Green Watch – December 2000

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Defenders of Wildlife praised the Clinton administration’s decision to expand its roadless initiative for national forests. Robert Dewey, vice president for government regulations and external affairs, hailed the expanded roadless plan as a “huge advancement” over the original proposal.

However, Dewey said the group will press the Clinton administration not to postpone preserving lands in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska for four years, as called for in the revised roadless plan.

“We will also work to see that strict limits are placed on so-called ‘stewardship’ logging which could become just a loophole for unnecessary logging,” he added.

Federal officials put the wild Atlantic salmon in eight Maine rivers on the list of endangered species. They are threatened by pen-raised salmon and other factors and are on the verge of extinction, according to federal officials.

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Maine Gov. Angus King and the state’s two U.S. senators objected. The decision was based on questionable science, said King, and could ruin Maine’s aquiculture and blueberry industries.

Sen. Olympia Snowe and Sen. Susan Collins issued a joint statement calling the government action heavy-handed and noting that Maine already has an extensive program in place to restore salmon populations. “All this listing guarantees is that money will be spent on the requirements of the Endangered Species Act and less money on actually restoring the salmon population,” they said.

Environmentalists are shifting their battle from the woods to the suburbs. For years they have conducted tree-sits and anti-logging protests. Now they are targeting “big box” retail stores in shopping centers.

Their goal is still the same: preserving rain forests and old-growth timber.

Last year, the Rainforest Action Network persuaded Home Depot to stop selling wood from endangered old-growth forests, and other retailers followed their lead. “The forest-activist movement had been targeting logging companies for years,” said Jennifer Krill, an old-growth campaigner for the Rainforest Action Network. “But all we were doing was shoving the logging companies around from one watershed to another. So we looked at where it was being sold, and Home Depot was the cream that rose to the top.”

Environmental activists were scheduled in late November to conduct a protest against Staples, the nation’s biggest office supply chain store. The protestors are trying to pressure Staples to replace stocks of virgin paper with more recycled paper products.

A federal judge ruled that a decision not to designate steelhead in southern Oregon and northern California as a threatened species was flawed and must be reversed.

The Klamath Mountain population of steelhead is the only steelhead fishery in Oregon that is not considered to be threatened or endangered. It extends from the Elk River near Port Orford on the Oregon coast to the Klamath and Trinity River drainages in Oregon and California.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston ruled that state and federal actions to head off putting the steelhead on the endangered species list by limiting fishing pressure were not sufficient to protect the fish. “To find voluntary and future actions sufficient to ameliorate the threat to the Klamath (steelhead population) was arbitrary and capricious, ” the judge wrote. Her ruling came in response to a lawsuit by Oregon and California conservation groups.

Her ruling was another blow to a 1997 salmon conservation plan by Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber. The plan sought to keep fisheries management in state hands through voluntary cooperative efforts to protect watersheds throughout the state.

Regional and national conservation groups — including the National Audubon Society and the Sierra Club — want the federal government to list the Cerulean warbler songbird a threatened species. The bird population has declined 70% in the past 33 years, according to the groups. The preferred habitat of the white-breasted songbird is large, unbroken forest lands.

“As an indicator of overall forest health, the Cerulean really points to an alarming problem with the decline of our intact, mature forest communities,” said Andrew George, director of the Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project in Asheville, N.C.

The request is significant because the Cerulean’s habitat range is so large — much of the eastern U.S. — and its decline is so dramatic, said Jeffrey Wells, director of bird conservation for the National Audubon Society.

The bird already is listed as endangered in Delaware and threatened in Wisconsin and Rhode Island. It is a “species of concern” in Ohio, Indiana, Kansas, and other states.

Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt signed one of the nation’s largest habitat conservation plans. The plan seeks to protect threatened species while allowing development in the fast-growing Las Vegas Valley. “This is the most advanced, complete habitat conservation plan in the West,” he said.

Under the 30 year plan, local officials may destroy plant and animal habitats but, in return, must relocate the endangered species and assure their protection and survival.

The plan covers 79 species, including the silver-haired bat and the Red Rock Canyon aster plant, and eventually could include more than 200 species.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reaffirmed the caribou as an endangered species. The agency denied a request from the Greater Bonners Ferry Chamber of Commerce in Idaho to remove the animal from the federal list of endangered species. The petition failed to show any scientific basis for the request, agency officials said.

“It’s definitely another setback in an area such as Boundary County that has been hit so hard by road closures and priorities set by things other than sensible forest management, ” said Bob Graham, a retired Forest Service firefighter and a member of the chamber.

The last count of woodland caribou in the Selkirk Mountains was 34. The animal was listed as endangered in 1984, when the population was between 25 and 30. The herd is the last remaining herd in the lower 48 states. Since 1984, the Fish and Wildlife Service has tried to boost the herd by introducing 103 caribou from Canada.

Those efforts have been a waste of money, said Pete Wilson, chairman of the chamber’s legislative committee. “They have spent $4 million, and that’s for 100 caribou,” he said, and most of the transplanted caribou died. “What do you say when they spend $4 million and kill off 60 caribou, and keep on doing it?” he asked.

Environmentalists have started a campaign to preserve a special wilderness area in southwest Alberta. Their strategy: asking large American businesses to halt buying wood from companies that log in the area.

The Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition has written letters to 11 large U.S. companies that sell lumber products, such as Home Depot, HomeBase and 84 Lumber. The coalition is asking them to phase out the use of wood products from the Castle Wilderness, which is near Waterton National Park.

“The coalition is engaging in this market campaign because the evidence clearly indicates that while the forests of the Castle are of national and international conservation value, chronic mismanagement by the Alberta government and over-harvesting by the forest industry are seriously threatening the integrity of these forests,” said Mike Sawyer, the coalition’s campaign coordinator. “Our objective is to eliminate all commercial logging from the Castle.”

The Castle-Crown coalition decided to exert pressure on the building supply companies after conferring with other environmentalists who organized a similar, successful effort. Home Depot and other companies earlier agreed to stop buying wood from endangered forests in response to activism by the Rainforest Action Network.

One of the next targets of the Rainforest Action Network apparently will be colleges and universities. The environmental group succeeded in getting Home Depot and other businesses to stop selling wood from endangered forests and also is targeting Staples, a large office supply chain.

The group also is targeting institutions of higher education, according to information posted on the Internet by Michael Brune, old growth forest campaigner. They will be pressured to phase out products from endangered forests and to phase in the use of 100% recycled and tree-free products. Brune has specifically targeted Boise Cascade Corp.

Two environmental groups say the U.S. is driving a highly lucrative trade in big-leafed mahogany. The trade threatens the world’s most biologically diverse Brazilian rain forests, according to a report from TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring program of the World Wildlife Fund and the World Conservation Union.

The U.S. accounts for 60% of the global mahogany trade, according to the groups. In 1998, the equivalent of about 57,000 big-leafed mahogany trees were harvested and shipped to the U.S. to supply a thriving business in mahogany furniture.

If history repeats itself, big-leafed mahogany will go the way of Caribbean mahogany, the groups contend. Caribbean mahogany is considered endangered and commercially exhausted. If big-leaf mahogany is similarly depleted, incentives for sustainable management of high value timber species will be lost, the groups argue, and the land will be converted to agriculture or grazing range.

Conservation groups proposed strict limits or an outright prohibition against logging along key streams and rivers covering 30% of prime state forests in Oregon just west of Portland. It was the first response by the groups to a plan by the state Department of Forestry to allow logging on 615,000 acres of Tillamook and Clatsop state forests.

Trees are reaching harvestable size in the two state forests. It has been 40-50 years since mostly Douglas firs were replanted following four devastating wildfires between 1933 and 1951.

The state Forestry Department’s plan struck a middle ground between those who favored preserving the lands and those who advocated logging. The agency’s plan would allow logging but at a much slower pace than normal.

Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman ordered a review of the Eagle timber sale in the Mount Hood National Forest in Oregon. The logging contract could be canceled if the review finds environmental problems, he said.

Conservationists have bitterly opposed the sale since Vanport Manufacturing won a $10.4 million contract to log 1,030 acres about five years ago. They believe Glickman’s order means the sale eventually will be canceled.

“This is really good news for us,” said Regna Meffitt of the Oregon Natural Resources Council. “It’s a huge step in the right direction.” The timber sale will not pass a careful environmental review, she predicted.

The review will focus particularly on “blowdown” logging sites — where trees that are supposed to be left standing to provide habitat for wildlife have been knocked down by wind. Opponents of the sale contend the amount of blowdown in the sites that have been logged shows that too many trees are being cut and that the remaining trees have little protection from the wind.

Conservationists say the logging would harm a nearby wilderness area and threaten water quality in a creek that flows into the Clackamas River, which supplies drinking water to the Portland area.

U.S. Forest Service officials have defended the timber sale, saying that it was designed to protect the environment and watershed.

U.S. Rep. Mark Udall and Environmental Protection Agency officials have joined a coalition of environmental groups objecting to a major U.S. Forest Service project in Colorado.

The intent of the landscape restoration project in the upper South Platte watershed is to reduce fire risk and protect watershed that is critical to the Denver area. Work on the project is scheduled to start next spring.

But Udall, the EPA, and environmental groups say they are worried about the impact on old growth, roadless areas and water quality. They want the Forest Service to a full environmental impact assessment, a process that could delay implementation of the plan for a year. Udall wants the Forest Service to limit the size of trees that may be cut and stay out of roadless areas.