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News, notes, trip reports, and the lighter side (of the wilder side) of the Oregon environmental and conservation movement.
If you like clean water, good beer, wildlife, or outdoor recreation, it's a good day to raise a glass to roadless!
When Teddy Roosevelt established the National Forest System, he did so to protect the best of America as an enduring legacy for future generations. In spite of that vision, over a hundred years later, many of those forests have been mined, logged, overgrazed, and developed.
With barely 4% of Oregon legally protected as Wilderness, many of the best of what’s left owe their protections to the citizens and leaders who walked in the footsteps of Roosevelt to create common sense protections like the 2001 Roadless Rule which yesterday marked its 10 year anniversary.
Though the Rule was (and is) one of the most popular conservation efforts in history, it’s been a rough decade, and the journey isn’t over quite yet.
The Forest Service gets an online face lift.
Caught this nugget from Terry Richard at The Oregonian.
Anyone who has used Forest Service websites knows that they are a little hard to navigate. They can be especially good at burying important information on upcoming projects and proposals. Also, they're not always the best at helping to find updated information on trails.
Some National Forest offices have been better than others. And, as Richard reports, they're moving to a standardized format. Hopefully that will make for easier surfing for many of us who frequent the USFS sites.
Fighting back against "nature deficit disorder"
When I was a young lad, I didn't have much choice but to get outside and enjoy the world around me. Sure, I grew up in suburban Portland, but my parents and grandparents placed great value on getting into the outdoors.
My mom grew up on a rural ranch in the Salinas Valley in California, and my dad ventured away from his Los Angeles area home on multiple family camping trips to the Sierras. I spent time as a youngster fishing for trout in Rogue River tributaries, hiking in the Columbia Gorge, rafting, and backpacking.
In response, the US Forest Service is launching a campaign today to get kids out into the great outdoors. The program is called "National Get Outdoors Day" (or, GO Day), and the Forest Service is getting some help from a digital character that kids just might relate to.
...To oil, mining, and coal!
In my personal life, I care about a lot of issues and have some pretty strong political beliefs. The same is true here at work, but I spend most of my time focused on advocating for the protection of Oregon’s remaining pristine roadless lands.
Until they are designated as Wilderness – something Oregon’s delegation seems happy to keep on their to-do list – the Roadless Rule is the best way to protect places like Mt. Bailey, Lookout Mountain, & much of Oregon’s Yellowstone. When Barack Obama said he would uphold and defend the Roadless Rule, I assumed he meant it, so when he became President Obama, I was hopeful.
I was all for "yes we can". But when special interests want to make a profit from our public lands, I'm more for "oh no you can't". Or at least, as my Aussie friends would say, "slow down chum".
Live blog of the subcommittee hearing on the Oregon Eastside Forest Restoration, Old-growth Protection and Jobs Act with Old-Growth Campaign Coordinator, Chandra LeGue.
Today the Senate subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests (housed in the Energy and Natural Resources committee) is holding a hearing on the Oregon Eastside Forest Restoration, Old-Growth Protection and Jobs Act (S.2895), introduced by Senator Ron Wyden in December.
Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley signed on as a co-sponsor last week.
Senator Wyden’s legislation builds on common ground reached between conservationists and the timber industry and would protect old growth forests and refocus national forest management in eastern Oregon on science-based restoration. Future logging would remove primarily smaller diameter trees and serve landscape-wide forest and watershed restoration goals. The legislation is the product of months of intense negotiations between conservationists, timber industry leaders, and Senator Wyden’s staff.
Watch the hearing live from the Senate website
Send your questions to me, Chandra LeGue at email@example.com.
The hearing is supposed to start at 11:30 am PST (2:30 pm EST), but seems to be running a bit behind.
Scheduled to testify on S. 2895 today are Harris Sherman for the US Forest Service; Andy Kerr, Senior Council for Oregon Wild; John Schelk, with Ochoco Lumber; Norm Johnson, forest scientist; Larry Blasing, with Grant County Public Forest Commission; and Stephen Fitzgerald, silviculturist representing the Society of American Foresters.
Logging in the backcountry to stop beetle outbreaks and reduce fire risk does neither.
Do you remember being in grade school and being pretty sure your antiquated old teacher was passing on some outdated information? You muttered as much to your friend, made comments in the margins of your notes, and even asked some good questions. But the teacher persisted. Then the smart kid in the room raised her hand and made the same case much more comprehensively and eloquently. Your reaction may have been to think “Man! I wish I’d said that”.
But you were glad she did, and you hoped the teacher would listen.
Sometimes similar things happen in the real world. Across the country, bark beetles are doing what they’ve been doing for millennia – reproducing and, in the process, killing trees. In response the Forest Service (the teacher in our scenario) has felt the need to address what they see as a growing “crisis”. In many cases, they’ve reflexively proposed to do what they’ve always done – log it! A new report suggests that might not be the best idea.
The definitive account of the ancient forest campaign (now available tree free).
Got an e-mail the other day from Alice Porter over at Libertary, an online publisher looking to get more folks reading books (in whatever format they may come).
Turns out they are now featuring one of the classic books written about conservation in Oregon and the west, Tree Huggers, by Kathie Durbin. Kathie was a reporter for the Oregonian back in the day and stiff plies the journalism trade across the state line over at the Columbian.
I've got a copy of a special section from the Oregonian lying around the office here, written by Kathie and others in 1990. Needless to say, she was ahead of her time when it came to covering forest issues in Oregon.
Here's how Tree Huggers starts:
On Earth Day 1970, when the modern environmental movement made its debut, loggers had been at the task of leveling the Pacific Northwest's virgin forests for a century.
Conservationists, timber industry, Wyden talk about the road ahead on the eastside.
That Tim Lillebo sure knows how to make a speech. Now if we could just get him to speak into the microphone! Tim starts around the 3:20 mark.
Police working hard to counteract environmental effects of illegal pot growers.
Cisterns seven feet deep.
Filled with pesticides.
That's the kind of thing that Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer found this summer in eastern Oregon's federal forests. The nasty pesticide pits were found during raids targeting illegal marijuana growers.
I remember hearing about pot growers in the forest on a trip down to northern California last year. Some of the locals mentioned that they were a little scared to head out into the backcountry because they didn't know who they would run into.
Seems the problem isn't only in northern California forests. Soon after getting back from that trip down south, Oregon Wild staff headed out for a field retreat in the Ochocos. On our last day as we broke camp a swarm of siren-decked cars pulled up. Later, we learned they were participating in one of the biggest pot busts in the history of the state.
As the Oregonian recently reported, that bust was just the tip of the iceberg:
Officials won't have a final tally for a month or so on the amount of marijuana seized in Oregon in this year's raids, but it could reach 215,000 plants worth about $451 million, said Chris Gibson, director of a federal program that targets Oregon's high-trafficking areas.
Marijuana busts are not uncommon up and down the west coast, but when they take place in the forest, a whole new set of concerns arises - widespread environmental damage. From the article:
Sheriff Palmer said the growers' indiscriminate use of fertilizer so alarmed the BLM that the agency sent a hazardous-materials expert along on raids to make sure officers weren't exposed to harmful chemicals.
And if those chemicals can harm humans, imagine what they can do when they end up in nearby streams.
If only common sense was a bit more common
- Problem: Many of our National Forests are a mess because of decades of mismanagement.
- Problem: Most everyone agrees that's because of a combination of too much logging and years of fire suppression.
- Problem: The Forest service spends too much money suppressing fires & lacks the resources to adequately fund other major priorities.
It seems like there might be a pretty simple solution to this problem: Do something different!
“Rather than devoting a lot of money and manpower to fighting fires, Floch wants a more hands-off approach, allowing flames to do what they do naturally in a fire-dependant ecosystem.”
That’s an excerpt from a great article that ran in the Ravalli Republic about a fire in the Bitterroot National Forest in Idaho. There, the Forest Service is allowing natural fires in remote backcountry to do what they do. Click here for the full article, and continue past the jump to read more…