CONSERVATION REPORT, September 90 Storm Petrel
Predictions about the future of Ancient forests; Shasta Costa's1 infamous Appendix F. Who is the public? Timber sales2 and Wild fish
Ancient Forests - Era Of Slash And Burn Forestry Coming To An End?
For several years the ground rules for managing Northwest forests have been handled outside the normal legislative process by riders3 (attachments) to appropriations bills. Until this year Oregon's Senator Hatfield has been able to use these riders to mandate how much timber will be cut; deny access of citizens to the courts; and suspend provisions of environmental and forest management laws. But in the last year a number of developments have arisen which may have broken the ability of the timber industry to operate Oregon as if it owned it.
- All the mainstream media (Life, Time, National Geographic, New Yorker, Washington Post, NY Times, and the Oregonian) have made strong statements to stop liquidating the Ancient Forests.
- Mr. Hatfield's opponent Harry Lonsdale has made saving Ancient Forests a campaign issue. In the Governor's race, Barbara Roberts who is for saving the Forests has caught up to Dave Frohnmeyer who is pro-timber industry.
- Members of Congressional Committees who have jurisdiction over forests, endangered species and the judiciary are starting to complain about the usurping of their prerogatives.
Last month's newsletter described various industry, environmental and "compromise" bills working their way through the Congress. No side had enough votes to prevail so everybody starts all over again in January with a new Congress.
For the first time in many years it is possible that the BLM and the Forest Service will have to obey existing laws, and that the courts will again have jurisdiction over these Agencies.
Is a "muddle through truce" emerging for 1991?
In the confusion of the budget deadlock, the deficit, the election campaign, and the current appropriations bill we may see a interim solution if the following likely possibilities happen.
- The Appropriations bill contains soft "harvest" goals rather than hard quotas as last year and gives environmentalists full access to the courts.
- With few timber sales in the pipeline, staff cuts, and exhausted inventories, agencies offer 50% of last year's volume in 1991.
- The demand for timber drops because of the recession and the decline in housing starts.
- Endangered species concerns move from Spotted Owls to wild fish which broadens public support for Ancient Forest protection.
- Several of the most rabid pro-timber legislators lose their seats in November.
This scenario would reduce the clear cutting of Ancient Forests considerably without formally locking up any areas. No elected officials could be blamed and no faction clearly wins or loses.
Speaking of elections one of the most important is the Governor's race. A powerful force for a high cut level on National Forests is the State of Oregon itself. Some forest managers say that in Oregon pressure to liquidate the forests is almost as strong from the state as it is from the timber industry. A change in governor could make a dramatic change in the stance of the state's fish, wildlife, and forestry and educational organizations. State biologists would be able to make a transition from their present position to one where they could research, publish, and speak freely. Hopefully Oregon biologists would regain freedom of speech and research at least to the level it is currently enjoyed by biologists in third world countries.
Elk River Timber Sales
In August the Forest Service abruptly ended negotiations on the Elk River by announcing that they would auction several timber sales in the Elk River watershed. They intend to enter a roadless area without preparing an environmental impact statement. In response a group of local environmental organizations including our chapter filed suit to stop the sales. This automatically gives us a stay of 45 days. Nevertheless, an auction was held and when the stay expires, or if the suit goes against us, the sales could be awarded and cut.
The Siskiyou National Forest is capable of better.
Shasta Costa Project
An overview of this project was included in the last Storm Petrel. Since then we have
completed an analysis of the Draft Environmental Statement (EIS) and furnished formal comments. After widespread consultation with other environmentalists and review of documents not available until this month, we were forced to withdraw our support for Alternative "C", the alternative on which we had worked for many months.
Between the end of the consultation with the Forest Service and the publishing of the draft EIS an extra appendix "F" was added. This appendix basically states that any timber volume foregone to meet the environmental goals of the project will be made up by accelerated logging between 1994 and 1998. Detailed maps were included which lay out where and how this "catch up" logging will be done.
There was never a hint whatsoever during all our planning meetings that the planning team had developed a detailed logging plan for the "out" years of any of the alternatives. It had always been a given that there would have to be some reduction in timber volumes to accommodate all the environmental protections in Alternative "C". That is the whole point of the project. We reluctantly concluded that the draft EIS in its present form is simply a plan to enter a roadless area with some concessions to environmentalists in the first three years.
A further problem arose when the comment period was almost over and we discovered that much of the Shasta Costa Basin was classified as "high watershed sensitivity". The chart showing areas of "high Watershed impact" was not published in the draft EIS. While initial units are planned to avoid logging in these areas, it is questionable as to how much additional logging will be feasible after the initial entry.
It may be that irresponsible logging in the sixties has hammered this Basin to the point where further logging presents an unacceptable risk. One fish biologist on the Siskiyou told us that even without additional logging in this area another Columbus Day storm may be enough to cause major damage to the wild fish runs. In any roadless area that is the refugia for as many wild fish runs as Shasta Costa, it must be shown proposed logging will not harm wild fish runs.
For all of the above reasons our chapter's comments, which are available on request, recommended that no logging take place in this basin.
Shasta Costa Postscript: Who is the public anyway?
One concern I have about a "Shasta Costa" approach is that we may already be seeing it employed in other Ranger Districts to neutralize or blunt environmental concerns by bringing representatives of local business and governments that have a direct financial interest in roading and logging to the table and treating everybody as the public.
When the Grand Canyon Dam was being considered it is said that every elected politician at the
town, county, state and federal level along with all the Chamber of Commerce's were for it. (Anybody that says that you can "think globally and act locally" has obviously never lived in a state dominated by an extractive industry) In Oregon, local input is timber industry input. So if Shasta Costa means public participation in decision making and public input is implemented as local input then the timber industry would gain even more influence over forests.
In creating timber advisory boards many forests excluded ancient forest activists as being too partisan while inviting owners of timber companies to participate. The predictable results were used as certification of public endorsement. We see definite signs that the Siskiyou Forest intends to use "Shasta Costa" principles to bring aggressive anti-environmental spokesmen to the table to counter legitimate environmental concerns.
Roadless Areas As Wild Fish Refugia
Along with the above two logging proposals two other sales in the Siskiyou forest involve us with four roadless areas sales where impacts on fish are an issue. As the old growth is liquidated we reach the point where it becomes harder for managers to meet their timber quotas. Often the fastest access to volume is in the remaining roadless areas. It appears the Forest Service has girded up their loins to "service" the last remaining roadless areas in Oregon.
These areas have not been roaded and entered because they are so steep. In our region steep soil is usually erodible soil. With the exception of the Elk river, wild salmon do not spawn in the main stems of South Coast rivers because these rivers are already too damaged by past clear cutting. In fact most fish in south coast rivers actually come from tributaries in roadless areas. They are the last places where natural life cycles of fish can still occur. Shasta Costa for example is spawning habitat for four kinds of wild fish.
The present assault on wild fish will probably end in one of three ways
- All the wild fish runs will become extinct and we will only have hatchery fish.
- Fish will become listed as endangered species in southern Oregon.
- Some combination of legislation or litigation will stop logging in roadless areas.