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News, notes, trip reports, and the lighter side (of the wilder side) of the Oregon environmental and conservation movement.
Brief statement on the untimely passing of Oregon Wild staffer, and wildlands hero, Tim Lillebo, and information about his memorial.
Statement from Oregon Wild Executive Director Sean Stevens:
The Oregon Wild family is deeply saddened by the news that our friend and colleague Tim Lillebo has passed. Our thoughts are with Tim's wife Karen and his family and friends in this difficult time. Tim will be remembered for so many things – his charm; his passion for rafting, hiking and hunting; and the ever-present crushed felt hat and cigar hanging from his mouth.
For those that knew and loved Tim in his personal life he will be mourned as a loving husband and friend. For those at Oregon Wild, we will remember a hero who inspired us all and gave so much to protect Oregon's wild places. We often joked that Tim could never retire, because, there would simply be no way to replace him. It is true – Tim Lillebo was one of a kind and we will miss him dearly.
For those who would like to pay tribute to and celebrate Tim's life, a memorial gathering and celebration will take place at Aspen Hall in Shevlin Park in Bend, on Sunday, February 23 from noon to 4pm.
Tim's family has indicated that gifts in Tim's honor can be given to Oregon Wild.
Memories and tributes about Tim can be left at this site, set up by friends and family.
An artist from Oregon's wolf country finds inspiration
By Andrew Myers
I grew up in LaGrande, Oregon located in the Blue Mountains of northeast Oregon. I currently live in Corvallis, Oregon where I am an artist and teach drawing at Oregon State University.
Wild places and wild creatures have always been a big influence and inspiration for my artwork. My current series called Where-Wolf is inspired by the story of OR7, the gray wolf from the Imnaha pack in northeast Oregon. He traveled across the state to southwest Oregon and northern California in search of a mate with which to start a new pack.
Organic farmer Angela Wartes-Kahl lives and works in Lobster Valley in the Oregon Coast Range, and is no stranger to clearcuts and industrial forestry.
By Angela Wartes-Kahl
I live on a 17-acre farm in Lobster Valley, near Alsea in Benton County. Our property lies along Lobster Creek, a tributary of the Alsea River and a haven for fly fisherman and angling enthusiasts. Our farm borders the Siuslaw National Forest and some private land, including a Christmas tree farm, and the O&C lands in our area are located about a mile up the Lobster Creek drainage.
I am no stranger to clearcuts. In fact, in our rural setting, we live with clearcuts. They are our neighbors, so much so that whenever I have leave the area I have to steel myself to contend with landslides and fallen trees. Our soils are steep and saturated in the Coast Range, with 110 inches of rain a year (compared to Portland, which only receives about 40 inches of rain per year), and landslides are common. These slides often block roads and cut power lines, so beginning with the first fall storm of the year we make it a point to carry a chainsaw in the trunk to increase our chances of leaving the valley.
Sen. Wyden is in the midst of another round of town hall meetings, giving you a chance to let the senator know in person you oppose his plan for more clearcuts and fewer protections for wildlife on the O&C lands.
Senator Ron Wyden is hosting another round of town hall meetings this month, offering you a great opportunity to let the senator know, in person, you oppose his plan for more clearcuts and fewer protections for wildlife on our public O&C lands and backyard forests.
We've listed the next four town hall meetings on Senator Wyden's schedule in Springfield, Oregon City, Astoria and Scappoose, along with sample questions you can ask or share with your friends or family if you have an opportunity to ask Senator Wyden a question. We've included additional background information on Senator Wyden's O&C proposal below.
Klamath Wildlife Advocate Quinn Read on her experiences this summer with the Klamath Basin Task Force, and the byzantine nature of the region's longstanding water woes, where wildlife often come in dead last.
By Quinn Read
When I signed on six months ago as Oregon Wild's Klamath Wildlife Advocate, I was perplexed that the campaign seemed to focus so narrowly on the region's National Wildlife Refuges. Aren't there bigger issues? Wildlife refuges are, by their very nature, protected for wildlife. Right? Look, it says so right on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website:
"The Mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System is to administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management, and where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans."
Well. That's a relief.
Unfortunately, I don't think the National Wildlife Refuges in the Klamath Basin got the memo. There, wildlife routinely comes second (a distant second) to private agribusiness. In fact, during the drought-stricken summer of 2013, wetlands for wildlife went dry while commercial crops on the refuges received full or near-full water deliveries. The legal term for this set of circumstances is "lame."
For this state of affairs, we have the Kuchel Act of 1964 to thank. The Act was created to end homesteading on refuge lands. And in that it was successful. However, in its place, the Act institutionalized the practice of leasing thousands of acres of refuge lands for commercial agriculture.
In the wake of the Kuchel Act, wildlife is no longer the primary consideration of the National Wildlife Refuges in the Klamath Basin. Rather, refuges are managed for the “primary purpose of waterfowl management, but with full consideration to optimum agricultural use that is consistent therewith.”
That doesn’t seem so bad, does it? But how does this play out on the ground?
I got a sense of it last summer when I drove to Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge and stood in the middle of the State Line Road. (Don’t worry, I took proper safety precautions by signing an Oregon Wild waiver of liability.) To one side of the road, I saw refuge lease lands with lush green row crops. To the other side, I saw “permanent” refuge wetlands that had become dried and cracked mud flats. The land was so dry I could see clearly the exposed roots of all the grasses.
I’m not a biologist -- but I do have (mostly) working eyeballs -- and this seems like a pretty raw deal for birds and other wildlife counting on those “permanent” wetlands. I learned that crops grown on the lease lands include potatoes, onions and alfalfa, which provide little or no benefit to wildlife and require the application of harmful pesticides.
The lease land program also consumes an enormous quantity of water that could be used to restore wetlands. I’m having a hard time understanding how private agribusiness can ever be compatible with refuge purposes -- Kuchel Act or not.
By the end of the summer, Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge was bone dry. For some perspective, there should be over 31,000 acres of wetlands on the refuge. For even more perspective, before the refuge was established, there were over 80,000 acres of lakes, marsh and wetlands.
On nearby Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge, the shortage of wetlands forced birds into crowded conditions and sparked a lethal outbreak of avian botulism. U.S. Fish and Wildlife staff picked up more than 6,000 dead birds, but officials estimate total deaths were more than twice that number.
And in the upper basin, on Klamath Marsh National Wildlife Refuge — the only refuge that actually had water for wildlife — Fish and Wildlife Service staff allowed ranchers to turn over 2,000 cows loose on the refuge. They did so without any public notice, or even a real plan for managing the cattle once they were let out to graze. Look, I'm sure there are many nice cows out there, and goodness knows I find them terribly tasty, but they don't belong on lands that were set aside for the preservation of wildlife in the public trust.
Adding insult to injury, all of this went down while private agribusiness on the lease lands received water for row crops.
So I was hopeful in July when Senator Ron Wyden and Governor John Kitzhaber established their Klamath Basin Task Force to tackle the region's longstanding water woes. However, every time Oregon Wild brought up the refuges, we were rebuffed. We were told that the Task Force dealing with Klamath Basin water issues was not the forum to discuss the water needs of the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges. Hmmm, very interesting.
True to their word, when the Task Force came out with its final report in early December, there was not a word about the refuges. The end result of the Task Force process will be proposed legislation dealing with water and power issues. However, that legislation is highly unlikely to include any provisions scaling back the lease land farming program or guaranteeing water for the refuges.
I'd hate to see a repeat of last summer's refuge abuses next time drought rolls around the Klamath Basin. But unless our elected officials get the message that we won’t tolerate it, that's exactly what will happen.
It turns out that our National Wildlife Refuges do need an advocate — lots of advocates, actually. I'd love to take it for granted, as I did when I joined Oregon Wild, that our National Wildlife Refuges are truly refuges for wildlife. But in the Klamath Basin, we're not there yet.
Additional photos of Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge by Quinn Read. Photo of Quinn Read by Wendell Wood.
An excerpt from author Rick Lamplugh's new book exploring society's evolving view of wolves, and why wolves have long been seen as "big and bad."
We met Rick Lamplugh and his wife on the 2013 Wolf Rendezvous. The following is an excerpt adapted from a chapter in his newly-released book: In the Temple of Wolves: A Winter's Immersion in Wild Yellowstone.
By Rick Lamplugh
From the United States to the United Kingdom, from Europe to Japan, wolves have been hated to death. I struggle to believe that humans haven't always hated wolves. Yet some experts say that long ago — when we were nomadic and had limitless horizons — wolves and humans coexisted peacefully and even evolved together. How did we get from that to a world of wolf haters?
Even allowing clearcuts in selective "variable retention harvest" patches intended to mimic the natural variability of a fire-prone habitat mosaic is a risk and a danger, especially since global climate change has thrown natural variability out the window.
By Pablo Martos
Senator Ron Wyden has released a new plan for management of Oregon and California Railroad trust lands, a plan I think is intended to replace, update, or supersede the Northwest Forest Plan that Bill Clinton signed into law in 1994 for O&C lands. While I'm glad new science is being brought to bear on an old problem, I think the approach is wrong. I disagree with it's broader objectives - and thus with some of the specific things it is attempting to address.
Enigmatic creatures with a reputation for ferocity, wolverines are some of the most reclusive animals in western forests. While their numbers are dwindling in the lower 48, wolverines are finding their former habitat in Oregon still feels like home.
We've often said if you ever see a wolf in the wild, the first thing you should do is take a photo, because you probably won't be lucky enough to see a wolf in the wild again.
But if you ever have an encounter with a wolverine in the wild, chances are you won't even have time to get your camera out, much less know what's going on until it's over.
We've built a Backyard Forests Action Group to better get information to Oregon Wild members about the state's O&C lands. And as was the case with Sen. Wyden's O&C announcement, you'll be the first to know O&C news - and we'll be relying on you to respond quickly.
Oregon Wild has been busy this fall standing up for Oregon's Backyard Forests, i.e. the public O&C lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management in Western Oregon, and we'd like to invite you to join Oregon Wild's Backyard Forests Action Group.
This list will offer more detailed information and updates on Oregon's O&C lands, and additional ways to take action against ongoing efforts to ramp up logging on the O&C lands.
This "go to" group of citizen activists can effectively, and rapidly, help us let our elected officials and land managers know Oregonians value clean water, recreation, wildlife, and quality of life over sacrificing these values for the short-term gain to timber interests and county budgets.
Oregon Wild's Wildlands and Wildlife Advocate Rob Klavins got a chance to take part in some hands-on work with wolves, alongside wildlife agency professionals from Ireland, Canada, Mexico, and the U.S.
As part of a required yearly check-up on all of their animals, the team at Wolf Haven International hold an annual wildlife handling and training course for wildlife professionals at their facilities in Tenino, Washington, just south of Olympia.