Sunday, December 27, 2020

Klamath Forest Alliance: 2020 A Year in Review


KFA field monitoring on the Shasta Agness Timber Sale above the Wild & Scenic Rogue River discovered a previously unknown Northern spotted owl within commercial units in the Shasta Agness Timber Sale. The discovery of this owl is forcing the Forest Service to remove significant acreage from the timber sale's Decision Record.

Klamath Forest Alliance has been busy in 2020 fighting for the wildlands of the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains and building a movement to protect, defend and restore the natural world. Despite the hardships of 2020, we remain focused on the needs of the land and our commitment to protect the wild watersheds that surround us, and the forests that are critical for carbon sequestration and climate defense. 

During these difficult times, more than ever, wildlands provide us solace. They provide a sense of humility and awe, a place of quiet reflection, and a place of inspiration. They are an escape from the increasingly stressful and unhealthy modern world, and they are the building blocks for a more sustainable future. Despite the importance of wildlands, they are increasingly threatened with mining, logging, grazing, off-road vehicle use and other forms of ecologically destructive public land management.

The Siskiyou Field Office of Klamath Forest Alliance is committed to defending the uniquely diverse, spectacularly rugged, and stunningly beautiful watersheds along the border of southwestern Oregon and northwestern California. This post highlights the work of KFA in 2020 as well as the projects and issues we expect to address in 2021.

Crawford Timber Sale 

The forests of the Crawford Timber Sale have been saved by KFA litigation.   

The Crawford Timber Sale was proposed by the Klamath National Forest in a vital connectivity corridor between the Siskiyou Crest and the Marble Mountains Wilderness Area. Located on the Klamath River downstream from Happy Camp, California and along the eastern margin of the Siskiyou Wilderness Area, this timber sale would have logged off the habitat of four Northern spotted owl pairs by removing 139 acres of Critical Habitat. The project also proposed the "incidental take" (i.e. sanctioned killing through waivers provided by the US Fish & Wildlife Service) of two of the last Northern spotted owls known to be reproducing on the Klamath River, and would have negatively impacted important anadromous fisheries. 

In 2020, KFA and our conservation allies filed suit to stop the Crawford Timber Sale and protect occupied habitat for the Northern spotted owl. After filing our lawsuit, the Klamath National Forest withdrew the timber sale and we are cautiously optimistic that the project has been canceled for good. We will continue monitoring the activities of the Klamath National Forest in 2021, and if necessary, we will continue fighting for these owls and the critical habitat they need for their survival.

Shasta Agness Timber Sale 

The spotted owl discovered by KFA field monitors.

The Shasta Agness Timber Sale was proposed by the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest in the mountains surrounding Agness, Oregon near the confluence of the of the Wild & Scenic Rogue and Illinois Rivers. The area is designated as a Late Successional Reserve (LSR) to protect the habitat of the Northern spotted owl, and contains one of the only documented populations of the threatened Humboldt marten on the southern Oregon coast. The project area contains lush forests influenced by coastal rain and fog, unique serpentine woodlands, old-growth forests, and isolated oak woodlands. 

The Shasta Agness Timber Sale proposes to log an estimated 24 million board feet of timber, including over 15,000 large trees between 20" and 28" in diameter. Despite the heavy logging proposed, the Forest Service failed to adequately survey for the threatened Northern spotted owl. In July 2020, on-the-ground monitoring efforts by KFA discovered a previously unknown Northern spotted owl population within the proposed logging units. The discovery of this owl is forcing the Forest Service to remove approximately 630 acres of commercial logging units from the final Decision Record for the Shasta Agness project. The agency has also agreed to drop an additional 88 acres of proposed "serpentine pine" logging treatments based on the input of KFA and our conservation allies. 

We will continue tracking the Shasta Agness Timber Sale in 2021 and working to protect the forests and wildlife of the Siskiyou Wild Rivers region.

Integrated Vegetation Management for Resilient Lands Projects (IVM)

The Integrated Vegetation Management for Resilient Lands (IVM) Project is one of the worst federal land management projects proposed in southwestern Oregon for many years. The project envisions industrial logging throughout nearly the entire Medford District BLM, including 634,185 acres of proposed "treatment areas." Under the provisions proposed in the IVM Project the agency could log up to 20,000 acres and build up to 90 miles of new road per decade without additional public comment or site specific scientific review. To make matters worse, this project is specifically targeting Late Successional Reserve (LSR) forest designated to protect habitat for the Northern spotted owl. 

If approved, this project will impact forests, wildlands, wildlife and fisheries across our region. It also proposes to exclude the public from the public land management planning process. In 2021, KFA will make the IVM Project a priority and will work with grassroots and rural conservation advocates throughout the Applegate, Rogue and Illinois River watersheds to oppose this project.

Late Mungers Timber Sale

A unit proposed for logging in the Late Mungers Timber Sale.
The Late Mungers Timber Sale is being proposed by the Medford District BLM under the still unapproved IVM Project. Despite no official authorization to do so, BLM timber managers are designing a large timber sale under the provisions of the IVM project in the mountains near Mungers Butte, above Williams in the Applegate Valley and Selma in the Illinois River Valley. The project is not only located in a large Late Successional Reserve (LSR), but it is also located in an important connectivity corridor between the Red Buttes Wilderness, the Kangaroo Inventoried Roadless Area and the vast Kalmiopsis wildlands to the west. The project proposes units in many late successional and old-growth forest habitats and in small unroaded wildlands. These areas contain high conservation value and are important for recreation.

Throughout 2021 KFA will be working with partners in southwestern Oregon to oppose the Late Mungers Timber Sale and protect this important connectivity corridor.

Bear Grub Timber Sale

A Bear Grub Timber Sale unit located in the Wellington Wildlands.


The Bear Grub Timber Sale, located in the mountains between Talent in the Rogue Valley and Ruch in the Applegate Valley, proposes industrial logging on 1,100 acres. This includes 293 acres inside the Wellington Butte Roadless Area (known locally as Wellington Wildlands). The project also includes logging units along the popular East Applegate Ridge Trail, a beautiful non-motorized trail through the foothills of the Applegate Valley. Logging prescriptions include group selection logging, a form of staggered clearcut logging that will increase fire risks, degrade wildlife habitat, and release large volumes of stored carbon. Unfortunately, the project was approved by the BLM and sold at the federal timber auction. 

KFA will continue working to STOP BEAR GRUB in 2021. 

Wild & Scenic River Protections

Middle Fork Applegate River
The proposed Wild & Scenic Middle Fork Applegate River.

In 2020, KFA worked with Applegate Neighborhood Network (ANN) to promote our Wild & Scenic Applegate River proposal. We identified approximately 200 miles of proposed Wild & Scenic River on public lands in the serpentine canyons of Slater Creek, the wild headwaters of the Upper Applegate River, the woodlands of the Little Applegate River canyon and cedar lined Pipe Fork Williams Creek. We worked throughout 2020 to document the "Outstandingly Remarkable Values," map our proposals, promote our proposals, and advocate for the permanent  protection of worthy Siskiyou Mountain streams. 

To secure permanent Wild & Scenic River designation on the Applegate River will require continued advocacy in 2021. KFA will be working in 2021 with a statewide coalition of environmental activists, supportive members of the public, and elected officials to secure Wild & Scenic River designation.

Wildfire Advocacy

Slater Fire fire effects at Bolan Lake on the Siskiyou Crest.
Throughout the summer of 2020 KFA worked to monitor regional wildfires and the activity of fire managers in the Roadless Areas, Botanical Areas and Wilderness Areas of the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains. We tracked the Slater Fire on the Siskiyou Crest and successfully organized local wilderness lovers to keep bulldozers out of the Kangaroo Inventoried Roadless Area near Swan Mountain and in the Oregon Caves National Monument near Mt. Elijah. We also worked to ensure fire suppression activities on the Devil Fire in the Red Buttes Wilderness Area maintained wilderness and biological values. 

We tracked the Red Salmon Complex burning on the Salmon Divide from July 27 to late October of 2020. This fire burned at the headwaters of New River deep in the Trinity Alps Wilderness and in wild tributaries the Salmon River. Despite our advocacy, the Forest Service bulldozed fireline on Packsaddle Ridge inside the wilderness boundary.  In 2021, we will work to document the impact of wilderness bulldozing and fire suppression activities in the Red Salmon Fire Report.

KFA supports the protection of communities from wildfire impacts and the protection of wildland values from inappropriate fire suppression activities. During the upcoming 2021 fire season we will track the regional wildfires wherever they may be and advocate for ecologically appropriate and operationally effective wildland fire management strategies. We will work hard to maintain wildland values, protect intact watersheds, promote the responsible management of wildland fire, restore fire as a natural process through wildland fire management, and advocate for more effective protection of communities at risk to wildfire impacts.

OHV Closures

In 2020, we continued our longstanding work to document the impacts of illegal and unauthorized OHV use on federal lands throughout the region. This includes our annual efforts with Applegate Neighborhood Network in the Applegate Valley OHV Monitoring Project. In this particular project we are working on a series of closures in designated Botanical Areas and on the Siskiyou Crest, including routes that impact the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail on both the Klamath National Forest and Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. In 2020 we helped officially closed one illegal route in collaboration with the Forest Service and KS Wild. We also monitored previous closure efforts for motor vehicle trespass. In 2021, we hope to close additional illegal routes on sensitive Forest Service lands.

In 2020 we also petitioned the Wild Rivers Ranger District on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest to secure the closure of numerous illegal routes entering roadless habitats and crossing streams in areas with Port Orford cedar that are currently uninfected by the deadly, non-native pathogen, Port Orford cedar root rot (Phytophthora lateralis). Port Orford cedar root rot is carried uphill and between watersheds in mud on vehicle tires. Once introduced into a drainage it will spread downhill, especially along streams, attacking and killing Port Orford cedar trees. The risk of infection from these illegal OHV routes is extremely high and we are proactively advocating for closure of these damaging routes before it is too late. We hope to see these routes closed or at least approved for closure in 2021.

Finally, we worked to close approximately 3 miles of illegal motorized trail in a small roadless area on the Modoc National Forest located in the Medicine Lake Highlands above Lava Beds National Monument. This route was illegally built through beautiful old-growth lodgepole pine forests and up steep volcanic slopes of pumice, cinder and other highly erosive volcanic rocks to the summit of a spectacular mountain peak. The route was causing severe harm to the surrounding ecosystem and hundreds, if not thousands, of lodgepole pine trees were illegally felled to build the route. KFA documented these impacts and petitioned the Modoc National Forest for route closure. To their credit, Forest Service staff responded promptly with physical closure efforts. In 2021, we hope to revisit the Modoc National Forest to monitor this closure and work to secure more OHV closures. 

Forest Legislation 

KFA has been actively engaged in advocacy surrounding legislative efforts in the state of Oregon to address issues surrounding wildfire and forest management. In 2020 we testified in front of the Oregon State Committee on Forests and Fire Management and submitted detailed, science-based comments to proposed legislative efforts affecting the forests of the Siskiyou Mountains. 

We have also submitted extensive written comments directly to Oregon state senators exploring fire ecology, fire science, and potential legislative solutions that will restore fire as a natural process in our forests, while more effectively protecting lives, homes, communities and infrastructure in wildfire events. 

Looking Forward to 2021

Traveler's gentian (Gentiana calycosa) blooming on the Siskiyou Crest.

In 2021 KFA will work towards the protection of worthy streams in the Applegate Watershed with permanent Wild & Scenic River protections. We will also defend against a wide variety of immediate threats to the wildlands of the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains. From the Wild Rivers Coast to the arid foothills of the Applegate Valley, across the spine of the Siskiyou Crest and into the wild watersheds of the Mid-Klamath Watershed, the Siskiyou Field Office of Klamath Forest Alliance will continue working to protect, defend and restore the natural world. We are among the most passionate and committed advocates of the Klamath-Siskiyou! Please help us defend the beautiful Siskiyou Mountains and consider a generous year-end, tax-deductible donation to support our work. Together we can protect the last intact habitats in the Siskiyou Mountains!


 Donate to Klamath Forest Alliance

Monday, November 30, 2020

A new administration and new opportunities to reform the BLM

The Wild and Scenic Rogue River flows through BLM lands west of Grants Pass, Oregon.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages more public land than any other federal land management agency, including nearly 248 million acres, representing an incredible 10.5% of all land in the United States. These public lands contain important wildlife habitat, highly scenic landscapes and many spectacular wildlands. 

In the Siskiyou Mountains, BLM lands include the Medford District BLM, which manages the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, the foothills of the Applegate Valley, diverse forests in the Illinois River watershed, and portions the spectacular Wild and Scenic Rogue River.

Unfortunately, during the Trump Administration, the BLM has declared an all-out assault on both public involvement and environmental regulations, implementing an undemocratic, unscientific and industrial approach to public land management. This has facilitated an increase in damaging projects across the West, including increased logging, mining, drilling, grazing, off-road vehicle use, and more. 

Although historically poor stewards of our public lands and biased in favor of industrial resource extraction, under the Trump Administration the last shreds of integrity at BLM have been drastically eroded. In fact, the BLM has been fully transformed into an illicit, rogue agency that is openly hostile to public land and the conservation values it was intended to protect. From the highest level political appointees, down to local BLM offices, anti-public land ideology and private extractive industries have thoroughly corrupted the agency. 

BLM logging in the Sterling Sweeper Timber Sale.  

Illegal Political Appointees & Corruption at the Highest Levels

Led by the illegally appointed, anti-public lands extremist William Perry Pendley, the BLM currently serves as a resource base for private industry, not a public agency working for the greater public good.

Pendley formerly worked as a mining and oil industry attorney and as president of the Western States Legal Foundation, funded by both the Charles Koch Foundation and Exxon Mobil. Before being appointed to his illegal tenure as BLM director, Pendley regularly sued the BLM, advocating for privatization and the industrial exploitation of public resources. He has also denied the existence of climate change, advocated for the illegal killing of endangered species, and written numerous books promoting anti-public land ideology. 

Diverse landscapes like the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument are managed by the Medford District BLM. Early in the Trump Administration the agency proposed eliminating protections for portions of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, but appears to have backed away from that proposal.

Yet, despite a history of hostility towards the BLM, or perhaps because of it, the Trump Administration initially proposed Pendley for the Director position in July of 2019. Knowing that Pendley's extremist views would preclude senate confirmation, this nomination was quickly withdrawn and the Trump Administration simply declared him the "acting" BLM director, a position that has been repeatedly renewed, making his "acting" role essentially permanent. For over one and a half years, Pendley, illegally acting as BLM Director, set policy and priorities designed specifically to undermine public lands, public involvement and public accountability. 

In response, Montana Governor Steve Bullock sued the federal government over the appointment of Pendley as BLM Director without appropriate confirmation or oversight. In the end, Judge Brian Morris of the US District Court deemed Pendley's appointment unlawful, directed him to immediately step down, and suggested that land management decisions and policy changes made during his tenure should be either thrown out or reversed. 

Backed by the Trump Administration, and in open violation of the law, Pendley has refused to step down, stating that the ruling would have "no impact whatsoever." Currently, Pendley continues to dictate policy, dismantle the agency and sacrifice public lands to his industry allies.

Local Impacts, Policy Changes and Contempt for both the Environment and the Public

Wellington Wildlands on BLM lands in the Applegate Valley is not only an unprotected roadless area, but portions of the wildland are threatened with BLM logging in the Bear Grub Timber Sale.

Although policy makers and BLM officials in Washington DC seem far from the Siskiyou Mountains and the forests of Western Oregon, their impact has been felt here in our local region and across our local BLM lands. During the Trump Administration and the illegal tenure of Pendley, the management of local BLM lands has become significantly less inclusive, responsive or accountable to the public, and projects themselves have become significantly more industrial in nature. 

The specific environmental rollbacks enabling this shift include:

  • Altering the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by reducing public participation, limiting judicial review, and removing requirements for the disclosure of environmental impacts. 
  • Altering NEPA guidelines by allowing and encouraging climate change related impacts to go unanalyzed in the scientific review process. 
  • Placing time limits and page limits on NEPA analysis and scientific review documents. 
  • Eliminating the opportunity for the public to file administrative protests for BLM timber sales and other projects.
  • Dramatically reducing the amount of "critical habitat" for the threatened Northern Spotted Owl in Western Oregon on BLM lands. 
  • Using Categorical Exclusions to provide broad exemptions for post-fire logging projects under 5,000 acres in size, shielding them from the full NEPA process and review.

These significant changes in national and regional policy have translated directly into impacts to our local forests and communities. They have also facilitated a complete breakdown in trust between the BLM and the public in our region, hearkening back to the "timber wars" of the 1990s.

Large, old trees like these are proposed for logging in the controversial Bear Grub Timber Sale. This timber sale was proposed, approved and sold to the timber industry with virtually no public involvement under the policies of William Perry Pendley.

More than happy to embrace the Trump era and lock the public out of the public land planning process, the Medford District BLM has begun aggressively and inappropriately implementing their 2016 Resource Management Plan under this new veil of secrecy. Projects such as the Bear Grub Timber Sale, Clean Slate Timber Sale, Griffin Halfmoon Timber Sale, Poor Windy Timber Sale, and the innocuous sounding Integrated Vegetation Management for Resilient Lands Project (IVM) have been proposed or approved without adequate public involvement, without adequate scientific analysis and with absolutely no honest attempt to show concern for public values, community fire safety, wildlife habitats, recreational values, wildlands, or non-timber related economic values. 

What these projects do have in common is a general contempt for the values, needs and concerns of surrounding communities and an increase in "regeneration," group selection, or clearcut logging.

The implementation of these types of industrial logging will significantly increase fire hazards adjacent to our communities and contribute to a warming climate. Commercial logging is the largest producer of greenhouse gases in the state of Oregon (Law. 2018), and by removing large, old trees, BLM timber sales will release abundant stored carbon into the atmosphere. BLM logging projects are actively degrading carbon-rich primary forests, altering larger climate patterns and localized micro-climate conditions, damaging wildlife habitats, impacting recreation areas, non-timber related economic values and the quality of life for residents of southwestern Oregon.

The Need for Reform

Public meetings and field trips like this one in 2014 for the Nedsbar Timber Sale are currently a thing of the past. Instead of engaging local communities, the Medford District BLM is working to avoid accountability and manage public resources for the sole benefit of private industry.

Our forests and communities deserve better! Comprehensive reform, restructuring, and realignment of the BLM is badly needed. The recent change in administrations makes this reform both possible and timely, but it also depends on local activists, residents and those that recreate on BLM land speaking up, speaking out and demanding change. It also requires that elected officials on all levels work to reform the BLM and define a new way forward by:  

1) Replacing Secretary Bernhardt, "acting" director William Perry Pendley, and other compromised BLM officials with nominees that value public land, support conservation, acknowledge the threat of climate change and will work on behalf of both the land and the people of this country, not just the corporations.

2) Withdrawing all Trump era NEPA rule changes, strengthening public involvement standards and increasing scientific review standards for all NEPA projects. We recommend implementing NEPA reforms that are specifically targeted towards making public land management more transparent, scientifically sound, inclusive, responsive to public concerns, and environmentally responsible

3) Banning all new oil and gas drilling leases on public lands nationwide. Review, and when necessary withdraw, Trump era oil and gases leases on sensitive lands including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

4) Extend the 2001 Roadless Rule to BLM lands nationwide, including all BLM Wilderness Study Areas, uninventoried roadless areas and Lands with Wilderness Characteristics (LWC). 

5) Reinstate the protections for the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalate National Monuments removed by the Trump Administration in 2017.

6) Require all federal land management projects to analyze climate impacts during the NEPA process.

7) Strengthen and expand the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and specifically increase protections for the Northern spotted owl from "threatened" to "endangered." Reinstate and expand Northern spotted owl critical habitat designations on Western Oregon BLM lands.

8) Repeal the O&C Act and manage public lands in Western Oregon for carbon sequestration, wildlife habitat, water quality, fisheries, recreation, connectivity, and biodiversity. 

9) Create large carbon reserves on public forest lands throughout the West, and protect all late successional and old growth forest habitats for climate mitigation and carbon storage.

10) Designate new National Monuments and National Recreation Areas across the country, including the Siskiyou Mountains National Recreation Area on Medford District BLM lands and the Siskiyou Crest National Monument on adjacent National Forest lands. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020