Press Release: Twenty Oregon Fishing and Conservation Groups Petition for New Logging Rules to Protect Coho Salmon

Media Contacts:

Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, nick@cascwild.org, (314) 482-3746

Conrad Gowell, Native Fish Society, Conrad@nativefishsociety.org, (971) 237-6544

Mary Scurlock, Oregon Stream Protection Coalition, Mary.Scurlock@comcast.net,  (503) 320-0712

 

FOR RELEASE

April 24, 2019

Twenty Oregon Fishing and Conservation Groups Petition for New Logging Rules to Protect Coho Salmon

SALEM, OR – Today, twenty conservation and fishing organizations delivered a rulemaking petition to the Oregon Board of Forestry requesting new rules to prevent logging-related harm to “resource sites” for coho salmon listed under the federal Endangered Species Act and the Oregon Endangered Species Act.  Coho salmon, which are split into three evolutionarily significant units in Oregon, were first listed in Southern Oregon in 1997, and soon thereafter along the rest of the Oregon Coast in 1998. The Lower Columbia coho population was listed almost over a decade ago, in 2005.

While coho salmon have been threatened with extinction for years, the Board of Forestry has never initiated a state-mandated review of its rules to protect the fish. “The Oregon Forest Practices Act clearly requires the Board of Forestry to address conflicts between logging and habitat for species at risk of extinction,” said Nick Cady, legal counsel with Cascadia Wild.  “There are major ongoing conflicts between logging practices and coho salmon habitat that need to be resolved.”

Oregon has relied heavily on voluntary measures by timber companies to protect coho.  Between 1995 and 2017, taxpayers invested $65 million dollars of public funds on instream habitat restoration efforts.  However, Oregon’s weak forest practices rules still allow logging to degrade aquatic habitat critical to the recovery of coho salmon.  Conrad Gowell, Fellowship Director with the Native Fish Society notes “We need to address the root causes of fish decline. The public’s investments in habitat restoration activities cannot keep up with the pace or scale of the ongoing degradation from poor forest practices.”

Oregon’s rules for state and private timberlands are the weakest in the Pacific Northwest.  “Oregon has dragged its feet in addressing problems that have long been identified by state and federal expert agencies,” observed Mary Scurlock with the Oregon Stream Protection Coalition. “Intensive logging too close to streams and on landslide-prone areas, sediment from forest roads, and large areas dominated by clear-cuts and young plantations are perpetuating poor freshwater habitat conditions.”

“The Board has been taking a very slow and piecemeal approach to updating its policies,” said Robyn Janssen, “The last rule change took 15 years but still didn’t address some of the biggest problems for salmon and water quality – and left the Rogue Basin and its salmon out of the picture entirely.  We can’t afford to wait another 20 years for Oregon to bring its logging rules up to snuff.”

Polluted by Money: Perfectly Legal: The clear-cut rewards of campaign cash, Oregonian Story

Part Four of Four

March 15, 2019
By Rob Davis, the Oregonian

After announcing she would retire from Oregon’s Legislature early last year, Rep. Deborah Boone freely spent her remaining campaign money — on herself.

The Cannon Beach Democrat wasn’t on the ballot. She had no need for yard signs. But she had $13,000. Some legislators transfer all their leftover money to other candidates or causes. Boone spent her account dry.

She bought tangible goods: A $2,799 Apple computer, $2,000 in Volvo repairs and a $700 set of tires.

She double dipped, using campaign cash to pay bills that taxpayers also reimbursed. There was the $170 dinner during the legislative session, the multi-day $595 hotel stay in Salem, the gasoline and cell phone expenses after the session ended. Charging her campaign let her pocket some of the $10,000 in expense allowances the Legislature provided during her last year in office.

“You know, it’s legal, it’s perfectly legal to do,” Boone told The Oregonian/OregonLive. “I’m not saying I should’ve done it or whatever.”

The failure to limit campaign donations has turned Oregon into one of the biggest money states in American politics, an investigation by The Oregonian/OregonLive found. Corporate interests donate more money per resident in Oregon than in any other state. All that giving worked. Oregon now trails its West Coast neighbors on a long list of environmental protections.

To understand how the vast sums of corporate money can influence lawmakers, it helps to see how they can spend the donations. The money buys more than consultants and mailers.

Oregon allows lawmakers to spend campaign money on perks they’d otherwise have to pay for personally or justify on legislative expense reports. And, by permitting double dips, the state has created a conduit between the nation’s largest companies and legislators’ bank accounts.

The result: Lawmakers owe donors for far more than their legislative seats.

The newsroom combed through 114,000 transactions and $83 million in campaign spending by state lawmakers since 2008. The review found hundreds of cases of double dips that benefited lawmakers’ pocketbooks and other questionable spending that enhanced their lifestyles.

The analysis also uncovered $2.2 million in spending that would have been illegal in at least one other state, including salaries to family members, capitol office furnishings, international luxury travel and penalties for campaign finance violations.

“This is embarrassing for the whole Legislature,” said Robert Stern, a good government advocate and attorney who helped write California’s campaign finance controls. “It undermines the whole campaign finance system when you’re taking campaign money and using it for personal purposes. It appears almost like legalized bribery.”

Lawmakers justified the expenses as essential to winning voter support, legislating or making their jobs pay a sustainable wage. Lawmakers were paid $24,000 in 2018. They collected another $22,000 in per diems during the last long legislative session, in 2017.

Continue reading at Oregonlive

Polluted by Money: How Corporate Cash Corrupted one of the Greenest States in America, Oregonian Story

Part One of Four
Feb. 22, 2019
Story by Rob Davis

Oregon once aimed to be the greenest state in America.

Its leaders adopted the nation’s first bottle deposit. They controlled urban sprawl. They declared ocean beaches public property.

But in the last four years, Oregon’s most powerful industries have killed, weakened or stalled efforts to deal with climate change, wolf recovery, disappearing bird habitat, cancer-causing diesel exhaust, dwindling groundwater, industrial air pollution, oil spill planning and weed killers sprayed from helicopters.

What changed Oregon?

Money. Lots and lots of money.

The Oregonian/OregonLive spent 18 months examining how and why Oregon has fallen behind on so many important environmental fronts. The newsroom’s investigation found a startling answer, one that may surprise many Oregonians.

Oregon’s failure to regulate campaign cash has made it one of the biggest money states in American politics. The flood of money created an easy regulatory climate where industry gets what it wants, again and again.

“The state is a laughingstock,” says Dave Einolf, a Portland environmental compliance consultant who works with large, multinational corporations. “It has no enforcement. My clients don’t care about Oregon. They’re not afraid of Oregon. It’s just a shame.”

No one has given more money to state lawmakers in Oregon than Corporate America. Companies and industry groups contributed $43 million to winning candidates in elections from 2008 to 2016, nearly half the money legislators raised. Organized labor, single-issue groups and individual donors didn’t come close.

Campaign money helped Oregon politicians do more than win election. It paid for luxury hotel rooms in Canadian chateaus, weekly visits to the local sports bar and a variety of wearable Apple accessories. It bought roses for senators’ desks, candy for Capitol offices and framed art to hang on the walls.

It paid for Salem lodging and meals that taxpayers already cover for legislative sessions, boosting lawmakers’ income.

It even bought one departing lawmaker a year of Amazon Prime….

Read the full story at oregonlive.com

Presentation on by Mary Scurlock on Oregon Stream Protection Laws: Thursday, February 21 in Astoria

Ecology Speaker Series at Clatsop Community College Addresses New Green Deal and Oregon’s Stream Protection Laws

CREATE is offering a free Ecology Speaker Series on Thursday, February 21st hosted at CCC’s Columbia Hall, Room 219, in Astoria, Oregon at 7:00 p.m.

The Ecology Speaker Series welcomes Chuck Willer, Director of The Coast Range Association, who will present “Wall Street Forests & the Climate Crisis: Putting People Before Profits” which discusses how the New Green Deal applies to Clatsop County’s high-density carbon forests.  Following Willer’s presentation will be another presenter, Mary Scurlock, policy and technical consultant for the Oregon Stream Protection Coalition who will address “Private Forests, Public Water: Why Oregon’s Stream Protection Laws are Failing.” Scurlock’s portion will cover her thoughts on how and why Oregon’s Board of Forestry and Environmental Quality Commission are failing to protect the public’s interest in clean water and wildlife on state and private forestlands.

For twenty-five years, Chuck Willer has worked for the Coast Range Association studying forest management in Western Oregon. His current work focuses on the consolidation of Oregon’s private forest ownership in large corporate companies that are Timber Investment Management Organizations (TIMOs) or Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITS).

Mary Scurlock is the principal freshwater policy consultant at M. Scurlock & Associates, a sole proprietorship located in Portland, Oregon.  Mary’s main project is to provide policy and technical input to the Oregon Board of Forestry and the Environmental Quality Commission on behalf of the Oregon Stream Protection Coalition, a 28-member ad hoc group of conservation and fishing industry organizations advocating for stronger baseline regulations under the Oregon Forest Practices Act and its implementing rules. 

Testimony to the Board of Forestry on Siskiyou Streamside Protections Review Progress Report

Download the Testimony
Attached comments of Dr. Chris Frissell

BEFORE THE ORGON BOARD OF FORESTRY
Statement of Mary Scurlock
Oregon Stream Protection Coalition
Agenda Item 3: Siskiyou Streamside Protections Review Progress Rep
ort
January 9, 2019

I am Mary Scurlock, representing the 28 local, statewide and national conservation and fishing industry organizations that comprise the Oregon Stream Protection Coalition.

Our primary request today is that the Board direct staff to use a more inclusive and ultimately more credible approach to this project. In our view, given the topic and the available information, the more appropriate approach is to conduct a basic, general literature review and synthesis, where every relevant study is evaluated on its own merits, critical uncertainties are identified, and conclusions are drawn based on logical resolution of apparent contradictions and weight of evidence. I draw this recommendation from comments attached here made on our behalf to Terry Frueh by Dr. Chris Frissell on January 7 regarding the draft “Scientific Evidence Review.”


Other specific concerns include:

  • Exclusion of RipStream without a rational biophysical basis
  • Exclusion of DEQ’s Total Maximum Daily Load analyses about what is needed to attain stream temperature standards on unscientific grounds
  • Exclusion of relevant contextual studies, including those relevant to climate change expectations, that shed light important relationships and processes on dubious grounds


We support and incorporate by reference the detailed comments of Rogue Riverkeeper submitted to Chair Imeson prior to this meeting.

1. A Traditional Literature Review and Synthesis, not a “Systematic Evidence Review” is the Better Tool for the Job at Hand

The draft results of staff’s search and screening exercise has produced only 15 papers from 12 studies, which we agree provide useful information about a disparate number of relevant subjects. But there is simply too much highly relevant, useful information being excluded unnecessarily. We disagree with the implication that being more inclusive would sacrifice rigor or transparency.

In choosing the construct of a Systematic Evidence Review, we seem to be ignoring what we already knew about the nature of available information. As Dr. Frissell explains, a rigid systematic review is the wrong construct in this case because we are not looking for a means to cut across “multiple controlled, quantitative studies of the same general question” – as commonly occurs in medicine or pharmacology.

We urge you to consider instead a basic, general literature review and synthesis, where every relevant study is evaluated on its own merits, critical uncertainties are identified, and conclusions are drawn based on logical resolution of apparent contradictions and weight of evidence. We need to allow for refinement of the study question based on the discovered information, i.e it should be our goal to ensure that we are asking an answerable question.

2. Rationale lacking for exclusion of RipStream on the basis of “Geographic Scope” of study data.

At a very basic level this project is only happening because RipStream found that stream protection on small and medium fish streams is not adequate to prevent warming in violation of the Protecting Coldwater Criterion (.3 C). Yet, staff has stated its position that it must disregard RipStream to “align” with the Board’s 2015 “policy decision” to exclude the Siskiyou from the scope of the SSBT rule “unless directed otherwise.”

I repeat prior testimony in saying that exclusion of RipStream from this review was not technically have been part of any prior decision. Furthermore, as I have previously noted this Board was clearly authorized to include the Siskiyou in the rule decision on the basis of Ripstream, which was in fact presumptively included in the geographic scope of the Board’s January 2012 degradation finding until the compromise decision was made to exclude the Siskiyou from the negotiated rule package almost four years later. (The very fact that this Board in 1994 chose no-cuts and RMAs for the Siskiyou of the same dimensions as other parts of the state is itself evidence that a presumption of similarity with respect to essential stream-riparian relationships is justified).

For reasons further detailed in Dr. Frissell’s attached comments on the draft review and in prior submittals, we urge the Board to clarify that RipStream can and should be considered here, as should any information relevant to whether and how RipStream findings are or are not probative to the question of stream temperature and shade in the Siskiyou. The only defensible presumption given the totality of available information is that the RipStream findings are relevant to the question of current buffer efficacy to prevent stream warming. It is appropriate for this literature review to seek and synthesize any ecological information that justifies exclusion or calibration of this information, but knee-jerk reliance on the Board’s SSBT rule decision is not defensible.

We urge the Board not to accede to staff’s position that it must exclude Ripstream to comport with your prior policy decision by remaining silent. Rather, you can provide further direction on this matter by: 1) clarifying that the geographic scope of the SSBT rule did not pre-determine the scope of the subsequent Siskiyou monitoring project, and/or; 2) directing that RipStream be considered along with any other information that suggests the core shade/stream temperature relationship established by Ripstream should not be presumptively considered valid in the Siskiyou.

3. TMDL Analyses should be considered for both science and policy reasons

Analysis conducted by DEQ to develop load allocation for stream temperature can be used to evaluate the adequacy of current FPA rules to meet these targets and applicable ambient water quality standards. However, ODF does not give these model-based analyses any weight in this
process. Giving DEQ a Board agenda item and putting “TMDL findings” “in the record” for the April decision are not the same as integrating these analyses into this monitoring project and acknowledging that Load Allocations establish watershed-specific water quality objectives in the
Siskiyou (and elsewhere).

TMDL Analyses are Cognizable as “Science.”  We refer you to Dr. Frissell’s comments to staff opining that TMDL analyses should be considered scientific evidence and call for their inclusion absent scientific reasons for exclusion. We note that the Washington Department of Ecology
describes a TMDL this way on their website:

“Total Maximum Daily Load — a locally-focused scientific study that calculates the pollution a water body can receive and still meet water quality standards. It provides information about existing conditions and a watershed’s sensitivity to additional development impacts.” (emphasis added) i

TMDLs Set Important, Legally Enforceable Policy Benchmarks. I remind the Board that the numerous TMDL analyses applicable to streams in the Siskiyou region do more than elucidate key relationships of interest such as that between riparian conditions and stream temperature. These analyses provide important watershed specific benchmarks against which to assess the adequacy of the stream protection rules to meet water quality standards throughout the stream network – i.e. these analyses provide valuable information about what is needed to meet standards on all waters of the state (i.e. regulated waters) not just to the small and medium fish streams that were the focus of Ripstream. ii

The Board may be interested to know that the applicable TMDL documents demonstrate the great extent to which ODF monitoring efforts to date have been utterly, and inexplicably, disconnected from the water quality standards attainment framework established by TMDLs. For example, the Lower Sucker Creek TMDL states that “The information contained in the Lower Sucker Creek TMDL, as well as additional monitoring data, will be an important part of the body of information used in determining the adequacy of the FPA,” refers to the largely inoperative interagency MOU, and says that “information from these efforts, along with other relevant information provided by the DEQ, will be considered in reaching a determination on whether the existing FPA BMPs meet water quality standards within the Lower Sucker Creek Watershed.” (p. 89) (emphasis added).” To my knowledge no such cooperative determination of adequacy to meet load allocations has ever occurred.

4. Information relevant to Rule Efficacy to Provide Large Wood Must be Considered

ODF notes that the Board excluded large wood as out of scope for economic reasons, but logically this critical aspect of the forest-water interface drives stream morphology effects on stream temperature and because the connection between “desired future condition” of streamside stands and protection of aquatic resources is squarely on the table.

As the Rogue Riverkeeper comments note, the critical functional outputs — large woody debris, root masses, snags and litterfall — of functional riparian stands are also important characteristics of stream health and shade. This is explicitly recognized in the description of the characteristics of mature stands that DFC is supposed to represent at OAR 629-642-0000(2). These riparian functions are also clearly part of the OFPA’s statutory commitment to the “overall maintenance” of water resources, fish and wildlife. If not included here, large wood source potential in the Siskiyou must explicitly be covered by the Western Oregon project.

5. The Department should include climate change literature so it can establish working expectations around climate change for this and future monitoring efforts.

Recent literature is increasingly offering up predictions about the changes in weather and disturbance regimes we can expect with climate change. This information should be considered in-scope on the basis that it is directly relevant to any coherent concept of attaining desired future
conditions of riparian forests “over time” and “on average across the landscape.”

6. Relevance of Fish Status and Trends Information

We agree it is not appropriate for ODF to use fish status and trend information to “revisit the assumption that meeting FPA goals for water quality . . . would result in outcomes beneficial to fish” — that would second-guess the DEQ’s setting of water quality standards. But although fish status and trend information is “contextual,” the widespread ESA-listings of aquatic species should nonetheless be directly relevant to the Board’s perception of the public interests at stake, baseline resource risk and urgency to act.

7. Outstanding Questions:

  • Information Lacking on Field Sites: Where are the “field sites” ODF has been visiting and will continue to visit (p. 2 of update) and what data are being collected there?
  • Why not scrutinize all stream protection prescriptions – both the general and post-disturbance alternative ones — given that we are not being limited to the prescriptions tested in RipStream? Staff has said it considers the effectiveness of its “general vegetation retention prescription rules” with respect to disturbances such as fire, floods, insects and disease within the scope of its review, but that the effectiveness of the “alternative vegetation retention prescription rules” to be out of scope. The Board could change this. The alternative prescriptions allow harvest where the basal area of live trees is too low to allow management under the default rules, and their efficacy to meet water quality standards should be established.


8. Points of Agreement
We are in accord with staff recommendations that:

  • Klamath region should be included, but so should Northern California and western
    Oregon.
  • It does not make sense to restrict scope to studies that use Oregon FPA buffers.
  • Characteristics of un-managed stands are clearly relevant to describing the characteristics of mature forest stands;
  • Grey literature should be included.

ENDNOTES

i. https://ecology.wa.gov/Regulations-Permits/SEPA/Environmental-review/SEPA-guidance/SEPA-checklist-guidance/SEPA-Checklist-Section-B-Environmental-elements/Environmental-elements-3-Water/Environmental-elements-Surface-water

ii. For example, the 2002 TMDL for Lower Sucker Creek in the Illinois Basin of the Rogue allocates to non-natural sources including forestry the following load allocation: “no measurable surface water temperature impacts,” and this requirement applies to more than just small and medium fish streams; further states that ODF is supposed to have monitored its rules to ensure their effectiveness and make statewide or watershed specific rule changes to meet these load allocations and a “sufficiency analysis” was supposed to have occurred every 5 years. The 2003 TMDL for the Applegate states that: “For nonpoint sources in the Applegate Subbasin, the load allocation is system potential vegetation quantified as average percent shade.” This allocation applies to all perennial or fishbearing streams. The 2008 Rogue River Basin Temperature TMDL (2008) indicates that the load allocation for nonpoint sources in the Rogue River corresponds to 0.04oC.

Oregonians must push back on logging; letter to the editor

Readers respond: Oregonians must push back on logging

A massive clearcut stands in stark contrast to the forested hills of the Coast Range, found near the proposed Devil's Staircase Wilderness.
A massive clearcut stands in stark contrast to the forested hills of the Coast Range, found near the proposed Devil’s Staircase Wilderness. (Jamie Hale | The Oregonian/OregonLive)

Letter to the Editor, OregonLive
January 14, 2019

Welcome to Oregon, people from other states. Isn’t it the most beautiful state — with high desert, mountain skiing and a fabulous coast? But look out over the trees near the roads you drive and you will see clear cuts as far as you want to see. To remain a beautiful state, Oregon needs protection from its primary FOE: Forces of Extraction. That is, large timber companies that clear-cut our forests and try to weaken already weak logging laws. The logging industry adds more carbon pollution into our atmosphere every year than any other sector of the economy.

We need to harvest wood for building purposes, and there are companies doing it responsibly, selectively and without clear cuts. The logging industry harvests plantations every 30 to 40 years, not allowing these young trees to sequester carbon like older trees do. Plantations like this and the industrial management model are main contributors of greenhouse gases and planet warming. Call or write Gov. Brown, your state senator and Congressional representatives and ask them to make logging laws stronger.

— Merrie M. Kelly, Eugene

News Story: Trump’s Great American Forest Liquidation Sale

November 20, 2018
Cascadia Times
By Paul Koberstein and Jessica Applegate
Photos by Jessica Applegate

SITKA, ALASKA — The millions of tourists cruising through North America’s last intact temperate rainforest in Southeast Alaska soak up dark green conifers as far as the eye can see. But a troubling side of this chilly landscape also comes into view. Swaths of Alaska yellow cedars have lost their needles and turned a deathly brown. Scientists say the cedar can’t handle the changing climate, placing it at an ever-increasing risk for extinction.

On a recent ferry ride through Peril Strait, a narrow 40-mile-long passageway north of Sitka, two Cascadia Times reporters spot a gigantic brown bear foraging near stands of dead cedars, clearly oblivious to another emerging threat. Government bureaucrats want to let the timber industry liquidate its wild Chicagof Island habitat. Someday soon, the view from cruise ships could include clearcuts — but no bears.

During its first two years in office, the Trump administration kept under wraps plans for federal forests — unlike its very public push to pump up the oil, gas, and coal industries and open disregard for climate change.

But in August, the administration unveiled a proposal giving the timber industry access to ancient old-growth trees within the nation’s 50 million acres of wild, intact forests, known as roadless areas. The proposal came to life in January when Alaska Gov. Bill Walker petitioned the US Forest Service to remove protection from Southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest.

The idea is already controversial in ways reminiscent of the timber wars that roiled the Pacific Northwest 30 years ago. The scheme could extend to Utah, where Gov. Gary Herbert is seeking a similar exemption, and possibly all other national forests.

“If they can strip roadless protection from the Tongass, no National Forest is safe,” says Buck Lindekugel, grassroots attorney for the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC), an environmental advocacy group based in Juneau.

Callous disregard for the environment

Dru Fenster, a Forest Service spokessperson in Juneau, said the 9.2 million roadless acres on the Tongass include about 4.2 million acres of damp muskeg bogs, alpine lakes, steep-walled fjords, majestic mountains and tidewater glaciers. The remaining 5 million acres contain valuable old-growth trees, including Alaska yellow cedar, western red cedar, mountain hemlock and Sitka spruce, some as old as 1,000 years of age.

“If they can strip roadless protection from the Tongass, no National Forest is safe.” — Buck Lindekugel, grassroots attorney for Southeast Alaska Conservation Council

Logging these mature stands could exacerbate climate change as well as cripple Southeast Alaska’s booming recreation and tourism industries, damage a world-class salmon fishing industry and threaten the survival of all kinds of wildlife, not just brown bears.

Proponents claim opening roadless areas of the Tongass to logging would help revive Southeast Alaska’s sagging timber industry.

Economists say logging here is extremely expensive, given the mountainous topography and isolation from markets. In fact, logging in the Tongass is impossible without massive subsidies. US taxpayers paid billions of dollars over the last 70 years to clear cut its pristine old growth forests, seeing only meager financial returns.

Most of the largest and most valuable trees have already been removed, a process known as “high-grading.” The Alaska timber industry wants taxpayers to pay for new roads providing access to remaining commercially valuable trees.

“We are talking about multiple billions of taxpayer dollars to clear cut old growth forests and cause major environmental degradation,” says Dr. Evan Hjerpe, a resource economist and author of a report on Tongass economics for The Wilderness Society.

The National Forest Roadless Area Conservation Policy banning roadbuilding and logging in designated wild, intact forests is one of the most important conservation measures in US history, alongside the creation of national parks and wilderness. The government held more than 600 public hearings around the nation, and the public provided more than 1.6 million mostly positive comments on the rule—more comments than any other rule in the nation’s history. Based on this overwhelming public support, the Forest Service under President Bill Clinton approved protection of these areas in 2001.

Gutting the roadless rule falls neatly in line with Trump’s callous disregard for the environment, starting with his decision to roll back Obama-era policies curbing climate change. He also dismantled the US Environmental Protection Agency, scaled back national monuments, dumped fuel mileage standards, and axed regulations curbing carbon and mercury pollution, to name just a few.

It’s taken a couple years, but the Trump environmental doomsday machine is finally rolling at full speed.

Forests protect the planet

Avoiding carbon emissions from forests “is just as urgent” as halting fossil fuel use, according to a group of 40 leading climate scientists from Harvard, Duke, the University of Virginia and other universities in five countries. Cutting down old-growth forests like the Tongass will increase the deadly consequences of climate change.

“By destroying forests, we not only emit carbon dioxide but also lose the role forests play, through photosynthesis, in taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere,” the scientists said in the statement issued by the San Francisco-based Climate and Land Use Alliance.

Data show reforestation and improving forest management together provide 18 percent of mitigation needed by 2030 to maintain a liveable climate.

Getting rid of the roadless rule, the scientists said, would accelerate global warming by removing large old trees that are capable of trapping far more carbon pollution than younger, second-growth forests.  Protecting large old trees that absorb carbon pollution will be critical to any plan rescuing the planet from the onslaught of hurricanes, wildfires and flooding caused by higher temperatures. These forests also provide a refuge for wildlife in a hotter and drier climate, but only if left standing.

“The Trump administration knows
the planet is going to boil.
It doesn’t care.” — Bill McKibben

As noted climate activist and author Bill McKibben wrote recently, “The Trump administration knows the planet is going to boil. It doesn’t care.”

Few forests anywhere on the planet play a greater role in helping mitigate climate change than the Tongass. The Tongass retains more atmospheric carbon than any forest in the United States, says Dr. Dominick DellaSala, chief scientist with Geos Institute, a scientific think tank based in Ashland, Oregon.

“Because it is one of the world’s last relatively intact temperate rainforests, and it has a maritime climate, the Tongass is Alaska’s first line of climate change defense and a climate refuge for its world-class salmon and wildlife populations,” DellaSala wrote in 2016.

Alaska is already experiencing a 3-degree F warming since 1949, according to the Alaska Climate Research Center. DellaSala says this temperature increase, the nation’s largest over that period of time, has led to severe long-term consequences including melting glaciers, coastal erosion, and the die-off of the yellow cedar.

Alaskan yellow cedar, actually a cypress, features a durable light yellow heartwood often used in boats, bridges and landscaping.

In 2014, the Center for Biological Diversity, an advocacy group, petitioned the US Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the Alaska yellow cedar under the Endangered Species Act because of ongoing threats from climate change and logging. The Fish and Wildlife Service has yet to announce a decision. But Paul Hennon, a retired Forest Researcher who linked the yellow cedar die-off to climate change, doubts the troubled tree could go extinct any time soon because its range is “impressively large,” extending as far south as Northern California.

Forests like the Tongass are the last refuge for the planet’s at-risk species. The Tongass provides prime habitat for the rare Alexander Archipelago wolf and its prey, the Sitka black-tailed deer. Many scientists say at least half of the planet’s land and seas must be protected in order to avert mass extinctions worldwide, an argument advanced by noted biologist E.O. Wilson in his 2016 book, Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life.

Reversing the roadless rule contradicts critical parts of the 2016 Tongass National Forest plan. The plan allows logging in 73 watersheds identified as critical spawning habitat for five types of salmon: king (Chinook), pink, sockeye, coho and chum, as well as for steelhead and cutthroat trout. Based on a collaborative advisory process, the forest plan classified these watersheds —  86 percent of which are fully within roadless areas — as “unsuitable” for logging.

Anyone traveling down a logging road to get to a wilderness trailhead sees how public lands are carved up with roads. Today, more than 5,000 miles of logging roads crisscross the Tongass National Forest, fragmenting valuable wildlife habitat, threatening salmon by blocking fish passage, and serving as the primary source of sediment into fish streams. Roads enable poaching of game, trigger landslides, and provide a path for invasion of exotic species and diseases.

Roads devastate salmon, says Dr. John Schoen, a retired wildlife ecologist and co-author of a “conservation assessment” of Southeast Alaska ecology published by The Nature Conservancy and Audubon Alaska. Schoen also co-authored  Audubon Alaska’s Ecological Atlas of Southeast Alaska (Schoen is board chairman of the organization).

“The best way to ensure the highest level of salmon conservation was to minimize road development,” Schoen says. “For the highest priority salmon watersheds, there is little doubt that maintaining a roadless policy will maximize conservation of salmon.”

But Owen Graham, executive director of the Alaska Forest Association, an industry group, claims that fish populations on the Tongass are about double what they were in 1954.

Schoen, however, notes that any jump in salmon numbers in recent decades has been due to a “huge” influx in the number of fish grown in hatcheries. Moreover, salmon scientists do not consider data collected before Alaska joined the Union in 1959 to be reliable.

In the November midterm election, Alaska voters rejected “Yes for Salmon,” a ballot measure to give strong legal protection for salmon habitat for the first time in state history. Co-sponsored by SalmonState, an advocacy group based in Juneau, the measure would have made it tougher for industries like timber, mining, and oil and gas to disturb salmon habitat. Campaign Director Ryan Schryver says opponents spent $12.5 million to kill the measure, far more than the $2 million spent by supporters.

“The opposition spent a lot of money making people nervous wondering what the unintended consequences might be,” he said.

On a recent afternoon at the Pioneer Bar in the heart of Sitka, Cascadia Times reporters met with a group of a half dozen local fishermen to discuss the Roadless Rule. The conversation at one point turned to the shrinking size of fish netted in nearby marine waters.

“You can’t be a fisherman
and not believe in climate change.”
— Sitka fisherman Cheston Clark.

Cheston Clark, 50, a commercial fisherman for most of his life, said he wasn’t sure whether to support or oppose the rule change, but expressed contempt for a government that fails to address climate change or protect salmon habitat.

“You can’t be a fisherman and not believe in climate change,” he said.

Timber vs Tourism

Each summer, 1.2 million visitors seek adventure in the Tongass National Forest. And they don’t come for clearcuts.

Sitka, a city of 8,000, sits at the western edge of the Tongass. It is the heart of a vibrant $2 billion-a-year tourism, hunting and fishing economy. Here, the immediate concern is that Trump’s plan could stiff-arm the 10,000 people employed by these industries for the sake of a handful of timber jobs.

Trump’s plan is not likely to employ many new timber workers due, in part, to the fact the Forest Service allows companies to export 100 percent of logs cut from the Tongass. Many of the logs go to the only major sawmill still existing in the Tongass — the Viking Lumber Co. mill on Prince Wales Island, which the company says supports 150 jobs (though independent sources suggest the number is closer to 35). Company officials say the Viking mill is designed to process only large old-growth trees and is not capable of processing the smaller logs cut from younger, or second-growth, forests.

Small specialty mills in nearby towns like Hoonah, Tenakee Springs and Wrangell also claim a share. Alcan Forest Products, a log export business based in Vancouver, BC, gobbles up most of the remaining logs and ships them overseas for milling.

For many years, the timber industry employed less than 1 percent of the workforce in Southeast Alaska. In 2017, for example, the timber industry employed just 220 people, way down from levels as high as 1,800 in the 1990s, according to Dan Robinson of the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development. At one time timber was a leading employer in the state, “but has been more of a niche industry for quite a while now,” he says.

“The economy of Southeast Alaska has moved on,” says Hunter McIntosh, a vocal critic of the plan to rollback the roadless rule. He is president of The Boat Company, a non-profit educational organization that has been offering eco-cruises throughout Southeast Alaska since 1979.

“I believe the intent all along is to try to bring back clear cuts of old,” McIntosh says. “Tongass timber is not financially feasible in today’s market, yet tourism is consistently growing, and travelers want to see wilderness, wild places, old growth forests, not clear cuts.”

Davey Lubin, runs Esther G Sea Tours and Taxi, a small eco-tour business based in on Baranof Island, one of about 5,000 named and unnamed islands in the Alexander Archipelago. He notes that Alaska’s tourism economy needs no public subsidies, unlike its timber industry.

“Nature is the most incredible bank,” he says. “You just leave it alone and the interest compounds naturally.”

“A thoughtless thing with no heart”

The prime proponent of removing protection for Alaska’s 110 designated roadless areas is Gov. Walker (an independent) who in October suspended his campaign for a second term in office. Walker aligns himself with the timber industry, which has been suing to overturn the roadless rule in the courts ever since President Clinton adopted it in 2001.

Walker’s petition claims the roadless rule has wrought “devastating socioeconomic impacts on Southeast Alaska.”

“The petition argues that the extensive damage resulting from the application of the roadless rule to the social and economic fabric of Southeast Alaska is as real today as it was 15 year ago,” says Heidi Hanson, deputy commissioner of state lands in Alaska.

But Hjerpe, the Idaho economist, says the petition provides “zero evidence” the Roadless Rule damages Alaska’s economy.

The eight-page petition mentions the word “timber” 25 times but says nothing about potential impacts on climate, wildlife or tourism.

This fall, the Forest Service aired the proposal at 12 public hearings from Sitka to Washington DC. More than 33,000 people submitted written comments, the vast majority in favor of retaining the rule as is. But the Forest Service produced no audio or video recordings of any hearing.

“The state should have consulted the citizens of Southeast Alaska before it filed the petition,” says Larry Edwards of Alaska Rainforest Defenders, an advocacy group based in Sitka. “That is apparent from the strong, angry, nearly universal backlash. It is appalling that there is no official record of what was said at those meetings.”

“We are really early in the process,” says Earl Stewart, Supervisor of the Tongass National Forest. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue will announce a final decision in mid-2020. Before then, the Forest Service will prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS). The public will be able to comment on the draft EIS next summer.

Alaska’s congressional delegation, led by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, strongly supports the petition to open roadless areas on the Tongass to logging.

Native corporations such as the Juneau-based Sealaska Corp. also want to log the roadless areas. But many Alaska Natives are staunchly opposed, including Wanda Culp, a Tlingit artist and activist who lives in Hoonah, a small village west of Juneau.

“If you can’t relate to what you are destroying, then you are doing a thoughtless thing with no heart, and that’s what we are doing now,” says Culp. “The message we have to get out is the Earth is in peril. It’s been manipulated, mishandled and abused by people who don’t care. We need to protect it.”

“The message we have to get out is the Earth is in peril. It’s been manipulated, mishandled and abused by people who don’t care.
We need to protect it.”
— Wanda Culp, Tlingit artist

Even some timber companies oppose Trump’s clearcutting plans, including Tenakee Logging, a small family-owned business in Tenakee Springs, located about 70 miles northeast of Sitka. Owner Gordon Chew says his business model is based not upon mass resource extraction but rather “a selective approach” that leaves a viable stand of timber in every one of our small cutting units.

“Clearcutting is a process of deforestation and although it is still allowed and practiced in our old growth forests of Alaska, it should not be,” Chew said. “A mile of road here or there could help us family loggers but we are not willing to open that door, as who knows what it will bring?”

Long history of exploitation

For more than two centuries government powers located thousands of miles away controlled Southeast Alaska, starting in the 1790s when Russians in search of otter furs first settled here and continuing now, ironically, under Trump.

From the start, relations between the Russians and the native Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people were often tense. In 1802, a dispute escalated into armed conflict. Tlingit warriors drove the Russians out of Sheetʼká Xʼáatʼi, the native village now known as Sitka. Two years later the Russian imperial navy returned. This time the intruders drove the Tlingits deep into the surrounding woods, separating them from the place that had always sustained them with abundant salmon and venison.

The Russians renamed the settlement Novoarkhangelsk and established it as the capital of Russian America. In 1867, with Alaska’s population of sea otters nearly wiped out, Russia sold Alaska to the United States for a mere $7.2 million. Every October 18, Alaskans celebrate the transfer as “Alaska Day,” but many Tlingits view it sadly as the day they lost their homeland.

Starting in 1902, President Teddy Roosevelt began conserving Southeast Alaska’s forests, starting with the Alexander Archipelago forest reserve. At the time, Sitka was still Alaska’s capital, which was relocated to nearby Juneau in 1906.

In 1907 Roosevelt established the Tongass National Forest by proclamation. President Calvin Coolidge later added 1.1 million acres to the Tongass, bringing its total size to 16.75 million acres, slightly larger than the entire state of West Virginia. The Tongass now covers about 80 percent of the Southeast Alaska panhandle.

But later presidents did not share Roosevelt’s environmental ethic, viewing the Tongass as little more than an inventory of logs to be fed to a rapacious timber industry controlled by distant corporations.

The wholesale removal of trees in the Tongass began in earnest in 1951 during the Eisenhower administration when it signed 50-year contracts with two large paper mills – one in Sitka and the other at the southern tip of the Tongass in Ketchikan. The mills converted the same forest that long ago shielded the Tlingits from armed Russians into pulp and sawlogs to rebuild Japan’s postwar economy.

The mills were money-losing ventures from the start. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter signed the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), which explicitly subsidized the mills to the tune of $40 million a year, legalizing subsidies they had already been receiving through creative Forest Service bookkeeping. But Congress repealed the subsidies in 1990 when it passed the Tongass Timber Reform Act over the stiff objections of the entire Alaskan congressional delegation. By 1996, both mills had closed.

Despite the mill closures, trees in the Tongass continued to fall and the federal treasury continued to lose money on its timber sales. Rather than process the logs locally, timber operators simply exported them to Asia. But logging slowed down further after 2001 when the Clinton administration approved the rule banning logging and new roads in roadless areas.

If Clinton had not acted, the timber industry was on course to cut down 400,000 acres of old-growth in the Tongass every decade. Trump’s rule change could complete the liquidation of all the remaining commercially valuable old-growth in the Tongass in just a few decades.

“These unspoiled places must be managed
through science, not politics.”
— President Bill Clinton

“These last remaining wild areas are precious to millions of Americans and key to protecting clean water and abundant wildlife habitat, and providing recreation opportunities,” Clinton said at the time. “These unspoiled places must be managed through science, not politics.”

But federal rules are only temporary. One president’s regulations can easily be reversed by the next, supposedly only with adequate justification.

When the Trump administration announced in August its plan to allow logging and road-building to resume in wild parts of the Tongass, it signaled that the forest once again was at risk of being managed by politics rather than science. And outside forces could exert even more control over what happens in Southeast Alaska.

Huge financial losses

Logging is already allowed on portions of the Tongass outside of its 110 roadless areas. For example, the Forest Service is expected to announce a decision soon to approve a massive timber sale project in a roaded area on Prince of Wales Island, located about 100 miles south of Sitka. The Prince of Wales Island timber sale would be the largest in the United States in more than 30 years, according to Holly Harris, an attorney with the Juneau office of Earthjustice, an environmental law firm.

Forest Service records show about 94 percent of the contiguous stands of large old-growth trees on Prince of Wales Island have been logged since 1954.

“The Prince of Wales timber sale project is the most destructive old-growth logging project that the Forest Service has proposed anywhere in the country in decades,” Harris said.  “The timber industry already logged the very best habitat on Prince of Wales and now the Trump administration is going to let the timber industry wipe out what little remains to be logged—all in the interest of corporate greed.”

Like all logging on the Tongass, the Prince of Wales timber sale project is expected to be a huge money loser for the federal treasury. The costs of preparing the sale and building 164 miles of roads needed to access the area’s 600 million board feet of timber is likely to exceed revenues by $422 million, according to an analysis by Taxpayers for Common Sense, an advocacy group. The group obtained the data after filing a Freedom of Information request with the Forest Service.

Between 2005 and 2014, the timber companies paid the Forest Service only 9 cents for every dollar the government spent preparing timber sales in the Tongass National Forest

Between 2005 and 2014, timber companies paid the Forest Service only 9 cents for every dollar the government spent preparing timber sales in the Tongass National Forest, according a 2016 report by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Building roads on the Tongass cost about $250,000 per mile. But the GAO report did not include the cost of building roads. Taxpayers for Common Sense says that if roadbuilding costs were added, timber sales on the Tongass have lost more than $25 million per year since 1999.

Moreover, if implemented, the Trump plan to rollback the Roadless Rule in Alaska would increase financial losses from Tongass timber sales “substantially,” says Ryan Alexander, director of the taxpayer group.

Despite the subsidies, timber companies are not exactly standing in line for a chance to bid on cheap Tongass timber. In recent years, no one offered a bid on nearly half of all Tongass National Forest timber sales. And of the timber that did sell, many of the timber operators defaulted.

Earthjustice’s Harris said the Forest Service recently spent $3.1 million constructing logging roads on Kuiu Island southeast of Sitka but received no bids for the timber. The agency estimated that the sale would have generated a return of only $195,000, or about 6 cents on the dollar.

Public Employees for Environmental Ethics, an advocacy group based in Washington DC, has found that timber sales on the Tongass were ecological as well as financial debacles, says Jeff Ruch, the group’s executive director.

“This national forest runs major commercial timber sales like a cookie jar without a lid,” Ruch says.

Paul Koberstein is editor of Cascadia Times. Jessica Applegate is managing editor.

PSU study finds salvage logging and planting are not necessary to regenerate Douglas-fir after Klamath fires

Author: Cristina Rojas, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Posted: October 31, 2018, PSU Website

Researchers at Portland State University and Oregon State University looking at the aftermath of wildfires in southwestern Oregon and northern California found that after 20 years, even in severely burned areas, Douglas-fir grew back on its own without the need for salvage logging and replanting.

The study, published online Oct. 26 in the journal Forest Ecology and Management, is the latest to address the contentious issue of whether forest managers should log dead timber and plant new trees after fires, or let them regenerate on their own. 

Melissa Lucash, an assistant research professor of geography in PSU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and a co-author of the study, said that concerns in the Klamath over whether conifer forests would regenerate after high-severity fires have led to salvage logging, replanting and shrub removal on federal lands throughout the region.

But the study found that the density of Douglas-fir was relatively high after 20 years and was unaffected by whether or not a site had been managed.

“This is an area where forest managers are really worried that the Douglas-fir won’t come back, but what we found is that they come back just fine on their own,” she said. “We forget the power of natural regeneration and that these burned sites don’t need to be salvage logged and planted.” 

Lucash suggests that those resources could instead be reallocated elsewhere, perhaps to thinning forests to prevent high-severity wildfires.

The research team also included Maria Jose Lopez, a research associate at Universidad del Cono Sur de las Americas in Paraguay; Terry Marcey, a recent graduate of PSU’s Environmental Science and Management program; David Hibbs, a professor emeritus in Oregon State University’s College of Forestry; Jeff Shatford, a terrestrial habitat specialist in British Columbia’s Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development; and Jonathan Thompson, a senior ecologist for Harvard Forest. 

The authors sampled 62 field sites that had severely burned 20 years prior on both north and south slopes of the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountain — some of which had been salvaged logged and replanted and others that had been left to regenerate on its own.

Among the study’s findings:

  • Aspect, or the direction a slope faces, played an important role in determining the effectiveness of post-fire practices.
  • Density of Douglas-fir was higher on north than south aspects, but was unaffected by whether or not a site had been managed, suggesting that Douglas-fir regeneration is inherently less abundant on hot and dry sites and management does not influence the outcome.
  • On the flip side, management practices increased the density of ponderosa pine on south aspects, but had no impact on north aspects. That finding suggests that with rising temperatures and increasing severity of fires in the region, management would be most effective when tailored to promote drought-tolerant ponderosa pine on south aspects.
  • Managed sites had taller conifers, which can improve fire resistance, but also had fewer snags — an important habitat feature for bird, small mammals and amphibian species in the region.

The authors recommend that forest managers should avoid applying the same post-fire management practices everywhere and should instead tailor practices to specific objectives and the landscape context. 

Photo caption: Tree boles remain standing 20 years later after the wildfire that killed them on Grider Ridge in northern California. Naturally regenerating Douglas-fir sapling emerge from the shrub fields.

Opinion: Reform the Oregon Forest Practices Act

Published in Mail Tribune

By Jason Clark
December 09, 2018

Another year of extensive wildfires, debilitating smoke, and several tragedies across the West have made it clear that Oregonians cannot afford forestry practices that continue to make this problem worse. The consequences of our forest management history and our changing climate have been illuminated by a hazy vermilion sun. The complex, fire-resilient forests of yesteryear have been replaced with younger, denser stands more likely to experience stand-replacing fires. Meanwhile, climate change is causing fuels to dry out earlier and stay dry longer, creating the conditions for more fires and greater fire severity.

Many commendable thinning and fuels reduction projects have been carried out on unnaturally dense Forest Service and BLM lands in recent decades. These efforts need to be improved and expanded into a widespread restoration forestry effort to put our fire-suppressed public forests on a path toward increased fire resiliency.

But there is another half of the equation that can’t be ignored — private, industrial forestlands. A recent study of the 2013 Douglas fire by leading scientists at Oregon State and Humboldt State Universities confirmed the forests most likely to burn at high severity are the dense, young stands on private timberlands that are planted after conventional clearcut logging practices sanctioned under the Oregon Forest Practices Act, not the typically older stands on public lands.

Therefore, it is critically insufficient to only improve forest management on public lands.Locally, the Rogue Basin Cohesive Forest Restoration Strategy, created by a multi-party team of federal, state and nonprofit contributors, provides a well-considered, science-based framework for how to approach restoration forestry and increase fire resiliency in our region. The “All Lands” approach described therein proposes to treat 900,000 acres of federal land plus 200,000 acres of non-federal lands of mixed ownership, in and around communities and infrastructure. A small proportion of the 200,000 non-federal acres is industrial timberlands, however, tens of thousands of acres of industrial timberland are directly adjacent to the proposed treatment areas on federal lands. Without meaningfully addressing these fire-prone, private timberlands, our success in achieving a more fire-resilient landscape will be limited.

To responsibly address the role that private forests play in contributing to wildfire risk, we must transform the Oregon Forest Practices Act, the decades-old state statute in dire need of modernization. Increased fire risk is just one of the negative side effects of industrial logging practices that Oregonians are left to bear. Soil loss, diminished water quality, degradation of fisheries, and habitat loss for rare species are some of the others. The state should convene a team of scientists and progressive forestry practitioners to hammer out rational, proactive, and easily verifiable operational standards for the future of forestry in Oregon. This team should set new standards dramatically reducing the allowable size of harvest units, requiring longer rotation times, and maintaining legacy retentions of older trees, requiring that a proportion of the more fire-resilient trees be left standing. To put Oregon’s private forests on a path toward greater fire resiliency, we must diversify the landscape level expanses of tightly packed, even-aged tree farms that cover so much of our state. We should also require timber companies to address the enormous amounts of slash left behind following timber harvests that are tinderboxes of explosive fuels. And we should ban the aerial spraying of herbicides which adds additional fuels and pollutes our streams.

In the long run, timber companies will benefit from management practices that lead to more fire-resilient forests. As improved practices are implemented and fire resiliency increases over time, timber assets will become less vulnerable to going up in flames. Further, there are numerous benefits to other ecosystem services that will follow from fire-resilient forestry practices including improved habitat, water quality and more secure carbon storage.

It is imperative that Oregon implement forestry practices that improve fire resiliency. We can supply the local mills and support the invigoration of our economy while improving our forests’ structure in a way that helps to protect it and our communities from future wildfires. Imagine a future where Oregon’s private forests are structurally diverse forests that include larger, fire-resilient trees and where large clearcuts and expansive, even-aged tree farms are a memory. We must move our state’s private timberlands in this direction, because not doing so allows the wildfire problem to get worse. To get there, we must reform Oregon’s outdated rules and account for the role private timberlands play in wildfire risk. Oregonians need strong leadership in Salem to address this issue in 2019 and beyond. Who is ready?

Jason Clark is a botanist who lives in Talent and works in forests across the Northwest.

News Story: Federal judge orders EPA to protect salmon from warm temps in Columbia River basin

October 17, 2018
The Seattle Times

A federal judge has ordered protection for salmon in the Columbia River basin from warm water temperatures that have been lethal to salmon and steelhead as the climate changes.

The U.S. District Court for the Western District at Seattle in a 16-page ruling Wednesday ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead from dangerously warm water temperatures in the Columbia and Snake Rivers.

Climate change has exacerbated a long standing problem with water temperature in reservoirs behind hydropower dams on the rivers, increasing the number days in which temperatures exceed what can be tolerated by salmon and steelhead, which are cold-water species. In 2015, 250,000 adult sockeye salmon died when the Columbia and Snake rivers became too warm.

Hot water pushed survival rates for critically endangered Snake River sockeye to only 4 percent in 2015.

“Because of today’s victory, EPA will finally write a comprehensive plan to deal with dams’ impact on water temperature and salmon survival,” said Brett VandenHeuvel, executive director of Columbia Riverkeeper, one of the plaintiffs in the suit.

The suit was brought by multiple conservation and fishermens’ groups.

The court found that the EPA has failed to undertake its mandatory duty to enforce and ensure a temperature daily maximum, just as it must also enforce other types of water-quality parameters under the Clean Water Act. Federal Judge Ricardo Martinez ordered the agency to issue a temperature standard for the river.

The ruling was celebrated by fishermen hurt by diminished salmon runs on the Columbia and Snake, once the biggest in the world. “Our livelihoods depend on healthy salmon runs,” said Glen Spain, Northwest Regional Director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association. “It is simply unacceptable to let hot water kill otherwise-healthy adult salmon before they can spawn. We’re glad EPA will finally do its job.”

The Clean Water Act bans Columbia River temperatures over 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Climate change is making that hard to achieve as the river soars even above 70 degrees for days at a time.

Snake River steelhead fishermen in Idaho have paid a high price with seasons already shortened because of diminished runs, and then in 2017 cut even shorter as returns collapsed, coming in even below fish managers’ low projections, forcing emergency closures.

The ruling comes as the governor’s task force on orca recovery is working on recommendations to help rebuild the critically endangered population of southern resident killer whales, which depend primarily on chinook for food. Orca advocates have joined forces with dam-removal advocates pushing to breach the Lower Snake River Dams to improve chinook runs.

The dams affect chinook and steelhead in multiple ways, by slowing the current into miles-long lakes, creating habitat that predators have thrived in and in which temperatures climb. Billions of dollars have been spent to alter the dams to improve fish passage with success; however, each dam still takes its toll, and the fish runs are not on track for recovery, particularly wild fish, the ecological mainstay for long-term recovery.

Task-force members are considering dam removal as well as increased spill of water over the dams among multiple other changes to boost orca recovery.

At a public hearing held by the task force Wednesday evening, Monika Shields, of San Juan Island, was one of many speakers supporting dam removal. She walked to the microphone with binders full of 628,987 signatures from an online petition calling for the task force to call on Gov. Jay Inslee to give his support to dam removal. “Please find the courage to take this bold action,” Shields said. “The world is watching.”

Emily Knaapen came all the way from Racine, Wisconsin, with her aunt to plead for the lives of the orca, and to honor the memories of J50 and a calf that was born to Tahlequa, two whales that died this summer. “The story of the southern residents will go down in history,” she said. “What will be your legacy?”

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