First the Metolius. Now Crater Lake?

By Rob Klavins of Portland, Oregon. Rob is the Roadless Wildlands Advocate for Oregon Wild (formerly known as the Oregon Natural Resources Council.)

Oregonians are rightfully celebrating the legislature’s recent decision to protect one of our natural treasures – the unspoiled lands along the Metolius River. Meanwhile, just 100 miles to the south, on the doorstep of the crown jewel of Oregon, a Bush-era logging plan is threatening to destroy thousands of acres of pristine forests and recreation areas. Despite President Obama’s much more environmentally-friendly attitude, and what ought to be the greenest Congress in decades, a logging project targeting roadless wildlands on the doorsteps of Crater Lake National Park continues to roll forward. Oregon’s leaders need to start paying attention, step up, and do what they can to stop it. A few have, but others are notable by their silence.

The D-Bug Timber Sale is about as ugly as its name. The project area extends north from the border of Crater Lake National Park, extending 10 miles beyond Diamond Lake. East to west, it stretches from the edges of the Mt. Thielsen Wilderness to the backcountry around Mount Bailey.


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This one timber sale includes more logging in roadless areas than occurred across the entire country during the entire Bush administration. Adding insult to injury, it proposes to turn miles of hiking trails in the Cascade Recreation Area into logging roads, and the Umpqua National Forest is diverting federal stimulus dollars to help pay for it.

Oregon Wild strongly supports common-sense projects that appropriately address legitimate threats to health and human property, and a tiny portion of D-Bug does that. Thinning around Diamond Lake to protect cabins and structures makes sense. However, large-scale commercial logging in some of Oregon’s most pristine backcountry recreation areas does not.

Got a nail? I’ve got a hammer.

Trying to find the right tool to stop reckless developments near the Metolius was tricky. This shouldn’t be a problem with D-Bug. In 2001, then-President Bill Clinton enacted the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation rule, instructing the Forest Service that America’s remaining roadless wildlands should stay that way. Under the roadless rule, hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, rafting etc… are encouraged in our remaining roadless areas, as are projects to improve wildlife habitat and address legitimate fire risks. However, these areas were put off-limits to commercial logging, mining, and other destructive development.

Unfortunately, the Bush administration spent 8 years trying to repeal the 2001 Roadless Rule, despite the enormous support it enjoys from businesses in the outdoor recreation industry, scientists, conservationists, sportsmen, economists, religious leaders, and elected leaders across the country. Here in Oregon this year, the Rule has received support from Governor Kulongoski, former (and perhaps future) Governor Kitzhaber, Bill Bradbury, Les AuCoin, John Kroger, and many, many more.

Forest Follies

As with so many other issues, when it came to roadless policy, the administration inherited a mess. During the campaign, President Obama said he would “be proud to support and defend [the Rule]”. On May 28th, he took a major step by issuing an interim directive providing the Secretary of Agriculture final decision-making authority over all roadless projects. The goal of the directive was to “provide consistency and clarity that will help our National Forests until a long-term roadless policy reflecting President Obama’s commitment is developed”. Many cheered the news and dubbed it a “roadless timeout”.

This was wishful thinking. Just last week, the Secretary approved a 381-acre roadless clearcut in America’s largest rainforest. Unfortunately, perhaps emboldened by mixed signals from the administration, Umpqua National Forest Manager Clifford Dils isn’t taking the hint, and continues to spend scarce federal tax dollars to advance his D-Bug sale by pointing to “uncertainty” over whether or not roadless areas will be protected in the future.

This isn’t a jobs vs. the environment debate. Roadless area protection has long enjoyed enormous support from the outdoor recreation industry. In January, a coalition of over 90 outdoor recreation businesses, including well-known brands like JanSport, Kelty, Filson, Sierra Designs, Montrail, Scott Fly Rods, and Cascade Designs, sent a letter to Obama urging him to support the 2001 Roadless Rule. They’ve since been joined by dozens more. Few Americans enjoy hiking through clear cuts or fishing in a river buried by a mudslide. Protecting our remaining pristine roadless areas is one way to preserve both Oregon’s tourism and recreation economy and our quality of life.

Where does Oregon fit in?

Oregon’s outdoor businesses, elected officials, and citizens have long led the charge in trying to protect roadless wild areas. Clinton’s 2001 Roadless Rule came out of the most extensive public involvement process in federal rule-making history. On a per-capita basis, Oregonians submitted more public comment than any other state (over 90% were in favor). In 2006, Governor Kulongoski joined with state leaders in Washington, California, and New Mexico to sue the Bush administration to stop its repeal of the Rule. Also in 2006, Representatives Blumenauer, DeFazio, Hooley, and Wu cosponsored legislation to make the Roadless Rule permanent. Oregon businesses, from Keen Footwear to Clackacraft drift boats, also support protection for roadless areas.

The plan to log on the doorstep of Crater Lake has made it frighteningly clear how important it is that protection for our remaining pristine roadless wildlands not be subject to the whim of changing administrations. As we speak, Representatives and Senators are signing on to co-sponsor the Roadless Area Conservation Act of 2009. So far, Senator Merkley and Congressmen Blumenauer, DeFazio, and Wu have stepped up and joined nearly 100 other conservation champions in doing so.

When the Metolius was threatened by shortsighted development interests, pressure was brought to bear on our leaders in Salem, and ultimately they did the right thing. Now that wildlands around Crater Lake are being threatened, Oregon’s Congressional leaders must do the same.

As chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests, Ron Wyden is in the perfect position to help protect the wildlands around Crater Lake, and roadless areas across the country. Put simply, his opinion matters when it comes to forest issues. A good first step would be taking a public position against logging pristine roadless areas around Crater Lake. By doing so he can help put the brakes on the project.

Senator Wyden should join with Senator Cantwell, Senator Merkley, and over a dozen other Senators and support legislation to permanently protect America’s remaining unspoiled roadless areas. Click below to find out how you can join with hundreds of other Oregonians urging Senator Wyden to support roadless area protection.

To learn more about D-Bug & the Roadless Rule go to OregonWild.org.

Update: If a Bend company gets its way, visitors to Crater Lake National Park might soon be serenaded with the sounds of helicopters thumping overhead and chainsaws buzzing to the north. Commercial interests have proposed to fly visitors over the park for a fee of $149 for half an hour. The roadless areas threatened by D-Bug and much of the backcountry within the the park deserve Wilderness protection. Oregon Wild has been recommending this since the late 70's. Perhaps its time to stop threats like this once and for all.

Comments

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
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    Rob, I suggest the first step would be finding 2 or more Oregon elected legislators who have family owned property in the area. That would be the best step to begin locking the sale up from the loggers and developers.

  • Croucier (unverified)
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    So Obama has kind of done the right thing here by calling for a time out on logging projects in roadless areas. But the Forest Service is still moving forward with these bad projects. Sounds like Congress should step in and protect this area.

    Good to see most of Oregon's Ds supporting protection for roadless areas...why doesn't Wyden support this? J

  • Jason (unverified)
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    I'd completely support this.

  • Clackamas (unverified)
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    Nothing to do with locking anyone out of anything, these are publicly owned lands and ought to be managed for the long-term. These roadless areas have survived the 20th century and today remain pristine, and they ought to stay that way. Particularly given their proximity to Crater Lake, Mount Thielson, and Mount Bailey.

    Senator Wyden has been an outspoken champion on Wilderness protection. Seems like a perfect opportunity for him to step up with a Wilderness plan that protects Crater Lake National Park from noisy helicopter tours, while protecting the surrounding forests from misguided logging plans.

  • evil is evil (unverified)
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    You can whine and cry but until you are willing to confront the evil in the street in front of their homes, you won't get jack squat.

    Find out who owns this D-bug outfit, who it's investors are and then go to one of the hot sites that will provide you with not only their home and office listed and unlisted numbers, but a google map location, and the names and numbers of their close numbers.

    Nice don't cut it. I did the demos against the war in the 1960s and got a FBI file and a free trip to Vietnam out of it.

    I cried when I saw that the assholes had clearcut a stretch of timber alongside the previously untouched and now ruined pristine forest on the Umpqua River highway.

    I called everyone that I knew in California when some greenmailer started cutting down as many of the northern California Redwoods as he could, to force the state to pay him 10 or 20 times what he paid for it.

    Go to their homes, lobby their neighbors about what evil people live in the neighborhood. Mug their children for their lunch money. I don't care but get this obscene thing stopped.

  • Oregon Trail Blazer (unverified)
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    The beautiful Umpqua National Forest and its rare spotted owls are under assault. In the D-Bug Project the government bureaucrats changed the definition of "suitable habitat" for the spotted owl in order to hide the fact that they are logging more than 2,000 acres of old forests.

    Now the same bad actors on the Umpqua Forest are working on a new Cow Creek Project that will log 6,000 acres of spotted owl habitat. All based on fire fear-mongering. These old forests can take care of themselves!

    It's not just about owls. They are just an "indicator species" that tell us we've logged too much and protected too little. These old growth forests provide not just habitat for endangered birds, but also salmon habitat, clean drinking water, recreation, and they keep carbon out of the atmosphere which helps maintain a livable climate.

    Still looking for leadership in Washington...

  • wondering (unverified)
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    Rob,

    despite being hailed by environmentalists like Oregon Wild, the Clinton roadless rule unfortunately contained a loophole allowing for roadless area logging in the name of forest health and reducing fire risk. Is that the loophole the Umpqua National Forest is using for D-Bug?

    From the Roadless Area Final Rule, adopted Jan. 12, 2001, activities allowed in roadless areas includes:

    'Forest health treatments for the purposes of improving threatened, endangered, proposed, or sensitive species habitat or maintaining or restoring the characteristics of ecosystem composition and structure, such as reducing the risk of uncharacteristic wildfire effects, will be allowed where access can be gained through existing roads or by equipment not requiring roads.'

    Given this, the logging wouldn't necessarily be prohibited if it was being done to reduce fire risk, but building new roads would be. Emotional arguments aside, how are they justifying the roadbuilding?

    Regardless, the notion that the Forest Service would be using stimulus dollars to build (or rebuild) roads into roadless areas is a travesty.

  • Rob Klavins (unverified)
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    It's true. The Roadless Rule's protections fall short of the gold standard of Wilderness protections.

    (As an aside, despite Oregon’s green reputation we lag behind our neighbors with only 4% of our state protected as Wilderness. California has protected 15% of the state, and the progressive bastion of Idaho has protected 8%.)

    Taken as a whole, I’d say the Rule has worked. Despite 8 years of efforts to undermine it, nationally, only 7 miles of roads and 535 acres have been logged in roadless areas since 2001. But 8 years of battling over the Rule has left a mess.

    Folks like Clifford Dils in the Umpqua National Forest are using that fact to exploit common sense exceptions built into the rule to justify destructive projects like this. The Oregon Wild Dbug website has some information about this: check out the links at the bottom.

    Dils has essentially said "we need to log the forest to save it. Some day", the logic goes, "pine beetles might come in and cause 'unnatural' conditions. If we cut down the trees, there will be less of them for the beetles to kill.

    There are lots of places where restoration thinning makes sense, and quite frankly, is needed. This isn’t one of them. Check out these pictures - logging for forest health here is like proposing a health care plan that directs limited resources towards healthy young olympic athletes.

    In any case, yes, the Roadless Rule does include some common-sense exceptions. That’s part of why it was so popular.

    The Rule protects 58.5 million acres (including about 2 million in Oregon) from commercial logging and road-building. Protecting 58.5 million acres as Wilderness would have been a pretty heavy lift.

    Roadless protections on the other hand are a no-brainer. That’s why it’s so disappointing that some of our leaders haven’t stepped up to make them permanent.

  • Paul (unverified)
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    I think it would be wise to completely ban federal logging, that way more people in rural Oregon can be without a job. Although Oregon has an abundant resource, I think we should let Canada, Russia and other states harvest trees and provide jobs to their citizens...There is no way you can sustainably harvest trees, they don't just grow back you know. There's also no way you can balance protecting Oregon's treasures while practicing sound and sustainable forest management. It's a much better approach to just ban logging completely! If you ask me, people who make their living off the land are bastards anyways and shouldn't have jobs to support their pathetic lifestyles. Keep the trees in Oregon and the jobs out!

  • OregonScot (unverified)
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    Paul..but we love Christmas Tree farms!

    I love Oregons beauty as much as the next guy but folks rural Oregon is struggling .The housing market will do better and there are ways to harvest the timber without clear cutting. We need a proper balance.

  • Rob Klavins (unverified)
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    Hey Paul, I have to admit, I'm a fan of the occasional tidbit of insightful witty sarcasm.

    Divisiveness, cynicism, and the tired old environment vs. the economy debate...not so much.

    Oregon does have a model of sustainable forestry in the Siuslaw National Forest. That forest hasn't had a timber sale appealed since 1997, and they consistently produce as much timber as any other National Forest in western Oregon.

    It seems reasonable to say that there are some places in Oregon where commercial logging and road-building just aren't appropriate & I'm not alone in thinking the pristine backcountry around Crater Lake is one of those places.

    I'm also not ashamed that I think Crater Lake is valuable as more than an economic resource. Even in those terms, Crater Lake is a lot more valuable as it is - not surrounded by more clearcuts, asphalt, and buzzing helicopters.

    Our National Forests already have more than twice as many roads as the entire US Highway System and face a maintenance backlog measured in the tens of billions of dollars. Oregon alone has enough roads to drive right past the moon.

    Especially in today's economic climate, I don't think it makes sense to be spending our resources to build more roads to nowhere at taxpayer expense. Especially when those roads are being used to destroy some of our last most pristine backcountry.

    Give the article a read.

  • SCB (unverified)
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    Ironically, the major objection I have to these sorts of protection schemes played out in another similar area within hours of the post on Crater Lake.

    Oregon has several volcanic craters. Crater Lake isn’t the largest by a long shot. The one closest to Crater Lake is the Newberry Crater east of LaPine. On Thursday evening, hours after this post, what appears to be a lightening caused fire was found on the northwest slope of the Newberry Crater in an area that has taken some insect damage. It initially went to 10 acres, but they were about to get four 20-person crews in, and as of the last news report I have heard, they have a line around the fire at 24 acres. But the Newberry Crater National Volcanic area is threatened by this fire. – Just like a fire on the slopes of the crater at the lake would.

    For several years now, we have had annual fires – big fires – in the Santiam Pass area. This year’s fire is close by on Black Butte. In every case, these fires are made worse by a lack of proper forestry management. Insect kill trees were just left, adding to the fuel load. Heavy loads of otherwise dead trees and brush were not dealt with. Black Butte Ranch has now been twice threatened with destruction, and the nearby town of Sisters had some suburban areas threatened.

    Doubly ironic, the Metolius area is just around the corner of Black Butte from where this year’s fire has been going on.

    Over-protecting an area can really damage an area.

    I for one really like Crater Lake. I’d sure hate to have it destroyed by misdirected caring. When I drive through the Santiam Pass, as I do on average six times a year, I see an area damaged in parts for a generation, and in parts forever, due to poor forestry management practices – triggered not by science, but by the belief that participating in the management of a forest is bad for the forest. Leaving things alone isn’t always a good idea.

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