Pacific Northwest

Protecting ~1 Million Acres At-Risk in the Pacific Northwest

For decades, the Pacific Northwest has been ground zero for battles over logging old-growth forests that reached a zenith with the federal listing of the Northern Spotted Owl as “threatened” in 1990.

Protections afforded by the Endangered Species Act and other laws and regulations ushered in game-changing forest management policies and the birth of the landmark Northwest Forest Plan that lowered logging levels by 80 percent on ~25 million acres of federal lands from Washington’s Olympic Peninsula to California’s Coast Redwoods. In 2014, Geos Institute celebrated the twenty-year anniversary of the plan hailing it as a global model for ecosystem management and biodiversity conservation. But the plan would have collapsed in the Bush-administration years if not for efforts by Geos Institute and our partners.

In 2008, we were part of a team of scientists that exposed political interference in the Endangered Species Act uncovered during our participation on the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s spotted owl recovery team. Our work was featured in breaking news stories from CNN to the Jim Lehr News Hour. When President Obama took office in 2008, he overturned the Bush administration’s efforts to rollback old-growth forest protections, citing political interference and scientific integrity issues that we worked to expose. And while old-growth logging on federal lands in the region is now at historical lows, the threats to overturn the plan are ongoing and have become more localized to ~2.5 million acres of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands in western Oregon undergoing forest plan revisions.

Facing mounting pressures from the timber industry (lawsuits) and from the so-called 18 O&C counties in western Oregon in search of tax revenues from federal logging receipts, Senator Ron Wyden and Congressman Peter DeFazio each introduced legislation that would increase levels on BLM lands, moving away from some of the key protections of the Northwest Forest Plan.

Scientists speak out on behalf of the Northwest Forest Plan

The Northwest Forest Plan is considered a global model for ecosystem management and biodiversity conservation on 24.5 million acres of federal lands from California to Washington (mainly west of the crest of the Cascade Mountains). Since the plan's inception in 1993, forest ecosystems have been recovering from unsustainable logging, streams are improving, and atmospheric carbon is being stored in forests as they mature. This landmark plan is up for renewal in 2017 and a science synthesis is being conducted by the Forest Service as a pre-requisite. Scientists have called on the Forest Service to expand protections afforded to forest ecosystems and imperiled species as a means of preparing for unprecedented climate impacts and ongoing land-use disturbances mainly on nonfederal lands.

Read the scientist comments

Guest Opinion: We need a moon-shot for the environment more than ever

By Dominick DellaSala

(Originally published in the Medford Mail Tribune, April 17, 2016)

This week, more than 193 nations will celebrate Earth Day. The annual event is a marker for the environmental movement begun on April 22, 1970, when Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson organized a peaceful teach-in. At the time, rivers were on fire, oil spills fouled Santa Barbara’s coastline, spaceships were headed to the moon, and the nation was at war.

Rachael Carson warned in the 1960s of a “Silent Spring” caused by toxic pesticides that were bad for songbirds and people. Hydro-fluorocarbons, a byproduct of refrigerants and other uses, were ripping holes in the ozone, triggering skin cancers.

Forests in the Pacific Northwest were being clearcut at an alarming rate of 2 square miles every week, which nearly wiped out the spotted owl and salmon.

Clearly, something had to be done. And, thankfully, millions of Americans demanded that Congress pass new laws to give us a healthy environment.

Over the past four decades, political activism has led to hard-fought gains in civil rights, gender rights, social justice, and environmental policies, from the Clean Air Act to the Northwest Forest Plan.

So, why do we need Earth Day even more now?

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