June 2017 Conservation Column

By Pepper Trail

The torrent of terrible environmental actions out of the Trump Administration continues, with almost daily assaults on climate change science, public land stewardship, and pollution regulations. In this column, we will focus on only one piece of bad news – Trump’s attack on national monuments. But to prevent the hopelessness that is all too easy to feel these days, I’ll end with some good news on Oregon’s Elliott State Forest.

National Monuments Under Threat – Including the Cascade-Siskiyou 

On April 26, President Trump issued Executive Order 13792, directing the Secretary of the Interior “to conduct a review of all Presidential designations or expansions of designations under the Antiquities Act made since January 1, 1996, where the designation covers more than 100,000 acres, where the designation after expansion covers more than 100,000 acres, or where the Secretary determines that the designation or expansion was made without adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders…” This Order includes the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, which covers approximately 113,000 acres after the expansion declared by President Obama on January 12, 2017. Also included were Craters of the Moon in Idaho, Hanford Reach in Washing- ton, Giant Sequoia in California, and Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears in Utah.

Let there be no question: this Executive Order aims to roll back the Antiquities Act and strip protections from these precious places. In the case of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, the threats include logging and increased off-road vehicle activity. The move could open other monuments to oil and gas drilling, uranium and coal mining, tar sands extraction, fishing and other industrial dangers. It is unprecedented attack on our national parks, public lands and oceans, a blatant giveaway to timber, oil, and mining interests, and another brazen attempt to undermine our bedrock environmental laws.

National parks and public lands and waters help define who we are as a nation. Attempts to dismantle national monuments are an attack on our nation’s historical, cultural and natural heritage. Please stand strong against President Trump’s anti-environment assault and defend national monument protections for Cascade-Siskiyou and all of our threatened national monuments.

The public comment period on National Monument review opened on May 12 and ends July 10. PLEASE CONTACT INTERIOR SECRETARY RYAN ZINKE & TELL HIM:
• Do NOT revoke Cascade-Siskiyou or any other National Monument designations.
• Do NOT reduce any National Monument boundaries.

• Do NOT reduce any National Monument protections.

To submit comments over the web, go here and enter “DOI-2017-002″in the “Search” bar and click “Search.”

To send comments by snail mail, write a comment letter to:

Secretary Ryan Zinke – Monument Review, MS-1530
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240.
Good News About the Elliott State Forest (from the Oregonian)

The Elliott State Forest, the 82,500-acre Coast Range parcel the state nearly sold to a timber company, will stay in public ownership, bringing an end to Oregon’s years-long flirtation with divesting the land.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, Secretary of State Dennis Richardson and state Treasurer Tobias Read voted in May to halt the sale, pulling the remote forest – home to wild salmon, Spotted Owls, and Marbled Murrelets – back from the brink of a plan that was wildly unpopular with hunters, anglers and environmental groups.

Read and Richardson’s earlier proposal would have sold the forest for $221 million to Lone Rock Timber Management, which bid in conjunction with Native American tribes and The Conservation Fund. The state would’ve received an assurance that half of the forest would be kept open to public access.

The potential divestiture had put Oregon at the forefront of a nationwide debate over publicly owned land, leaving a Democrat-controlled state positioned to do something that some Republicans, including President Donald Trump’s interior secretary, have rejected.

The sale had been driven by the archaic system by which Oregon holds the state forest. The state is constitutionally required to use revenue from logging the land to benefit schools. But logging was curtailed by environmental lawsuits after the state in 2011 tried to nearly double the amount of clear-cutting allowed each year.

The vote was a major win for Brown, who successfully fought back a February attempt to sell the land. Her plan would use $100 million in taxpayer-funded bonds to end the state’s obligation to earn money for schools from the forest’s old growth trees, riparian areas and steep slopes.

Under Brown’s proposal, decisions about the rest of the land would be entrusted to a habitat conservation plan, a blueprint that would dictate where logging could occur and where habitat for threatened species like the marbled murrelet and northern spotted owl would be protected. It would need federal approval, something that federal agencies withheld the last time Oregon tried to draft such a plan for the Elliott.

Huge questions about the forest in Coos and Douglas counties remain unanswered. Chief among them: Which agency will manage the land, what role logging and recreation will play in its future and how many acres of the forest will be protected with a proposed $100 million investment from state taxpayers.

Still, a piece of good news, and these days that is cause for celebration indeed.