From the Conservation/ Legal Director ….Angela Jensen
It is hard to believe that it has been 3 months since the last newsletter and while I am still learning and growing in my position as Conservation/ Legal Director, there are a few small accomplishments I would like to share.
First, we have remained engaged as a coalition member with the Pacific Northwest Forest Climate Alliance. Specifically, we are part of a working group within this coalition focusing on the proper implementation of Governor Brown’s Executive Order No. 20-04 (EO 20-04). EO 20-04 directs the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF), among other agencies, to prioritize and expedite processes and procedures that could accelerate the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. State agencies also must consider and integrate climate change, climate change impacts, and the state’s emissions reduction goals into their policy making decisions. For the Alliance, this means that ODF must take a hard look at its policies concerning forest management. Management decisions that would advance both climate change mitigation and adaptation must be prioritized.
While ODF remains defiant that new policies are even necessary, our working group has continued to apply pressure on ODF and on the Oregon Global Warming Commission to work together on developing policies for the proper implementation of EO 20-04. Additionally, as ODF questioned its legal scope in implementing EO 20-04, Umpqua Watersheds independently issued written testimony showing that ODF’s statutory mandates are not in conflict with EO 20-04. As such, ODF is legally bound to move forward with Governor Brown’s directives.
Second, we issued comments on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)’s proposed rule that would eliminate the 15-day protest period following a final agency decision. Because direct appeals do not halt actions implementing these decisions, we vehemently opposed the rule change as eliminating the protest period is nothing more than another step to streamline processes so that public involvement is curtailed. As BLM is charged with managing public lands, public involvement is paramount and must be protected.
Finally, we are now Ground-truthing! Our first project involves BLM’s Umpqua Sweets Harvest Plan. BLM’s intention is to engage in “commercial thinning and regeneration harvest” on approximately 2000 acres of stands between the ages of 41-160 years old. However, BLM’s scoping letter asserts several desired outcomes of the project that our ground-truthing team finds to already exist. Specifically, large portions of Umpqua Sweets are already resilient to wildfire and provide for healthy riparian habitats and need not be disturbed by industrial logging and thinning practices. Our plan is therefore to continue to provide comments to BLM during this scoping period as they prepare their environmental assessment (EA). Once the EA has been issued, we will participate in the public comment period that follows pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Our fervent hope is that our efforts will impact BLM’s decisions concerning Umpqua Sweets; persuading them that habitat/species conservation, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and water protection must NOT take a backseat to timber extraction interests. If we fail to deter BLM, our ground-truthing team will be there to document BLM’s failure.
Every land use decision, whether it be federal, state, or private must consider climate change in the context of both mitigation and adaptation. The ability of a forest to properly sequester carbon while providing habitat necessary for species mobility and adaptation is crucial. The window to ensure that the worst impacts from climate change may be reversed or mitigated is closing fast. As such, vote as if your climate and that of your children and grandchildren depend on in- because it does.