2021 Summer Report

Veta recreating in the Crow sale (Malheur NF)

Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project
2021 Summer Report:The 30th Anniversary Edition

This year is BMBP’s 30th Anniversary!

Together with our volunteers, friends, and supporters, Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project has helped protect forests and streams on public lands in eastern Oregon for three decades. Over the last 30 years, we’ve stopped the logging of thousands of acres of forests, set numerous beneficial legal precedents, and influenced regional management policies to be more protective of biodiversity and ecosystem integrity. We have worked strategically to create changes that are regional in scope. We’ve been leaders in the fight to defend large trees, old and mature forests, and key wildlife habitat from ecologically destructive logging and toxic herbicide and biocide use. We could not have accomplished this work without the help of our supporters and volunteers.

Sarah in mature mixed-conifer forest in the High Buck sale (Umatilla NF)

Highlights from some of our key accomplishments:

Defending Large Trees:

In 2014, with co-plaintiff Hells 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 on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. Our victory on the Snow Basin case was important for protecting Forest Plan standards, set important precedent for other timber sales, and saved over 10,000 large trees from logging. As a result of the Snow Basin legal victory, BMBP and our allies have saved well over twenty thousand large trees (those ≥21” diameter at breast height (dbh)) from being logged.

In response to pressure from BMBP and our allies, the Forest Service dropped logging of approximately 8,000 large trees in the Lower Joseph sale on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest (NF) in 2017.

The Forest Service dropped all proposed logging of large trees across 4,500 acres in the Black Mountain sale (Ochoco NF) in 2019. This decision was a direct result of our legal victory in the Snow Basin case. 

BMBP and our allies pressured the Forest Service to drop large tree logging across 8,000 acres in the Crow sale (Malheur NF) in 2021.

Black bear cub in the Bellwether sale (Ochoco NF)

Protecting Ecologically Important Habitats:

Under threat of litigation from the Natural Resources Defense Council and allies including Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project, the Forest Service adopted more protective standards into agency forest management plans across numerous National Forests in eastern Washington and Oregon in the mid-90’s. Forest Plan standards now include increased buffers on fish-bearing streams, goals for monitoring and restoration for streams and fish habitat, and some protections for goshawk nest and post-fledging areas. They also included preservation of trees over 21” in diameter, though this protection for large trees was unfortunately rolled back under the Trump administration.

We protected the integrity of Roadless Areas that provide pristine headwaters for fish species and refugia for rare and far-ranging wildlife. For example, we helped protect the Murder’s Creek and Fox Roadless Areas, as well as the Aldrich Roadless Area, a rare ancient forest which has never been logged.

Alex in mature mixed-conifer forest (High Buck sale, Umatilla NF)

We set legal precedent on post-fire logging in sales such as the Big Tower Fire in the Umatilla National Forest. We succeeded in stopping post-fire logging in the Big Tower sale, despite agency appeals in court. Our victory was upheld at the Ninth Circuit, and was important for fighting other post-fire sales. 

We have gotten logging dropped or negotiated positive changes for many more thousands of acres of ecologically sensitive forests. This work has been crucial for protecting critical wildlife and fish habitat, roadless areas, moist mixed-conifer forests, and more. We have gotten logging dropped or modified to protect habitat for species such as American marten, Northern Goshawk, Pileated Woodpeckers, Northern Spotted Owls, Bull trout, and Mid-Columbia River steelhead.

Red-tailed hawk (Crow, Malheur NF)

Fighting Toxic Herbicide and Biocide Use:

Our work on herbicide and biocide cases have resulted in beneficial precedents regarding the analysis of cumulative environmental impacts, and in increased emphasis on prevention in invasive weed management strategies.

In 2002, we stopped the use of dangerous herbicides on public forest lands in Malheur National Forest for over a decade, and stimulated Region 6 to revise their regional Invasive Plant Management Plan to emphasize prevention of exotic invasive plants.

Also in 2002, we shut down biocide spraying against a native Tussock Moth species on up to six million acres across six National Forests in Oregon and Washington. This case set legal precedent on Clean Water Act law involving point sources of pollution. If this spraying had been allowed, it would have killed all species of moths and butterflies in their larval stages at the time of spraying.

In 2012 we reduced herbicide use on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest from 11,000 to 1,000 acres through litigation. This win also resulted in strengthening case law for cumulative impacts analysis.

Isabel in the High Buck sale (Umatilla NF)

In 2014, we won our Ninth Circuit appeal supporting our legal claim that the Forest Service needs to better analyze potential impacts and protect riparian areas from toxic herbicide spraying on the  Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

In 2019, BMBP worked with the Malheur National Forest to drastically reduce herbicide use, apply herbicides that are less toxic, and effectively tackle invasive species issues. 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. BMBP’s work also resulted in sensitive and cultural-use plants being buffered from herbicides, and in stopping the agency from using Triclopyr or Picloram.

Meadow with stream and forest (Elbow sale, Umatilla NF)

Protecting Streams and  Water Quality:

Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project is committed to upholding beneficial environmental protections for streams, and ensuring that commercial logging within streamside corridors does not gain a foothold on public lands in eastern Oregon. We’ve gotten thousands of acres of logging dropped in streamside corridors in numerous large timber sales. We’ve worked with allies or taken the lead to protect streamside corridors in sales such as the Kalher, Dove, East Face, Thomas Creek, and others. 

Grace & Sarah in High Buck (Umatilla NF)

BMBP’s work has been important for agency accountability and transparency on water quality issues. For example, in 2018 BMBP pressured the Forest Service to submit temperature data for more than a hundred streams for the first time in over a decade. This 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 data, which can now be included in multi-agency planning for numerous  watersheds in Oregon, will ultimately help inform better landscape-scale understanding of thermal barriers to fish migration and recovery. Accurate water quality data are important for developing restoration plans for streams and aquatic species.

Onward!

As we look forward to the work ahead, we continue to be grateful to the many thoughtful and generous volunteers and supporters who have made our work possible. We couldn’t do our work without the ongoing help of so many people who care deeply about forests and the wilds of eastern Oregon!

Juvenile goshawk (Crow sale, Malheur NF)

Recent Work Accomplishments:

Wildlands Field Surveys:

We are currently field surveying the Mill Creek timber sale (Ochoco NF). Depending on stage of planning and map availability, we also plan to survey the Bark and Neighbor (Malheur NF); Turkey Tail, Maloney Mountain, and Battle and Bruin (Umatilla NF); Mill Creek (Ochoco NF); and Klone (Deschutes NF).

During the 2020 field season, with the help of 27 volunteers, we surveyed the following timber sales: High Buck, Davis, and Elbow (Umatilla NF); Crow and Laycock Creek (Malheur NF); Bellwether (Ochoco NF), Surveyor (Deschutes NF), and the 2nd half of Ellis (Umatilla NF). We also surveyed the Sunflower and South Silvies livestock grazing allotments (Ochoco & Malheur NFs). 

BMBP’s work has been field-based since our inception 30 years ago. We are the only group in the geographic region that field surveys every major timber sale. Each summer we field survey thousands of acres of proposed sales. We field survey every major timber sale in our work area, and are in the field almost continually from June 1st through September 30th. Volunteers are the backbone of our monitoring work, and the information they collect directly influences negotiations and potential litigation of timber sales. We have trained over 400 volunteers.

Pileated woodpecker (Crow sale, Malheur NF)

Acres Saved and Highlighted Work:

In 2020 and 2021, as a result of our recent work and joint efforts with allies, the Forest Service dropped or modified logging on thousands of acres. For example:

  • 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). Specifically in response to BMBP’s field survey sheets, the agency also dropped 446 acres of commercial logging. 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 high productivity moist mixed-conifer forests. Large trees provide crucial wildlife habitat and are key for supporting biodiversity.
  • In response to BMBP’s objection to the Ragged Ruby sale (Malheur NF), the agency agreed, within the Dixie Butte Inventoried Roadless Area (IRA), to only non-commercially thin within a 30’ radius around White pines and Whitebark pines, and to drop lithosol and meadow habitat thinning. In response to our concerns about maintaining multi-story dense habitat needed by species such as marten, the agency dropped 4,700 acres of prescribed burning in the Greenhorn Mountains IRA.

    Mature mixed-conifer forest (Ragged Ruby sale, Malheur NF)
  • In response to our objection to the Upper Touchet sale (Umatilla NF), the agency dropped ~47 acres of commercial logging and changed up to 50 acres to noncommercial thinning. They agreed to return 1.19 miles of road to natural drainage conditions, and canceled 0.21 miles of road building. The sale includes logging on steep slopes above streams supporting ESA-listed fish; these modifications will lessen impacts to sensitive aquatic species.

Engaging in the Public Comments Process:

In 2020, BMBP submitted comments on eleven timber sales, two livestock grazing allotments, and two proposals for changes in management direction which would strip current environmental protections. We submitted objections to two timber sales. BMBP is currently tracking over 30 agency projects in different stages of planning. So far in 2021, we’ve submitted comments on four timber sales and a wild horse management plan, and submitted objections on a livestock grazing allotment and a wild horse management plan.

Adam & old-growth fir (Elbow sale, Umatilla NF)

Defending Large Trees From Recent Loss of Protections:

Protecting large trees and old forests has been a 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. BMBP has been working alongside allies to ensure that agencies and the public understand and are engaged on this issue. Examples of our work with allies include:

Volunteers in old-growth mixed-conifer forest (Elbow sale, Umatilla NF)
  • BMBP contributed to and signed on to joint comments denouncing the Forest Service’s proposal. Twenty-six groups, including every place-based conservation group in the region, joined in these comments to denounce the Forest Service’s attempts to strip protections from old and large trees on eastside forests. BMBP also worked with Earthrise Law Center to submit our own organizational detailed comments.
  • We coordinated webinars, including one with Dr. David 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.
  • 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.
  • Our coalition of allied groups 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.
Karen with old-growth fir (Walton Lake sale, Ochoco NF)

In the Courts:

Walton Lake sale (Ochoco NF): BMBP, represented by Tom Buchele of Earthrise Law Center and attorney Jesse Buss of the Willamette Law Group, filed litigation on the Walton Lake sale in December of 2020. The sale proposes logging of an old-growth fir forest, including logging of hundreds of large trees. Since 2016, we have twice stopped the Forest Service from logging this area. 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 already has the option to conduct legitimate hazard tree removal; nothing is stopping them from felling trees that pose actual threats to public safety. We remain committed to challenging agency efforts to log this magnificent old-growth forest.

Male white-headed woodpecker (Crow sale, Malheur NF)

Public Outreach and Events:

This spring, volunteers threw a small party for BMBP’s Anniversary in the Olympia area. The party was outdoors and socially distanced.

Also this spring, Karen gave a workshop in Olympia on Strategies and Tactics for Forest Defense attended by 35 people.

Paula gave a Coast Range Radio interview on protecting eastern Oregon’s large trees. The interview included an overview of the 21” Screens, and why they are important to wildlife, water quality, carbon storage, and ecosystem integrity. The interview aired on 10 local and independent radio stations, including KBOO in Portland.

Morel (High Buck sale, Umatilla NF)

Movement Building:

The Pacific Northwest Forest Climate Alliance (PNWFCA): The PNWFCA was inspired by the North American Forest and Climate Convergence that BMBP helped with and attended in Illinois in October of 2019. The PNWFCA alliance has over 35 member organizations (mostly Forest and Climate groups), and includes volunteer and individual activists. The alliance has several ‘Working Groups’ currently tackling projects on forest and climate-related topics. BMBP is part of the steering committee, along with representatives from Bark, Cascadia Wildlands, and FUSEE. BMBP has helped to create the guiding principles and structure of the alliance, and helps with meeting facilitation and other administrative tasks. BMBP is also part of the Rural Organizing Working Group within the alliance, along with folks from Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands, the Coast Range Association, and the Southern Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club. We are excited to be working to strengthen activist networks, share information, and get needed work accomplished.

Karen, our Director, has 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 the  book Equal Rights Versus Property Rights.

Golden-mantled ground squirrel (Crow sale, Malheur NF)

Fundraising: 

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 Charlotte Martin Foundation; the Clif Family Foundation; the Faegan Donor Advised Fund through Social Justice Northwest; Fund for Wild Nature; the Anne K. Millis Fund through Oregon Community Foundation; and the Oregon Deep Ecology Fund. We also want to thank all of the generous individual donors who supported our work. Thanks to Japanese Auto Repair for ensuring the maintenance and safety of our vehicles.

High Buck sale, Umatilla NF

We are planning to hold a 30th Anniversary celebration and fundraiser this fall, provided it is safe to do so. We unfortunately had to cancel our in-person Annual Benefit in 2020 due to Covid-19, and decided to delay our celebration until autumn this year. 

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!

Calypso orchid (High Buck sale, Umatilla 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!

Alex in an old-growth mixed-conifer forest (High Buck sale, Umatilla NF)

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