Logging on public lands in eastern Oregon has dramatically increased in recent years, with timber sales becoming ever larger and more frequent. This unsustainable logging directly threatens biodiversity and wildlife habitats, degrades water quality and stream ecosystems, and exacerbates the negative ecological impacts of climate change.
The Austin sale in the Malheur National Forest, for example, is currently planned for about 28,800 acres of commercial logging, including logging of old growth and some of the last areas of never logged forest outside of Wilderness and Roadless Areas, and includes logging on very steep slopes. The Austin sale is part of a back-to-back series of recent and current sales that equal over 49,900 acres of commercial logging within just one watershed—the Middle Fork of the John Day. The Ellis sale (Umatilla National Forest (NF)) is currently planned for commercial logging over 59,600 acres, with up to 110,000 acres of unspecified management which may also include heavy removal or clearcutting of younger trees. The Ellis sale is currently mapped to commercially log old growth forest and never logged forest. These are only a few examples of the many timber sales across eastern Oregon.
In the current extreme right wing, extraction-oriented climate of the U.S. government, the Forest Service has come under pressure to double or triple the timber sale volume cut for each National Forest, and to carry out logging with increasingly curtailed environmental and public review. The Forest Service is using fear of fires as a cover for increasing logging. However, severe and large fires are driven by heat, drought, and wind. “Fuels reduction” (i.e., logging) has little to no effect on such fires. Protected, unlogged forests are not at greater risk of severe fire than logged forests. Logging woodlands and forests in the backcountry will not make communities safer. Attempting to log our way out of climate change and wildfire risk is not only ineffective, it also comes at unsustainable ecological and economic costs, and threatens to create boom-bust cycles in local communities.
The unsustainable logging currently taking place in eastern Oregon is on track to convert many of our mature and native forests into tree plantations devoid of the habitat diversity needed to support wild ecosystems. Many native species that rely on complex mature forests are imperiled, such as American marten, Northern goshawk, Black-backed woodpecker, Pacific fisher, American wolverine, Canada lynx, and Bull trout. Native species are facing increasing threats, including local extirpations and possible extinction, due to habitat loss (including logging) and climate change.
Rather than increasing habitat fragmentation and degradation and adding to the already out-of-control road networks on National Forests, the agency needs to protect core habitat blocks, connectivity corridors, cold water, and high-quality wildlife habitats. Mature forests are more resistant to disturbances and climate change-related threats, and they sequester more carbon than logged forests.
BMBP has been working hard to defend forests and streams in eastern Oregon. We use our on-the-ground field survey data, which we collect with the help of dozens of volunteers every summer, to help us pressure the Forest Service to drop or modify ecologically destructive logging. Our work has been instrumental in pressuring the Forest Service to drop or modify thousands of acres in large timber sales in recent (and past) sales in eastern Oregon. We’ve also continued to be leaders in the fight against agency trends to log large trees and to log in streamside corridors.
Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project hired a staff attorney:
We are thrilled to welcome Cooper Rodgers, our new Staff Attorney! Having Cooper as our Staff Attorney will provide much-needed increased access to legal help and advice on potential cases and help BMBP continue our forest and climate defense work more effectively. Cooper is a recent graduate of Lewis and Clark Law School, and a Wyss Inaugural Scholar. Given the ever-increasing attacks on the environment by the current administration, increasing our legal capacity is more important than ever.
Many thanks to Allison LaPlante and Tom Buchele for making this possible. Allison and Tom knew of BMBP’s long-standing need for a staff attorney, as well as Cooper’s commitment to public lands advocacy work. They connected Cooper with BMBP for potential employment, and Tom helped us ensure the hiring process went smoothly. Tom Buchele, Co-Director, Clinical Professor, and Managing attorney at Earthrise Law Center, has worked extensively with BMBP. Allison LaPlante is Co-Director of Earthrise Law Center at Lewis and Clark. We are very excited to bring Cooper on board.
Thank you to everyone who donated to help make Cooper’s position at BMBP possible!
Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project is now our own non profit:
We are pleased to announce that we are now our own independent nonprofit organization, with our own tax-exempt 501c3 status. Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project has, until recently, had 501c3 tax-exempt nonprofit status as a project of the League of Wilderness Defenders, our fiscal sponsor. However, we recently decided to take an important step toward long-term organizational sustainability, and in July of 2019 we became our own 501c3 tax-exempt nonprofit organization. We now have our own dedicated Board of Directors, and we are excited to have the additional support and structure that being our own nonprofit organization provides. Increasing our long-term stability will help us effectively carry out our legal forest defense work.
Many heartfelt thanks to David Atkin and Judy Shaw at the Center for Nonprofit Law for their help with our application for tax-exempt status! BMBP’s mission, program goals and objectives, and activities remain the same. We are, as always, dedicated to working to defend forests and ecological integrity on public lands in eastern Oregon.
2019 Work Accomplishments:
Wildlands field surveys: Every summer, BMBP staff and volunteers field survey thousands of acres of proposed timber sales. Field surveying is the backbone of our work, and provides on-the-ground evidence for our public comments, objection negotiations, and potential litigation.
During the 2019 field season, with the help of 31 volunteers, we surveyed thousands of acres across seven timber sales in four National Forests. We field surveyed the Greater Suttle Lake (Deschutes NF), Patrick (Wallowa-Whitman NF), Rattlesnake and Austin sales (Malheur NF), the West End Farm Bill CE and Upper Pataha CE (Umatilla NF) timber sales, and priority units in the Ellis sale (Umatilla NF). The largest acreages of commercial logging are in the Ellis (56,000 to 110,000 acres), Austin (28,000 acres), and Patrick (21,000 acres) sales. The smallest is the Suttle Lake sale (249 acres). The remainder are between 2,000 and 18,000 acres of commercial logging.
Volunteers: This year we were grateful for the assistance of 31 volunteers—12 new and 19 returning. Great thanks to: Hannah, B, Adam, Cooper, Sara, Grace, Nico, Isabel, Ayala, Sophie, Fidget, Alicia, Karl, Ducky, Simeon, Ellia, Brenna, Kara, Alex, Sophia, Philip, Joey, Drea, Everett, Margaret, Mac, Jack, Lloyd, Ember, Kris, and Badger. As always, it was a delight to work with our wonderful volunteers!
Acres saved or modified in timber sales:
In the Black Mountain timber sale (Ochoco NF), the Forest Service dropped all proposed logging of large trees in this sale (large trees are defined as those ≥21” diameter at breast height (dbh)). Originally, large tree logging had been proposed on approximately 4,500 acres in this sale. BMBP and Tom Buchele at Earthrise Law Center have led the efforts to challenge the Forest Service’s repeated proposals to log large trees in eastern Oregon. In their Environmental Analysis of the Black Mountain sale, the agency supported our legal arguments to protect large trees that BMBP has consistently raised for many years.
The decision from the Ochoco NF on the Black Mountain sale is a direct result of our legal victory in the Snow Basin case. In 2014, with co-plaintiff Hell’s Canyon Preservation Council and legal representation by Tom Buchele at Earthrise Law Center, BMBP won our District Court appeal on the Snow Basin timber sale. Emma Bruden, who was a student at Lewis and Clark law school at the time, provided key legal work with this case. The Snow Basin decision upheld the argument that the Forest Service cannot move forward with their plans to violate existing standards (such as those protecting large trees), as their analysis and consideration of important ecological conditions was inadequate. This ruling also set important precedent for other timber sales, and saved over 10,000 large trees in the Snow Basin sale.
With the exception of the Malheur National Forest, it seems that all other National Forests in eastern Oregon have gotten the message and have stopped issuing illegal Forest Plan amendments. As a result of the Snow Basin legal victory, BMBP and our allies have saved well over twenty thousand large trees from being logged. We are hopeful that the Forest Service’s acknowledgement in the Black Mountain sale of the legal and ecological wrong-headedness of logging large trees will become a trend and continue across all other National Forests.
In response to BMBP’s field surveys and to our and our allies’ objections, the Forest Service also dropped over 126 acres of commercial logging in the Black Mountain sale. These 126 acres include 41.5 acres in which, in response to BMBP’s objection, all logging and the building of a “temporary” road segment was dropped within a Northern goshawk Potential Fledgling Areas (PFA). Also in response to BMBP’s objection, the agency canceled 22.7 acres of commercial logging in the Wild and Scenic section of the North Fork of the Crooked River, and agreed to only fell trees for the purpose of placing them into the river for stream restoration. In response to our and our allies objections, some of the commercial logging units which overlapped with streamside Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas were dropped. Portions of these units overlapped with important Pileated woodpecker habitat, which BMBP raised as a concern. BMBP identified one of the units that was dropped as never-before-logged during our field surveys. BMBP also got the agency to drop 2.5 acres of logging in winter range for deer and elk.
In response to BMBP’s objection and to comments submitted by us and allies on the Sunrise timber sale (Umatilla NF), the Forest Service agreed to drop 1,640 acres of logging in order to protect high-quality wildlife habitat and Potential Wilderness Areas. All logging within Potential Wilderness Areas was dropped, and the agency dropped six miles of road building.
The Rattlesnake timber sale (Malheur NF): In response to pressure from BMBP and environmental allies, the Forest Service agreed to drop proposed logging of Grand fir up to 30” dbh on 3,240 acres, and logging of conifers up to 30” dbh in aspen stands on 88 acres. While commercial logging will still occur in those stands, the largest trees (≥21” dbh) will be saved from logging. The agency also agreed to log only smaller trees (up to 14”dbh) on 100 acres of old growth forest. Based on BMBP’s field survey sheets, the Forest Service agreed to log only smaller trees (those up to 14” dbh) in an additional 170 acres of old growth forest. Unfortunately, some logging up to 30” dbh will occur on approximately 564 acres within the sale. All commercial logging within streamside Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas was changed to noncommercial logging (10 acres), and the agency dropped all logging in designated old growth areas (except in aspen stands). In response to BMBP concerns about detrimental soil conditions, the Forest Service dropped two logging units, and increased the number of trees left after logging in substantial portions of the project area. Retaining more trees in sale units will be prioritized in areas such as mixed conifer forests in larger units, north facing slopes, higher elevations, seeps, and drainages.
In response to our objection to the Ringo timber sale (Deschutes NF), the Forest Service modified approximately 200 acres in Bald eagle Management Areas by dropping large tree logging within those areas. They also dropped commercial logging within the Crescent Creek streamside “Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas”. Crescent Creek is a Wild and Scenic River.
The Kew timber sale (Deschutes NF): In response to BMBP’s survey sheets and objections from BMBP and environmental allies, the Forest Service dropped logging on 58 acres of Northern spotted owl dispersal habitat located adjacent to nesting habitat. They also dropped 49 acres of commercial logging in two units in mixed-conifer, fir-dominated forests.
While the Forest Service dropped or modified thousands of acres in sales such as the Black Mountain, Sunrise, and Rattlesnake timber sales, BMBP remains extremely concerned about logging in these sales. Our concerns include logging within streamside Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas in the Black Mountain sale; logging of large firs in the Rattlesnake sale; destruction of Northern spotted owl dispersal habitat in the Ringo sale, virtual clearcut logging in the Kew sale; and logging undeveloped lands in the Sunrise sale.
Challenges to ecologically destructive projects through public comments and objections:
Public comments and objections: In 2019, BMBP submitted comments on twelve timber sales, two livestock grazing allotments, and a wild horse management plan. We submitted objections to eight projects. BMBP is currently tracking over 30 agency projects in different stages ofplanning.
We submitted scoping comments on the following timber sales: Patrick (Wallowa-Whitman NF); Austin (Malheur NF); Surveyor and Cabin Butte (Deschutes NF); and the West End Farm Bill CE, Upper Pataha CE, and Ellis sales (Umatilla National Forest). With Earthrise Law Center, we submitted comments on the Walton Lake timber sale (Ochoco NF) and the Suttle Lake Vegetation Management project (Deschutes NF). We also submitted comments on the Murderers Creek Wild Horse Management Plan (Malheur NF), Bear Creek Cluster Allotment (Ochoco NF), and a BLM livestock grazing allotment.
We submitted comments on Environmental Assessments (EAs) or Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) for the following projects: the Black Mountain EIS (Ochoco NF), Rattlesnake EA (Malheur NF), Bear Creek Cluster Livestock Grazing Allotments Management Plans (Malheur NF), and the Upper Touchet Draft EA (Umatilla NF).
Objections filed: BMBP submitted objections to the Black Mountain (Ochoco NF); Kew (Deschutes NF); Glass, Willoughby, and Sunrise (Umatilla NF); and the Rattlesnake and Ragged Ruby (Malheur NF) timber sales. BMBP and Bark submitted a joint objection to the Region Six Aquatic Restoration project.
Action Alerts: BMBP works to keep the public informed and have their voices heard on issues affecting public lands in eastern Oregon. In 2019, we sent Action Alerts on the Walton lake, Austin, Upper Touchet, Suttle Lake, and West End Farm Bill CE timber sales, the Bear Creek Cluster Livestock Grazing Allotments, and Trump administration attacks on wolves and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests:
Grazing and ESA-listed fish: BMBP submitted FOIA requests to the Malheur NF, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service for information regarding livestock grazing allotments and Mid-Columbia River steelhead and Bull trout. BMBP is very concerned about the ongoing, large-scale damage to water quality, streams, and ecosystems due to livestock grazing on the Malheur National Forest. Our FOIA request was an important step in gathering information; we will continue to monitor these areas and advocate for improved conditions, clean and cold water, and preserving imperiled aquatic species.
Holding the Forest Service Accountable on Clean Water: BMBP submitted an appeal to the Forest Service’s response to our 2018 FOIA request for water quality data. The Forest Service had failed to produce data we requested for numerous streams, despite recent timber sale-related documents clearly summarizing data for those streams. In response to our appeal, the agency provided most (though not all) of the missing water quality data.
The FOIA data we received showed that many streams had substantially higher temperatures compared to what the Forest Service reported in their timber sale analysis documents. For example, FOIA data showed higher temperatures for streams in the Camp Lick, Big Mosquito, and Magone timber sales (Malheur NF), compared to how the Forest Service characterized temperatures for those same streams in their timber sale documents. These sales are all within the Middle Fork of the John Day watershed, which supports Bull trout and Mid-Columbia River (MCR) steelhead— both are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and rely on very cold, clean water for their survival.
Forest Service meetings and field trips:
BMBP attended field trips for the West End Farm Bill CE (Umatilla NF), and the Lex and Suttle Lake sales (Deschutes NF). We attended open houses for the Bark and the Austin sales (Malheur NF), and meetings for the Ellis sale (Umatilla NF) and about invasive plant management (Malheur NF). We attended objection meetings on the Black Mountain, Kew, Glass, Willoughby, Sunrise, Rattlesnake, and Ragged Ruby sales, and Region 6 Aquatic Restoration.
Recent work highlights:
Walton Lake: BMBP recently submitted scoping comments on the Walton Lake timber sale. The Forest Service is again threatening the old growth forest around Walton Lake with logging. The agency is proposing to log old and mature forests, including large trees (some up to five feet in diameter) in the very popular Walton Lake recreation area. The Forest Service would log all of the fir trees in some areas, creating a virtual clearcut.
Since 2016, Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project, represented by Tom Buchele of the Earthrise Law Center and attorney Jesse Buss of Willamette Law Group, have twice stopped the Forest Service from logging this area. Unfortunately the Forest Service is at it again–they are proposing (for the third time!) to log this majestic forest using flimsy rationales.
The Forest Service has repeatedly used the guise of public safety as an excuse to log in the Walton Lake recreation area, despite the fact that the Forest Service continues to be free to deal with hazard trees in the area. Stated human safety concerns in this case appear to be public relations propaganda to justify virtual clearcutting of the most popular recreational site on the Ochoco National Forest, and engage in highly profitable old growth logging that the majority of the public would not otherwise support.
Reducing toxic herbicide use on the Malheur NF: BMBP has worked with the Malheur NF to drastically reduce herbicide use, use less toxic herbicides, and effectively tackle invasive species issues. Karen Coulter, BMBP’s Director, recently met with the botanist on the Malheur NF to discuss progress and monitoring of invasive plant management. BMBP’s work has resulted in decreasing the amount of herbicide the agency is using, while also expanding the acreage where they are addressing invasive species infestations.
Our recent accomplishments in cooperation with the Malheur National Forest grew out of BMBP’s successful court litigation in the early 2000’s that stopped all herbicide use on the Malheur National Forest for 10 years. BMBP then negotiated with botanists to create a plan to drastically decrease herbicide use. The amount of herbicide being used is going down, even as the acreage on which they effectively reduce invasive plants has increased. The work BMBP has accomplished in cooperation with the Malheur NF can be used as a model for other Forests.
BMBP’s work has also resulted in sensitive and cultural use plants being buffered from herbicides, and in the agency not using triclopyr (which is extremely toxic to mammals and people) and keeping to the agreed ban on using Picloram (one of the most problematic herbicides for spreading toxins through soils and waterways). True to our agreement, there will be a Forest Service Open House meeting in April to share these methods and accomplishments with the public; the Grant County Soil and Water Conservation District and private landowners will be invited. The Forest Service agreed that more work still needs to be done on education and prevention, and that additional emphasis is needed on prevention with regard to livestock and vehicles (including off-highway vehicles).
Water quality: Largely as a result of BMBP’s ongoing efforts, the Forest Service recently submitted a substantial portion of their stream temperature data to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) for the first time in at least a decade. The agency’s data submission included dozens of streams in eastern Oregon, many of which are now known by ODEQ to be in violation of water quality standards and in need of restoration plans. These violations are often very severe, and limiting or lethal to salmon.
While the Forest Service has finally shared much of their data with the state regulatory agency, there are unfortunately many streams for which the Forest Service has little or no data. Accurate information on water quality is important in order to address watershed-scale issues, develop plans to restore streams, and to protect water quality and aquatic species. Given the extreme dearth of water quality data for many streams, it is not possible for the Forest Service to determine if their actions are degrading ecosystems or jeopardizing imperiled species.
Outreach and movement building:
We attended the North American Forest and Climate Convergence in October in the Shawnee National Forest. Karen Coulter and Paula Hood (BMBP’s Director and Co-Director) and a long-time BMBP volunteer (Cooper Otte) facilitated a weekend-long strategic action session on addressing false schemes for forest health. The Convergence focused on bringing together diverse groups including activists, organizers, grassroots leaders, scientists, experts, and indigenous and non-indigenous youth to develop strategies and action plans to address the environmental crises we are facing. The strategic action sessions helped provide a framework for working with activists and allies from across the country and for networking with Indigenous groups. Paula helped with outreach efforts such as being a panelist on a webinar about the Convergence, and other event-related work.
The new Public Lands Activists Network (PLAN) that BMBP helped co-found is now attracting new activist participants and has garnered significant media interviews and book content exposing the current threats to National Forests in the Interior Columbia Basin and the biased timber logging agenda of the collaborative process. PLAN is working to change the narrative around public lands destruction being billed as “restoration” and “fire risk reduction” and is now preparing to launch their own website to offer information and support to otherwise isolated public lands protection activists, as well as to promote a biocentric lands ethic and work to stop ecological destruction on public lands. Karen attended the in-person PLAN meeting in Montana this fall. Karen has also been working with the Program on Corporations, Law, and Democracy, and attends conference calls when possible.
Workshops and speaking engagements: In August, Paula gave a stream workshop at Bark’s Base Camp event (Mt. Hood NF). The workshop focused on logging-related impacts to water quality and riparian ecosystems. Paula also gave a stream workshop in May for several members of the Climate Action Coalition (CAC); this workshop focused on stream ecology, land management, and climate change. Attendees of both workshops also caught macroinvertebrates and learned about their roles as indicators of water quality.
Last spring, our Director, Karen Coulter, gave a speaking presentation on the rights of nature at Humboldt State University at the Post-Capitalism Conference hosted by Cooperation Humboldt. Karen also gave two speaking presentations in May in Chico, California— one on wildfire, forest management, and climate change, and the other on BMBP’s work. At the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference in Eugene last March, Karen was a panelist in the Community Scientists Panel. Karen gave a speaking presentation at BMBP’s Annual Benefit this spring. Karen also gave a wildfire, forest management, and climate change workshop at the Earth First! Rendezvous, as well as co-led an “Ourstory of the Earth First! Movement” with Karen Pickett.
Media Interviews: Karen was interviewed by reporter Larry Parnass during the Forest and Climate Convergence in the Shawnee National Forest in Illinois. Karen also met with Larry for interviews on her land near Fossil, Oregon, and took him on a tour of sale units in the Ellis timber sale in the Umatilla National Forest. Larry works with Public Service Journalism with the O’Brien Fellowship, Diederich College of Communication, Marquette University, WI. Karen also gave an interview about Walton Lake for a Bend Bulletin reporter, and, earlier in the year, an interview on KBOO radio to promote BMBP’s Annual Benefit.
Web outreach: Please visit our website to check out our new website design, and to sign up for our Action Alert and updates: https://bluemountainsbiodiversityproject.org. You can also follow us on social media.
We are very grateful to everyone who has donated to support our ecological protection work. We could not accomplish our work without your support— thank you! Many heartfelt thanks to the generous individual donors who supported our work, and to the Astrov Fund; Burning Foundation; the Clif Bar Family Foundation; the Faegan Donor Advised Fund through Social Justice Northwest; Fund for Wild Nature; Millis Fund through Oregon Community Foundation; and the Oregon Deep Ecology Fund. Thanks also to Japanese Auto Repair for ensuring the maintenance and safety of our vehicles. Thanks also to all the generous folks who contributed to our 2019 Annual benefit.
We Need Your Help to Continue Our Ecological Protection Efforts!
Please donate to help support BMBP’s field season and forest defense work. We are raising funds to increase our capacity to challenge ecologically destructive projects. We are a very small non-profit organization, and every dollar goes a long way toward helping us engage in effective and hard-hitting ecological protection work. We need additional funds in order to increase our capacity to protect forests and streams on public lands— with your help, our campaign work could be even more effective and have greater impact. Help BMBP kick off our new independent nonprofit status and ensure a strong start for our new organizational journey.
We need your support to fully fund our field season and continue our forest defense work. Please give what you can; donations both small and large help to keep our work going!
$10,000-$20,000 helps pay for our three staff members
$5,000 helps cover transportation costs, including gas, truck repairs, and insurance
$2,000 to help cover legal expenses for a lawsuit to stop a timber sale or toxic herbicide use
$1,000 helps cover telephone communications
$500 helps pay for photo printing or copying
$250 helps cover postage costs
$100 pays for field surveying equipment
$25-50 subsidizes food for volunteers
We are also in need of in-kind donations such as non-perishable food for the field (such as nut butters, tea and coffee); field equipment such as diameter measuring tapes, digital cameras, and GPS units. If you have a four wheel drive truck you wish to donate which can handle Forest Service roads and is in good working condition, please contact us.
Send $ donations or in-kind donations to: Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project, 27803 Williams Lane, Fossil, OR 97830. You can donate online at: https://bluemountainsbiodiversityproject.org/donate/
Thank you for supporting BMBP’s work to defend forests and streams on public lands in eastern Oregon!