Save McKenzie Bridge
Out of the 1,675,407 acres of the Willamette National Forest, the Forest Service
has decided to begin a major logging operation called the
Goose Project centered in and around McKenzie Bridge.
The project proposes to cut 38,000,000 board feet of timber—enough to fill
9,000 logging trucks.
All of the USFS documents related to this project can be found here: The Goose Project
USFS Map of the Impacted Area
: In a Ruling dated March 28, 2013, the U.S. District Court in Eugene ruled that the Goose Project may not proceed without an Environmental Impact Statement.
From the court’s order:
". . . . when considered individually, none of these significance factors might require an EIS. However, when considered collectively, they do. The Project authorizes logging that would reduce the Lookout Mountain [potential wilderness area] PWA by 1,249 acres and includes the construction of a permanent road, both of which may significantly affect the unique attributes of the PWA. There is uncertainty surrounding the effects of the downgrade and removal of 454 acres of spotted owl habitat authorized by the Project. There is a dispute regarding the efficacy of thinning within Riparian Reserves to achieve [aquatic conservation strategy] ACS Objectives. The Project will likely have an adverse effect on a threatened species and its habitat, even though it is not likely to threaten the continued existence of the species. Finally, the Project may actually prevent the recruitment of coarse woody debris, running counter to the [northwest forest plan's] NFP's ACS Objective 8. When viewed together, this Court is compelled to find that these "significance" factors raise a substantial question as to whether the Goose Project may significantly affect the environment. Accordingly, NEPA requires that the Forest Service prepare an EIS . . . . Accordingly, the Forest Service is enjoined from going forward with the Goose Project until an EIS has been prepared."
While this does not mandate an end to the Goose Project, it does mean that if the Forest Service chooses to develop an Environmental Impact Statement, there will be a widely publicized open window for timely and informed input by the McKenzie Bridge community and all other interested parties. In which case, we will immediately inform you of the dates and times of those public hearings.
Once again, thanks to all of you who visited this website and/or signed the Goose Project Petition. You have made a difference.
Major Goose Project Update: Thanks in large measure to your support, on May 7, 2012, the Western Environmental Law Center, on behalf of Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild, filed a lawsuit against the Goose Project.
Here is the press release:
EUGENE, OR – Three conservation organizations filed a legal challenge today to halt the controversial Goose logging project near McKenzie Bridge, Oregon. Oregon Wild and Cascadia Wildlands, represented by the Western Environmental Law Center, allege the US Forest Service failed to properly analyze the impacts of the 2,100-acre logging project, including effects to the 9,700-acre Lookout Mountain potential wilderness area above McKenzie Bridge, and ecosystem damage caused by logging within streamside buffers and endangered species habitat.
The lawsuit falls on the heels of months of passionate opposition by members of the local community. Many residents of the McKenzie Bridge area believe they weren’t properly notified about the Goose logging project with some only hearing about it once timber sale flagging was put up adjacent to their properties. Residents have collected nearly 5,000 signatures opposing the logging project.
In their complaint, the plaintiffs have drawn attention to the Forest Service’s practice of logging older forests within streamside buffers in the timber sale to allegedly benefit the environment. The conservation organizations believe that the older forests in the streamside areas are currently functioning properly and should not be logged.
“We are not opposed to all logging, but the Forest Service must ensure projects like this don’t damage fish and wildlife habitat or spew mud into streams that provide drinking water to our communities,” said Doug Heiken, Conservation and Restoration Coordinator for Oregon Wild. “With the Goose logging project, the Forest Service is clearly on the wrong track.”
The conservation organizations also highlight the agency’s failure to properly disclose the impacts logging old forests within the timber sale will have on rare wildlife like the threatened northern spotted owl. In addition to adversely affecting 454 acres of suitable spotted owl habitat, the agency failed to analyze and disclose the impacts the logging will have on competition among spotted owls and the more aggressive barred owl. Wildlife experts believe that logging older forest, such as that in the Goose project area, may exacerbate competition among the two species and contribute to the ongoing decline of the spotted owl.
“While there are some restorative components to the Goose project that we support, the Forest Service chose to pair them with aggressive logging in threatened species habitat, and within a potential wilderness area,” says Josh Laughlin, Campaign Director with Cascadia Wildlands. “This project area is within the renowned McKenzie River basin, and any activity within it should be for restorative purposes only.”
The groups believe the Forest Service should instead be spending limited taxpayer dollars on projects that restore degraded landscapes, like restoration thinning in tree plantations formed by past clear cutting, decommissioning harmful roads, and enhancing fish and wildlife habitat. While the Forest Service did analyze an alternative that focused on restoration thinning in young plantations that the plaintiffs supported, the agency instead chose to adopt the much more controversial aggressive logging alternative.
“Safeguarding community drinking water and forests that provide habitat for wildlife and recreational opportunities for the public are things we can all get behind,” said Susan Jane Brown, one of the Western Environmental Law Center attorneys representing the conservation groups. “Unfortunately, the Forest Service has taken a step back from this common ground with the Goose project.”
A copy of the complaint is available here: http://www.westernlaw.org/sites/default/files/GooseComplaint.pdf
Please consider a contribution to help defray the cost of this lawsuit and to support these organizations in their tireless efforts on behalf of the environment:
PO Box 10455
Eugene, OR 97440
5825 North Greeley
Portland, OR 97217-4145
Western Environmental Law Center
1216 Lincoln Street
Eugene, OR 97401
To contribute equally to all three in support of the lawsuit, please visit this Oregon Wild web page and enter "goose" & "litigation" in the "in honor of" boxes. Thank you.
Project Update #3: On Earth Day, April 22nd, the Cascadia Forest Defenders began a week-long occupation of an old growth fir in the Goose Project.
Bringing Water To The Sitter
Sitter Echo From Elmira
Yarding Area Leveled Nearby
Project Update #2: On Sunday, April 8th, public interest forester Roy Keene led some local residents on a walking tour through a portion of the project along the slopes of Lookout Ridge, just north of McKenzie Bridge (see Mr. Keene's comments on the Goose Project at The Eugene Weekly). This particular sale is designated by the Forest Service as "Golden" and is scheduled for auction on April 24th. (You wouldn't think that "killing the goose that laid the golden egg" is a metaphor the Forest Service would want associated with a logging project in the National Forest, but there it is.) These photographs were taken in Unit 320 of the Goose/Golden sale during the tour:
This, clearly, is mature, diverse, healthy forest that is in no way at risk for catastrophic fire—one of the primary reasons given by the Forest Service as justification for logging here. Some of the trees are majestic, old growth giants up to 7 feet in diameter, and ground and ladder fuels are minimal to nonexistent.
Project Update #1: The Goose Project community meeting was held as scheduled on March 12. Attendance was heavy, and the dialogue among residents, Forest Service representatives and other interested parties was robust. It was something of a cross between a Tea Party-flavored town hall meeting and the best example of a strict formality since Charlie Manson's last parole hearing. Even so, a number of thoughtful questions were raised at the meeting, and the Forest Service has posted responses to those questions here.
(The Eugene Register-Guard
article on the meeting can be read here.)
Note: USFS documents on the Horse Creek Project, similar in size and scope and located east of the Goose Project, can be viewed here. The Horse Creek Project intends to cut 2,043 acres comprising 27,000,000 board feet (another 7,000 trucks) and includes 940 acres of "heavy" commercial thinning.
Google Earth Image Of McKenzie Bridge Area Clearcuts
The Goose Project
From USFS documents describing the cutting plan:
"The Goose Project area is located on the McKenzie River Ranger District within the Upper McKenzie and McKenzie River/Quartz Creek Watersheds. It falls within the McKenzie Bridge, McKenzie River/Elk Creek, and Lost Creek Subwatersheds. The project area is approximately 17,421 acres. The proposed action would commercially harvest about 2,134 acres, reduce hazardous fuels through non-commercial thinning (588 acres), and re-introduce fire through natural fuels underburns (80 acres) within the McKenzie Bridge Wildland Urban Interface. The proposed action would also maintain approximately 43 miles of road, create approximately 7.7 miles of temporary roads, and build approximately .7 miles of new permanent road."
"The Goose Project surrounds the community of McKenzie Bridge, so it is intermixed with private and Forest Service lands. The project area is within the McKenzie River Ranger District, Willamette National Forest, Oregon, and is contained within the boundaries of the McKenzie Bridge, Lost Creek, and McKenzie River/Elk Creek Sub-watersheds. Forest Service ownership within the project area is approximately 14,168 acres, about 81% of the area, while private lands account for approximately 3,253 acres, about 19% of the project area."
The following is excerpted from the USDA Environmental Assessment of the project:
“The McKenzie River is regionally and nationally renowned for its outstanding recreational opportunities and scenery. . . . recognized for five outstandingly remarkable values: scenic, recreation, geologic/hydrologic, water quality, and fisheries. . . . The segment between Belknap Springs and Paradise Campground [also] falls within the Goose project area."
Unfortunately but unsurprisingly, the assessment goes on to conclude that none of these "outstandingly remarkable values" will be disturbed by the presence of bulldozers, helicopters, chainsaws and logging trucks.
(It is important to bear in mind that the environmental assessment is not an environmental impact statement. It is an internal review by the U.S. Department of Agriculture which allows the USDA to pass judgment on its own policy decisions, much like letting a Major League baseball pitcher call balls and strikes.)
Not only is the impacted area rich wildlife habitat—home to elk, deer, gray foxes, black bears, bobcats, cougars, flying squirrels and, yes, spotted owls—but much of the cutting will be along the steep south slope of Lookout Ridge, causing inevitable soil erosion and diminished water retention. Many residents north of the river already experience flooding during heavy rainfall and/or rapid snowmelt.
USFS officials have maintained that there will be no clearcutting. Instead, there will be 363 acres of “gap cuts” and “regeneration harvest units.” These are apparently euphemisms for “clearcutting and seeing what grows back.” Gaps will leave as few as 4 trees per acre—the sort of number that the timber companies can leave behind in a clearcut by accident.
The Forest Service also claims that the public was informed of this decision, but that information comprised a legal notice buried in the classified ads of the Eugene Register-Guard, a newspaper located 50 miles from the affected residents, and a letter to a few hand-picked individuals and organizations. This is not only calling balls and strikes, but also selecting the opposing batters.
One of the organizations that the Forest Service routinely contacts for comment is the American Forest Resource Council which, despite its deceptively benign name, is a timber industry lobbying group for the most rapacious and destructive of logging methods on public lands (Motto: No Tree Left Behind). Two organizations, Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild, co-filed an appeal of the Goose Project decision (which was denied). You can see a copy of the appeal here: Goose Project Appeal
If you are a resident of McKenzie Bridge or a visitor who enjoys the area's wide variety of recreational activities—fishing, hiking, camping, swimming, horseback riding, birdwatching, picking mushrooms, playing golf or just simply relaxing in a quiet and breathtakingly beautiful natural environment—please make your thoughts on this project known by writing, calling or e-mailing any or all of the following individuals:
Terry Baker, McKenzie River District Ranger
57600 McKenzie Highway
McKenzie Bridge, OR 97413
541-822-3381 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Guenther Castillon, Goose Project Manager
57600 McKenzie Highway
McKenzie Bridge, OR 97413
541-822-7214 Email: email@example.com
Meg Mitchell, Willamette National Forest Supervisor
3106 Pierce Parkway, Suite D
Springfield, OR 97477
541-225-6300 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Congressman Peter DeFazio (Eugene Office)
405 East 8th Avenue, #2030
Eugene, OR 97401
The following passage is excerpted from Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods, the delightful account of his attempt to walk the entire length of the Appalachian Trail:
About 240 million acres of America's forests are owned by the government. The bulk of this—191 million acres, spread over 155 parcels of land—is held by the U.S. Forest Service under the designations of National Forests, National Grasslands, and National Recreation Areas. All this sounds soothingly untrampled and ecological, but in fact a great deal of Forest Service land is designated "multiple-use," which is generously interpreted to allow any number of boisterous activities—mining, oil, and gas extraction; ski resorts (137 of them); condominium developments; snowmobiling; off-road vehicle scrambling; and lots and lots and lots of logging—that seem curiously incompatible with woodland serenity.
The Forest Service is truly an extraordinary institution. A lot of people, seeing that word forest in the title, assume it has something to do with looking after trees. In fact, no—though that was the original plan. It was conceived a century ago as a kind of woodland bank, a permanent repository of American timber, when people grew alarmed at the rate at which American forests were falling. Its mandate was to manage and protect these resources for the nation. These were not intended to be parks. Private companies would be granted leases to extract minerals and harvest timber, but they would be required to do so in a restrained, intelligent, sustainable way.
In fact, mostly what the Forest Service does is build roads. I am not kidding. There are 378,000 miles of roads in America's national forests. That may seem a meaningless figure, but look at it this way—it is eight times the total mileage of America's interstate highway system. It is the largest road system in the world in the control of a single body. The Forest Service has the second highest number of road engineers of any government institution on the planet. To say that these guys like to build roads barely hints at their level of dedication. Show them a stand of trees anywhere and they will regard it thoughtfully for a long while, and say at last, "You know, we could put a road here." It is the avowed aim of the U.S Forest Service to construct 580,000 miles of additional forest road by the middle of the [21st] century.
The reason the Forest Service builds these roads, quite apart from the deep pleasure of doing noisy things in the woods with big yellow machines, is to allow private timber companies to get to previously inaccessible stands of trees. Of the Forest Service's 150 million acres of loggable land, about two-thirds is held in store for the future. The remaining one-third—49 million acres, or an area roughly twice the size of Ohio—is available for logging. It allows huge swathes of land to be clear-cut, including (to take one recent but heartbreaking example) 209 acres of thousand-year-old redwoods in Oregon's Umqua National Forest.
In 1987, it casually announced that it would allow private timber interests to remove hundreds of acres of wood a year from the venerable and verdant Pisgah National Forest, next door to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and that 80 percent of that would be through what it delicately calls "scientific forestry"—clear-cutting to you and me—which is not only a brutal visual affront to any landscape but brings huge, reckless washoffs that gully the soil, robbing it of nutrients and disrupting ecologies farther downstream, sometimes for miles. This isn't science. It's rape.
And yet the Forest Service grinds on. By the late 1980s—this is so extraordinary I can hardly stand it—it was the only significant player in the American timber industry that was cutting down trees faster than it replaced them. Moreover, it was doing this with the most sumptuous inefficiency. Eighty percent of its leasing arrangements lost money, often vast amounts. In one typical deal, the Forest Service sold hundred-year-old lodgepole pines in the Targhee National Forest in Idaho for about $2 each, after spending $4 per tree surveying the land, drawing up contracts, and, of course, building roads. Between 1989 and 1997, it lost an average of $242 million a year—almost $2 billion all told, according to the Wilderness Society. This is all so discouraging that I think we'll leave it here and return to our two lonely heroes trudging through the lost world of the Chattahoochee. - - Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods (1998), pp. 46-48
To view photographs of the McKenzie Bridge area, go here: Photos