Federal Court Rules EIS Must Be Done for Goose Project
Forest Service Proposes to Limit Public Appeals Process
Community Outraged by Surprise Logging Launch
Conflict is building between the U.S. Forest Service and residents of a small community along the McKenzie River over a logging plan. Jerry Gilmour, a part-time resident of the McKenzie Bridge community, located in the Willamette National Forest, was astonished to learn in early February that 2134 acres there were about to be commercially logged and 588 acres “non-commercially thinned” by the Forest Service (USFS). Research into the matter left Gilmour angrier as he learned how the Goose Project, as the USFS calls it, came about.
“It has been, and continues to be, a disgusting and shameful proposition. The Forest Service methodically excluded the residents from the process,” he told Salem Weekly.
The objections of Gilmour and his neighbors quickly resulted in several news articles and a MoveOn online petition. Two environmental groups, Oregon Wild and Cascades Wildlands, are already involved and are considering a lawsuit against the USFS.
According to critics, the main problems are as follows:
In its initial documents on the matter, the USDA Forest Service said the top reason for the Goose Project was to manage tree stands to improve stand conditions, diversity, density, and structure. It also hoped to reduce hazardous fuel levels in the McKenzie Bridge Wildland-Urban Interface and provide a sustainable supply of timber products within the area.
Gilmour says that when he first contacted Geunther Castillion, Goose Project Manager, Castillion told him the cutting was just for thinning and fire management. But Gilmour says he quickly learned the project was “massive,” including road-building and spraying of herbicides. It means the cutting of enough timber to fill 9,000 logging trucks in an area rich with elk deer, grey fox, black bear, bobcats and cougars.
Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild also objects to calling the project primarily fire protection. Heiken told Salem Weekly, “900 acres of the sale have nothing to do with fire risk reduction because they are older forests that have most of their fuel suspended high above the ground.” Heiken says logging will actually increase hazard on these 900 acres of mature forest.
The USFS held a public meeting on March 12 in response to the publicity Gilmour generated, but Gilmour calls the meeting “a patronizing circus show.” He started a petition of protest and at the time of this writing has 3750 signatures. He says the petition is growing by 10% every day.
Katie Isacksen, Public Affairs Officer for the US Forest Service, tells Salem Weekly “The Goose Project is a good project, it’s definitely something we need to do to reduce fuel loading and the threat of a major fire.” She maintains that the ES was “adequate, and addressed all environmental concerns.”
She agrees with Terry Baker, McKenzie Bridge District Ranger, who says, “I fully believe all of the environmental impact questions that have been raised were addressed in the Goose analysis. Our analysis, which is available online, carefully considered the effects of thinning on threatened and endangered species, water quality, soil stability, fish habitat, aesthetics and recreation.”
Gilmour remains undaunted. “We are hoping that the USFS will do the right thing… put the brakes on and redesign this project with the good of the community, the wildlife and the forest in mind rather than the timber company’s bottom line.” He is “absolutely” in favor of the possible lawsuit against the USFS.
“Litigation may be the only real way to bring this madness to a screeching halt.”
Jerry Gilmour says:
The Forest Service is pitching a fallacy. They call this a good project that just needs doing. The only premise they state in favor of the project is fire prevention. If you look at the picture above, you will note that there is not a great deal of underbrush and the canopy is very high. If you have ever hiked the Frissel trail, you know that this forest is consistently that way. (if you haven’t hiked it, I highly recommend it before it’s gone). This is not a recipe for high fire danger. It is a healthy forest which is highly fire resistant. The Forest service insists that they will only cut younger or possibly middle aged trees. By their definition, these trees pictured, despite being 5 feet in girth are not old growth and are to be cut so that the remaining trees can get bigger. Does anyone see a flaw in this logic (besides me)? The forest is healthy, the trees are large and beautiful and the ONLY reason to cut them is the bottom line profits of the timber companies.
When Oregon Wild and Cascadia Wildlands appealed the FS assessment of this project, the FS sat as judge and jury over the appeal of their own document. Not surprisingly, they ruled against the appeal, in favor of themselves. Important issues were raised in that appeal which were summarily dismissed with minimal comment and little or no consideration. Those documents are posted on our website at http://www.savemckenziebridge.com
© 2012 Willamette Live
To get involved in opposing the Goose Project click on this link.
McKenzie forest plan is Robin Hood in reverse Guest viewpoint
By Craig Patterson
Appeared in print: Thursday, April 12, 2012, page A7
“Greatest good for the fewest number for the shortest time” characterizes the Goose Project, which the U.S. Forest Service is attempting to force upon the McKenzie Bridge community and all of Oregon without due process.
The Forest Service seems to be returning to yesteryear, supporting a very short boom (for the timber companies) while perpetuating a long bust for our environment, economics and society.
The project has been fast-tracked without adequate notification, as McKenzie District Ranger Terry Baker acknowledges in his March 31 guest viewpoint, and already the first of five projected timber sales has been sold.
The first sale provides ample evidence of malfeasance. Approximately 8.8 million board feet were sold, and what is being returned to the people? Besides the taking of three known spotted owl nests, riparian logging in bull trout habitat, and logging and subsequent erosion on steep slopes, the public treasury is receiving 6.33 cents per 1,000 board feet, or about $55,000 — all verifiable from their own appraisal. Those same logs bring $467 to $740 per 1,000 board feet at the mill.
That represents Robin Hood in reverse — stealing from the public, privatizing the profits while passing the liabilities to the McKenzie Bridge community and all of Oregon all under the guise of fire protection, wildlife enhancement and stabilizing the local and regional economy. Let’s examine each.
Fuels reduction: We are told that logging overgrown stands will improve fire safety. Yet conversion of multi-story, multi-species forests into monoculture, even-age plantations effectively has eliminated the possibility of beneficial surface fire from the landscape. In fact, it is our management that has directly caused these overcrowded stands and ensured that only cataclysmic fire will occur.
Management is the problem, as practiced since the middle of the last century. To say that more management will solve our problems now is disingenuous at best, and a boldfaced lie at worst.
Wildlife enhancement: How in the world did wildlife get along without our management for millennia? How arrogant of us to think that after we have destroyed wildlife habitat, more logging and habitat reduction will improve it. Where is the logic, morality or empirical data that supports such a claim?
Stabilizing local and regional economies: To refuse to acknowledge that past management practices have directly created a cycle of short booms and long busts in local economies is denial beyond reason. The industrial paradigm of clear-cutting or heavy thinning is akin to being a drunkard, where the short term binge is all that matters. The economic distress of Oregon counties speaks volumes about our management and our priorities. More of the same will only make things worse.
“I was just beginning my career in the late 1980s,” said Meg Mitchell, supervisor of the Willamette National Forest, in a Jan. 22 guest viewpoint. “Still, I am aware of the mistakes that our agency made, whether intentional or by allowing the existence of a system of conflicting incentives. Still, if we have learned anything from our past, it is to stay vigilant, to adapt and to learn.
“Learning from our past is combined with looking to the future, anticipating risks and trends. We have to be willing to hit the refresh button, look at things in new ways, so that policies and practices evolve to better meet the intent of laws that are also changing.”
It seems these conflicting incentives are once again intentional, as the Goose Project demonstrates in spades. It’s as if the science that intervened (spotted owls, marbled murrelets, environmental consequences and boom-and-bust economies) were forgotten. Perhaps a form of environmental amnesia was in effect when the Forest Service overruled the challenges brought against this project.
Past management practices are the direct cause of these unintended consequences — ecologically, economically and socially. Restoration needs and costs have direct lineage to management choices and subsequent consequences. When we disconnect cause from effect, we can’t possibly learn the appropriate lessons of the social, environmental and economic consequences that follow.
So how do Mitchell and Baker integrate their “adaptation and learning” with the Goose Project Decision Notice that denied all objections with marginal responses? How do they continue to fast-track this ill-conceived giveaway of public resources for the benefit of the 1 percent and not expect a public outcry?
A petition to halt the project pending an independent environmental impact statement was started about two weeks ago. When I signed it, there were about 150 signatures. Less than five days later, there were more than 2,450.
The Forest Service needs to return to its founding mission — “to provide the greatest good for the greatest number for the longest time” — and to show us that it has learned something, as the rest of us have the hard way.
Craig Patterson, a resident of McKenzie Bridge since 1974, has been involved in forestry issues since 1977.