the wild and scenic Lostine River Canyon
"We are facing a real crisis in the beautiful Lostine River valley, the most-used entrance into our magnificent Eagle Cap Wilderness, and one of the prime wildlife and wildland 'connectors' in all of NE Oregon.
--Brock Evans, GHCC Board Member & past President, Renowned Conservationist
The crisis is real and continues, not only for the Lostine, but for public lands throughout the West where federal agencies continue to suppress public participation and use "Categorical Exclusions" (CE) to bypass the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and environmental analysis necessary to protect the ecological integrity of public lands and wildlife that depend upon these habitats.
In 2017, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals GHCC and Oregon Wild jointly filed suit to save the Lostine River canyon from a poorly conceived logging project. Though billed as a public safety project, the Lostine Corridor project is largely composed of commercial logging that will cut 4 million board feet from just a few hundred acres. The area slated for logging isn't just any parcel of public land; this narrow canyon cradles the Wild and Scenic Lostine River, and is surrounded by the pristine Eagle Cap Wilderness.
Update: Tragic determination for public lands throughout the West.
On January 9th, 2020 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 The Court’s unpublished opinion sets no legal precedent.
Not only is this a tragedy for the Lostine, it has emboldened the USFS
to approve more logging through the use of CEs.
Consequently, public lands continue to become less "public" as the USFS utilizes a "comment" process that doesn't need to be considered for public lands management decisions and the current administration seeks to strip environmental regulations across the board. An April 2020, Montana Current article, Forest Service favors reducing public input to fast-track projects, cites the use of CEs to promote logging projects. USFS Region 1 spokesman Dan Hottle said, “I wouldn’t classify it as “circumventing” – just side-stepping public process. It’s up to the district rangers.” The uptick in CEs demonstrates the importance of our Lostine case and the tragic consequences of the Ninth Circuit Court's decision.
GHCC will continue to advocate to limit the categorical exclusions (CEs) used to cut the public out of decisions about their own public lands
Lostine advocacy "wins"
While we didn’t win the court 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.
Logging of the Lostine, while approved has not yet begun.