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GHCC's Protections Program takes a multi-pronged approach to protect the Greater Hells Canyon Region. We work with local, regional and national non-profit environmental organizations, state and federal agency staff, local representatives, and citizens to ensure the ecological integrity of the entire Greater Hells Canyon Region - ___ the confluence of northeastern Oregon, southeast Washington, and Idaho.
The United States Forest Service is rolling full steam ahead with its plan to get rid of the 21 inch Rule which prohibits the logging of trees 21 inches in diameter or greater east of the Cascades. The Eastside Screens Wildlife Standard (21 inch Rule) has protected live old and large trees critical to wildlife for the past 25 years.
The agency hosted a series of virtual workshops in mid-May to share information with "technical" stakeholders, state and local governments, and tribes. One of the May sessions was a Science Forum providing various scientific viewpoints on the impacts of allowing logging of large trees across the Eastside.
What we heard in the Science Forum: The Forest Service's Pacific Northwest Research Station scientists indicated the removal of some large trees, especially large grand fir, supports the agency's "restoration" goals. Independent scientists spoke to the importance of large trees of all species in eastside forest ecosystems -- for wildlife habitat, wildlife resiliency, and carbon storage. They asserted, even if grand firs are more dense in places now than historic conditions indicated, there remains a major deficit of large trees overall, and the large grand fir are now filling that ecological niche. And, if we allow widespread removal of large grand firs across the landscape the adverse impacts on habitat, fire behavior, and the ability of our forests to store carbon will be astronomical!
What's next? The Forest Service plans on "scoping" the amendment this summer concurrent with the release of a draft Environmental Assessment (EA). That means we, the public, will only have one 30-day opportunity to analyze what is being proposed and to weigh in on that proposal prior to a draft decision being issued. The Forest Service intends to replace the 21 inch Rule by spring of 2021.
When the public comment period opens this summer, the Forest Service needs to hear what you think about their proposal to weaken the 21 inch Rule. The Forest Service says they will hold virtual General Information Sessions at a to-be-determined date. We'll let you know when those are scheduled and continue to provide updates as this amendment process moves forward.
Kenny Bozarth is a rising third year law student at Vermont Law School. After serving as a staff editor on the Vermont Journal of Environmental Law during his second year of law school Kenny became interested in public interest environmental law. Kenny wrote a legal note comparing the pesticide labeling framework under California’s Proposition 65 with the EPA’s framework under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. He will serve as legal notes editor on the journal next year. He is interested in preserving habitats, pollution prevention and public health, increasing transparency between the public and environmental federal agencies, and seeing his work affect the community in a positive way. Kenny interned at the Ocean County Office of the Public Defender in New Jersey during the summer of 2019. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Studies from Stockton University before attending Vermont Law School.
Kenny will work with Conservation Director Veronica Warnock to defend large and old trees across the six national forests on Oregon’s eastside.
Late last week we learned that we lost our case on the Lostine. On January 9th, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s decision, which ruled in favor of the Forest Service and agreed they complied with all applicable laws in developing the project. We are, of course, disappointed--particularly so because they gave no rationale for their ruling. The Court’s unpublished opinion sets no precedential value.
While we didn’t win this case, our legal advocacy resulted in significant changes on the ground. The original Forest Service decision, which we challenged, approved 450 acres of commercial logging along the narrow portion of the corridor not designated as Wilderness within the Lostine Canyon. After we filed suit, the Forest Service decided to take additional resource protection measures, measures they relied upon in their legal defense. Ultimately, this reduced the commercial logging to 275 acres.