Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project 2021 Annual Report

Veery and Hillary with a huge old growth Western larch (Morgan Nesbit sale, Wallowa-Whitman NF)

The Gratitude Edition

This year is BMBP’s 30th Anniversary! 

We could not have achieved our many accomplishments for forests over the past three decades without our amazing community of volunteers, friends, and supporters. We are deeply grateful to everyone who has contributed their time, work, and support to BMBP— thank you! 

Field surveying is the foundation of BMBP’s forest protection work, and volunteers are the backbone of this work. Every summer, they survey thousands of acres of proposed timber sales and selected livestock grazing allotments on the Deschutes, Ochoco, Malheur, and Umatilla National Forests. Volunteers document old growth forests, high-quality wildlife habitat, stream and water quality concerns, and more. The field survey data they collect has helped save many thousands of acres of forests. BMBP volunteers also help with event planning, public outreach, comments, and fundraising throughout the year . We are very thankful to all our volunteers!

Horny lizard in the Mill Creek sale (Ochoco NF)

BMBP has a strong track record of winning legal cases, setting beneficial precedents, and influencing regional policies. For example, BMBP won multiple legal victories between 2002 and 2014 that reduced or stopped herbicide and/or biocide use on tens of thousands of acres and resulted in more stringent enforcement of stream protections. Our 2014 court victory on the Snow Basin timber sale set important precedent and saved over 10,000 large trees. The agency dropped logging of large trees on 4,500 acres in the Black Mountain sale (Ochoco National Forest (NF)) in 2019 as a result of BMBP’s work, and on 8,000 acres in the Crow sale in 2021 in response to pressure from us and our allies (Ochoco NF). Our legal accomplishments have been possible through the hard work of many dedicated attorneys and law students. We greatly appreciate the attorneys and law students who have worked with BMBP in recent and past years! Special thanks to Tom Buchele at Earthrise Law Center at Lewis and Clark Law School, as well as to the students, legal fellows, and attorneys at Earthrise who have helped with our cases. 

Donations from our supporters are crucial for allowing our work to continue. We rely on donations both large and small in order to defend forests, streams, and wildlife on public lands in Eastern Oregon. Many thanks to everyone who has donated in support of our ecological protection work. You’ve made our work possible! With your help we hope to continue our work for decades to come.

Rachel looking at bear claw marks or antler rubbings on a subalpine fir (Morgan Nesbit, Wallowa-Whitman NF)

Recent work accomplishments:

On the Litigation front:

Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project, represented by Tom Buchele at Earthrise Law Center and Jesse Buss at Willamette Law Group, won a Preliminary Injunction in September to halt logging in the Walton Lake timber sale in the Ochoco National Forest.

In recent years, BMBP and our attorneys have stopped the Forest Service’s two previous attempts to push the Walton Lake sale through. The Forest Service is— yet again— proposing to log the old growth forest around Walton Lake. The Forest Service’s proposal includes logging that would essentially clearcut a predominately fir old growth forest. BMBP field surveyed this sale in 2015, and documented many old fir trees more than three to four feet in diameter.

The Forest Service is using public safety as a guise to justify logging in the Walton Lake sale. However, the agency is already free to fell legitimate hazard trees. BMBP has no objection to legitimate hazard tree felling, and our litigation does not hinder the agency’s ability to fell trees that pose a genuine hazard to public safety.

We will continue to challenge this sale, and hopefully stop proposed logging once and for all. We are very grateful for our dedicated attorneys and legal team, and their tireless work on behalf of forests and wildlife. 

The Camp Lick timber sale: In July, BMBP filed suit against the Forest Service to stop the illegal logging of large trees and to protect threatened fish habitat in the Camp Lick sale in the Malheur National Forest. BMBP is represented by Tom Buchele at Earthrise Law Center, with help from Earthrise Legal Fellow Bridgett Buss and BMBP Staff Attorney Cooper Rodgers.

Orange honeysuckle flowers (Mill Creek sale, Ochoco NF)

The Camp Lick sale includes commercial logging on about 12,000 acres. The Forest Service plans to log some of the last remaining large trees in the area, including streamside trees that provide shade and support critical habitat for threatened steelhead. 

The Camp Lick sale relies on the illegal use of Forest Plan amendments as a loophole to log large trees. The Forest Service has repeatedly attempted to side-step their own regulations through the illegal use of Forest plan amendments. In the 2014 Snowbasin lawsuit filed by BMBP and allies, a District Court ruled against the agency’s use of this practice, and determined that the agency was violating existing standards.

Swainson’s hawk in the Morgan Nesbit sale (Wallowa-Whitman NF)

Numerous wildlife species depend on large trees for habitat, including American marten, Vaux’s swifts, Pileated woodpeckers, Black bears, numerous birds, and bats. The standards which protected large trees—known as the 21” Screens– were rolled back during the final days of the Trump administration. However, the 21” Screens still apply to the Camp Lick sale, as it was planned while the rules were still in place.

The Camp Lick timber sale is one of a series of large, back-to-back sales in the Malheur National Forest. Taken together, the Camp Lick sale and neighboring sales contain over 50,000 acres of commercial logging in recent, current, and proposed timber sales. Many of these sales include large tree logging, and several include thinning within streamside corridors. The Forest Service should have conducted a thorough analysis of potential impacts to the environment, including to imperiled fish and wildlife, by publishing an Environmental Impact Statement.

Despite the enormity of these sales and their potential for widespread and damaging impacts, the Forest Service failed to conduct adequate cumulative effects analyses for species such as Mid-Columbia River steelhead, which are listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The agency did not consider the combined sum of all the affected habitat in all of these back-to-back sales. Shockingly, it appears that approximately one third of Mid-Columbia River steelhead habitat in the Malheur NF may be impacted by logging in these sales.

In addition, BMBP’s ongoing investigations into agency data uncovered numerous errors and omissions regarding the analyses of stream temperatures on the Malheur NF. Temperature data we received from the Forest Service through Freedom of Information Act requests include consistently higher stream temperatures than those used by the Forest Service in their public environmental analysis documents.

Units 112 and 114 in the Camp Lick sale (Malheur NF). Logging has begun in a small portion of the sale. BMBP filed litigation on the Camp Lick sale in July 2021. Widespread cutting of ‘hazard’ trees and trees in close proximity to haul routes and ‘temporary’ roads is an increasingly alarming issue in timber sales on public lands.

Acres saved:  

In 2021, in response to pressure from BMBP and our allies, the Forest Service dropped logging of large trees on 8,000 acres in the Crow timber sale (Malheur NF). BMBP meticulously documented large trees at risk of being logged in our field surveys of the Crow sale. Large trees provide crucial wildlife habitat and are key for supporting biodiversity.

Michelle identifying a plant in the Mill Creek sale (Ochoco NF)

In response to BMBP’s field survey sheets, the agency also dropped 446 acres of commercial logging in the Crow sale. They changed 1,791 acres of commercial logging to small diameter
thinning; increased the average basal area retention to 75 sq. ft. on 133 acres; partially dropped portions of 39 units; dropped or changed logging to small tree thinning in six units; and specified minimum forest densities of 40 sq. ft. of basal area, with a target average of 80 sq. ft. and no upper limit for retention for moist mixed-conifer forests. 

As a result of BMBP’s objection resolution negotiations on the Surveyors sale (Deschutes NF), the Forest Service dropped approximately 267 acres of commercial logging and other management. The agency also changed 536 acres of commercial logging to only non-commercial thinning. This includes eliminating most of the commercial logging in the Old Growth Management Areas and in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, as well as dropping two goshawk post-fledging areas that overlapped Old Growth Management Areas and increasing the acreage of unlogged wildlife connectivity corridors.

In the Sunflower Livestock Grazing Allotment, the agency agreed to change approximately 1,000 acres of associated thinning from commercial to noncommercial thinning. 

Matthias, Cai, Madeline, & Dillon in the Mill Creek sale (Ochoco NF)

2021 Wildlands Field Surveys:

With help from our volunteers, we surveyed the Mill Creek sale (Ochoco NF), the Turkey Tail sale (Umatilla NF), and the Bark sale (Malheur NF). We also began surveying the Morgan Nesbit sale, which we plan to complete next year, and finished surveying the Patrick sale (both sales are on the Wallowa-Whitman NF).

Brittany in an old growth Ponderosa pine fire scar in the Morgan Nesbit sale (Wallowa-Whitman NF)

During the 2021 field season, we hosted 36 volunteers— including 19 returning and 17 new volunteers. Returning volunteers: Drea, Adam, Bramble, Michelle, Reed, Cooper, Diane, Liza, Sara, Grace, Midden, Caroline, Sophie, Will, Lyra, Sevi, Thomas, Shade, and Alex. New volunteers:  Mazure, Madeleine, Dillon, Cai, Mathias, Brittany, Cristen, Alex, Trygve, Ayme, Nestor, Rachel, Sam, Tracy Jo, Moss, Hillary, and Veery.

Despite the ongoing challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we had a successful, safe, and fun field season. We’ve continued to field survey with restructured aspects of our usual camping arrangements, and instituted a vaccination requirement for all staff and volunteers. BMBP is in the field with volunteers almost continually from June through September. 

Clark’s nutcracker (Morgan Nesbit sale, Wallowa-Whitman NF)

The smallest of the sales we surveyed, the Turkey Tail sale, proposes 2,700 acres of logging, including logging in mature and old forests, under a ‘categorical exclusion’ or ‘CE’. A categorical exclusion fast-tracks timber sales and severely limits environmental analyses, transparency, and opportunities for public comment. CEs also eliminate the opportunity to object or negotiate changes. Approximately 23,130 acres of logging have been proposed under CEs in the past two years on the Malheur, Ochoco, and Umatilla National Forests.

Cristen with old growth fir log in the Turkey Tail sale (Umatilla NF)

The Morgan Nesbit timber sale planning area is 87,000 acres, with an as yet unspecified amount of commercial logging. The planning area abuts the boundary of the Eagle Cap Wilderness, and includes unroaded landscapes and places that have been proposed for Wilderness and Wild & Scenic River protections. The sale planning area also includes thousands of acres of the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. It encompasses part of a wildlife corridor of continental importance, and includes species such as moose, elk, wolverine, salmon, wolves, and fisher. Recently confirmed grizzlies are just on the other side of the Idaho border. This area is where wolves first returned and reestablished themselves in Oregon.

The Bark timber sale encompasses an 83,000 acre planning area area, with the majority of the area including some level of logging, thinning, or burning. The Bark sale is one of many very large sales in the Malheur NF.

The Patrick timber sale, which we finished surveying this year, includes 21,800 acres of proposed commercial logging, including in in streamside corridors, mature and old forests, wildlife connectivity corridors, and moist mixed-conifer forests. 

The Mill Creek sale, another sale BMBP surveyed in 2021, includes 23,000 acres of proposed logging. We are very concerned about the every-increasing pace and scale of logging in Eastern Oregon.

Hillary and Veery with a large snag with Pileated woodpecker forage holes in the Morgan Nesbit sale (Wallowa-Whitman NF)

Public comments and objections:

Throughout the grant year, we engaged in the public comment process for numerous projects on public lands in Eastern Oregon. BMBP is currently tracking ~30 agency projects.

We submitted comments on ten timber sales and a mountain bike trail plan: the Cabin Butte and Klone sales (Deschutes NF); Mill Creek sale (Ochoco NF); Cliff Knox and Neighbor sales (Malheur NF); the High Buck sale, Turkey Tail sale, and Pomeroy noncommercial thinning Categorical Exclusions (Umatilla NF); Patrick sale (Wallowa-Whitman NF); and the South Warner Categorical Exclusion (Fremont-Winema NF). BMBP submitted comments on the Green Ridge sale (Deschutes NF) with Western Watershed Project and Marilyn Miller contributing and signing on to our comments. We also submitted scoping comments on the Lemon Gulch Mountain Bike Trail Plan (Ochoco NF). 

We submitted objections to four timber sales, two livestock grazing allotment plans, and a wild horse management plan: the Surveyors (Deschutes NF), Crow (Malheur NF), High Buck (Umatilla NF), and Patrick (Wallowa-Whitman NF) timber sales; the Sunflower Cluster Grazing Authorization (Ochoco NF); and the Ochoco Wild Horse Herd Management Plan.

Agency meetings: 

We attended virtual Forest Service meetings including a workshop for the Turkey Tail sale (Umatilla NF) and objection resolution and negotiation meetings for the Crow (Malheur NF), Surveyors (Deschutes NF), and High Buck (Umatilla NF) timber sales, the Ochoco Wild Horse Management Plan, and the Sunflower Livestock Grazing Allotment renewal (Ochoco NF). 

BMBP organized a site visit to a recently logged sale unit in the Big Mosquito timber sale with the Forest Service and Rob Klavins from Oregon Wild. While doing post-logging field survey work, BMBP discovered dozens of large and old Ponderosa pine trees cut in the Big Mosquito sale. We are very concerned about the increasingly widespread and ubiquitous logging of large trees as ‘hazards’ or because of their proximity to logging haul corridors and roads— which unfortunately occurs with little or no public oversight or environmental analysis. Haul corridors and ’temporary’ roads are at very high densities in most areas, and are created or reused for sales, and often located far from main roads. Large and old trees are not adequately protected or buffered during timber sale operations. We are concerned that the lack of oversight, coupled with the ability to sell many of these old growth trees at the mill, incentivizes their cutting. 

Unit 70 in the the Big Mosquito sale in the Malheur National Forest. The Big Mosquito sale is adjacent to the Camp Lick sale, and is one of a series of large back-to-back timber sales. Logging in this unit took place between 2019 and 2021. Dozens of large and mature or old Ponderosa pine trees were cut because they were designated as ‘hazards’, or because of proximity to logging haul corridors and roads— including cable yarding corridors and ‘temporary’ roads located far from main arterial roads. Numerous large and old trees were taken to the mill and sold, even though they were not officially targeted for logging.

The 21” Screens: 

Protecting large trees and old forests has been an ongoing and central focus of our work. In the last days of the Trump administration, protections for large trees were rolled back on eight million acres across six National Forests in Eastern Oregon and Southeastern Washington. These protections, known as the 21” Screens, were intended to prohibit logging of trees ≥21” in diameter in most situations. These protections have been crucial for wildlife, water  quality, carbon storage, and forest climate resilience. It is vitally important that they be reinstated. 

Cristen measuring a big old growth Grand fir in the Turkey Tail sale (Umatilla NF)

The Forest Service pushed these changes through with an abbreviated process and an unusually short timeline. In an unusual move for such a controversial and significant proposal, the agency did not invite the public to submit written scoping comments, nor did they provide an opportunity for the public to object, as is usually done. The agency published an Environmental Assessment rather than a more rigorous Environmental Impact Statement– despite the fact that increased large tree logging across six National Forests will clearly have significant environmental impacts. By claiming that changes to the 21” Screens will not cause significant effects, the Forest Service skirted more stringent requirements which would have forced them to consider the cumulative impacts and include longer and more standard public comment periods. 

Karen Coulter, BMBP’s Director, with an old growth fir in the Morgan Nesbit sale (Wallowa-Whitman NF)

BMBP is alarmed by the negative effects that increased logging of large trees will have on the wildlife species that depend on these large trees, as well as the negative effects on stream habitats, water quality, and carbon storage. The Forest Service claims, without proof or adequate analyses, that the rollback of protections for large trees will not affect wildlife or streams, or contribute to climate change. BMBP is continuing to work alongside allies to raise public awareness and reinstate stronger protections. 

Female Western tanager (Morgan Nesbit sale, Wallowa-Whitman NF)

Alliance-building and public outreach: 

The Pacific Northwest Forest Climate Alliance (PNWFCA), which BMBP helped found in 2019, now includes over 50 grassroots forest and climate groups. The PNWFCA provides a structure for groups and individuals to share information, and to work together through working groups which tackle a variety of forest and climate-related issues. BMBP is part of the steering committee, which also includes representatives from Coast Range Association, Cascadia Wildlands, 350pdx, Beyond Toxics, and Sunrise. BMBP also co-leads the Rural Organizing and Field Survey working groups, which include representatives from groups listed above as well as KS Wild, the Illinois Valley Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Williams Community Forest Project, and others. We are excited to be working with grassroots allies on messaging, activist toolkits, strategy and information sharing, workshops, and more. 

Moss with an old growth fir in the Bark sale (Malheur NF)

In spring of 2021, Karen gave a workshop in Olympia on Strategies and Tactics for Forest Defense attended by 35 people. Also in the spring, Paula gave a Coast Range Radio interview on protecting Eastern Oregon’s large trees, which aired on 10 local and independent radio stations, including KBOO in Portland. Paula also gave short talks about large tree logging on Eastside forests to the Great Old Broads for Wilderness and to a local Sierra Club chapter. Paula and a staff member from Cascadia Wildlands gave a presentation on field surveying to the PNWFCA.

Paula with macroinvertebrate net next to Bramble at Mill Creek in the Mill Creek sale (Ochoco NF). Macroinvertebrate photos include a mayfly, stonefly, and caddisfly, and were taken by Dr. Trygve Steen, who volunteered with us in the field.

BMBP participated in a panel at the Public Interest  Environmental Law Conference with Niel Lawrence (NRDC), Rob Klavins (Oregon Wild), and Dr. David Mildrexler on issues regarding the elimination of meaningful protections for large trees in Eastside forests. 

BMBP coordinated webinars on large trees in Eastern Oregon, including a webinar with Dr. Mildrexler, the lead author on the recent peer-reviewed study Large Trees Dominate Carbon Storage in Forests East of the Cascade Crest in the United States Pacific Northwest. Another webinar examined current threats to large trees with panelists from BMBP, Greater Hells Canyon Council, Central Oregon Landwatch, and Oregon Wild. Our Eastside coalition of allied groups working together to protect large trees produced four sign-on letters, some with dozens of signatories. Letter requests included suspending the process, withdrawing the amendment, and reviewing the decision under the Biden Climate Executive Order. 

Brittany with Bramble on an old growth Ponderosa pine log Mill Creek sale (Ochoco NF)

BMBP put out press releases on the rollback of protections on large trees in Eastern Oregon, and on our litigation on the Walton Lake and Camp Lick timber sales. We published Action Alerts on the Crow and Mill Creek timber sales. 

Karen, our Director, provided a video from the Bark timber sale (Malheur NF) and gave a zoom interview about her activism for young environmental activists from countries that used to be part of the Soviet Union. The video and Zoom sessions were organized by Crude Accountability and the Fractracker alliance, both of whom work on the fossil fuel contribution to climate change.  

Mathias and Cai with an old growth Ponderosa pine with a fire scar in the Mill Creek sale (Ochoco NF)

Karen gave an interview with Amanda Nichols for her dissertation for a Comparative Religion degree, on Karen’s activism regarding opposition to nuclear weapons. Karen has also been engaged in ongoing work in relation to the Program on Corporations, Law, and Democracy (POCLAD). This work focuses on exposing the role of corporations and capitalism in corporate rule at the expense of real democracy. Karen will be working on editing and publishing her  book Equal Rights Versus Property Rights.

Internal structure:

Cooper Rodgers, BMBP’s Staff Attorney, will be leaving BMBP at the end of  this year. We’re sad he’ll be leaving, but also look forward to hearing about his upcoming adventures and the new chapters he’ll be embarking on in the midwest.

BMBP will be hiring a new Staff Attorney in Spring of 2022. We’ll be accepting applications for the position starting in mid-January. Please help us spread the word!

Karen with artist’s conk in the Morgan Nesbit sale (Wallowa-Whitman NF)

In 2021, we welcomed Sophie Smith as our newest member of the BMBP Board of Directors. Sophie has volunteered with BMBP’s summer field program since 2014. She is a local organizer and aid worker engaged in community resistance to border militarization in Arizona. She has worked extensively with humanitarian organizations focused on ending migrant deaths and suffering on the southern border. She is co-founder of  People Helping People in the Border Zone and a facilitator of No More Death’s desert aid program. She currently teaches gender, politics, and global health courses for the National Nurses United Union’s continuing education program through Rutgers University. Welcome Sophie!

BMBP’s 30th Anniversary Celebration and Benefit in October 2021 was a very fun success. The costume contest winner: Joey as a banana slug!

BMBP’s amazing Board of Directors has been crucial to our work, and for helping to solidify our organizational stability over the past several years. Huge thanks to our Board, with a special shout out to our Board members Tom Buchele and Monica Bond. Special thanks also to Amy Harwood, who recently left the Board after several years. We are very grateful to Amy for all of her crucial work while BMBP obtained our own nonprofit status.


We are deeply grateful to everyone who has donated to support our ecological protection work. Many heartfelt thanks to the Astrov Fund; the Burning Foundation; the Clif Family Foundation; the Faegan Donor Advised Fund through Social Justice Northwest; Fund for Wild Nature; and the Anne K. Millis Fund through Oregon Community Foundation. We are very grateful to be receiving grants from the Rose Foundation and from Lush Charitable Giving at the end of this year. We also want to thank Dick Roy and all of the generous individual donors who supported our work. 

Madeline and Dillon measure a large old growth fir in the Mill Creek sale (Ochoco NF)

BMBP’s Annual Benefit: 

BMBP held our 30th Anniversary Celebration and Benefit in October in Portland. Thanks to everyone who joined us for a lovely evening or donated online! The evening included a presentation about BMBP’s work by our Director Karen, an auction, food and hot apple cider, and a forest-themed costume contest. Special thanks Mike Horner, Brittany Rae, and Brenna Sahatjian for their hard work helping to organize the event, and to Kelly O’Hanley for organizing and soliciting donations for the auction. Our auction included ballon rides, dinners, art, jewelry, and more! Many thanks also to all the volunteers who helped staff the event, including Kima, Alex, Sarah, Joey, Cory, Bramble, Cooper, Rachel, Susan, Harlan, and Mary. Thanks also to Green Anchors for sharing their beautiful outdoor space with us.

Thomas with big fire scar in an old growth Western larch in the Morgan Nesbit sale (Wallowa-Whitman NF)

Fundraisers throughout the year: 

We are grateful to the dedicated BMBP volunteers who organized fundraisers for BMBP this year. BMBP volunteers held a celebration and outreach event in Olympia, Washington in spring. Brittany organized an online fundraiser for our 30th Anniversary celebration, and Ella organized our Giving Tuesday online fundraiser. Jen Wilder held a fundraiser earlier in the year, which was very successful and connected us with friends and supporters across the country. Thank you! 

Thank also to Arctos School of Herbal and Botanical Studies in Portland for their generous fundraiser for BMBP in the spring. Arctos offers classes throughout the year. The school highlights learning about how flora, fungi, and fauna live together as part of an ecosystem, and how interconnected human communities can help foster social justice. You can find more information on the school and their classes at:

Shade with old growth Douglas fir in sale unit in the Morgan Nesbit sale (Wallowa-Whitman NF)

Thanks to Brian Frank for his help with our accounting and bookkeeping, to Japanese Auto Repair for ensuring the maintenance and safety of our vehicles, and to Minuteman Press at Lloyd Center for their help with printing our twice-yearly work reports.

Please donate to help support BMBP’s forest  defense work! 

Every dollar goes a long way toward helping us engage in effective ecological protection work. With your help, we can continue our wildlands defense work.

Please give what you can— donations both small and large help keep our work going!

Douglas squirrel in the Morgan Nesbit sale (Wallowa-Whitman NF)

$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 helps 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

Please give what you can in celebration of BMBP’s 30th Anniversary, and in support of our ongoing work! 

You can donate online at:

Please consider becoming a monthly donor, including BMBP in your long-term giving plans, or  leaving a bequest to BMBP.

Rachel measuring an old growth Western Larch in the Patrick sale (Wallowa-Whitman NF)

Send checks to our Eugene office at:
Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project
Eugene Office
1560 Chambers St.
Eugene, Oregon 97402

Send in-kind donations to:
Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project 
27803 Williams Lane 
Fossil, OR 97830 

To volunteer, contact us at 541-385-9167 (be sure to leave your name and phone number).

Thank you for supporting BMBP’s work to defend forests on public lands in Eastern Oregon!

View from the Morgan Nesbit sale (Wallowa-Whitman NF)
Imnaha River downstream of the Morgan Nesbit sale (Wallowa-Whitman NF)
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