Float the Pipe!

Cascadians Float Threatened Section of South Umpqua River to Protest Proposed Natural Gas Pipeline

            On June 19, 2015, wilderness defenders, boaters and naturalists, led by Cascadia Forest Defenders, met to put their kayaks and canoes in the water at the precise location that the Pacific Connector LNG pipeline is proposed to cross the South Umpqua River.

            With the fight against the LNG pipeline and export terminal heating up, CFD has decided to take a novel approach to protest by leading a flotilla of activists down this threatened section of the South Umpqua. They stretched a banner across the point where the pipeline would be bored underneath the river, then set off on their 12-mile, 2-day float through the waters that would flow downstream of the pipe.
            The 230-mile, high-pressure pipeline would cross over 400 rivers and streams on its way to the coast. The river crossings, including those on the South Umpqua, would be bored underneath the river. Horizontal drilling techniques involve heavy machinery and toxic drilling fluids. Crossings would require extensive riparian cutting that would raise the temperatures of rivers that already violate temperature standards for cold water fish.

The coastal Coho salmon, federally endangered due to the presence of dams, logging and drought, would be further impacted by the Pacific Connector Pipeline. “We need to be focusing on ways to restore the Coho and help it to regenerate its vital connection to the broader ecosytems of the Pacific Northwest, not pursuing massive industrial projects that will create a 100-foot corridor of destruction through virtually every watershed in southwestern Oregon,” says Laura Rose of Cascadia Forest Defenders.

            Of particular interest to Cascadia Forest Defenders is the 3,000-acre permanent clearcut that would cross 230 miles of Oregon’s forest. This is much bigger than any timber sale, and these trees will not be replanted. Continuous use of poisonous herbicides will be used to maintain the 100-foot-wide cleared area above the pipe. The effect of this pipe on endangered bird species is severe. The homes of 80 endangered spotted owls will be affected, as well as marbled murrelet habitat throughout the coast range.

            For all the life affected, human, animal, plant and otherwise, CFD wants to see industrial projects of this size out of our state. “We believe that the best way to learn about a place is to experience with your own five senses. By seeing the place that the pipeline crosses the river, by swimming in the water, by hearing the birds and the frogs, we are becoming more dedicated to protecting our ecosystems and better prepared to fight this pipeline,” says Erin Grady of Cascadia Forest Defenders.

           On June 20, at the end of the float in Winston, Cascadia Forest Defenders held a picnic for local activists and affected landowners. Fun was had by all!

Activists Hang Banner in Bend to Protest Proposed Clearcuts in Deschutes National Forest

On March 30, 2015, Cascadia Forest Defenders dropped a banner from the US 97 overpass above Greenwood Avenue in Bend, Oregon, reading “Entering Deschutes National Forest: Where Recreation and Clearcuts Abound!” The banner draws attention to the Forest Service’s environmentally catastrophic forest management practices in the Deschutes National Forest.

“This is a reminder to those who fish, hike, and bike in the Deschutes,” said activist Alex Gloster. “Behind the scenes, the forest they love is being destroyed.”

When the Deschutes National Forest makes the news, the discussion usually focuses on recreation, fire management, and so-called restoration. The management practices that accompany these projects are disguised as ecosystem-friendly, but they benefit the timber industry at the expense of forest health. The Deschutes National Forest is still clearcutting huge swaths of land, logging old growth trees, systematically eradicating northern spotted owl habitat, and spraying herbicides near sensitive wetlands. For many years, community members nearby the Deschutes have brought up these issues, but the Forest Service and public officials have blatantly ignored their concerns. This leaves us wondering when the Forest Service will own up to their actions and stop these destructive practices.

In the last year alone, the Forest Service has planned to log over 48,000 acres in the Deschutes National Forest. These proposed logging projects do not appear as clearcuts or commercial thinning on the National Forest website because they are deceptively renamed regeneration harvests, seed tree harvests or group selections. This rhetoric gives the public – and the community members most affected by the impacts of harsh logging – a false impression of what is happening to precious public forests.

The banner is a message to the Deschutes National Forest and the community of Bend: Cascadia Forest Defenders is outraged at the destructive “management” of public forests on the east side of the Cascade Mountains. Stop clearcutting in the Deschutes.  Stop logging old growth. Stop spraying herbicides on public land. Stop lying to the public about the destruction of our ancient forests.

Activists Put a Stop to the White Castle Clearcut

A U.S. District court judge has ruled in favor of Cascadia Wildlands, and Oregon Wild, and primary attorney Jennifer Schwarz in their lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management’s “White Castle” logging project. The legal win for White Castle is exciting news, and we can all breathe a little easier knowing that this forest will not be clearcut. But the battle to save White Castle did not begin in the courtroom; it began in the forest with the Northwest Ecosystem Survey Team and later on, the Cascadia Forest Defenders.

The White Castle timber sale proposed clear-cutting a 160-acre swath of native forest, calling it a “Variable Retention Harvest.” VRH is a form of clearcutting developed by scientists and marketed as “eco-forestry.” The BLM and the timber industry are using VRH to get around environmental protection laws and fast track clearcutting across the state. Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild has called VRH “a cynical attempt to pass off clearcutting century-old trees as restoration.”  White Castle was designed as a pilot project for VRH. This means it would have been used as a prototype to replicate similar clearcuts on O&C lands and throughout the state.

In 2011, the Northwest Ecosystem Survey Team, an all-volunteer citizen-survey group, documented red tree vole nests to create unloggable “buffer zones” in White Castle. The BLM’s refusal to consider NEST’s data was the basis for one of the claims in the White Castle lawsuit. If the BLM had rightfully considered NEST’s data, White Castle may not have needed to go to court at all. But the BLM ignored this data and continued with their controversial plans into the following years.

In June 2013 the Cascadia Forest Defenders, a non-violent direct action group, took up the fight to save White Castle. The project had been surveyed and those surveys had been ignored by the BLM. So CFD stepped in to put their bodies in the way of the destruction and bring attention to the issues around VRH and the proposed management of the O&C lands.  CFD ascended into the canopy of White Castle setting up multiple platforms and effectively occupying the forest. 

Throughout the summer, CFD organized hikes, potlucks, and talks to inform the public about the sit and its connection to the proposed clearcuts masked as variable retention harvests. The activists made friends in the community surrounding White Castle and learned about local issues regarding the project. Most of the residents in the area were concerned about irreversible watershed pollution and loss of local recreation areas. Once relationships were established in the area, the White Castle direct action campaign was fortified. The activists were encouraged and supported, not only by CFD’s support network, but by the community downstream of the forest.

The activists remained in the canopy into the winter of 2014, as snow began piling up on the forest floor, preventing Scott Timber from building a road necessary for logging to begin. Once media attention was garnered by the treesit, attorney Jennifer Schwarz and other NGOs were inspired to file suit in January 2014. Once legal proceedings were underway, CFD left the trees, ready to go back at a moment’s notice if Scott Timber attempted to cut the forest before the lawsuit was resolved.

This brings us to the present: the lawsuit has been won and White Castle is free, thanks to the efforts of diverse groups working together for a common cause: to save the forest and halt the destruction of the planet where it is occurring in our communities.

Judge Anne Aiken found that the BLM did not fully consider the environmental risks and consequences of clearcutting.  This ruling set a precedent that renaming a clearcut doesn’t take away its devastating effects, and that we will not accept the kind of science designed to prop up big timber in the state of Oregon. CFD hopes that this lawsuit will influence better management from the BLM in the future as well as encourage communities to come together and support each other in the face of corporate timber interests.

“If it had not been for the collaboration of a tree-sit, forest surveys, and the NGOs, White Castle would be gone,” said forest defender Cordelia Finley. “CFD’s presence at White Castle convinced legal groups to take action and bought them time to litigate. While lawyers made plans to go to court, activists put their bodies between the chainsaws and the forest.”

The story of White Castle proves once again that if we want to succeed in protecting our earth from the destruction of science and governments funded by corporate interests, a diversity of tactics is essential to our success. Without direct action to garner attention, keep the destruction at bay, and convince the public that this was a worthy cause, there would have been no lawsuit and no more forest in White Castle. Without the citizen surveys and the lawsuit, the direct action front would have been an uphill battle with no way out. Our diverse coalitions are endemic to the struggle and we need to keep them strong and remember how all the pieces work together to create what we all desire: a world where all life is valued and defended, where the forests grow old, free and wild.

CFD's Comments on the Jordan Cove Energy Project and Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline

Though it becomes clearer every day that we are standing on the threshold of climate catastrophe, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is considering a project that would expand earth-destroying extractive industries and flatten Oregon forests. Cascadia Forest Defenders unequivocally opposes the construction of the Jordan Cove LNG export terminal and pipeline. A foreign corporation’s profits should never be chosen over the health of the land, the water, and the people who need them.

FERC failed to consider an assortment of the ways in which this project would devastate the environment, not only here in Oregon but across the country and around the world. Liquified Natural Gas is methane, a greenhouse gas 86 more times more potent than burning coal. Methane leaks into the atmosphere during the processes associated with LNG drilling, transportation, and processing. It also notoriously contaminates groundwater; methane concentrations are 17 times higher in drinking water wells near fracking sites than in normal wells.

Approving the Jordan Cove terminal and Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline would expand the fracking operations that enable that leakage to happen. There are already more than 500,000 active natural gas wells in the US, each of which requires one to eight million gallons of water for each fracture job. Enabling this industry to grow even more is an act of blatant disregard for the planet, for our limited life-sustaining natural resources, and for the wellbeing of the people most influenced by fracking operations.

Here in Oregon, the project would cause hundreds of landowners would lose their properties to eminent domain. No company should have the right to condemn Oregonians’ land and lifestyles – especially not a company that will cut corners around safety standards by using thin pipes and inefficient welds. Many of the landowners who face eminent domain threats have been speaking out against the pipeline for years; why haven’t you been listening?

The project additionally commissions a vast clearcut – a 100-foot wide easement across 75 miles of southern Oregon public forests, most of which have been reserved for threatened species like the Marbled Murrelet, the Northern Spotted Owl, and the Coho Salmon. 400 waterways will have their stream-side vegetation permanently cleared. This is unfathomable and inexcusable.

Consider the environmental consequences of this project more carefully. Extend the public comment period so that the people most influenced have a fair opportunity to weigh in on it. Decide on the Jordan Cove Energy Project and Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline from a perspective that values factors more important than corporate interests. We assume that you are familiar with the Tar Sands Blockade, a massive national movement against the Keystone XL Pipeline. Those of us who spent time there aren't fond of fracking, habitat destruction, or ruining rural peoples' lives -- and we certainly are getting sick of the federal agencies condoning those things. Make the right choice, FERC. If you build it, we will fight.

For the wild,
Cascadia Forest Defenders