Dire warnings have recently been issued by scientists about climate change, loss of biodiversity, mass species extinctions, and collapsing ecosystems. The 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report sounded urgent alarms regarding global carbon emissions and the resulting catastrophic effects on human civilization and ecosystems that are predicted if we do not drastically cut carbon emissions and limit overall warming. A UN-backed report from the Independent Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services recently warned that nearly one million species are facing extinction globally.
The environmental emergencies we are facing can be overwhelming, and it can be difficult to figure out how to turn the tide or make a positive difference. Here at home, we at Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project are working to defend public lands across eastern Oregon. We have been working tirelessly for over 28 years to defend forests from ecologically destructive logging, livestock grazing, toxic herbicide use, and other extractive projects. We remain steadfastly dedicated to protecting and restoring forests in the Blue Mountains and eastern Oregon Cascades.
In order to preserve biodiversity and fight climate change and habitat loss, it is crucial that we protect natural ecosystems such as forests and streams. In much of the US, and particularly the west, public lands such as National Forests contain the majority of the ‘last best’ habitat left across the region, and provide most of the only remaining high-quality wildlife habitats still able to support many imperiled or at-risk species. Preserving and expanding large blocks of high-quality wildlife habitat is key to providing species with their best chances for surviving and adapting to climate change, and to protecting species from habitat loss. Large blocks of core habitats with strong connectivity are, for example, essential for enabling the movement of species, which will become increasingly important as suitable habitats shift due to climate change. Large areas of core habitat with strong connectivity are also key to providing the clean, cold water that fish such as salmon, steelhead, and bull trout upon which fish depend.
Unfortunately, timber sales on National Forests in eastern Oregon are increasingly targeting mature and old forests, large trees, streamside corridors, and other sensitive and ecologically important habitats. For example, current logging proposals such as the Camp Lick and Ragged Ruby sales on the Malheur National Forest propose to log in mature and old forests, connectivity corridors, and along streams, and to log large and old trees. These two sales combined propose between 16,900 to 17,900 acres of commercial logging, and are only two of the sales in a series of numerous large back-to-back sales on the Malheur National Forest. The Green Ridge and Suttle Lake timber sales in the Deschutes National Forest also propose to log large and old trees, and to log adjacent to riparian areas and in habitat for Northern spotted owls. There are many more such examples . Timber sales in eastern Oregon are also greatly increasing in size. For example, the Forest Service is proposing to log a minimum of 56,960 acres in the Ellis sale in the Umatilla National Forest, and to log and burn over 500,000 acres in the Blue Mountains ‘Forest Resiliency Project’.
In addition to the greatly increased pace and scale of logging that has been occurring over the past several years, the Trump administration recently signed an executive order in December of 2018 to increase logging by approximately 40%. This is only one example of this administration’s war on environmental protections and efforts to increase resource extraction on public lands. This administration is engaged in a clear power grab, and working against the environment and democracy. These attacks create fear and distraction, and make it easier to gut environmental laws and regulations, dismantle regulatory agencies, transfer public resources and land into private hands, and silence dissent. If Trump and the republicans succeed, they will make us all more vulnerable to scarcities and instabilities, including those caused by climate change. Indigenous peoples, people of color, and poor communities are most affected by these scarcities, climate change, and environmental injustice. We need to demand a way forward that fosters justice and democracy, and protects the environment. The way forward needs to include stronger environmental laws and more protected wild landscapes, not less, and we need to vigilantly protect ecosystem integrity on those lands.
Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project has been working hard to challenge attacks on public lands in eastern Oregon. For example, 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 logging across thousands of acres each year. Recently, as well as in numerous instances in the past, the Forest Service has dropped or significantly modified logging in numerous large timber sales in response to our field survey data and our comments, objections, and litigation. Recent examples include the Forest Service dropping or modifying thousands of acres in ecologically significant habitats such as connectivity corridors, streamside corridors, and in habitats for species such as marten, Bald eagles, and Pileated woodpeckers in sales such as the Walton Lake, Black Mountain, Ringo, Flat, Dove, and East Face timber sales. We’ve continued to be leaders in the fight against agency trends to log large trees and to log in streamside corridors. Our work is important for protecting wildlife species such as wolves, Northern spotted owls, lynx, wolverines, marten, steelhead and other native trout, and to protecting the habitats that these and other species need in order to survive.
The Forest Service is greenwashing much of their proposed logging as “restoration”, and often justifies these projects as “fuels reduction” in response to wildfires. As we head into wildfire season, it is important to remember that:
The Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision withdrawn by the Forest Service: In an unexpected development, the US Forest Service announced on March 14th, 2019 that they withdrew the Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision. The objections by Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project, other environmental protection organizations, and the Tribes were essentially upheld by the Forest Service’s withdrawal of their Forest Plan Revision decision.
The Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision was proposed to guide management direction on approximately 5.5 million acres across the Malheur, Umatilla, and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests for at least a decade. It would have approximately doubled logging, removed current protective Forest Plan standards for streams and water quality, scrapped the prohibition on logging large trees (those ≥21” diameter at breast height (dbh)), and severely weakened environmental protections regarding livestock grazing. The plan also failed to protect many ecologically important potential Wilderness and Roadless Areas. The plan would have exacerbated many of the negative effects on forests associated with climate change, such as increased stream temperatures and loss of biodiversity.
The existing Forest Plans are very outdated, and fail to incorporate best available current science and to account for the effects of climate change to forests and the forests’ role in sequestering carbon to slow catastrophic climate change. Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project will continue to pressure the Forest Service to craft a much more ecologically protective and sustainable Forest Plan for future management guidance.
Acres saved or modified in timber sales
In response to our objection to the Ringo timber sale on the Deschutes National Forest, 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.
In the Black Mountain timber sale (Ochoco National Forest), the Forest Service dropped all proposed logging of large trees in this sale (large trees are defined as those ≥21” dbh). Originally, large tree logging had been proposed on approximately 4,500 acres in this sale. BMBP has led the efforts to challenge the Forest Service on their proposals to log large trees in eastern Oregon. The Forest Service, in their Environmental Analysis of the Black Mountain sale, acknowledged and agreed with the ecological arguments and legal precedent that BMBP has consistently raised and worked to establish for many years. We are hopeful that this acknowledgement by the Forest Service of the legal and ecological wrong-headedness of logging large trees will become a trend and continue across other Forest Service Districts.
Challenging ecologically destructive projects through public comments and objections
Recent comments and objections we’ve submitted since we published our Annual Report at the end of 2018 include scoping comments on the Rattelsnake (Malheur NF), Patrick (Wallowa-Whitman NF), and Ellis (Umatilla NF) timber sales; two reforestation projects on the Deschutes NF; and a BLM livestock grazing allotment. Earthrise Law Center, on behalf of and in cooperation with BMBP, submitted comments on the Suttle Lake Vegatation Management project. We also submitted DEIS comments on the Black Mountain timber sale (Ochoco NF), and an objection to the Glass timber sale (Umatilla NF). We are currently working on an objection to the Kew timber sale (Deschutes NF). Since last spring, we submitted public comments on 18 timber sales and objections to seven projects. You can read more about our work for the past year by visiting our website and reviewing our 2018 Annual Report.
In the field
BMBP is gearing up for the field season! Field surveying proposed timber sales is the backbone of our work, as it provides on-the-ground evidence of conditions. We use this evidence in our comments, objections, and litigation. This year, we will be field surveying the Rattlesnake Hazardous Fuels Reduction Project (at least 8,000 acres commercial logging, Malheur National Forest (NF)), the Austin project (Malheur NF, acres not yet disclosed); the Ellis Integrated Vegetation Project (proposed logging on 110,000 acres, Umatilla NF); the Upper Pataha Project (2,600 acres on the Umatilla NF); and the South Silvies Complex Grazing Allotments Project (livestock grazing allotment renewals across 54,506 acres on the Malheur NF). Depending on the timing and size of upcoming projects, we may also survey the Patrick Vegetation Management Project this summer (23,530 commercial logging, Wallowa-Whitman NF). We have already field surveyed the Suttle Lake project area this spring.
The projects we plan to survey include issues such as commercial logging within streamside corridors, logging in mature forests and connectivity corridors, and degradation or destruction of habitat for species that rely on mature and complex forests, such as American marten, Northern goshawk, and Black-backed woodpeckers. BMBP usually field surveys almost all, or at least the majority of, commercial logging units within proposed timber sales. However, the large size of sales such as the 110,000 acre Ellis sale necessitate selective prioritization of units for surveying.
Last year during the 2018 field season, with the help of 31 volunteers, BMBP surveyed five timber sales and one livestock grazing allotment: the Willoughby, Glass, and Upper Touchet sales on the Umatilla National Forest; the Twin sale on the Deschutes National Forest; and the Cliff Knox sale and the Roundtop allotment on the Malheur National Forest. These sales ranged from 1,877 acres to 17,000 acres of commercial logging.
Recent work highlights
Suttle Lake: Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project, with the help of Earthrise Law Center, is working to challenge the Forest Service’s proposal for heavy logging in the Suttle Lake area, which is one of the most popular recreation areas in the Deschutes National Forest. The agency is pushing forth an ecologically destructive timber sale under the guise of needing to preemptively fell potential future hazard trees before they are hazards. Proposed logging would include “sanitation harvest”, which often looks like a virtual clearcut, as well as the logging of large and old trees, and logging Northern spotted owl habitat. Logging in this sale would also result in the conversion of natural cool moist mixed-conifer mature shady forest to predominantly even-age young planted Ponderosa pine and Western larch. The Forest Service already has the authority to fell legitimate hazard trees in the area and does so annually. Yet the agency is using naturally occurring mistletoe and root rot, which self-thin the forest and provide habitat elements for a variety of wildlife, as a guise for conducting a standard timber sale throughout the greater Suttle Lake area.
We are asking the public to continue sending comments to the Forest Service to say “no way!” to logging at Suttle Lake, even though the comment period is now officially closed. The Forest Service is improperly using a “Categorical Exclusion”, which severely curtails environmental analyses and public comments, and eliminates opportunities for public objections. The Forest Service needs to hear loud and clear that this is unacceptable. Please visit our website for more details.
Roads are a widespread threat to streams, water quality, and wildlife on National Forests: BMBP and Friends of the Clearwater recently submitted a letter to the Office of the Department of Agriculture emphasizing the importance of completing travel planning on the Malheur and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests as soon as possible. Our letter was a response to a petition submitted by several counties in eastern Oregon to the Office of the Department of Agriculture asking that the Malheur and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests be exempted from the 2005 Travel Planning Rule. Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project is extremely concerned about the current state of roads on National Forests in eastern Oregon. We strongly believe that the current out-of-control road densities on National Forests urgently need to be reduced in order to minimize harm to streams, water quality, wildlife, and ecosystem integrity.
The Malheur National Forest, for example, contains 7,033 miles of open roads and 2,637 miles of closed roads, for a total of 9,670 miles of existing inventoried roads. One could drive from the northwestern tip of Washington state to the farthest northeastern tip of Maine, down to Miami, Florida, over to San Diego, California, and back up to the northwestern tip of Washington state, and still not have traveled as many road miles as are contained within either the Malheur or the Wallowa-Whitman National Forests. Approximately 2/3 of the 90,000 miles of Forest Service roads in Oregon and Washington are currently open and maintained for both public and administrative uses. BMBP will continue our work to bring public awareness and agency accountability to these out-of-control road-related issues on National Forests in eastern Oregon.
Outreach and movement building
This spring, our Director, Karen Coulter, gave a speaking presentation on the rights of nature at Humbolt state University at the Post-Capitalism Conference; the conference was hosted by Cooperation Humbolt. At the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference in Eugene in March, BMBP volunteers staffed our table, and Karen was a panelist in the Community Scientists Panel. Karen also gave a speaking presentation at BMBP’s Annual Benefit this spring, and two speaking presentations in 2019 in Chico, California— one on wildfire, forest management, and climate change, and the other was a workshop on the work that we do at Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project.
BMBP has been working with alliance-building groups such as the Public Lands Activist Network (PLAN) and with groups coordinating the Resurgence: the North American Forest and Climate Movement Convergence. PLAN is working to share information and resources in order to strengthen networks to better defend pubic lands from current threats. PLAN is currently engaged in projects such as developing educational outreach materials, and in compiling stories of experiences that illustrate problematic examples of collaborative groups in the region. The Resurgence Convergence is focused on bringing together diverse groups including activists, organizers, grassroots community leaders, scientists, experts, and indigenous and non-indigenous youth under broad themes to develop strategies and action plans to address the deep environmental crises we are facing. The Resurgence Convergence will take place this coming October 11th-14th in the Shawnee National Forest in Southern Illinois— registration is now open online, and can be found by searching for ‘Resurgence Convergence’ or by contacting BMBP for more information.
With help from the Center for Nonprofit Law, BMBP submitted an application for our own tax-exempt nonprofit status in January of 2019. Currently, BMBP has tax-exempt 501c3 status through the League of Wilderness Defenders, our fiscal sponsor. Rather than continuing as a project of the League of Wilderness Defenders (LOWD), we are working to transition to having our own non-profit status. LOWD’s purpose is to provide 501c3 status and fiscal and mission oversight for small grassroots organizations. While we continue to have a wonderful relationship with LOWD, BMBP has grown to the point that we would benefit more from having our own tax-exempt status and our own dedicated Board of Directors. We are very excited to make this transition, and feel that it will increase our long-term organizational stability.
We redesigned our website! We are excited to roll out our new website design, which highlights more of our pictures from the field and features better organization and new content. Please check out our new website at https://bluemountainsbiodiversityproject.org
Other internal structure work we’ve been engaged in includes hiring our new accountant, Brian Frank. We are delighted to be working with Brian, who has recently helped us modernize and restructure our bookkeeping. We are also very grateful for the wonderful bookkeeping trainings he has provided.
For the past few field seasons, BMBP has offered opportunities for long-time volunteers to take leadership positions through short-term paid positions. We have been happy to have additional help during recent field seasons from Maria (in 2015 and 2016) and Brenna (in 2017 and 2018). Maria and Brenna helped organize and lead volunteer field crews, coordinated events, and did some social media work. BMBP hopes to continue hiring additional short-term and part-time help during our field seasons, and for some outreach work during the year. However, we need to raise additional funds this year and next in order to continue offering this opportunity to dedicated forest activists.
We are very grateful to everyone who has donated to support our ecological protection work. We could not do our work without your support— thank you! Donations both small and large are crucial to funding our work. Many heartfelt thanks to the Astrov Fund; Burning Foundation; the Charlotte Martin Family Foundation; the Clif Bar Family Foundation; the Faegan Donor Advised Fund of MRG; Fund for Wild Nature; Millis Fund through Oregon Community Foundation; and the Oregon Deep Ecology Fund. Thanks also to Japanese Auto Repair for ensuring the maintenance and safety of our vehicles.
We also want to thank all the generous folks who contributed to our 2019 Annual benefit. We had a lovely evening filled with great music, raffle prizes, food, and wonderfully friendly community and great conversations. Special thanks to Sasha Coulter and Erik Overson for musical entertainment, and to KBOO for their sponsorship of the event. We are very grateful to everyone who donated to our raffle. Huge thanks to Stephanie Taylor who organized the event with Karen, our Director, and to everyone who helped staff the event!
Please donate to support BMBP’s work to defend forests and streams in eastern Oregon!
We need your support to fully fund our field season and continue our ecological protection work.
It costs money to get out on the ground to field survey thousands of acres of proposed timber sales and livestock grazing allotments with dozens of volunteers. Please donate to help support our field season!
This year, we are also raising funds to increase our capacity to challenge ecologically destructive projects on federal public lands. 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.
Please give what you can, donations both small and large help to keep our work going!
$10,000-$20,000 helps pay for our two staff members or helps us hire a badly needed staff attorney
$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 supplies such as propane, large water containers, and coolers in very good shape; and equipment such as diameter measuring tapes, digital cameras, and GPS units. If you have a truck you wish to donate which can handle Forest Service roads and is in good working condition, please contact us. Thank you for helping to support our work to defend forests and streams on public lands in eastern Oregon!
You can read more about BMBP’s work in 2018 in our 2018 Annual Work Report.