Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project 2018 Mid-year Work Report
Summer is here and our field season is underway! As we take to the mountains for our survey work, we want to take a moment to update you on the focus of our efforts since the annual report last December.
BMBP has been working to protect streamside ecosystems from the destructive impacts of logging. We are committed to upholding beneficial environmental protections for streams and ensuring that commercial logging does not gain a foothold in streamside corridors on public lands in eastern Oregon. Ecologically sensitive streamside areas (also called Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas or RHCAs) are crucial for the well-being of the forests all around them, and are home to sensitive and threatened fish and aquatic species. The Forest Service is increasingly proposing logging within these fragile streamside corridors. We have been closely monitoring stream siteswith our on-the-ground field surveying program, and we have been presenting scientific data, research, and expert opinions to the Forest Service and the collaborative groups. We have written extensive comments and objections in the public processes for these logging proposals, and continue to mobilize concerned citizens all over our state to speak out and let the Forest Service know of these concerns. Last October, we led a field trip and panel discussion with two expert scientists, Dr. Chad Hanson and Dr. Chris Frissell, to educate the forestry community and the public about this critical issue. While the Forest Service and collaborative groups continue to downplay and ignore the dangers of logging near streams, BMBP continues to bring these issues to light and fight to keep logging out of stream side corridors. For more information on these issues, please click here.
Holding the Forest Service Accountable on Clean Water: BMBP’s research into recent timber sales has uncovered serious data gaps in the state’s water quality database. The USFS has data showing water quality violations in numerous streams. These violations are often very severe, and limiting or lethal to salmon. However, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) is not able to track many of these violations as intended by regulatory processes, because the USFS has not been submitting data most of their data to ODEQ for many years. Without an accurate listing of which streams are violating water quality standards, it is impossible for state and federal agencies to work together to develop plans to restore streams or address watershed-scale issues. It also makes it very difficult for the public to be informed about or have access to accurate information regarding these issues. BMBP has been working to ensure that Forest Service data are submitted to ODEQ.
Acres saved! Every summer, with the help of dozens of volunteers, Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project field surveys thousands of acres of timber sales. We use the information we collect in the field as evidence in public comments, and in potential negotiations and litigation. Our on-the-ground work helps us stop or significantly modify timber sales and grazing allotments on National Forests in eastern Oregon.
Walton Lake Logging Stopped (again)! In response to the objection filed by BMBP and Earthrise Law Center to the Walton Lake project, the Forest Service canceled plans to log hundreds of large and old growth Douglas-fir and Grand fir in the Walton Lake area. In a victory for biodiversity and recreationalists, this magnificent old growth fir forest around Walton Lake will continue to provide important wildlife habitat and beloved scenic views. BMBP has stopped each of the agency’s two attempts to log this old growth forest.
The Forest Service had planned to log all of the fir trees (including magnificent large old growth firs) and other large trees that form the scenic backdrop for Walton Lake. Walton Lake is located in the Ochoco Mountains in central Oregon, northeast of Prineville, and is the most popular recreation area in the Ochoco National Forest. The Lake is a very popular recreation area because of the lake itself, its old growth trees, a developed campground, and its scenic beauty and abundant wildlife. A trail and paved road around the lake are abutted by numerous old growth Ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, Grand fir, and Western larch. South and east of the Lake an unusual (for central Oregon) stand of old growth fir provides both the scenic backdrop that is featured in many pictures of Walton Lake and excellent habitat for wildlife species that favor old growth forests. Many of these old growth firs are more than 3-4 feet in diameter.
The Forest Service claimed that logging was needed to eliminate root rot that supposedly was creating a public safety problem, even though many of the targeted firs are not currently infected and are nowhere near the Walton Lake campsites or roads. Moreover, logging is known to spread root rot. The Forest Service has the ongoing ability to fell legitimate roadside and campground hazard trees; the cancellation of this project does not change that.
BMBP hosted a Celebratory Campout at Walton Lake. The event was great fun, and included a walk with Karen Coulter, our Director, discussing how BMBP stopped logging in this popular recreation area, and the ecological uniqueness of the old growth fir forest around the lake.
Breaking update on Walton Lake: Unfortunately we have just learned that the Forest Service is trying to propose this timber sale for the third time! You can bet that we will be working hard to stop this timber sale and the Forest Service’s proposed logging of the old growth forest around Walton Lake (yet again!).
The Flat timber sale: Our objection negotiations for the Flat timber sale resulted in the Forest Service dropping hundreds of acres of commercial logging and implementing ecologically beneficial modifications. In response to our comments, field survey data sheets, and our objection, the USFS agreed to:
- Drop all logging in 641 acres of connectivity corridors
- Modify logging to meet big game forest cover standards on 967 acres
- Drop commercial logging in 1,807 acres of biomass logging units
- Reduced temporary road construction by 1.87 miles
Ten Cent Project: Following the objection submitted by Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project and Wilderness Watch to the ‘Ten Cent Community Fire Protection’ project, the USFS withdrew their proposal to use prescribed fire in the North Fork John Day Wilderness. We are relieved that this Wilderness area will not be subject to heavy ecological manipulation, 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 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 of the forests in the region have been logged, making the untrammeled and unmanaged forests within the Wilderness that much more integral for maintaining diversity across the landscape. Human-ignited fires are inconsistent with the Wilderness Act which states Wilderness should exist “in contrast” to areas where humans dominate the landscape.
Camp Lick timber sale: BMBP’s objection, written in cooperation with EarthRise Law Center, extensively detailed cumulative impacts to ESA-listed steelhead and sensitive Redband trout as a result of several back-to-back timber sales on the Malheur NF. As a result of BMBP’s field survey sheets and BMBP’s comments on the Camp Lick Environmental Assessment, the USFS changed 360 acres of commercial logging within RHCAs to non-commercial logging. We remain extremely concerned about the potential negative ecological impacts of logging in this sale, including the proposed logging of large trees and logging within streamside corridors.
Comments and objections: We are engaged throughout the year in the public comment process for numerous projects on public lands in eastern Oregon. We are tracking over 17 projects in different stages of planning. Since last November, we submitted scoping comments on the Ragged Ruby timber sale, Ragged Ruby Forest Plan amendments, Region 6 Aquatic Restoration, the McKay and the Milli Fire post-fire logging sales, and the HWY 20 Public Safety Corridor timber sale. We also submitted comments on the Environmental Assessments for the Lex and Willoughby timber sales. We submitted objections to the Lex, Ringo, and Walton Lake timber sales. BMBP’s Walton Lake objection was co-authored by EarthRise Law Center.
Action Alerts: We keep the public informed and help them have their voices heard on issues affecting public lands in eastern Oregon. For example, we send out Action Alerts inviting the public to comment on specific timber sales and other projects we are engaged with, and provide information and talking points. Since last fall, we have sent out Action Alerts on the Ragged Ruby Forest Plan amendments scoping period, the Lex timber sale, and the Federal Farm Bill. We’ve also sent out Action Alerts on social media for the 2018 omnibus spending bill, ODFW’s decisions to kill wolves, the HWY 20 Public Safety Corridor Project, and pressuring the Forest Service to submit water quality data to the state during the current ‘call for data’.
Social media: We’ve expanded our social media presence— we now have Twitter and Instagram pages (please like or follow us if you use these platforms). We’ve used our social media platforms to raise awareness about issues such as threats to biodiversity, threats to forests and ecosystems from climate change, the Trump administration’s attacks on environmental protections, the importance of protecting wolves, and the ecological effects of timber sales and livestock grazing allotments on public lands.
Speaking events, workshops, and panel participation: Karen went on a speaking tour during part of the winter and spring. Presentation topics included forest and climate change connections and legal forest defense in eastern Oregon. She also gave a strategic campaigning workshop. Speaking tour locations included: Evergreen state college in Olympia, Washington; Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York; University Of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon; and Humboldt State University in Eureka, California. Karen also gave the keynote address and a panel at the Heartwood Forest Defense Network Convention in Pennsylvania in late May.
Public outreach, media work and interviews: In March, Karen gave a live interview with NPR in Spokane, Washington on the problems with collaborative group process. The interview was concurrent with press work and a protest against collaborative processes promoting heavy unsustainable logging. Karen also gave an interview with the Capital Press and Baker City Heralds about stopping prescribed fire in the North Fork John Day Wilderness in the Ten Cent Project.
BMBP had a table at the Public Interest Law Conference in Eugene, and attended a town hall on Clean Energy and Jobs legislation. BMBP volunteers Lloyd Velasco and Amy Balint tabled at the March for Science in April in Portland— the BMBP table included macroinvertebrate specimens, a dissecting scope for viewing the specimens, and picture guides for learning about them. We also provided opportunities for kids to make macroinvertebrate art and drawings. Our table was a hit, and we had a great day— Thanks Lloyd and Amy!
Alliance and network building: Karen attended the first in-person meeting for the Regional Public Lands Defenders in Idaho this March. The two-day meeting launched a regionally-coordinated effort to address current threats to forests through leveraging combined the resources of several biocentric grassroots environmental groups. Karen worked on the vision and mission statements with a subcommittee of the group. Karen and Paula also attended a phone meeting for the North American Forest Conference with allied grassroots groups across the nation. Karen is actively engaged with the Program on Corporations, Law, and Democracy, and is currently focusing on planetary rifts and climate change as part of her articles and recent work with the program. Paula led a stream ecology and macroinvertebrate hike for Bark to two creeks in the Clackamas in Mt. Hood— it was great fun and included stoneflies, caddisflies, mayflies, and tailed frog tadpoles, as well as discussion on water quality impacts from roads and logging. We’ve continued to attend meetings with the Climate Action Coalition, including phone and in-person meetings. We also regularly attend meetings with the Pacific Wolf Coalition.
Upcoming work plans:
In the field: We have already field surveyed the Milli fire area in the Deschutes National Forest; the HWY 20 Public Safety Corridor Project; and the Willoughby and Upper Touchet timber sales on the Umatilla National Forest. We are currently surveying the Glass timber sale (Umatilla National Forest (NF)). We plan to survey the Twin Vegetation Management and Restoration timber sale (Deschutes NF) and the Cliff Knox timber sale and a livestock grazing allotment on the Malheur National Forest.
We had a legal strategic meeting in the field this June. We are also planning another strategic meeting with committed BMBP volunteers and supporters in the forest this year.
Public comments and objections: We are gearing up to challenge several upcoming federal projects on public lands. We are especially concerned about two of the USFS’s upcoming projects which would have severe and long-lasting ecologically destructive effects.
The Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision was published at the end of June. We are very concerned that this Forest Plan, which would guide management direction for at least the next decade on the Malheur, Umatilla, and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests, would further increase logging and grazing, decrease ecological protections, and weaken requirements for providing for the recovery of at-risk and special-status species. We will be working with allies and volunteers to object to ecologically destructive portions of this plan. Our new volunteer Philip have been working on research and portions of the objection for the Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision.
The USFS is proposing to log and burn approximately 600,000 acres across three National Forests as part of the ‘Forest Resiliency Project’ timber sale. We are very concerned about the lack of site-specific NEPA analysis, the lack of transparency regarding specific locations and proposed actions, and lack of adequate agency or public review in such a large project. BMBP volunteer Spencer has started work on public education materials for the upcoming ‘Forest Resiliency Project’. We are thrilled to have their help— many thanks to Spencer and Philip!
Additional timber sales that we expect to write comments or objections on in the coming months include: the Ragged Ruby, Cliff Knox, Austin sales (Malheur NF); Black Mountain (Ochoco NF); Kew and Green Ridge sales (Deschutes NF); and the Sunrise and Willoughby sales (Umatilla NF).
Fundraising: Our annual benefit in April was a success! We had a lovely evening filled with great music, raffle prizes, food, and wonderfully friendly community and great conversations. We met our fundraising goals, and are in a good position to start the field season. Leading up to the benefit, we gave a radio interviews on KBOO to discuss our work and to promote the event. We want to thank the talented and generous folks who contributed their time, energy, support, and talent for BMBP’s annual benefit: Dolphin Midwives accompanied by Butoh dancer Min; Richie and Preston from Na Rosai; Leaven Community Center for sharing their space; and KBOO for their sponsorship of the event. We are very grateful to all of the folks who donated to the raffle for our benefit. Thanks also to Cooper for creating BMBP’s new t-shirt and bandana design, and to The Gloo Factory for printing them. Special thanks to volunteers Brenna Sahatjian and Isobel Charle for their amazing organizing work, and to everyone who helped staff the event!
We are very grateful to everyone who has donated to support our ecological protection work. We could not do our work without your support— thank you! Donations both small and large are crucial to funding our work. Many heartfelt thanks to the Astrov Fund; the Bill Healy Foundation; the Burning Foundation; the Charlotte Martin Family Foundation; the Clif Bar Family Foundation; the Faegan Donor Advised Fund of MRG; Fund for Wild Nature; Millis Fund through Oregon Community Foundation; Vanguard Charitable, and the Tirdof Fund for their support. Thank you to Japanese Auto for ensuring the maintenance and safety of our vehicles.
We have much more to do! Please support our upcoming field season, and join us in defending and restoring streams and forests on public lands in eastern Oregon. We are a volunteer-based organization, and our volunteers field survey thousands of acres of timber sales every summer. The information they collect is essential for our negotiations with the Forest Service and for our court cases.
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, compasses with clinometers, dbh tape measures, and food and tea for volunteers!
Please help as much as you can.
Volunteers are 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, Oregon 97830
You can donate online by visiting our website at https://bluemountainsbiodiversityproject.org/
Online donation options include one-time giving, or you can become a monthly supporter of our ecological protection work.
Thank you for your support!