Guest Review published in Register Guard

Short-sighted choices harm forest, public

Amanda St.Martin    

October 20, 2014

I am writing to address some inaccuracies in Samuel Lee III’s Sept. 27 guest viewpoint, as well as to shed some light on issues relating to the Elliott State Forest.

I volunteer with Coast Range Forest Watch, and we are dedicated to keeping the Elliott public. CRFW is a volunteer group anyone can join. Most of us live and work in Coos County. Some of our volunteers have children and grandchildren in public school here. We are citizens concerned about the futures of schoolchildren as well as the health of our forests.

In order to raise funds for our operational costs, we need a fiscal sponsor registered as a 501(c) 3 nonprofit group. Our fiscal sponsor is the League of Wilderness Defenders (not the League of Forest Defenders, as Lee wrote.) Because it is also volunteer-run, the group’s board membership changes somewhat from year to year, and it doesn’t have a fancy website. It is common practice for small or new organizations to have a fiscal sponsor.

Some CRFW volunteers, myself included, are certified marbled murrelet observers. We attend the same training as contracted surveyors who work for the state Department of Forestry and other managing agencies. This training is provided by Mad River Biologists according to Pacific Seabird Group protocol.

The main difference in our surveys is that we don’t get paid to do them. We have performed more than 100 surveys in the Elliott State Forest, and we often see murrelets without hearing them. They can fly silently.

Marbled murrelets are listed as federally endangered and threatened in Oregon. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services studies indicate a steady decline in murrelet populations throughout Washington, Oregon and California from 2001 to 2013. The combined Alaska and Canada population is around 500,000. However, the combined Washington, Oregon and California population is only about 18,000.

Murrelet nesting requires tree limbs at least 4 inches in diameter, with adequate cover from predators on all sides. A 1995 Forest Service report estimates that, before logging, 1 million to 1.5 million hectares of suitable murrelet habitat existed in Oregon’s Coast Range. Today, there are only around 200,000 hectares. To me, it looks like murrelets need all the help they can get. When it comes to school funding, the children of Oregon were dealt a bad hand from the start — to move forward, the best option for Oregon is to decouple school funding from timber receipts, period.

Most of the Elliott is designated as Common School Land, which, according to the Oregon Constitution, is to be managed to “obtain the greatest benefit for the people of this state, consistent with the conservation of this resource under sound techniques of land management.”

In 1992, this responsibility was condensed to state that the “greatest benefit for the people” condition requires the State Land Board to maximize long-term revenue to the Common School Fund, “within the context of environmentally sound management.” Clear-cutting mature forest stands containing endangered species habitat while neglecting crowded, even-age plantations is not environmentally sound management.

Short-sighted management choices have cost us all: The Department of Forestry and the state violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to protect stands where marbled murrelets nest. Furthermore, the 10-year Implementation Plan that the department is using for the Elliott states that “partial cutting” or “thinning” improves forest health in plantations while producing timber revenue, and that up to 500 acres of the Elliott can be thinned every year.

However, no thinning has been done in the Elliott for a decade. If federally managed forestlands adjacent to the Elliott can produce revenue through almost exclusively thinning, so can the Elliott. Today, 50 percent of Oregon’s total education funding comes from the state. Of that portion, trust land revenues make up about 1.4 percent. The maximum amount the Elliott is expected to generate is about $13 million annually. At most, the Elliott could provide 0.2 percent of the $6.75 billion total spending power for public schools between 2013 and 2015.

While every cent of money for our public schools is important, it’s also important not to exaggerate how much timber receipts from the Elliott actually contribute to schools. The Elliott is more valuable to schoolchildren as an intact, rare forest that provides clean air, water and educational opportunities than as a fraction of a percent of public school funding revenue.

Coast Range Forest Watch is currently meeting with the Department of Forestry, the Department of State Lands and others with vested interests in the Elliott to develop an alternative management strategy that protects endangered species while still benefiting students. Perhaps the “single-minded extremists” Lee was referring to in his column are those who would sacrifice the long-term health of our communities and our access to public lands for meager, short-term profits.

Amanda St. Martin of Coos Bay is a volunteer with Coast Range Forest Watch.

Original post:   http://registerguard.com/rg/opinion/32296465-78/short-sighted-choices-harm-forest-public.html.csp

Samuel Lee III’s September 27th Guest Review:   http://registerguard.com/rg/opinion/31851814-78/a-bird-thats-not-threatened-is-endangering-our-schools.html.csp

 

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Mushroom Hike November 8th

mushroomhike-page-001

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This fall: Fight land privatization with Coast Range Forest Watch!

Action shot from our Citizen Survey Day.

Action shot from our Citizen Survey Day. (Photo: Sara Quinn, sara-quinn.com)

It’s September, which means that marbled murrelet nesting season is over. We wish all of the nesting pairs and juvenile sea birds the best of luck as they relocate to the Pacific Ocean for the winter.

Our volunteers worked hard this season and documented murrelet activity in nine different threatened areas in the Coast Range– mostly on State and Bureau of Land Management land. Twelve volunteers attended a professional training in Northern California to become certified Marbled Murrelet Observers with the Pacific Seabird Group, and collectively we’ve put in over 1,400 volunteer hours since this spring.

Thank you for all of your support; without you this would not have been possible!

Are you interested in getting more involved? Right now the Department of State Lands is considering a number of proposals on the future of the Elliott State Forest including the possibility of privatizing all 92,000 acres of public forest land. The DSL has already sold off land on the Western edge of the forest with no respect for public process. It is time for Coos and Douglas County residents to get together and say “No way!” to privatization in our back yard.

Mixed conifer and myrtlewood canopy in Benson Ridge, now owned by Scott Timber. We spotted murrelets flying below the canopy days before the sale closed!

Mixed conifer and myrtlewood canopy in Benson Ridge, now owned by Scott Timber. We spotted murrelets flying below the canopy days before the sale closed! (Photo: Dan Prahl)

 

*****
UPCOMING EVENTS:

On Thursday, October 2nd, at 6 pm we will be holding our first monthly public meeting. Join us in a discussion about how we can elevate local voices in the fight to save the Elliott State Forest. We’ll be in the small conference room at the North Bend Public Library; coffee and light snacks provided.

On Wednesday, October 8th, from 3-6 pm the State Land Board will visit North Bend to hear public comment on the future of the Elliott State Forest. This is our opportunity to let them know how we feel about privatization in the Elliott. Show up early to sign up for public comment. Your voice counts!

*****
Again, thank you for your support! Stay tuned for updates on the State Land Board and our Annual Fall Mushroom Hike, which will be in the Elliott in late October.

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2nd Annual Marbled Murrelet Citizen Survey Day

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Upcoming Events in June!

plantillustrationhikeFinalAs you may have heard, marbled murrelet survey season is upon us. Already we’ve seen birds in some pretty controversial places, including all three of the parcels that the Department of State Lands has sold to private timber companies this year. As always, if you are interested in volunteering this summer give us a ring!

This month we are hosting two events, and we’d love to see some of you there:

On Saturday, June 21st, we’re having a plant illustration hike in the Elliott State Forest with artist and Coast Ranger Brittany. Spend the afternoon in a pristine forest while learning techniques for drawing and identifying plants. Paper, pens and graphite will be provided, but feel free to bring any preferred media. All ages and abilities welcome! Meet in front of the Bay Bridge Motel in North Bend at 11:00 am.

crfw - BlankOn Sunday, June 22nd at 4 pm, we invite you to meet, greet and eat with Coast Range Forest Watch at Studevant Park in Coquille. Come hear about our efforts to protect valuable public forest lands in Coos County and how you can get involved. Share information about the projects you are working on and how we can support you. Most importantly, get to know us and each other while enjoying free food and drink by the river! This will be a fairly informal event– families welcome. There is another
event at the Gazebo, so we’ll be meeting near the concrete structure in the middle
of the park.

 

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Murrelets Nesting in East Hakki Ridge

CRFW Surveyor measures an ancient tree in East Hakki.

CRFW Surveyor measures an ancient doug fir in East Hakki.

Last week surveyors with Coast Range Forest Watch (CRFW) observed marbled murrelets, endangered seabirds that nest in coastal old growth, within the 788-acre East Hakki Ridge Parcel in the Elliott State Forest. East Hakki is a tract of forest recently auctioned by Oregon’s Department of State Lands for privatization.

The highest bid was submitted by Seneca Jones Timber Company of Eugene, Oregon. Seneca Jones has publicly stated that they intend to clear cut East Hakki. Marbled murrelets are federally protected under the Endangered Species Act, and any logging operations in occupied habitat would be illegal.

East Hakki Ridge is one of five parcels in the Elliott State Forest authorized for privatization by the Department of State Lands this past April. Several conservation groups are challenging the State’s sale of East Hakki in a lawsuit.

CRFW Marbled Murrelet Observer Kelsey Reavis: “As a citizen scientist and someone who spends time living near the Elliott State Forest, I understand the importance of these old growth forests that provide unique habitat for endangered species like the marbled murrelet. Privatization in this rare coastal ecosystem not only threatens these declining populations by removing critical environmental protections but it also denies the community access to recreation and education. It is in the state’s best interest to keep these lands public so they can be researched, enjoyed, and maintained for the good of all current and future Oregonians, both people and wildlife alike.”

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The World on Hakki Ridge Sale

Thomas Moriarity, The World

REEDSPORT — The forest floor, covered with broken tree branches, crackles beneath Max Emil’s feet as he weaves through the underbrush.

Traversing a densely-wooded region of the Elliott State Forest dubbed East Hakki Ridge, Emil said less than half of the area has ever been logged.

Just south of the Dean Creek Viewing Area near Reedsport, the 788-acre forest tract feels like a time capsule, packed with chest-high ferns and colossal Douglas firs.

A volunteer with Coast Range Forest Watch, a group that conducts marbled murrelet surveys in the Elliott, Emil said most of the forest is timber replanted after a fire in the 1800s.

 

This particular parcel was once part of the Siuslaw National Forest, ceded to the state in a 1913 land exchange.

“Compared to the rest of the coast, it’s pretty pristine,” he said, standing beneath Douglas firs and spruce he estimates to be more than 100 years old.

 

Emil and other activists are worried it might not be so pristine after its new owner gets hold of it.

On Monday, the Department of State Lands announced that Seneca Jones Timber was the only bidder for East Hakki Ridge, one of three parcels up for grabs in an auction authorized by the state land board.

The price — $1,895,00, only $75,000 over the state’s minimum bid requirement.

Roseburg Forest Products, through its subsidiary, Scott Timber Company, is scooping up the Benson Ridge and Adams Ridge One parcels for a total of $2,662,000.

The same day the winning bids were released to the media, Cascadia Wildlands — which had previously threatened to sue individual purchasers from logging the lands — filed suit in Lane County Circuit Court attempting to block the sale of East Hakki Ridge to Seneca Jones.

The Portland Audubon Society, the Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildland’s spokesman, Josh Laughlin, are joining the group as plaintiffs.

“Respondent has erroneously interpreted a provision of law,” their lawyers wrote. “A correct interpretation compels the withdrawal of the East Hakki Ridge parcel from sale.”

The plaintiffs are attempting to get the sale canceled under ORS 530.450, which bars the sale of the forest’s former national forest lands unless exchanged for land of equal value.

Near the heart of the controversy is the value of old growth timber found in the auctioned parcels as habitat for protected bird species — including the marbled murrelet.

In 2012, a federal judge handed down an injunction blocking logging of identified marbled murrelet habitat in the Elliott.

A year later, the state land board authorized the sale of the Adams Ridge, East Hakki Ridge and Benson Ridge parcels, citing the declining value of the state’s Common School Fund, fed by timber sales from the Elliott.

Under the state constitution, the forestry department is supposed to manage state forests in accordance with “sound techniques of land management.”

Looking out across a dense valley of firs and spruce trees, Emil says those words ring a bit hollow.

“Sound management is a pretty vague term,” he said.

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