A Victory for Oregon Forests and Wildlife in Federal Court
People throughout the West are celebrating a Sept. 29 federal court ruling that recommends striking down a plan that abandoned scientific protections for federal public lands in western Oregon and would have opened up those lands to outdated boom-and-bust logging.
The Bush-era plan, called the Western Oregon Plan Revision (known as WOPR and pronounced “whopper”) would have dramatically increased logging on about 2.6 million acres of federal public forests in Oregon managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
The ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by Earthjustice and Western Environmental Law Center on behalf of eight conservation and commercial fishing organizations.
“The judge confirmed what everyone’s been saying for years—that BLM took an illegal short cut to avoid scientific scrutiny of its plan,” said Kristen Boyles, an attorney with Earthjustice. “This decision will finally clear the decks of the flawed WOPR process, return these public forests to scientifically sound management, and let us move forward with both timber harvest and environmental protection.”
The ruling by U.S. Magistrate Judge Dennis Hubel found that WOPR was finalized without the required evaluation of federal fish and wildlife scientists on its impacts on threatened and endangered species. Judge Hubel recommended that WOPR be vacated, a ruling that would put the standards and requirements of the Northwest Forest Plan back into place. Judge Hubel’s decision isn't final. There will be a brief period of time for the parties to raise any objections before a separate, reviewing district court judge.
“Protecting these forests is key to recovering Oregon salmon and steelhead," said Chris Frissell, director of science and conservation for Pacific Rivers Council. “BLM’s original decision to issue WOPR was a legal and scientific mistake that we’ve finally been able to undo.”
“This should be the final chapter in the WOPR saga and open the door to balanced forest management,” said Joseph Vaile of Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center. “These public forests protect our climate, produce clean water and sustain world class salmon runs and recreational opportunities that contribute to Oregon’s diverse economy.”
WOPR has been controversial since 2003, when the Bush administration settled a long dormant timber industry lawsuit with the promise to issue a new plan that dramatically increased logging. WOPR was issued in late December 2008. It was administratively withdrawn in 2009 by the Obama administration, but earlier this year, a federal court in Washington, D.C. ruled that the withdrawal was invalid—a decision that reinstated the original WOPR plans. The Sept. 29 decision addresses the substance of WOPR for the first time. In the Portland court, lawyers for BLM agreed that the logging plan illegally ignored requirements designed to protect endangered species and their forest habitat.
“It’s a good day for commercial fishing families and all the businesses up and down the Oregon coast that depend on our salmon, clean water and fresh air,” said Glen Spain of Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. “WOPR was always a bad idea and would have been disastrous for our industry and our jobs.”
“Old growth forests with clean healthy streams drive Oregon’s economic engine and prosperity,” said Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild. “With WOPR and its flawed premises out of the way, we can fully commit to restoration thinning of these forests in a way that is supported by sound science and that protects the water, air, fish and wildlife.”
Earthjustice and Western Environmental Law Center represent Pacific Rivers Council, Oregon Wild, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, The Wilderness Society, Cascadia Wildlands, Center for Biological Diversity, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Institute for Fisheries Resources and Umpqua Watersheds as plaintiffs in this case.
For more information, click here.
New fossils uncovered in Argentina may belong to one of the largest animals to have walked on Earth.
- Groundbreaking Fossil Shows Prehistoric 15-Foot Reptile Tried to ... ›
- Skull of Smallest Known Dinosaur Found in 99-Million-Year Old Amber ›
- Giant 'Toothed' Birds Flew Over Antarctica 40 Million Years Ago ... ›
- World's Second-Largest Egg Found in Antarctica Probably Hatched ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
- Pruitt Guts the Clean Power Plan: How Weak Will the New EPA ... ›
- It's Official: Trump Administration to Repeal Clean Power Plan ... ›
- 'Deadly' Clean Power Plan Replacement ›
By Jonathan Runstadler and Kaitlin Sawatzki
Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers have found coronavirus infections in pet cats and dogs and in multiple zoo animals, including big cats and gorillas. These infections have even happened when staff were using personal protective equipment.
- Gorillas in San Diego Test Positive for Coronavirus - EcoWatch ›
- Wildlife Rehabilitators Are Overwhelmed During the Pandemic. In ... ›
- Coronavirus Pandemic Linked to Destruction of Wildlife and World's ... ›
- Utah Mink Becomes First Wild Animal to Test Positive for Coronavirus ›
By Peter Giger
The speed and scale of the response to COVID-19 by governments, businesses and individuals seems to provide hope that we can react to the climate change crisis in a similarly decisive manner - but history tells us that humans do not react to slow-moving and distant threats.
A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
Is it Time to Declare a Climate Emergency?<p>At what stage, and at what rise in global temperatures, will these tipping points be reached? No one is entirely sure. It may take centuries, millennia or it could be imminent.</p><p>But as COVID-19 taught us, we need to prepare for the expected. We were aware of the risk of a pandemic. We also knew that we were not sufficiently prepared. But we didn't act in a meaningful manner. Thankfully, we have been able to fast-track the production of vaccines to combat COVID-19. But there is no vaccine for climate change once we have passed these tipping points.</p><p><a href="https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-risks-report-2021" target="_blank">We need to act now on our climate</a>. Act like these tipping points are imminent. And stop thinking of climate change as a slow-moving, long-term threat that enables us to kick the problem down the road and let future generations deal with it. We must take immediate action to reduce global warming and fulfill our commitments to the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Paris Agreement</a>, and build resilience with these tipping points in mind.</p><p>We need to plan now to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, but we also need to plan for the impacts, such as the ability to feed everyone on the planet, develop plans to manage flood risk, as well as manage the social and geopolitical impacts of human migrations that will be a consequence of fight or flight decisions.</p><p>Breaching these tipping points would be cataclysmic and potentially far more devastating than COVID-19. Some may not enjoy hearing these messages, or consider them to be in the realm of science fiction. But if it injects a sense of urgency to make us respond to climate change like we have done to the pandemic, then we must talk more about what has happened before and will happen again.</p><p>Otherwise we will continue playing Jenga with our planet. And ultimately, there will only be one loser – us.</p>
By John R. Platt
The period of the 45th presidency will go down as dark days for the United States — not just for the violent insurgency and impeachment that capped off Donald Trump's four years in office, but for every regressive action that came before.
- Biden Announces $2 Trillion Climate and Green Recovery Plan ... ›
- How Biden and Kerry Can Rebuild America's Climate Leadership ... ›
- Biden's EPA Pick Michael Regan Urged to Address Environmental ... ›
- How Joe Biden's Climate Plan Compares to the Green New Deal ... ›