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O&C Forests Top List of 10 Most Endangered Places In the State

Logging and privatization schemes make BLM forests the clear choice as the most imperiled landscape in Oregon.

As the DeFazio-Schrader-Walden "timber trust" legislation moves forward, the affected BLM-managed backyard forests of Oregon's O&C lands lead the list of the state's 10 Most Endangered Places.

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Portland, Oregon Aug 26, 2013

As Congress considers plans to drastically increase logging on public lands, the statewide conservation organization Oregon Wild released a special report today naming western Oregon's O&C forests as the most endangered place in the state. This ignominious ranking comes as part of Oregon's 10 Most Endangered Places 2013 report – an annual rundown of public lands at risk from logging, mining, pollution, and other harmful development.

A proposal now pending in Congress advanced by Oregon Reps. Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrader, and Greg Walden would privatize 1.5 million acres of public forests (out of a total of 2.6 million acres currently overseen by the Bureau of Land Management). These lands would be removed from the science-based Northwest Forest Plan and slated for clearcutting under Oregon's weak laws that govern private timberlands. This "O&C Trust Act" (HR 1526) passed out of a U.S. House committee in July, and the bill's backers are waiting for Sen. Ron Wyden to release his own O&C legislation in the coming weeks.

"These forests are in our backyards – they are the places that give us clean drinking water, old-growth forests to hike in, and a foundation for our tourism and recreation economy," said Sean Stevens, executive director with Oregon Wild. "Usually, when we compile the 10 Most Endangered list we have a hard time figuring out which place is most threatened – but not this year. The scale of clearcut logging proposed and the fact that this legislation represents a 1.5 million acre land grab for the logging industry made the choice easy."

The introduction to this year's Most Endangered report focuses on "a tale of two economies," and highlights the choice Oregon faces between returning to the extractive industries of the past or focusing on quality of life industries currently expanding in the state. From the report:

"Our public lands are the heart of our recreation economy. No one travels to Oregon to hike through a clearcut. Allowing our legislators to take these lands out of public hands would be to deny Oregon a future. The water we drink, the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the places we play are all at stake."

Echoing the theme of "two economies," this year's report features threats that highlight the choice between moving forward or clinging to the past. Should we allow a 19th century fuel source to be transported through the Columbia River Gorge – despoiling one of our most scenic landscapes (#3 on the list)? Should the Klamath Basin's water priorities be forever determined by our miscalculated dream of making the desert bloom (#4)? Have we not moved on from the days of the Gold Rush when rivers were only good for the gold we could dredge out of them (#5)?

"When you look at all of the threats to scenic landscapes, clean water, and wildlife across the state, you begin to realize the things we love about Oregon are hanging by a thread," said Marielle Cowdin, who edited this year's report for Oregon Wild.

The report was compiled with nominations and help from American Rivers, the Hells Canyon Preservation Council, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Kalmiopsis Audubon Society, Friends of Kalmiopsis, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, The Larch Company, Northwest Rafting Company, the Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA), Rogue Riverkeeper, Sierra Club, Soda Mountain Wilderness Council, Umpqua Watersheds, WaterWatch, and the Western Environmental Law Center.

Edited by Marielle Cowdin, this year's 10 Most Endangered Places report features contributions by Chandra LeGue, Erik Fernandez, Steve Pedery and Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild, along with Laura Stevens of the Sierra Club, Forrest English of Rogue Riverkeeper, Chris Hansen of the Oregon Natural Desert Association, Barbara Ullian of Friends of the Kalmiopsis, and Darilyn Brown of the Hells Canyon Preservation Council.

The complete list of locales in the fifth annual edition of Oregon's 10 Most Endangered Places Report are:

  1. Western Oregon Backyard Forests – threatened by logging and privatization proposals in Congress
  2. Crater Lake Proposed Wilderness – threatened by logging, including the Bybee Timber Sale, and helicopter tours
  3. Columbia River Gorge – threatened by coal trains and barges headed to proposed coal export terminals along the coast
  4. Lost River Basin and Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge – threatened by agribusiness development draining the river and the National Wildlife Refuge dry
  5. Rogue River – threatened by suction dredge mining
  6. Owyhee Canyonlands – threatened by the loss of the sagebrush ecosystem to catastrophic fires and off-highway vehicle (OHV) desecration
  7. White Castle-Myrtle Creek Watershed – threatened by clearcutting under the BLM's White Castle Timber Sale and forthcoming Myrtle Creek 2013 Project
  8. Rough and Ready Creek – threatened by nickel mining and off-highway vehicles (OHVs)
  9. Wallowa-Whitman National Forest – threatened by the Snow Basin logging project and similar poorly designed, large-scale logging in fragile high elevation forests and roadless areas
  10. Waldo Lake * – threatened by motorboats and float planes which spoil quiet recreation experiences and threaten the purity of one of the cleanest large lakes in the entire world (* While drafting the report, the Oregon State Legislature permanently banned float planes from the lake, effectively eliminating this longstanding threat.)

Download Oregon Wild's entire 10 Most Endangered Places Report here as a PDF file.


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