Coast Range Forest Watch is a project of the League of Wilderness Defenders
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.
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.
As 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.
On 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.
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.”
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.
Marbled murrelet survey season is right around the corner. Lately, we’ve been doing a lot of hiking and mapping out our survey stations. Here is some of what we’ve seen so far:
A type of gooseberry, from the genus Ribes.
Thanks to everyone who came out to hike the proposed Soup Creek “variable retention regeneration harvest.” We found maple, red alder, tan oak, Western hemlock and, of course, some impressive Douglas fir, like the one in the photo above.
Many flowering plants are currently in bloom at Soup Creek, including lots of Western trillium, pictured above. We also spotted red-flowering currant, stream violet and a rare fairyslipper–Calypso bulbosa of the Orchid family.