay, Hannah, Laura, Roscoe, Kara, Marsha, Joe, Augustine, Adam, Clark, Widow, and Andrew. Returning: Gambit, Rachel, Joey, Sophie, Brenna, Merlin, Caroline, Maria, Cooper, Jeffrie, Alex, and Bracken. Many volunteers stayed for extended periods or returned again later in the season, so that we were able to cover all the necessary acres of timber sales and cattle allotments. Thank you! As usual, it was a joy to work with you.
Public comments and objections: We submitted public comments or objections on 17 projects,and are tracking over 33 projects in different stages of planning.
Comments written on agency projects: We submitted extensive comments on the following Environmental Assessments: Flat; Sparta; Summit; Walton Lake (with Earth Rise Law Center); and Camp Lick timber sales, and the Blue Dollar and Tamarack grazing allotments. We also wrote in-depth comments on the Ringo and the Ten Cent timber sale Environmental Impact Statements. We submitted scoping comments on the Flat; Ragged Ruby; Green Ridge; and Black Mountain timber sales; the Emigrant District-wide hazard tree removal, and the Crescent Creek Wild and Scenic River Management Plan. We commented on the following timber sales done under Categorical Exclusions (CEs): Heppner Mt. Top Defensible Space; Godman Thin; Soldier; and East Maury “Salvage” (post-fire) logging project. Categorical exclusions are used by the agency to waive NEPA requirements for in depth analysis of potential environmental impacts and full public involvement; CEs under the Farm Bill can be used on up to 3,000 acres of logging. Our comments covered sales on the Malheur, Umatilla, Ochoco, Deschutes, and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests.
Objections filed: Magone, Ten Cent, Dove, Sparta, Camp Lick (with Earth Rise Law Center), and Summit timber sales. Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project, Wilderness Watch, and Bark filed a joint objection to the Prescribed Fire in Wilderness Mt. Scott Project on the Willamette National Forest.
Acres saved! Our objections and negotiations resulted in the Forest Service dropping hundreds of acres of commercial logging and implementing ecologically beneficial modifications across thousands of acres in timber sales.
The Summit timber sale: In response to our field survey information and our objection, the Forest Service canceled proposed logging of large trees ≥21” dbh on approximately 1,616 acres in units within mature forests designated as “Late Old Structure” forests. Comments from us and environmental allies resulted in the Forest Service dropping all commercial logging in the Malheur River Wild and Scenic River corridor (123 acres) and all logging in the Glacier Mountain Inventoried Roadless Area (31 acres). All commercial logging was canceled within streamside Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas (234 acres).
In the Sparta timber sale the Forest Service dropped commercial logging within riparian buffers, and modified girdling (killing) of Douglas fir infected with mistletoe to thinning around affected trees.
Prescribed Fire in Wilderness—Mt. Scott Project: BMBP, Wilderness Watch, and Bark submitted a joint objection to this project; the Forest Service subsequently withdrew this proposal entirely. We are relieved that this Wilderness area will not be subject to heavy ecological manipulation and helicopter flights, and will instead remain untrammeled and dominated by natural processes. The high elevation, mixed-conifer forests in this Wilderness area historically burns infrequently and with relatively high intensity, and so are entirely within their natural range for fire regime and vegetation conditions. Wildfires tend to burn differently than agency prescribed fire, and may have different ecological trajectories. Also, many nearby forests have recently experienced wildfires, and the unburned older forest in this area add to diversity across the landscape. Many forests surrounding the Wilderness areas have been heavily logged, making the untrammeled and unmanaged forests within the Wilderness that much more integral for maintaining diversity across the landscape.
The Dove timber sale: In response to our objection to the Dove timber sale, the Forest Service dropped approximately 545 acres of commercial logging, as well as 780 acres of non-commercial logging. The Forest Service significantly modified approximately 13,139 acres to increase ecological protections. Specifically, the Forest Service dropped all commercial logging in stream buffer zones, which totaled 315 acres; dropped most Lodgepole pine/mixed conifer sale units; canceled a planned Forest Plan amendment to reduce elk and deer cover below Forest Plan standards resulting in 193 acres of commercial logging and another 663 acres of biomass logging dropped; restricted logging of trees to no more than 10.9” dbh on 8,706 acres of biomass logging; and reduced “conifer encroachment” logging to a 15” dbh size limit on 4,016 acres. Other negotiation concessions on the Dove sale included the Forest Service dropping 70 acres of Lodgepole pine logging and modifying another 114 acres of pre-commercial logging based on concerns identified in BMBP’s field surveys; dropping 37 acres of commercial logging in Goshawk post-fledging areas; dropping 47 acres of Lodgepole logging in connectivity corridors; and modified another 156 to include generally greater retention of trees. The Forest Service also agreed to exclude prescribed fire ignitions in Pileated woodpecker foraging areas, to buffer nest snags and roosting trees, and to retain a higher proportion of trees on 147 acres in areas designated as Replacement Old Growth that have associated Pileated Feeding areas.
The Lower Joseph Creek timber sale: In cooperation with environmental allies, we saved over 8,000 large trees in the Lower Joseph Creek timber sale (Wallowa-Whitman National Forest (NF)). Large trees are defined as those ≥21” in diameter at breast height (dbh). The Forest Service also substantially increased the size of no-cut buffers on most streams within the sale. Logging will occur further away from most creeks compared to what was originally proposed, in order to better protect water quality and streamside riparian habitats. The Forest Service clarified that no commercial logging will take place in Inventoried Roadless Areas, and put in place more stringent restrictions regarding non-commercial logging in these areas. These changes are significant steps in the right direction, and will better protect Threatened steelhead in the project area. While we are still very concerned about logging in this project, we are very relieved that these improvements will significantly reduce negative ecological impacts.
Litigation: Earth Rise Law Center law students and attorney Tom Buchele are working with us to follow through on the Walton Lake case on the Ochoco NF. The Walton Lake project now includes an environmental assessment, but still proposes to log hundreds of magnificent large and old growth fir trees as part of this sale. The Forest Service has already admitted in internal documents that logging would completely change the scenery of the area, and that they would essentially be clearcutting fir-dominated portions of the area. Earth Rise Law Center law students and attorney Tom Buchele are also working with us to respond to the Camp Lick timber sale on the Malheur NF through the objection process. The Camp Lick project proposes commercial logging within streamside habitats (“Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas” or RHCAs) and connectivity corridors, and logging of large trees ≥ 21” in diameter at breast height. We are very concerned about this sale, and are working hard to challenge ecologically destructive logging in this project.
Karen Coulter, Director of BMBP, submitted an affidavit for standing on the Ochoco Summit OHV trail lawsuit filed by Wild Earth Guardians so that Wild Earth Guardians can represent our interest in stopping this highly destructive off-road vehicle trail through prime elk habitat, Dedicated Old Growth habitat, sensitive lithosol habitat, and crossing many streams.
Field trip and panel on commercial logging in Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas: Paula, our Co-Director, organized a field trip and panel on logging in streamside Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas (RHCAs) in John Day in October. We were very honored to have visiting scientists Dr. Chris Frissell and Dr. Chad Hanson share their research and expertise throughout the day. The event was well-attended by collaborative group members and Forest Service specialists, with approximately 26 people joining us throughout the day. During the morning field trip, we visited two streams in the Camp Lick timber sale which have
proposed commercial logging in mixed-conifer forests within their RHCAs. Chris and Chad gave presentations and led discussions during the afternoon panel. Many good discussions were had on topics such as: threats to water quality and stream habitats from logging in RHCAs; natural fire regimes in mixed-conifer forests; cumulative impacts from roads, cattle grazing, and logging; and climate change related issues. We are very glad we had the opportunity to bring in expert opinions that demonstrated scientific controversy regarding logging in RHCAs, and included opinions and research that run contrary to agency rationales for logging within streamside corridors. We remain very concerned that the agency, collaborative groups, and other groups advocating for logging in RHCAs continue to ignore key science on these issues. We are committed to continuing to challenge agency proposals to commercially log in RHCAs, and to raising public awareness about the risks to stream ecosystems from such proposals. Thanks to Jeff Schwilk for videotaping the afternoon panel, which we will be posting on our website soon.
Speaking Speaking presentations: At the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference in Eugene last spring, we presented a Citizen Science panel slideshow of our 2017 field season, forest surveying techniques, and threats to Eastern Oregon National Forests. In April, we did a presentation on climate change adaptation at the Bark office in Portland. In September, Karen traveled to Richmond, California to give a slideshow and discussion on the work of Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project and forest defense in the context of rural right-wing communities at the Soil Not Oil Conference. Paula gave a talk at Bark’s Base Camp in September on threats to forests in eastern Oregon, and included discussion on climate change, logging, fire ecology, and streams. We gave a talk on the work BMBP does and how it relates to climate change at the Under One Roof Event in October.
Workshops: Karen gave a Nonviolent Direct Action training at a Friends Meeting hall in Portland in January; a Strategic Campaigning workshop at a Social Justice and Ecology Center in Portland in February; a forest surveying workshop at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington in April; and workshops on the history of the Earth First! Movement with Karen Pickett, and on Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project legal forest defense and public process for monitoring timber sales on National Forests at the Earth First! national Round River Rendezvous in California in July.
Media Interviews: We gave an XRAY.fm radio interview and two KBOO radio interviews on the work of Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project and our upcoming benefit event, both in Portland, and a Cascadia radio interview on our benefit and biodiversity.
Solar Eclipse Outreach on the Ochoco National Forest: 25 of us, including staff, supporters, and many volunteers enjoyed the total solar eclipse on the Ochoco National Forest, and also passed out fliers about Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project, the Ochoco NF, and our work to many campers there to see the eclipse. We also finished surveying the adjacent Black Mountain timber sale. It was a great time. Thanks to everyone!
Action Alerts: We sent Action Alerts to our volunteers and supporters on the following timber sales: Sparta, Summit, Flat, Walton Lake, Ringo, and Ragged Ruby, and Camp Lick. We also sent out Action Alerts on the revised Wolf Management Plan for Oregon, and the Westernman Bill. We created a sign-on letter opposing destructive logging in the Camp Lick sale and circulated it at our benefit.
Movement and Alliance-Building: We coordinated and met with local environmental advocates in eastern Oregon, and with allies from across the region. We enjoyed meeting with Friends of the Deschutes and with individual environmentalists from Bend, as well as working with groups such as the Climate Action Coalition in Portland, Friends of the Clearwater in Idaho, Bark in Portland, and the John Muir Project from California. Our efforts with these groups has included work such as strategizing on opposing agency projects; co-sponsoring events; highlighting climate change related issues; submitting a joint objection; challenging logging in streamside corridors; working together to highlight problems with collaborative groups; and meetings. We also attended a meeting of the Oregon Outdoor Coalition.
BMBP co-sponsored the Under One Roof event in October, which included groups working for social, racial, and environmental justice sharing their purpose, projects, and stories. We also co-sponsored the Water Is Life: Youth Speak Out Against Fracked Gas event in Portland, which featured youth speaking out against the Jordan Cove export terminal and the Pacific Connector pipeline; Paula became an intervenor against this fossil fuel infrastructure project. We attended the Decolonizing Our Activism training in Portland in October. BMBP staff participated in the “Earth to Trump” kick-off event by the Center for Biodiversity in Portland; and in the following protests in Portland: Anti-inauguration on January 20th, the Women’s March on January 21st; and a racial justice march on January 28th. We also made calls to oppose the privatization of the Elliot State Forest, and continued communications about the formation of a regional public lands defense network.
Meetings and field trips we attended:
We attended three field trips with Forest Service staff to discuss areas where we have serious concerns about proposed logging in sensitive ecological areas, two Forest Service open houses, and numerous objection resolution meetings. We also attended four collaborative group meetings, six collaborative subcommittee meetings, and two field trips. Our meetings with the collaborative have focused on logging in RHCAs, have included extensive research and written summaries on science that the agency is overlooking or ignoring on key issues.
Spencer Ward, one of our volunteers, gave public testimony on behalf of Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife hearing on the revised Wolf Conservation and Management Plan in Portland in May. BMBP staff also attended Pacific Wolf Coalition meetings, including the in-person meeting in Seattle.
Organizational Sustainability Efforts:
Organizational Structure Improvements: We formed our new board independent of the League of WildernessDefenders, had regular board meetings, and initiated the process to become an independent 501(C)(3) non-profit organization. We also held our regular staff and volunteer annual strategy meeting, with volunteers taking on ambitious initiatives. Volunteers Steph, Rachel, Maralena, and Gambit are organizing a speaking tour for Karen for 2018; Cooper and Joey helped with research and comment writing on the Camp Lick sale; and Dusty helped with outreach. We also paid Maria Farinacci, one of our long-term volunteers, to help us with volunteer coordination during one of the busiest parts of our field season. Maria was extremely helpful, and her hard work kicked off a great start in the process of moving toward taking on a new seasonal staff position.
Fundraising: Our annual Spring benefit in Portland was well attended and largely organized and staffed by volunteers. Special thanks to Brenna Sahatijian and Isobel Charle for their dedicated and above-and-beyond efforts to make the evening fun and successful! We raised $1,647 and had a lovely evening. We also want to thank the following creative and talented folks who contribute their time, energy, art, crafts, and work for BMBP’s annual benefit: A Stick and A Stone, Cinder Well, and Johanna Warren for amazing music; Leaven Community Center for sharing their space; KBOO for their sponsorship of the event, and for being an integral force for good in Oregon; Printed Matter for the BMBP t-shirts; Double Mountain Brewery for beer donations; 2 Towns Ciderhouse for cider donations; Icon Tattoo Studio for generous gift certificates for our raffle; Roger Peet for donations of his incredible art; Dusty, Phoenix, Steph, Maralena, and others for donating art, crafts, and herbal gift baskets; Steph Taylor, Wedge, Phoenix, Brenna, Isobel, Gambit, Rachel, and everyone who staffed the event.
We also want to thank Stephanie Taylor for organizing a punk rock show benefit in August for us that raised $200. Thanks Steph, and thanks to everyone who came out to support us!
Thank you to everyone who has donated in support of our ecological protection work in eastern Oregon. We rely on donations both small and large to continue our work. We’d like to extend our heartfelt thanks to the Astrov Fund, Burning Foundation; Charlotte Martin Foundation; the Clif Bar Family Foundation, Bill Healy Foundation, Vanguard Charitable, Fund for Wild Nature, and the Tirdof Fund for their support.
We also want to give a big thank you to Japanese Auto for ensuring the maintenance and safety of our vehicles.
Upcoming timber sales to be surveyed and BMBP events in 2018:
Spring of 2018: Our speaking tour—probably to universities and colleges in New York, Washington, Oregon, and Northern California, based on contacts met at the Earth First! Rendezvous, and volunteer organizing; our annual Spring benefit; and our annual strategy meeting, likely in March in Portland.
Summer of 2018: Likely timber sales to be field surveyed of which we are aware so far: the Glass sale on the Umatilla National Forest, the Cliff-Knox sale on the Malheur NF, and a post- fire logging sale where the Millie fire occurred in 2017 on the Sisters Ranger District of the Deschutes National Forest.
Large-scale threats to Eastern Oregon National Forests in 2018: The Forest Service’s so-called “Blue Mountains Forest Resiliency Project” that would commercially log and prescribed burn about half of the Ochoco National Forest and about one-third of both the Umatilla and the Wallowa-Whitman National Forests (discounting Wilderness Areas and Inventoried Roadless Areas, that would be unaffected), or more than half a million acres, all in one mega timber sale. We are also expecting the agency to release the Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision, which would jettison many existing enforceable Forest Plan standards and guidelines, eliminate the 21” diameter at breast height (dbh) tree cutting limit for live trees other than safety hazard trees, and likely eliminate or degrade INFISH and PACFISH water quality, creek, and fish protections. Both of these agency onslaughts are up for action in 2018—the Forest Plan Revision for a decision, appeals, and later litigation; and the BMFRP for public comment and objection in an environmental assessment or EIS. Please watch for our action alerts on these and help us respond!
We Need Your Help to Continue Our Ecological Protection Efforts!
All of our work of course requires funding, so if you believe in what we’re doing and want to help us fight these threats to ecological integrity and biodiversity, please donate! We also need in-kind donations, especially from lawyers and law students on litigation efforts, and of cameras and GPSes for our field work and volunteers to help for the summer field surveying. Food and gear donations greatly support our summer field season.
$2,000 greatly helps with litigation expenses
$1,000 helps pay our two hard-working staff
$750 helps keep our trucks running for the field season and outreach
$500 could cover much of our photo printing expenses
$250 could help with phone bills
$100 helps cover postage
$50 helps pay for field equipment
$25 can cover some office supplies
Anything helps, but we need to increase our ability to address larger attacks on the forests, other public lands, species protections, and biodiversity in general. Please donate as much as you can to:
Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project, 27803 Williams Lane, Fossil, OR 97830
You also make one-time donations online, or become a month contributor. Please see our website at: https://bluemountainsbiodiversityproject.org
You can reach us at (541) 385-9167
Thank you for helping to defend forests in eastern Oregon!