This year, threats to Oregon’s special places are coming from all sides. At the federal level, the Trump administration has unleashed a barrage of attacks against public lands and wildlife.
While attempting to dismantle the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act, Trump and his industry cronies appointed within the agencies have also targeted monument designations and the ability of states to protect clean water.
Trump makes an easy target when it comes to his twisted environmental agenda; the danger he poses to Oregon’s forests, waters, and wildlife is very real. But often the most insidious threats to public lands and clean water come from our own state agencies and local decision-makers who we expect much better from.
Regardless of who poses the threat, Oregon Wild and our allies are always ready to defend the places we love from short-sighted plans that would damage or destroy them.
Here are 2019’s Most Endangered Places in Oregon. Click on each place below to find out more about each threat and ways you can take action:
1., 2., and 3. North Coast Forest Watersheds
- Places: Fall Creek, Short Creek, Jetty Creek - to residents of communities like Arch Cape, Oceanside, and Rockaway Beach, these streams are vital for safe drinking water. Historically, these watersheds were covered with towering old-growth fir, cedar, and spruce forests that captured and slowed winter floods and buffered summer droughts. They also provided habitat for wildlife and stored vast amounts of carbon. But over the last century, almost all of Oregon's coastal old-growth has been clearcut.
- Threat: Today, most watersheds on the Oregon Coast are owned by industrial logging corporations, or are part of the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests. Their management is governed by Oregon's woefully outdated Forest Practices Act (OFPA), a law that has not been significantly updated since the 1970s. Under OFPA, clearcutting is the norm and streams that provide drinking water are often smothered by mud and runoff. Worse, families and wildlife are frequently exposed to the herbicides and pesticides logging operators spray from the air onto these clear-cuts under some of the weakest standards in the country.
And the problem is getting worse - 85% of the Jetty Creek watershed was clearcut since the year 2000 and local communities are still fighting hard to prevent further clearcutting in the watershed, with new corporate owners saying they plan to soon cut even more. Short Creek, the drinking water source for the rural community of Oceanside, has mostly escaped industrial clearcutting until recently when Stimson Lumber announced plans for large-scale clearcutting in this very small drinking watershed.
Even on state forest land where the public might expect better protections, the Norriston Heights Timber Sale threatens clear-cuts in community drinking watersheds. These places are just a few examples of the pervasive problems our forest waters face from industrial logging - problems that stretch from the coast to the Gorge, to Salem and beyond.
- Solution: The Oregon Forest Practices Act should be modernized to make the protection of rivers, streams, and other forest waters a primary feature of the state’s forest management laws. It should prohibit clearcutting within 100 feet of streams that provide drinking water and are home to native fish, and 50 feet of smaller streams. It should also prohibit the aerial spraying of pesticides within 500 feet of all forest waters as well as dwellings and schools. Oregon Wild is working with front-line communities on the coast, in the Coast Range, and all across Oregon who are feeling the brunt of industrial forestry. We’re working to highlight the shortcomings of existing law with legislators and the Board of Forestry but the timber industry’s grip on the halls of power is firm. Only through a sustained, grassroots effort will Oregon’s logging laws move into the 21st century and adequately protect people, wildlife, and our climate.
- Take Action: Find out more at http://www.oregonforestvoices.org/.
- Places: The Klamath, the Rogue, the Umpqua – these are among Oregon’s most beloved waterways. They sustain valuable salmon and steelhead runs, provide opportunities for whitewater rafting, and bolster Oregon’s important outdoor recreation economy. They are home to iconic old-growth forests that surround their banks and the wildlife that abound in the canopy. These rivers are among the crown jewels of Oregon’s public lands.
- Threat: These rivers are all at risk from the Pacific Connector Pipeline, a proposed 229-mile-long fracked gas pipeline that would stretch from Malin, OR (near Klamath Falls) to Coos Bay. It would result in a permanent 100-foot-wide clearcut that would scar thousands of acres of public lands in order to supply the Jordan Cove LNG (liquefied natural gas) export terminal to benefit the Canadian energy corporation Pembina. The pipeline route would degrade more than 485 rivers, streams, and wetlands. Between the carbon lost to clearcutting and that emitted from the burning of fracked gas, the pipeline would have a devastating impact on our climate.
- Solution: The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the State of Oregon should deny Pembina the permits necessary to build this environmentally devastating project. The Pacific Connector Pipeline and associated Jordon Cove project have a long and troubled history, and have already been shelved three times. Given its terrible impacts on rivers like the Klamath, Umpqua, and Rogue, and all of the values they sustain, this project is absolutely not in the public’s interest.
- Take Action: Find out more at https://www.nolngexports.org/.
- Place: The Mount Hood National Forest is one of the most beloved recreational areas found anywhere on America’s public lands. On any summer weekend, its trailheads, lakes, and rivers are packed with families seeking to enjoy its scenic beauty and to escape the pressures of modern life. In winter, it draws similar crowds to its developed ski areas and backcountry trails. And while hikers, climbers, kayakers, skiers and others flock to the area, its roadless backcountry areas provide vital habitat for countless species – from coho salmon to gray wolves.
- Threat: Despite all of the love for this unique National Forest, Mount Hood faces a myriad of threats. The Trump administration and the Forest Service are pushing controversial logging projects like the Crystal Clear Timber Sale that endanger both wildlife and scenic values while ignoring the urgent need to better maintain recreational trails and facilities. Climate change is a looming threat to the mountain’s glaciers, rivers, and winter recreation. And while the number of people visiting the forest has increased by more than 30% in the last five years, the Forest Service continues to emphasize exploitation of the forest over recreation.
- Solution: Federal legislation is needed to provide a 100-year-vision for the management of the Mount Hood National Forest. It should include Wilderness and Wild & Scenic River protection for special places like Boulder Lake and Tamanawas Falls, as well as an over-arching National Recreation Area designation for the region’s most popular areas. Such a designation should direct the Forest Service to prioritize protection overexploitation in order to manage for recreational values, preserve clean water, safeguard wildlife, and store carbon in old-growth forests rather than log, mine, and over-develop this natural wonder.
- Take Action: Find out more at http://oregonwild.org/wilderness/mount-hood-wilderness.
- Place: Located in the Wallowa Mountains in the northeast corner of Oregon, the Lostine River is one of the most beautiful waterways in the entire state. It originates at Minam Lake, inside the spectacular Eagle Cap Wilderness, flowing through a stunning canyon filled with old-growth forests before joining the Wallowa River some 31 miles downstream. The Lostine is a popular jumping off point for backpackers, hunters, and others exploring the Eagle Cap, and its watershed provides a home for countless species of wildlife, including wolverine and gray wolves. The Lostine is also part of the Nez Perce homeland and contains numerous historic and cultural sites.
- Threat: The Lostine is unfortunately located in Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, where managers have a long history of promoting logging, grazing, mining, and other exploitation over conservation. Worse, the forest within the 11-mile Wild & Scenic section of the river contains old-growth white fir, Douglas fir, and other species coveted by the local timber industry. In 2017, the agency moved a logging project forward within the Wild & Scenic corridor. While they claimed it would reduce fire risk, the sale would log four million board feet of forest, much of it old-growth, with just 7% of the project area designed to protect homes or structures from fire.
- Solution: The Forest Service should withdraw the Lostine logging project and go back to the drawing board. There are legitimate reasons to do some thinning in the area, mostly focused around homes and roads that provide access and egress routes in the event of a fire. However, the Lostine shouldn’t be subjected to massive logging projects designed to enrich logging corporations, or to allow Forest Service managers to curry favor with anti-environmental Trump appointees.
- Take Action: Find out more at http://oregonwild.org/forests/forest-protection-and-restoration/lostine-corridor-faq.
- Place: Located in the Coast Range east of Coos Bay, the 80,000-acre Elliott State Forest is unique among Oregon’s state-owned public lands in that it still contains large stands of trees over a century old. Because of the rarity of these forests along our coast, the Elliott today contains some of the most important wildlife habitat found anywhere in Oregon. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates that 22% of all wild coastal coho salmon originate in rivers that flow through the Elliott, while the forest sustains other imperiled species including northern spotted owls and marbled murrelets.
- Threat: After the Oregon State Land Board abandoned a terrible plan to sell off and privatize the Elliott in 2017, it launched another process to try and transfer it to new owners. This time, it appeared that politicians on the land board favored giving it to Oregon State University (OSU), to be managed as a “research forest,” while assuring the public that its old growth would be protected. That plan has come under intense scrutiny in recent months after OSU leaders were caught aggressively clearcutting old growth in the McDonaldDunn Research Forest – including some trees over 400 years old.
- Solution: Because of its deep ties to logging corporations and long history of promoting unsustainable clearcutting, OSU may not be a suitable owner for the Elliott. Governor Kate Brown, State Treasurer Tobias Read, and Secretary of State Bev Clarno should halt any further consideration of transferring the Elliott to OSU, unless and until the University can prove it has an enforceable plan to protect old forests and wildlife. Given their recent track record, it is wise for the Land Board to focus on keeping the Elliott in public ownership through more suitable, conservation-focused entities like Oregon State Parks. The Elliott should be preserved as legacy for future generations and OSU leaders have proven time and again that they cannot be trusted to do so.
- Take Action: Find out more at http://oregonwild.org/forests/elliott-state-forest.
- Place: A veritable Noah’s Ark of native species, the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument is the first monument protected to preserve biological diversity where three great eco-regions meet in southern Oregon. The 112,000- acre monument is home to diverse conifer forests, oak woodlands, expansive meadows, and more than 300 species of birds, mammals, and amphibians – many of which can be found nowhere else on Earth. First protected in 2000 by President Bill Clinton and later added to by the Obama administration, the landscape is justifiably recognized as a national treasure.
- Threat: From the moment Barack Obama signed a presidential proclamation expanding the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument, the newly protected acres have been under siege. An array of pro-logging, pro-mining, pro-grazing interests have seized any opportunity to undermine one of President Obama’s signature environmental accomplishments in Oregon. Currently, the monument expansion is under attack in three federal court cases. Two of the lawsuits were brought by the logging industry – one by the Eugene-based Murphy Timber Company and the other by industry lobby group the American Forest Resource Council. They argue that certain lands protected by the monument proclamation must be logged under an obscure 1937 law. The third case is perhaps more insidious. The Association of O&C Counties – an unaccountable consortium of Oregon counties – is using county taxpayer dollars to undo monument protections to increase public lands logging.
- Solution: Oregon Wild and our partners – including local champion Soda Mountain Wilderness Council – are defending the monument in court. We’ve won an early ruling in one case and hope it’s a sign of more good news to come. We’ve also mobilized public opposition to early Trump administration ‘reviews’ of recent monument proclamations to undo protections (thus far, Cascade Siskiyou has been spared the fate that befell two Utah monuments – Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante – where protections we slashed). Long term, the monument proclamations should stand and the most remote and intact landscapes within the monument should be protected as Wilderness.
- Take Action: Find out more at http://oregonwild.org/sites/default/files/pdf-files/csnm_factsheet.pdf.
- Place: The Wild Rogue is one of Oregon’s most pristine, scenic, and rugged landscapes. Located in southern Oregon and nestled in the Siskiyou Mountain Range, this area is home to the famous Rogue River – one of the original Wild & Scenic Rivers designated in 1968. Also one of the state’s premier recreation destinations, it attracts tens of thousands of visitors every year and contributes millions of dollars to the local economy. The Wild Rogue provides important salmon and steelhead spawning and rearing habitat, providing the backbone for one of Oregon’s most important sport and commercial fisheries.
- Threat: The John Dingell Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act that passed Congress and was signed by the President in March 2019 almost brought permanent protections to the Wild Rogue. At the last minute, Rep. Greg Walden worked behind the scenes to have the Wild Rogue Wilderness removed from the Oregon Wildlands Act portion of the broader public lands package. Today, the timber industry and their allies in southern Oregon county commissions are using the fear of fire to once again oppose protections for this public lands gem. Timber industry front group “Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities” recently sent out a misleading mailer to Josephine County residents claiming that new protections for the Rogue would make fires worse. Worse yet, Curry County Commissioner Court Boice called for logging in the riparian area right next to the river under the guise of stopping all wildfire. Logging this forest watershed is no way to treat our most iconic salmon and recreation river.
- Solution: Permanently protecting 60,000 additional acres in the heart of the Wild Rogue is the only way to guarantee protections for ancient forests, wild salmon, and world-class recreation in the Rogue Canyon. Luckily, Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley introduced the Oregon Recreation Enhancement Act in May 2019 and have pledged to make it a top priority in the coming months. Rep. Peter DeFazio has championed the Wild Rogue in the past and we look forward to an introduction of a companion House bill in the near future.
- Take Action: Find out more at http://oregonwild.org/wilderness/wild-rogue-wilderness.
- Places: The U.S. Forest Service isn’t the only manager of public forests in our state. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is responsible for more than two and a half million acres of public land in western Oregon. While much of this has been heavily logged in the past, nearly one million acres of intact, ancient forests remain on these lands. These low-elevation forests are critical connecting blocks to the largely mountainous National Forests in Oregon, and are some of the most productive forest regions in the world. These forests are also extremely diverse, with a variety of species found on the slopes of three distinct mountain ranges: The Siskiyous, the Coast Range, and the Cascades.
- Threat: Dating back to the first months of the George W. Bush administration, these forests have been under attack. Oregon Wild and partners beat back most proposals aimed at ramping up logging and undermining ancient forest and riparian protections on these backyard forests, but in 2016 things changed. That year, the BLM approved a new management paradigm that effectively removed O&C forests from the framework of the Northwest Forest Plan. The new BLM plan eviscerated existing protections for riparian areas and increased logging targets. Now the BLM is beginning to roll out timber sales under the new plan and the results are not pretty. The new logging projects drastically increase the amount of “regeneration harvest” (that’s code for clearcutting) proposed for our forests. Some of these proposed timber sales are close to communities in places beloved for recreation.
- Solution: In the short term, Oregon Wild and partners are fighting each and every timber sale that puts wildlife, clean water, recreation, and the climate at risk. We’ve already taken BLM to court over the Pedal Power Timber Sale in the Thurston Hills area of Springfield. In the long run, Oregon’s old-growth and backyard forests deserve stronger administrative and Congressional protections. Decades of research and experience have shown that our lowelevation forests provide so much for humans and wildlife alike. These forests are critical wildlife connectivity corridors in a landscape with ever more development and human pressure. Alongside the local habitat value, we know even more today about how essential these forests are in absorbing carbon pollution and helping to solve the climate crisis.
- Take Action: Find out more at http://oregonwild.org/forests/forest-protection-and-restoration/backyard-forests.