CONSERVATION REPORT, July 90 Storm Petrel1

Congressman Denny Smith says Spotted owls live on Kmart roofs. 23,000 acre Shasta Costa2 Roadless area project starts with a double cross

Ancient Forests at the 11th Hour

By the time you receive the next newsletter important decisions about the fate of the Ancient Forests will have been made. The current legislation which mandates quotas that can only be met by clear cutting in the forests, and limits environmentalists ability to challenge timber sales expires on 9/30/90.

Three laws are now before the Congress, and while they may not actually be passed in this session which adjourns on 10/10/90, many of their concepts will be incorporated into something called an Appropriations Bill which will be passed by then. This Appropriations Bill will do more than just appropriate money for the Forest Service and BLM, it will lay down all the rules that will govern the forests for the next year - from timber quotas to limitations on lawsuits and appeals.

The Three Bills

Hatfield-Aucoin - Senate 2762, House 5094

Senator Hatfield has decided to respond to the outpouring of public concern about clear cutting, Ancient Forests and endangered species by introducing a law which essentially turns the national forests over to the timber industry. His bill:

  • limits the Forest Service's ability to lower a forest's cut even if it wants to.
  • requires that if a court order or endangered species designation gives protection to any part of a forest, some other already protected land has to be opened up to logging as compensation.
  • limits the people who can challenge forest plans and then limits the information they can use in making challenges.
  • limits court review of timber sales and forbids injunctions.
  • mandates high timber cut levels.

The Vento bill - HR 5295

This important Congressman is the Chairman of the House Interior Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands. He has introduced a bill with influential co–sponsors. It has several provisions important to Curry County. His bill would double the county share of timber sale receipts from 25% to 50% so that even if the amount of wood cut went down, the county revenues would stay up. It would forbid the logging of Oregon Redwoods, stop the logging of Ancient Forest in the Elk River Watershed and in the North Kalmiopsis area. Of the seven areas in the Pacific Northwest that the bill singles out for protection three are in whole or in part in our county.

His bill also sets aside new Ancient Forest preserves and mandates "New Forestry" for areas that are open to logging.

The Jontz Bill – Hr4492

This is the bill that Audubon, Sierra Club and all the major environmental organizations have been working on. It has 121 co-sponsors. This bill would:

  • prohibit any logging of Ancient Forests on public lands in the Northwest.
  • create a network of connections between the remnant pieces of Ancient Forests.

Some people think that since public opinion seems to have shifted towards saving Ancient Forests (and polls show that a majority of people, even in the Northwest, favor protecting Old Growth) that change is inevitable. This is not necessarily true. With a couple of exceptions the timber industry controls the Northwest Congressional delegation, and up to now the Northwest delegation makes timber policy.

Moreover the Northwest timber companies are making a big effort to defeat the Congressmen and women in Eastern states that have been most active in stopping the clear cutting of Northwest forests.

Spotted Owl Update

The residents of Oregon are being deluged with all kinds of information- about the spotted Owl here are some basic facts about this issue:

  • This is a Republican administration. If its chief scientists and bureaucrats tell us that based on biological evidence the owl is endangered we can be sure that those findings are sound.
  • The decision to list the Spotted owl was not made a year ago because of political interference in the listing process. Current logging that may now be interrupted would not have been planned if officials in the Dept. of Interior had not illegally postponed the decision.
  • Spotted Owls do not live on the roof at the K–mart as Congressman Denny Smith has suggested. Audubonners know that there are many kinds of Owls and it is hard to tell them apart. Many alleged sightings in second growth, in barns, etc. are just misidentifications. Scientists have radio–collared these birds for years, they are possibly the most intensively studied birds in the world. Since their movements are tracked by radio, scientists know exactly where they live and where they forage.
  • Spotted Owls do live in second growth, but only in California in a few places where unique local conditions cause the trees to grow so fast that the second growth assumes some old growth characteristics. There is not enough of this habitat to affect the overall issue.
  • Even if there were some giant zoo in British Columbia that could breed Spotted owls in captivity it wouldn't be relevant. It's not just the survival of the Spotted Owl that's important (although of course that is important.) The owl is an indicator species chosen by the Government to represent the status of 160 different species that need the healthy interiors of old growth forest to survive. It is like a red indicator light warning on the dashboard of your car. Its status tells us about the status of a host of species. The recent listing as a threatened species by the US Fish And Wildlife Service is similar to a red oil warning light on a dashboard going on.
  • There is no question that preserving the spotted Owl will reduce the amount of wood available for mills. This will reduce jobs in the wood products industry and cause job losses. But the wood products industry is automating. It has eliminated 26,000 jobs since 1979, while output has gone up 10%. Even without the Owl the industry would lose another 7000 people by the year 2000.

Oregon is adding as many new jobs each year as even the most pessimistic estimates say the owl will cost in total by the year 2000.

None of the pessimistic estimates on job loss consider banning log exports. Placing a ban on all exports would in itself more than make up for the job loss that the Owl listing will cause.

Oregon added 300,000 new jobs since 1977. Of the current total of 1,400,000 workers in Oregon only 66,900 or 5% work in the lumber or wood products industries.

Shasta Costa

The Shasta Costa planning basin is a 25,000 acre football shaped roadless area between the Kalmiopsis and Rogue Wildernesses. It is bounded by the town of Agness on the West, Bear Camp on the East, Bear Camp Road no. 23 on the North and Burnt Ridge road no. 2308 on the south. Shasta Costa Creek flows through it from one end to the other. While referred to as a roadless area there has been past logging and logging road construction in the extreme East and West portions.

In the Forest Plan this area is scheduled for 32 million board feet (MBF) of logging through 1998. The Gold Beach Ranger District has just released a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) which describes a variety of approaches to managing this area for the period 91-93. Their preferred alternative is "C" and following comments refer to that alternative. The comment period goes through 9/30/90. A booklet called "Shasta Costa - From a New Perspective" has been prepared which can be obtained from the Gold Beach District Office.

The Forest Service wants to use the Shasta Costa Plan as a demonstration of new approaches to forestry. The thinking is that with good planning a volume of wood can be removed without doing any clear cuts or building many roads. Their strategy is to not log Ancient Forests, and use thinning and select cutting, along with helicopter logging, to remove 11MBF. The total amount of new road construction is minimal 4.5 miles but more roads will be closed (12 miles) than are built for a net reduction of roads. The plan includes a model study which will inventory extirpated species and then analyze the basin's habitat to see what species could still be supported.

Some of you may wonder why our Chapter would support an approach that allows logging in a roadless area. Despite all the rhetoric about Spotted Owls and log shortages Oregon is cutting record numbers of trees and will continue to do so until the laws are changed. To meet next year's quotas The Forest Service will begin wide spread logging in roadless areas. Shasta Costa gives us a model to use if the laws are not changed.

One big problem with the preferred alternative "C" in the Shasta Costa Plan is that its volume is totally inconsistent with the existing Siskiyou Forest Plan which schedules a cut of 32.5 million board feet from this area by 1998. If the Forest Plan is not reopened and amended, then the plan would dictate a 21 million board feet cut in the Shasta Costa basin from 1994-1998 – which would mean that the whole Shasta Costa Project would be a Trojan Horse. The Draft EIS even encloses a map in Appendix F that shows the post 1994 logging that could occur in the basin absent Forest Plan amendments. The preferred alternative in the Shasta Costa Plan cannot be implemented for more than three years with the present Siskiyou Forest Plan cut volumes projected for this basin. Either the cut quota must be reduced or the whole concept will only serve as a roadless area timber harvest plan with low volumes in the initial three years. Our Chapter's preliminary views are:

  1. The preferred alternative is an excellent piece of planning, and if logging has to be done in a roadless area this is how we would like to see it done.
  2. The final EIS should acknowledge that proposed timber volumes are inconsistent with the Forest Plan, and it should declare what the allowable cut for this basin would be if the Shasta Costa Model was to be implemented on a long term (200 year) basis.
  3. A methodology for determining cut volumes using "Shasta Costa" principles needs to be incorporated into the final EIS.
  4. The Siskiyou Forest should announce that the Forest Plan will be reopened.
  5. Alternative "C" in the Shasta Costa plan may represent a middle ground for environmentalists, county commissioners, land managers and the timber industry.

Items in the News

The Ancient Forest issue has been in the news. A recent New Yorker article is reprinted in this issue. It gives an excellent picture of both the issues and the broader context.

The Washington Post ran an editorial on 6/29 that made a strong argument that "ancient timber...ought to be preserved." It also said that "The Country isn't running out of jobs, but it is running out of ancient forest...This is an irreplaceable resource; these forests are special and majestic areas...and for the loggers and communities involved, cutting the forest down would be only a respite. Once it was done, there would be no forests (or owls) and still no jobs."

The New York Times on the same day ran a strong editorial which said "... if cutting continues at present rates, the old- growth forest could vanish in 15 years. ... Voracious logging has reduced the forest to about a tenth its former size."

Not just the liberal press has been supportive of the environmentalist position. On 6/25 Time magazine put the Spotted Owl on its cover. The August Sunset magazine has a 10 page article about old growth in the Northwest.

Finally, the widely syndicated columnist James Kilpatrick, a spokesmen for the right wing of the Republican Party, wrote a recent column on the Spotted Owl where he said, "It is a vast oversimplification to define the conflict in terms of the survival of 2000 owls on the one hand or 25000 jobs on the other...there is no way that a threatened or endangered species may be protected without some adverse consequences for 'the human equation'...And over the long haul, to state the matter bluntly, the survival of the [endangered species] act is more important than the survival of the jobs".

  1. Kalmiopsis Audubon Society - Storm Petrel Newsletter
  2. Shasta Costa would monopolize us for the next two years and become very controversial; additional articles: progress; misgivings; more misgivings; Shasta Costa project unravels; Final EIS; major retrospective of New Perspectives and Shasta Costa (Plans to log the area were eventually abandoned).

#53,(v 1.3) 3/13/11

©1989 Jim Britell
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