Standing up for the Ochoco Mountains, Again

Black Mountain Project Area in the Ochoco National Forest by Jamie Dawson

The Ochoco Mountains are an incredible place, not just for people seeking quiet recreation, but as a refuge for elk and their young. It’s a place where you can still find big, yellow-bellied ponderosa pines that have escaped the chainsaw, and plentiful trout in the North Fork Crooked River and its tributaries. Unfortunately, it’s also a place where the Forest Service has repeatedly tried to undermine those values. And so, we’ve had to take them to court.

To be honest, this is the type of lawsuit I was hoping that we’d never have to file again. It was only a few years ago that we defeated the Summit Trail off-highway vehicle system that threatened elk calving habitat and sensitive riparian areas. Though it took going to court, it seemed like the Ochoco N.F. had finally gotten the message that these areas were too valuable to be tampered with. The Black Mountain project proved me wrong. 

Though going to court is perhaps the least favorite part of my job, it’s where we ended up - though not for lack of trying beforehand. We’d been in conversation with the Forest Service about this project since 2015, and despite multiple attempts by multiple groups to find common ground, we ended up needing to take the National Forest to court to get them to follow the law.

And we won! (Again…) 

Yesterday, Central Oregon LandWatch and Oregon Wild reached a settlement with the Ochoco National Forest to exclude sensitive habitat in 40 units of a proposed logging project in the Ochoco Mountains.  Many folks came to the table, and for their time and efforts, we are supremely grateful. The Black Mountain project is already underway, but at least now it will spare the most important and sensitive fish and wildlife habitat in the area. We’d like to thank Central Oregon Landwatch and the CRAG Law Center for being partners in this effort, and the members who make our work possible. 

While this is a small victory on one project, we still recognize that a longer-term vision and stronger legislative protections are needed to protect the things that truly make this landscape special. 

Photo Credits
Jamie Dawson