End-of-summer Report: Notes from the field

BMBP volunteer with old growth Ponderosa pine in the Bark sale (Malheur NF)

We’ve had a fun and productive field season this year, and it’s still going strong! We’ve been in the field with volunteers since the beginning of June, and will continue surveying through September.

Wildlands field surveys: 

Every summer, BMBP staff and volunteers 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, negotiations, and litigation.

So far this year, we’ve hosted 30 volunteers, including 16 new and 14  returning volunteers. We’ve field surveyed the Pomeroy “Danger Tree and Fire Salvage” timber sale and conducted post-logging surveys on selected sale units in the South George “Vegetation and Fuels Management” sale (both sales are in the Umatilla National Forest (NF)). We finished surveying the Bark sale (Malheur NF), and spot-checked the South Warner sale (Fremont-Winema NF). In the Wallowa-Whitman NF, we surveyed most of the Morgan Nesbit “Forest Resiliency” sale, which we will be returning to complete next summer, and plan to survey the Baker City Watershed “Fuels Management Project” in late September. We are currently surveying the North Fork Crooked River sale (Ochoco NF).

Pileated woodpecker in the Morgan Nesbit sale (Wallowa-Whitman NF)

The Morgan Nesbit project area is 87,000 acres, with an as yet unspecified amount of commercial logging.  The sale is adjacent to the Eagle Cap Wilderness. It includes unroaded landscapes, thousands of acres of the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, and places that have been proposed for Wilderness and Wild & Scenic River protections. This forest contains crucial wildlife corridors, and supports moose, elk, wolverine, salmon, and wolves.

The Pomeroy post-fire logging sale includes logging in ecologically sensitive and fragile post-fire habitat. We are very concerned about the degradation or destruction of important wildlife habitat, the effects to clean water, and the lack of adequate environmental review or public transparency. The sale is being pushed through using a Categorical Exclusion (CE), which severely limits environmental analyses and public comment periods, and completely eliminates opportunities for the public to submit objections. Many of the sale units we surveyed in this sale contain green trees and trees showing green regrowth after last year’s fire. Logging will threaten green trees and sensitive post-fire habitats.

Welcome to our new staff!

Austin Starnes, the newest edition to BMBP’s staff

We’re thrilled to add two new members to the BMBP staff! Austin Starnes will be filling our Staff Attorney position, which he will be stepping into this fall. Austin recently graduated from Lewis and Clark Law School, where he helped the Earthrise Student Law Clinic with Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project’s litigation-related work. He has experience as a Law Clerk at Northwest Environmental Defense Center, and as a Policy Extern at the Wildlands Network. He’s excited to continue his mission of conserving and protecting the ecosystems of the Blue Mountains and Eastern Oregon and Washington. We’re excited to welcome him on board as part of our staff!

Given the current threats to forest ecosystems, it is more important than ever that we are able to mount strategic and well-coordinated legal campaigns against ecologically harmful projects on public lands. In Eastern Oregon, heavy and widespread logging and livestock grazing are exacerbating the climate and biodiversity crises. Timber interests and agencies are using these crises as an excuse, under the guise of perceived safety from wildfires, to further ramp up logging at an alarming pace and scale. Increasing our capacity to engage in strategic litigation is essential to protecting forests, wildlife, and clean water on public lands in Eastern Oregon.

Ella Hackett, BMBP’s new Summer Intern

BMBP also hired Ella Hackett to fill our short-term summer internship, from late June through early September. Our summer intern position has helped us more effectively and sustainably engage in our forest protection work. Ella has been helping with field work, public outreach, social media, and alliance and coalition work. This summer has been especially busy, and we couldn’t have covered as much ground in the woods or in our other work without her help! We’re hoping to continue our summer internship in the future. Having additional help during our busy field season is crucial to our organization’s work and growth.

Spotlight on defending mature and old forests:

The Walton Lake sale (Ochoco NF) proposes to log hundreds of large trees in an old growth fir forest. BMBP, with attorneys Tom Buchele and Jesse Buss, filed a complaint on this sale in December 2020. The courts granted the Preliminary Injunction we requested in September 2021, in order to stop the Forest Service from logging in the sale during the litigation process. The case is still ongoing. The latest proposal is the USFS’s third attempt to log this magnificent forest; BMBP stopped the agency’s two previous attempts to log this forest.

Walton Lake (Ochoco NF)

The Camp Lick sale (Malheur NF): BMBP, with representation from Tom Buchele at Earthrise Law Center, filed litigation in July of 2021 on the Forest Service’s improper use of site-specific Forest Plan amendments to log large trees. We are also challenging the agency’s failure to analyze the cumulative impacts of the Camp Lick sale and numerous adjacent back-to-back sales to imperiled fish habitat, including habitat for Mid-Columbia River Steelhead, which are Threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Litigation is ongoing.

Stream in the South Warner sale (Fremont-Winema NF)

The South Warner sale (Fremont-Winema NF): This sale includes approximately 16,000 acres of commercial logging, proposed under a Categorical Exclusion (CE). CEs are a way for the agency to fast-track sales and severely limit environmental analyses and public input. The Forest Service is planning to implement the sale using the Forest Service’s new rules, put in place during the Trump administration, which rolled back protections for large trees. Should logging move forward in this sale, we are very concerned about the loss of large trees and wildlife habitat. We plan to continue challenging this sale and raising public awareness about the harmful logging planned for these forests.

The Upper Touchet sale (Umatilla NF): BMBP field surveyed this sale in 2018, and were struck by the beauty of the mature and old forests and abundance of wildlife. The Forest Service is planning to log large trees in this sale. They are also planning to log on steep slopes above streams that support imperiled fish. The sale area borders Wilderness and Inventoried Roadless Areas, and will fragment and damage high quality wildlife habitat. We are weighing possible next steps to continue challenging this sale.

Dee with large old growth fir in the South Warner sale

Fighting for Large Trees

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, which were part of the rules known as the “Eastside 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. BMBP is continuing to work alongside allies to get these vital protections reinstated.

Ember with old growth Ponderosa pine in the Bark sale (Malheur NF)


Under the new rule changes, the Forest Service can now log Grand fir up to 30” in diameter at breast height. The agency also has much greater discretion in logging large and old trees of all species. The prohibition on logging large trees under the Eastside Screens was a ‘standard’, and as such it prevented logging of large trees in most situations. While the Forest Service had, unfortunately, continued to use loopholes to log large trees while the standard was in place, it nevertheless greatly curtailed logging of large trees and was crucial for protecting mature and old forests. The ‘standard’ was recently changed to a ‘guideline’ under the new rules, which means it is easier than ever for the Forest Service and timber companies to indiscriminately cut large trees with almost no accountability, transparency, or public oversight.

Large snag (standing dead tree) with evidence of woodpecker forage in the Pomeroy post-fire logging sale. Snags provide crucial wildlife habitat for numerous species, and are at a historic deficit across much of the region.

We are increasingly alarmed by the negative effects that the Trump administration’s rollbacks will have on the forests in our region. This summer, we have started to see the disastrous results of this change, as numerous Forest Service Districts are proposing sales that will include increased logging of large trees.

The Morgan Nesbit sale (Wallowa-Whitman NF) and the Austin sale (Malheur NF) are examples of sales we surveyed this summer where the remaining mature and old forests, and the large trees and the wildlife habitat they support, are now at much greater risk of being heavily logged.

Mature and old trees play a vital role in the ecological functioning of many of the forests we work to protect in Eastern Oregon, and have long been a central focus in BMBP’s work. We can’t afford to lose more of these biological legacies. It’s also important to conserve younger trees and saplings for them to eventually replace mature and old trees, and to have a holistic approach to preserving the integrity of forest ecosystems.

In order to allow species the best chance at surviving and adapting to climate change, we need to preserve wildlife corridors and large, un-fragmented high-quality wildlife habitats. Preserving large trees is key to these efforts. Unfortunately, increased logging of large trees will exacerbate many of the negative ecological effects of climate change and further limit high-quality wildlife habitat and connectivity. Logging large trees increases carbon emissions, and is exactly the wrong direction for addressing climate change.

Recent logging in the South George sale (Umatilla NF)

BMBP and Earthrise Law Center are closely monitoring timber sales which implement the new Trump-era rules and target large trees for logging. We have continued to work closely with a coalition of several groups calling for the reinstatement of strong protections for large trees in Eastern Oregon and southeastern Washington. The coalition includes Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project, Greater Hells Canyon Council, Oregon Wild, Central Oregon Landwatch, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, WildEarth Guardians, and the Juniper Group of the Sierra Club. BMBP is an active member of the steering team, and helps organize and co-lead the coalition.

Lady slipper (Bark, Malheur NF)


Comments and objections

Engagement in the public comment process is more important than ever—especially as Congress and agencies continue their efforts to weaken environmental laws, fast-track timber sales and other projects, and decrease accountability and public oversight.

B with old growth Ponderosa pine in the Morgan Nesbit sale (Wallowa-Whitman NF)

BMBP is currently tracking over 30 agency projects in different stages of planning. We submit public comments on every major timber sale in our work area. BMBP also shares Action Alerts with the public, in order to encourage people to raise their voices on behalf of forests in Eastern Oregon. Public pressure matters! Please visit our website to sign up for our Action Alerts. Even brief comments can make a difference.

So far this year, BMBP has submitted comments on the Ellis sale, the Pomeroy post-fire logging sale, and the Sunflower Insects and Disease CE (Umatilla NF), the Baker City Municipal Watershed project (Wallowa-Whitman NF), the Cabin Butte sale (Deschutes NF), the Wild Horse Adoption Facility CE (Ochoco NF), and the Forest Service’s Wildfire Crisis Strategy Implementation Plan. We also submitted comments on the Forest Service’s plan on defining and identifying mature and old forests, which they are developing in response to the Biden Administration’s Executive Order on climate and forests.

Puffball (Bark sale, Malheur NF)

BMBP submitted objections to the Green Ridge (Deschutes NF) and Cliff Knox (Malheur NF) sales. We attended objection resolution meetings for these and the Patrick sale (Wallowa-Whitman NF).

We attended the agency’s public open house meeting in Baker City regarding the Baker City Municipal Watershed project, and the public meeting on the North Fork Crooked River project. We will also be attending an agency field trip to the Green Ridge sale in September.

BMBP submitted a Freedom of Information Act request about logging implementation in the Big Mosquito sale in the Malheur NF, in relation to the logging and felling of large and old trees. Last summer, BMBP found dozens of large and old Ponderosa pine trees cut down in this sale, despite the agency claiming that the project is supposed to protect those very trees.

Logging in the Big Mosquito sale (Malheur NF)

Movement building and public outreach

The Pacific Northwest Forest Climate Alliance (PNWFCA), which BMBP helped found in 2019, includes over 50 grassroots forest and climate groups. The PNWFCA provides a structure for groups and individuals to share information and tackle a variety of forest and climate-related projects through working groups. BMBP is part of the steering committee, and co-leads the Field Survey working group. BMBP helped create the guiding principles and structure of the Alliance, and helps with meeting facilitation and other coordination. We are excited to help strengthen activist networks and get needed work accomplished.

BMBP’s Director, Karen Coulter, with Tom Buchele and students from Lewis and Clark Law School

This spring at the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC), BMBP’s Director, Karen Coulter, gave presentations on Field Surveying for Forest Defense and The ‘New Normal’ Needs a New Constitutional Amendment panels. Also at PIELC, BMBP’s Co-Director, Paula Hood, participated in the panel Cautionary Tales from the Collaborative Industrial Complex, along with fellow panelists Rob Klavins (Oregon Wild) and Dr. Chad Hanson (John Muir Project).

Paula also published a commentary in the Capital Chronicle titled Logging Interests Now Dominate Forest Collaboratives.

In May, Karen participated in the Land and Water Protection panel in “A Radical Gathering: Cultivating the World We Deserve” webinar series. She discussed advocacy strategies for communities all around the country using courts and the power of the people.

Deer in the Pomeroy post-fire logging sale (Umatilla NF)

In July, Tom Buchele, with several of his students from Lewis and Clark Law School, visited BMBP in the Morgan Nesbit sale (Wallowa-Whitman NF) for a weekend. Karen led field trips for the law students, and discussed our concerns about this and other sales in Eastern Oregon. It was lovely to have Tom and the law students in the forest with us! Tom Buchele is a Clinical Professor of Law at Lewis and Clark Law School. He has represented BMBP in numerous legal cases.

In July, Paula worked with the John Muir Project, the Pacific Northwest Forest Climate Alliance, the Forest Carbon Coalition, and the Climate Forests Campaign to coordinate a webinar with Dr. Dominick DellaSala discussing his groundbreaking research on conducting the first mature and old growth assessment for the USA. BMBP also gave presentations on our field survey program and our work to protect large trees in Eastern Oregon to the PNW Forest Climate Alliance. Please visit BMBP’s website under “Media Highlights” to see videos of our presentations and other recent media work.

Prairie smoke flowers (Pomeroy post-fire sale, Umatilla NF)

In August, Karen led a field trip with two staff members from National Resources Defense Council in the Austin sale (Malheur NF). The field trip focused on forest ecology in Eastern Oregon, and on our concerns about logging in sales such as Austin, including widespread large tree logging in our region.

Karen also gave two workshops at the Earth First! gathering about wildfire, climate change, and forest management.

Ways to Get Involved

Volunteer in the field! BMBP is in the field from June through September every year— start planning now to volunteer during our field season

next year! Volunteers are trained in native plant and wildlife identification, map and compass orienteering, and determining habitat conditions. We also teach volunteers about basic environmental policies, ecological issues, and current threats to public forests and streams in eastern Oregon. Most of our time in the field is spent in the forest, documenting conditions within proposed timber sales or grazing allotments. We prefer interns to volunteer for at least one week in the field. No prior experience is necessary. Call us with at least two weeks notice and let us know when you want to come out!

Penstemon flowers in the Morgan Nesbit sale (Wallowa-Whitman NF)

Tell decision-makers: Let forests grow. The Biden administration recently issued Executive Orders that acknowledge the importance of forests, particularly mature and old forests, in the fight against climate change. Unfortunately, the administration has not proposed goals or tangible plans that would provide the paradigm shift required by the climate and biodiversity crises. Alarmingly, the administration has not recognized logging as a threat to mature and old forests. We urge everyone to contact the Biden administration, as well as their state and local representatives, to encourage them to take more substantive steps towards fighting climate change and deforestation. We are asking decision makers for a national moratorium on logging of mature and old forests, and to reinstate the prohibition on logging large trees in Eastern Oregon and southeastern Washington.

Fundraising

We are deeply grateful to everyone who has donated to support our ecological protection work. Many heartfelt thanks to the Anne K. Millis Fund through Oregon Community Foundation; the Astrov Fund; the Burning Foundation; the Clif Family Foundation; the Faegan Donor Advised Fund through Social Justice Northwest; Fund for Wild Nature; Lush Charitable Giving; and the Rose Foundation.

Chipmunk (Pomeroy sale, Umatilla NF)

Special thanks to Dick Roy for his support, to Jen Wilder for her help with fundraising, and to all of the volunteers and donors who helped with our Annual Benefit last fall. Thanks also to Japanese Auto for keeping our vehicles safely maintained, and to the Broadway Minuteman Press in Portland for their help printing our work reports. Many thanks to all of the generous individual donors who supported our work!

Please donate to help support BMBP’s work defending forests in Eastern Oregon

Brittany measuring a large fir in the Bark sale (Malheur NF)

BMBP’s work to protect ecological diversity in Eastern Oregon would not be possible without donations from our supporters. Any amount, large or small, goes a long way. We need your help to pay our staff; pursue litigation against destructive projects; and field survey proposed timber sales during our summer field season.

BMBP’s field surveys are the foundation of our effective forest protection work. Our on-the-ground  knowledge has been key to many of our litigation wins and our success with halting or modifying logging across many thousands of acres over the years. However, training and hosting volunteers in the field, and surveying thousands of acres of proposed sales every year is a major undertaking—we need your support to help fund our field season and forest protection work!

Female Hairy woodpecker in the Pomeroy post-fire logging sale (Umatilla NF)

$10,000-$20,000 helps pay for our four staff members
$5,000 helps cover transportation costs to and from the field, 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 day to day expenses including photo copies, pens, clipboards, our office phone, and other supplies
$500 helps pay for postage costs
$100 pays for field surveying equipment
$25-50 subsidizes food for volunteers in the field.

We are also in need of in-kind donations such as non-perishable food for the field (nut butters, tea and coffee, granola bars, etc), and field equipment including diameter measuring tapes, digital cameras, and GPS units.

Clarkia flowers in the Bark sale (Malheur NF)

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 BMBP at 510-715-6238 or email us at paula@bluemountainsbiodiversityproject.org.

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

You can donate online at: bluemountainsbiodiversityproject.org/donate.

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

You can also contact us at 541-385-9167 (be sure to leave your name and phone number).

Thank you for being a part of making this work happen!

View in the Morgan Nesbit sale (Wallowa-Whitman NF)

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